Max Bell once met Lupe Fiasco in a Chicago airport.
No matter how many scenes from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off project on your psyche at the sound of “Danke Shoen” or “Twist and Shout”, Chicago is nothing like John Hughes made it out to be. The city is colder in every sense of the word. Downtown is safe enough, but Ferris & co never go to the south side for a reason. The suburbs exist, sure. But even those weren’t real — Bueller’s house is actually in Long Beach, CA.
For many denizens, trying to get the most out of your last sick day is not the problem. The city is plagued by systemic segregation. The police station is not filled with stoned Charlie Sheens. (He might’ve been there once, but I haven’ t followed the Sheen saga closely). There are swaths of the city where the 401Ks of the Bueller’s are replaced by AKs. Warm suburban homes are traded for chilling corners. Those not part of your circle, your squad, are not given a phony name — they are fired on with extreme prejudice. Sirens cause painful reflections for the living left to wrestle with the casualties. Funeral processions are more common than parades.
For this side of Chicago, there is a rap. If you ever need to know the gritty truth about a city, it’s probably been rhymed and recorded.
Below is a mix of rap from Chicagoans that I’ve been listening to of late. It is by no means a comprehensive mix of Chicago rap nor indicative of every aspect of the city. Still, I’ve tried to include songs that span from the ’90s to now, songs that offer various perspectives of the same environment. Some are more thoughtful and incisive regarding the problems of the city, some are odes to the best the city has to offer. Others are downright depressing, while others still are playful and uplifting. If someone is shoots a film in Chicago that finds the middle ground between Hughes and the Hughes Brothers, I might offer this up as the soundtrack.
ZIP: POW Fall Mix: Windy City Rap by Max Bell
1. “The Food” – Common ft. Kanye West
2. “Hustlaz Song” – Lupe Fiasco
3. “Still Fucked Up” – Lil Herb
4. “City to City” – Grav ft. Al’ Tariq & Lil Ray
5. “Orange Pineapple Juice” – Common
6. “NaNa” – Chance the Rapper ft. Action Bronson
7. “Orange Soda” – Vic Mensa
8. “Confusion” – Just Ro ft. Common
9. “Shadow Boxin” – Twista
10. “Keep the Receipt” – Kanye West ft. Ol’ Dirty Bastard
11. “On the Corner” – Lil Herb ft. Lil Durk & KD
12. “L’s Anthem” – Lil Durk
13. “Love Sosa” – Chief Keef
14. “Funkdafied” – Da Brat
15. “Jazz” – Mick Jenkins
16. “401K” – Saba
17. “Reflections” – Lucki Eck$
18. “Dizzy” – NoName Gypsy
19. “Hay” – Crucial Conflict
20. “Homecoming” – Kanye West