King Marie DJs at Freehand Chicago. Credit: Rena Naltsas

We lost a lot of things last year. Without minimizing any of them, let’s take a minute to grieve all the chances we didn’t get to hear Chicago bangers in the club—those nights when your favorite DJ’s in the booth, your skin’s sticky from the collective body heat, and when Chief Keef’s “Faneto” gets its obligatory spin, everyone magically, simultaneously yells, “I just hit a stain, faneto.” It would’ve been a good year for it too. Who didn’t want to celebrate Lil Durk‘s ascent to stardom? Both of his 2020 albums, Just Cause Y’all Waited 2 and The Voice, hit number two on the Billboard 200 (the first has already been certified gold), and his onslaught of 2020 features included spots on songs by Drake, Megan Thee Stallion, and City Girls. We never got the chance to memorialize FBG Duck with “Slide” or King Von with anything from his brilliant third full-length, Welcome to O’Block. And we couldn’t gather to celebrate classic Chicago bangers from bygone days—songs that have brought people together for years, like Traxman’s “Get Down Lil’ Momma,” DJ Deeon’s “Let Me Bang,” and DJ Rashad and DJ Chi Boogie’s “Ay Ay Yo!!” By the start of 2020, East Room had already closed, but we all could’ve used the consummate blend of rap, R&B, house, and juke that DJ King Marie used to spin at that Logan Square bar, or DJ Ca$h Era‘s mix of Top 40 hits and golden-era jams from Emporium Wicker Park. The pandemic shuttered clubs—some of them, including the beloved Danny’s Tavern, for good—and forced DJs to rely on virtual sets. Sadly, it’s still impossible to say how long it’ll be till we can gather safely the way we did on those bewitching nights when everyone—lovers, haters, and all—unified for a single overriding purpose: to shake ass.

  • Traxman’s “Get Down Lil’ Momma”
  • Lil Durk appears on Drake’s “Laugh Now Cry Later.”
  • King Von’s “Crazy Story” came out in 2019, but it still would’ve been in heavy club rotation last year.