Trey Raines, aka the Third. Credit: Courtesy the Artist

The past decade of Chicago hip-hop would be entirely different without Young Chicago Authors and the Harold Washington Library’s YouMedia lab. Both have served as creative hubs for local teens, and their storied weekly open mikes—YouMedia’s Lyricist Loft and YCA’s WordPlay—have given many beloved Chicago rappers their starts. In the 2020s, a new generation of emerging MCs has already begun building atop the hip-hop ecosystem nurtured and reinforced by the likes of Saba, Noname, Mick Jenkins, and Chance the Rapper. Among them is Aurelius “Trey” Raines III, an educator and rapper who records as the Third. On his 2019 debut, Cursive, he gives his listeners the lay of the land with “Soundcloud Rapper”: in a firm flow that makes him sound like he’s floating on air, he names several of Chicago’s finest young MCs, whose visions have inspired him. When Trey name-checks, say, Femdot and Matt Muse, his intimate familiarity suggests that his interactions with them go deeper than fandom. He’s definitely learned from many young local greats firsthand; he’s a YouMedia open-mike veteran and a 2019 recipient of a John Walt Foundation young artist scholarship (the foundation also connected him with members of Pivot Gang). Trey’s got his sights set on a spot among his hometown heroes, and on his new self-released EP, The Director’s Cut, he makes a great case for himself. He sounds as assured as any of the seasoned rappers in his sphere, and that confidence gives his smooth delivery a strong backbone. Trey brings sun-dappled joy to the light, slippery funk of “Be Water (H20 Flow),” and his caring self-encouragement is contagious—it’s helped me fight the grayness I’ve felt all around me for the past ten months. As long as people like Trey keep contributing to our world, bad times will be temporary.   v