Chance the Rapper is more than just a hip-hop icon. He is a songwriter, actor, record producer, philanthropist, and a shining light for Chicago, Illinois, as a whole. Beyond being an inspiration for Chicago, Chance is an inspiration for independent artists everywhere. Through a series of self-released mixtapes that celebrate life and faith, he has achieved far too many accolades to list, including a Grammy Award for “Best Rap Album,” despite the mixtape only being available on streaming platforms. Indisputably an artist of a new generation, his music is anything but, synthesizing the traditions of jazz, gospel, and soul into contemporary hip-hop for a sonic experience quite like no other.
And there is no better time than today to be a Chance the Rapper Fan, as the big day is finally upon us. The Big Day in question is, of course, Chance’s long-awaited debut album. Arriving as a monumental 22-track outing, The Big Day sees Chance delivering on years of promise. So what better way to celebrate Chance and his long-awaited debut album than blasting it on repeat and discovering seven artists you need to know if you are a fan of Chicago’s rap star.
The first and most obvious rapper you need to be listening to if you are at all a fan of Chance the Rapper is Tyler Bennett. The younger brother of Chance has a unique lyrical flow that is unmistakably similar to his older brother’s, yet he is an artist not content to merely sit in his brother’s shadow. Upon the release of his debut mixtape, 2013’s The Taylor Bennett Show, the world was introduced to a talent whose rapid-fire delivery spoke directly to the reality of his surroundings. Since the release of this stunning debut, Bennett has followed-up the project with two feature-heavy albums, 2016’s Broad Shoulders and 2017’s Restoration of an American Idol. Featuring the likes of Joey Purp, Kyle, Lil Yachty, Jeremih, and of course his big brother Chance, every Bennett outing is a joy from start to finish.
Wherein Chance found inspiration from his Chicago surroundings, South London’s Loyle Carner has transformed his city’s sounds into his own brand of soulful hip-hop. The Mercury Prize–nominated emcee made his grand debut with the EP A Little Late, as well as a collaborative track with fellow poet and rapper Kate Tempest. The young talent quickly distinguished himself from his cohorts with his relaxed vocal delivery that found its power in subtle accentuations and jazz and blues-infused backings. His debut full-length release, Yesterday’s Gone, earned him more than just a Mercury Prize–nomination; the expansive 15-track album earned him both critical acclaim and leagues of fans championing him as the future of London’s ever-evolving hip-hop scene.
There is something especially intimate and vulnerable behind Miami rapper’s Sylvan LaCue brand of hip-hop. LaCue left a major imprint on the scene with the release of 2014’s Searching Sylvan, which was released under the name Quest and praised as one of the best narratives to be told in hip-hop that year. For a genre that finds its pride in every single word choice, it would be an understatement to say that this was high praise. Shedding the name Quest to go by his real name, LaCue delved deeper into his humbling take on the genre, with 2016’s Far from Familiar and 2018’s Apologies in Advance. The latter of which structures itself as 12-step program brilliantly. It was not only an astounding achievement for a rap album but as a musical project that touches upon themes of mental illness and isolation
Col3trane may have been raised in London by Egyptian-American parents, but it was the world of SoundCloud that would ultimately develop his musical stylings. Swapping beats and sharing cyphers with a new musical family in Birmingham, Col3trane arrived at his fusion of R&B, soul, and hip-hop. While his off-to-top vocal delivery is at times evocative of Chance at his most striking, it is his raw and authentic prose that has earned him comparison to the likes of Frank Ocean. Both comparisons are well-deserved, as the London artist finds steady footing across the genres for a listening experience that is constantly refreshing. For any evidence of the fact, take a single listen to his remarkable debut album Tsarina.
Dave B. is a truly a multi-talented threat. The Seattle-based artist raps, sings, writes, and produces much to critical delight. Scoring praise from NPR, Pigeons & Planes, XXL, The Fader, and too many to name, Dave B.’s infectious brand of hip-hop has clearly struck a chord. The rising artist has an effervescent flow that is reminiscent of Chance’s at his most elated, but that is not to say what is at the core of Dave B.’s subject matter is one-dimensional or lighthearted. Whether it be dropping subtle allusions to America’s history of segregation in “Kandi” or losing himself in a spiral of self-inebriation in “& Again,” Dave B. manages to make even the most morose subjects sound as sweet as honey.
One of, if not the, biggest Chance songs to date would have to be “No Problem,” which earned him a Grammy Award for “Best Rap performance” back in 2017. The brass-heavy celebration of rap and gospel’s continued love affair largely has Brasstracks to thank for its stellar production. Comprised of Ivan Jackson and Conor Rayne, the duo met while studying jazz at NYC’s Manhattan School of Music. This chance meeting led to an artistic endeavor that has spawned collaborations with Lido, GoldLink, Anderson .Paak, Khalid, and Wyclef Jean. Then there are the duo’s solo endeavors, which blend futuristic production and their trademark brass-focused production to wonderful effect. As Brasstracks gear up to the release the follow-up to For Those Who Know Part. 1, you’re bound to be hearing their name a lot more this summer.
Hip-hop duo EARTHGANG, the brainchild of Johnny “Olu O. Fann” Venues and Doctur “Eian Undrai Parker” Dot, is taking the world by storm from their native Atlanta, Georgia. A veritable hotbed for the best in the world of hip-hop, from OutKast to Future, the duo is following suit. EARTHGANG made their label debut with Shallow Graves for Toys, a sprawling 14 tracks of their finest, surreal hip-hop that feels as classic as it does inventive. Mostly a D.I.Y. effort since their inception, 2017 saw a marked shift for the Atlanta duo, signing to J. Cole’s Dreamville Records. The signing resulted in an ambitious release plan–3 EPs and an album. The latter of which has an expected released date of “whenever the fuck we put it out.”