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 Chiraq—Chief 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.