Big Tymers Credit: Courtesy the Artist

In February, when Chance the Rapper won his first Grammy (Best Rap Performance for “No Problem”), the first thing he uttered when he accepted the award was “Yo, Andrew Barber.” The story behind that shout-out starts a decade ago: At a time when few outlets cared about Chicago’s rap exports (beyond maybe Kanye West), Barber launched a blog called Fake Shore Drive with the sole intent of covering the city’s hip-hop scene. Since then, he’s engrained the site into the local music community like no one else, in part because of his passion for covering both up-and-coming and veteran artists, some of whom were so unknown outside the scene that to say they were ignored by the media would wrongly suggest folks were even paying attention.
Since Fake Shore Drive’s inception, it’s branched out from Chicago to cover the midwest at large, and Barber has also found ways to support the scene beyond the blog. Over the past several years he’s partnered with Red Bull Sound Select for showcases that pair rising local rappers with national heavyweights. In celebration of the site’s tenth anniversary, tonight is a supersize version of its usual festivities. Bryan “Birdman” Williams and Byron “Mannie Fresh” Thomas—who helped transform Williams’s Cash Money Records from a New Orleans regional rap concern into a mammoth international hitmaker and one of the most successful labels in hip-hop history—make their return as Big Tymers. This will be their first live performance in roughly a decade, though cuts such as “Still Fly” remain firmly embedded in hip-hop’s DNA. Detroit rapper Tee Grizzley opens the night. On his recent studio debut, My Moment (300/Atlantic), he stretches his rugged flow over smooth, radio-friendly R&B instrumentals (“Day Ones,” “Real Niggas”), and takes noticeable pleasure doling out lyrically gritty, cumbersome bars on big-footed bass on the single “First Day Out.” In the past plenty of Chicago MCs have popped up at FSD showcases for unannounced performances—I still remember when King Louie appeared at the Double Door in May 2016 for an impromptu short set before Soulja Boy—he’d been shot in the head roughly five months before, and the crowd went wild when he took the stage. Considering that tonight’s party is an important reflector of Chicago hip-hop, I wouldn’t be shocked if the list of surprise performers was longer than this preview.   v