Chicago musicians to check out (who aren’t Chance the Rapper)

This week at the A.V. Club, we are bringing you the “Sound of Chicago,” an episode celebrating Chicago’s music past, present, and future. I just moved to Chicago from New York City, a coast that is pretty obsessed with itself, as our guest Rhymefest will also tell you. I mean, it’s a cool town or whatever, if you like trains that fall apart and bad basketball. But Chicago? We’ve got the literally best baseball and some pretty badass musicians, who are not all named Chance the Rapper. No hate on Chance! We’ve just got a lot of goods to spread here in the Windy City. Here are my picks for Chicago musicians you should check out, who aren’t Chance the Rapper:

Twin Peaks – Irene

Yeah, like the TV Show, but a band! I first saw Twin Peaks at SXSW in 2015. I don’t know if I was riding high off the free Miller Lite or that sweet, sweet Austin humidity, but I had just the best dang time at that Twin Peaks show. The playful energy these lads give off is contagious; they’re clearly just enjoying the heck out of themselves and want you to be, too. So naturally I have picked one of the slowest songs from their catalogue as my Twin Peaks selection for you. But “Irene” from their 2013 debut album, Sunken, is simply so pretty that I can’t help but get swept up in the fuzzy vulnerability of it. It reminds me of being a little too drunk in slightly too warm weather, for whatever reason.

Jamila Woods – Holy

Looking for a new mantra? Look no further then, um, well, all the lyrics to “Holy.” You’ve probably heard of Jamila Woods from her features on Chance’s “Sunday Candy” and “Blessings.” (Hey I never said I’d stay away from Chance collaborators.) But the poet and Young Chicago Authors alumna proved without a doubt on her 2016 debut album, Heavn, that she has more than enough to offer on her own. In 2017 she brings us “Holy,” a song I try to listen to every morning while I brush my teeth simply for the line “woke up this morning with my mind set on loving me,” which is a great thing to be reminded of as I look in the mirror and freak out over three new stress pimples. Because you know what? Jamila doesn’t want that for me, and gosh dang it, neither do I! Thank you, Holy!

Noname – Reality Check

Noname is another Chance collaborator (whoops, we’re at two now) whose 2016 mixtape Telefone has been on repeat for me this summer. “Reality Check,” featuring Akenya and Eryn Allen Kane, is a quiet but proud testament to the multitude of things that make Noname so great. She’s above all a truly gifted storyteller, meditating on, among other things, her complex relationship with Chicago, the downfall of Bill Cosby, her family and loves. Noname’s sound echoes another personal favorite artist, who delivered arguably the best album of the year, Solange. Do yourself a favor and listen to all of Telefone; you won’t regret it.

Joey Purp – Girls @

Ah jeez this whole thing is laced with Chance, isn’t it? Especially as our boy is a feature, but “Girls @” is a stone-cold jam, so I know you’ll forgive me. And as a gal who routinely brings her copy of Between The World And Me to the klerb, this song speaks to me especially. Purp, part of Chicago’s Savemoney collective, released his debut record, iiiDrops, this past year, and sure all of it is worth a listen (and then another), but did I mention that this song is a stone-cold jam? Add it to all your summer playlists, quick while there’s still time!

Curtis Mayfield – Move on Up

This song plays at the end of one of my very favorite movies, Bend it Like Beckham, which I recommended for your viewing pleasure in our Young Adult episode. Listening to this song always reminds me of the triumph of a young Indian girl, who just wants to play soccer and simultaneously please her immigrant parents. Which I’m pretty sure is what Curtis Mayfield intended for the song anyway. This is one of those bright orange songs (no, definitely not yellow) you know? A song that feels like taking a hit of Sunny-D. That’s “Move on Up” for me, a song about South Asian girls achieving their dreams, and the 27 grams of sugar per serving Sunny-D.


Chicago, you’re the best. Stay bright orange! I love you.