Viceland's Noisey: Chicago would've been improved by including Ty Money, who dropped a new EP last week. Credit: Ryan Lowry

Viceland, Vice Media’s TV channel, debuted at the end of February, and last week its music program, Noisey (which shares its name with Vice’s music site), dedicated a 45-minute episode to Chicago’s hip-hop scene and the city’s violence epidemic. If the premise feels familiar, it should: in 2014 Vice debuted Noisey: Chiraq, an eight-part video documentary series on the local rap scene. At best the series sketched the characters central to the drill sound, which consumed most of the oxygen in Chiraq even though other kinds of Chicago hip-hop had made their presence felt on an international scale by that time. In most ways Chiraq was a failure, and Noisey: Chicago owns up to those faults—unfortunately, the new show spends so much of its hour-long running time confronting Chiraq‘s bad reputation that it doesn’t accomplish much else. Noisey host Zach Goldbaum pitches the Chicago episode as a return to the city, but it puts Vice’s past in the spotlight so often that Chicago’s present is sidelined.

This Timehop approach means that much of the Chicago episode addresses the hip-hop scene’s recent past. This time some of the main players in ChiraqChief Keef, Lil Durk, and Young Chop—talk about drill’s 2012 crossover moment a bit more than their present work. Vic Mensa, the only member of Save Money who got his own Chiraq segment, spends much of his time here talking about how that series failed. In Chicago Goldbaum says that the city’s hip-hop scene has embraced a more positive message, but because the producers seem to think that the only thing to come out of Chicago has been drill, the show fails to demonstrate that positivity. Sure, toward the end of the episode Common makes an appearance at a job fair, but he too talks mostly about drill and the young artists making it—notably, he’s the only person to suggest that kids expressing themselves through violent rap might not be a bad thing.

To be fair, Vic Mensa makes an appearance protesting in the streets after the dashcam footage of Laquan McDonald’s murder went public, but that moment is so plainly squeezed in at the end that it feels like an afterthought. The show dedicates much more time to following Keef around in LA as he plays paintball, sometimes accompanying slow-motion shots of him with statistics about real-life gun deaths in Chicago. Noisey: Chicago could stand to be more subtle, but that’s like asking water to be less wet.

I could go on: the show fails to mention the murder sentences faced by rappers RondoNumbaNine and Cdai, two affiliates of Lil Durk’s Only the Family crew, which gets a fair bit of attention. (Both were charged two years ago; last month they were found guilty and sentenced to a minimum of 45 years.) But few people are as eager to talk about Vice as Vice itself, so I’ll stop. Instead I’ll move on to what I’d hoped the Chicago episode would cover: new local hip-hop. 

A week before Easter, Harvey rapper Ty Money dropped Hasta Luego, a stopgap EP that previews his forthcoming sequel to last year’s fantastic Cinco de Money. If you listened to that mixtape a few times, Hasta Luego should feel a little familiar—it ends with one of the prime cuts from Cinco, “Rickey Killa,” and also includes Money’s tribute to Laquan McDonald, “United Center.” While Hasta Luego lacks cohesion, it reflects the rapper’s unparalleled skills and growing stature in the scene—WGCI on-air personality DJ Moondawg hosts the mixtape. His double-dutch flow on the title track slays.
Chella H, who recently teamed up with Chicago rappers Sasha Go Hard, Katie Got Bandz, and Lucci Vee to form Women With Attitudes, dropped a solo mixtape last Tuesday called No Filter. The title isn’t kidding, either—she’s included 19 tracks, though she brings the heat early. The slinky “Options,” produced by Atlanta beat maker Zaytoven, uses his characteristic swelling, grimy organs and lightly skipping percussion, and Chella demonstrates what makes his minimalist thump feel so alive—she tackles the song with the right amount of aplomb and ease, her flow settling comfortably into the beat.
The same day No Filter came out, rapper Lucki Ecks released Son of Sam, an EP that moves further toward the hazy, narcotized soundscapes he’s toyed with throughout his short career. He takes an abrasive, experimental turn on “Jigga 98,” hiding his vocals behind a wall of distorted, twinkling synth samples that often blink on and off like Christmas lights. But Ecks retains his grasp of atmosphere, as he proves on the somber “Syrup Talk,” where his half-muffled vocals jell with what sound like plucked synthetic strings ripped from a video game.
Last Wednesday east-side rapper Giftz dropped the EP Mirrors, self-releasing it through a label he calls Gift Wrapped. For a moment this underappreciated MC was signed to Freddie Gibbs’s ESGN label, and though the Gary gangsta helped give Giftz some shine, it’s good to see him forge ahead on his own. He raps fast and gets straight to the point, but one of the highlights on Mirrors is the slow-swerving “Doubt That,” where he adopts a nonchalant flow that evokes the moral quandaries of a brooding street soldier. When Giftz hovers over certain lines—such as “My bitch ask me every day, like is it worth it”—his gun-slinging protagonist takes on a little extra depth and weight.
Leor Galil writes about hip-hop every Wednesday.