Blake Saint David Credit: Nate Guenther

Brockhampton, Billie Eilish, Khalid, and scores of other musicians who’ve emerged in the past few years have taken a wrecking ball to genre divides and gotten hugely popular in the process. The genreless state of pop has also produced a lot of gray, emotionally static music, of course, just like happens within any genre, but it’s been a boon to artists such as Chicagoan Blake Saint David, giving them permission to be as flexible as their vision dictates. The gender-nonbinary rapper, singer, and producer grew up in Auburn-Gresham, where they used the Internet to connect with other rising musicians who take a similarly genre-fluid approach to pop and hip-hop, including Malibu’s Billy Lemos and Waukegan’s Jackie Hayes (formerly known as Family Reunion). David has been on a prolific streak over the past year, releasing a debut album (April’s Cairo, Illinois), a couple of EPs (February’s Blake on Dirt and October’s For When I’m Ready), and a stream of singles—all of which explore distinctive sonic territories. On Blake on Dirt, for example, David echoes the sound of classic 90s Memphis street rap, busting out a flow as thick and smooth as molasses atop grimy beats that sound as washed out as a sixth-generation cassette dub. David has also become an adventurous producer over the past year, juggling different moods or bending their voice to suit the feel of each song. On “Late on My Rent,” off For When I’m Ready, David’s pitched-down vocals threaten to render the lyrics incomprehensible, expressing anxiety about economic instability better than crystalline diction could.   v