While many are concerned about the violence in the windy city streets, Chicago’s also gaining notoriety for the violence resounded in its music studios.
Last month, rap artist Nicki Minaj, dropped a song entitled “Chi-Raq” featuring Chicago rapper, Lil Herb. The song’s lyrical content, hook, and flow embodied a familiar sound that some Chicagoans consider “drill music,” a genre of violent-driven rap music originating from the windy city. Some were offended that the Queen-based rapper used the title “Chi-Raq” to label her song, while others were excited that Chicago street rapper, Lil Herb, was becoming noticed for influencing mainstream rap with Chicago’s drill culture.
According to Al Jazeera, drill music is a subgenre of rap, which originally means to “retaliate on your enemy.” The genre derived from the roots of gangster hip-hop and usually consists of artists rapping about engaging in violent activity. With user-generated websites like YouTube, the sound and visuals of drill music makes it more widespread and popular to urban youth audiences, thus, it is no surprise that artists like Nicki Minaj chose to incorporate her drill-music-influenced song under the title “Chi-Raq.”
Twenty-four-year-old Chicago rapper, Aaron Pierce, also known by his stage name, Y Dot G Dot, became fed up with “Chi-Raq” label and decided to take a stance in an attempt to eliminate the term and it’s negative conntations. On April 6th, Pierce created a social movement entitled “Anti-Chiraq,” to speak up against individuals using the term to taint the image of Chicago. Although the movement is novel, Pierce has garnered a plethora of fan support, especially on social media. He anticipates on holding events, as well as working with Chicago Public Schools, Big Brother Big Sister, and other local youth organizations to promote the movement.
“It’s not about music, its about glorifying Chicago,” Pierce said. “I’m not from Chiraq. I’m from Chicago. I’m trying to stop everybody from saying that.”
Unfortunately, others might be more willing to accept the controversial “Chi-Raq” title, especially since more mainstream artists have remixed Nicki Minaj’s song. Chicago is currently gaining attention in the music industry for its violence. Over the past two years, the drill music scene emerged into the mainstream field with Chicago drill artists such as Chief Keef and Lil Durk being signed by major record labels like Interscope and Def Jam. Most of Chicago upcoming drill artists originated from the city’s south and east-side neighborhoods, which are areas well-known for violent crimes and shootings. With the rise in murder rates, especially with gang-related deaths among the youth, is it possible that drill music is has an effect on the violence?
South side videographer, Titus, also known as FlyTy, said drill music is not the cause of ongoing gang-violence, although it has some influence. Titus shoots music videos for various Chicago rap artists involved in the drill scene, such as slained rapper Lil Jojo, and local rappers P. Rico and Lil Mister. He noted that Chicago already had a perpetuating history of violence and the media is only using the youth a scapegoat.
“I dont think Al Capone was listening to Lil JoJo when he was killing people,” he said. “Violence has been around for a while. Drill music is not the reason for violence in Chicago, but it has its dirty hands in it.”
Lil Jojo, whose real name is Joseph Coleman, was an upcoming rapper who was murdered in 2012 at the age of seventeen, after releasing songs and videos feuding with Chicago rapper, Chief Keef. Titus pointed out that the rivalry between the rappers only highlighted a deep-rooted gang war between the Gangster Disciples (GD), Chicago’s largest street gang, and the Black Disciples (BD).
“The whole thing going on right now is the GD, BD thing,” he said “It’s been that way. They’ve been beefing since the seventies. Its nothing new. Gang rivalry is an ongoing cycle. It will never stop because somebody from one side, put somebody on other side in a casket.”
Whether drill music directly or indirectly influences some of the violence in the city, Pierce notes that using terms like “Chi-Raq” even through musical expression or everyday slang, makes it difficult to work communely to thwart the problem.
“People are scared to grow out of their environment,” Pierce said in reference to those who don’t support his movement. “You can become a bigger person from your hood, by trying to change the hood.”