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How We Got Here: The Rise of Chicago Hip-Hop in the Digital Era

If Chicago hip-hop were to be traded openly on the stock market, its value would be an all-time high in 2015.  Artists such as Chance The Rapper, Vic Mensa, Chief Keef, and Lil’ Durk continue to grow in the mainstream, while newer artists like Alex Wiley, Mick Jenkins, Tink, Leather Corduroys and many others show much promise.

But it wasn’t always this way.  Around 2007, the digital era enabled a series of events, collection of individuals, and a handful of brands, websites, artists, and DJs in Chicago to come together, creating a network and culture that makes it far easier for these young artists to fulfill their potential.

I know because I was there, in the thick of it. Eyeballs deep. During this time I was like a chicken with my head cut off, doing whatever I could to be a part of this special time and community. I interviewed my favorite artists, DJ’ed around the city, wrote bios, hung everyday at the PHLI store in Hyde Park—literally whatever I could. Those efforts eventually led me to a becoming EIC of a site called Ruby Hornet, which gave me a front row seat to Chicago hip-hop’s own renaissance, during the late aughts when the whole scene seemed to really connect the dots.

This list explains those special people, places, factors, and occurrences that led to Chicago’s hip-hop scene being able to grow, thrive, and flourish since 2007.  If we try to explain what was happening way back then, we can understand what is happening right now.

Click to start the list

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