By: Evan Campbell
In 2000, Chicago implemented the “The Plan for Transformation.” It is widely considered to be the most aggressive plan for urban renewal in US history. The plan called for demolishing many of the low income buildings, which displaced thousands of people to Chicago’s South side (a place that was marred by extreme poverty). Because of this, local gangs were living on the same street as rival gangs; people who normally would be blocks away now lived down the street from one another. Gang violence became a predominate sight as animosity between these gangs grew. To understand Drill music, you first must understand what is happening in Chicago’s South side (infamously dubbed Chiraq after the murder rate was higher in Chicago one year than it was in Iraq).
The problem is that as an outsider of the South side, it’s hard to get a good picture of what is really happening. Simply put, people are too terrified of the South side to even send reporters there to cover it extensively, rather relying on statistics of murders and crimes to tell the story. Chance the Rapper sums it up perfectly on his song “Paranoia;” “Where the fuck is Matt Lauer at?/ Somebody get Katie Couric in here / Probably scared of all the refugees / Looks like we had a fuckin’ hurricane here”. This sentiment is echoed throughout Chicago’s music from young artists, and as long as news stations aren’t going to cover them, young rappers are going to be the ones to tell us what’s really happening.
This is essentially one of the foundations of rap; the art form centers around someone from the streets giving their own perspective on what’s happening. Naturally, with a name like Chiraq, Chicago is garnering a lot of attention from people who want to know why all these killings are going on. The best way to get an idea of what’s coming out of Chicago is to listen to the extremely diverse music coming from the city. The Drill scene in Chicago seems like an extension of Flockavelli; fast ticking hi-hats, minor key patterns looped throughout, deep bass, etc. It glorifies violence similar to the way that gangster rap has in the past, but what makes the Drill scene so interesting is how little remorse there is. Chief Keef, one of the “leaders” of the drill scene, literally sounds like he was raised from the dead, and when you pair his threats of killing with his monotonic voice you get an inherently creepy sense of realism, more than in any song before.
We as listeners also know that the sentiments of killing and drug dealing probably aren’t that far off from being true. In a recent interview he did with “Noisey.” you can find Chief Keef living in the North side of Chicago in a predominately white neighborhood, tearing up his beautiful house with ATV’s he bought from his debut Interscope record, Finally Rich. Just to give you an idea; I’m 19 years old, and I’m still older than Chief Keef. A lot of people upon seeing this interview quickly assumed that he just blew all his money on this extravagant lifestyle because he didn’t know any better. But can you blame him really? Growing up in conditions he did, it should come as no surprise. And that’s what people seem to have the most trouble grasping – they want so badly to understand Drill music, understand why Drill rappers do the things they do, when in reality the only way to really understand it is to grow up around the same things they are talking about in their music. That’s why Drill music itself became so incredibly popular in Chicago before blowing up in the mainstream. People were able to relate to it more if they actually lived through the same things that Chief Keef and Lil’ Durk rap about. So we should really stop hating on it and appreciate it for what it really is; a comprehensive look into the life of a struggling teenager growing up on the streets. If the news doesn’t give us the gritty details, someone has to.
Chief Keef Interview on Noisey:
Evan Campbell is a freshman at Missouri studying Journalism and Business. He attended Booker T Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts where he studied Jazz Guitar and got one on one meetings with other musicians such as Erykah Badu. He hopes to one day write for a music blog, or perform music for a living.