Chicago’s best artists in 2016 and the top artists to look out for in 2017

Over the past five years, Chicago’s music scene has done a tremendous job of creating new sounds and breaking a ton of new artists. This year could’ve been one of the biggest years for Chicago, as we witnessed many new artists make names for themselves. I reached out to four other writers/creatives in the city to recap the year with 5 artists they think had the best year in 2016, and 5 artists they think will blow up next year. Starting off with my list, followed by neonpajamas, djay, lil jake, someguynamedty & RTC from Closed Sessions. Check it out!

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(photo by: Illkoncept)


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Nico:

Best year in 2016: 

Warhol:

Man, this guy went crazy this year! I met Warhol back in April for our interview, don’t get me wrong, he had a good buzz, but 8 months later this dude has basically doubled his fanbase. Warhol, Cole Bennett, and Brentrambo have been putting in work. I truly believe everyone should put Warhol in their Chicago artist of the year list. I hope we get to see a project from Warhol in 2017. 

Joey Purp:

“iiidrops” was one of the best projects of the year. Savemoney has been killing it these past couple of years in Chicago. Last year Towkio had a great year and this year it was Joey Purps. On top of his great project, Joey has a fantastic live performance. I’m very stoked to see the follow up to “iiidrops” in 2017. 

Mick Jenkins:

Spread Love! Mick Jenkins has easily become my favorite in Chicago over the years with his past projects “Trees & Truths”, “Water[s]”, and “Waves”. This year he dropped his most mature project to date, “The Healing Component”. Following up the project, he went on tour with Smino Brown in the US and overseas as well. 

Saba:

Pivot, Pivot! Saba put out a fantastic project to end the year, “Bucket List Project”. Coming a long way since Acid Rap, Saba continues to shine in Chicago. Ending last year with his verse on Chance’s song “Angels” and performance on Stephen Colbert Show really got people checking for Saba. Saba along with his crew Pivot have been making noise in the Westside and its good to see them get the love they deserve. Westside go crazy!

Noname:

We finally got it. Her debut mixtape “telefone”, a project we had been waiting for three years was absolutely amazing. The features she was able to grab for this project were fantastic as well, as she got Ravyn Lanae, Joseph Chilliams, theMind, Raury, Eryn Allen Kane, Saba, Smino, and more. My favorite song was Forever which feauted Eryn Allen Kane & Akenya. Just like Mick Jenkins, Noname also spent some time touring out in Europe, and in 2017 has a United States tour with Ravyn Lanae, make sure to check it out. 

Artists to look out for in 2017:

Cassius Tae:

Man, this dude can fucking spit! Shit to lose, 5th night on the block, Caught a body, and Hate me now are my favorite songs from his. I’m really a fan of this kids work, and I would love to see a project come out in 2017. I highly suggest you getting to know Cassius Tae now, because he will be big. 

Kweku Collins:

What a great year 2016 was for Kweku and the team over at Closed Sessions. “Nat Love” was a great project this year and it really boosted his fanbase. Kweku is a very good humble dude, who creates his own sound and stays in his own lane. I can’t wait to see what the CS team has ready for Kweku in 2017. 

Femdot:

This man is the truth! Femdot studies at Depaul as a Health Science major, while spitting some of the most potent bars in the city. Femdot dropped a series of projects this year, with one more looking to drop soon to end the series. I cannot wait to hear it in 2017. I promise you 2017 will be a huge year for the homie Femdot. 

Ric Wilson:

The energy that Ric has is awesome. I loved his project “Soul Bounce” and his North Coast performance. The soul and funk within his music makes you just want to groove and dance. Ric dropped “Soul Bounce” three months back and its still in rotation for a lot of us. Ric will be among the front of the new Chicago artists to emerge in 2017. 

Ug Vavy: 

Ug Vavy! Man, I remember first hearing Sport it last year on Soundcloud and was taken away. Right away I knew he was going to blow. Ug Vavy kills it both on his production and his song writing abilities. Following up with Sport it he dropped 3 other hot singles, Gwap, Back To Ballin, and In My Bag. Ug is part of the trio “Fight Me” with Supa and Shepard Hues. I hope to hear a Fight me project in 2017 and a Ug Vavy solo project. 


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NeonPajamas

Best year in 2016: Chance, Noname, Saba, Whitney, Smino

Artists to look out for in 2017: Iris Temple, Kaina & Burns Twins, Elias Abid, Lucille Furs, Knox Fortune


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Djay 

Best year in 2016 (no order):

Ric Wilson:
If you’re from Chicago, you had to have known Ric Wilson for at least a couple years now, but after 2016, Ric exploded out the gates performing at North Coast, as well as getting verified on Twitter. Not to mention he dropped his Soul Bounce EP which is without a doubt one of the best and most creative projects released this year. 
 
Lud Foe:
Lud Foe is that one Drill rapper from Outwest 290 who blew up pretty much out of nowhere. However, his recognition is definitely deserved. Led by hits such as “Cuttin Up” and “187”, Lud Foe completely obliterated the West Sides Bop scene and brought the hardcore street life we don’t really hear about from out west to the mainstream. Love him or hate him, this past year Lud Foe broke barriers and he will never be forgotten for that. 
Kweku Collins:
I remember I knew Kweku Collins ever since he first signed on with Closed Sessions and his growth as an artist, creative and person has been an amazing thing to witness especially in 2016. Releasing a debut album to high and favorable levels of press and criticism, Kweku also went on tour in Europe, which is pretty crazy to say the least. 
Adamn Killa:
Adamn Killa is that one guy on all the charts, getting all the plays, kicking it with Yung Lean etc etc that everyone seems to forget is from Chicago. Adamn has made appearances on some of the biggest Hip Hop publications as well as dropped videos on Worldstar and performed overseas. If that’s not a t’d 2016 I don’t know what is. 
Warhol.ss:
It’s pretty crazy how at the beginning of the year Warhol.ss was really only known in pockets of Chicago’s local scene and now it seems like he’s known at almost a national level. Performing at hella shows across the nation as well as dropping some of the hottest songs and videos of the year, Warhol.ss has big things in store for him. 

Artists to look out for in 2017

Rico Recklezz:
I was going to put Rico on the 2016 list, but then I was like “nah my boys about to go 10x harder in 2017”. Rico already had a crazy year gaining respect from Hip Hop legends, beefing with Hip Hop legends, and landing just about every type of press possible. He can really only go up from here. 
 
Adot:
Adot had a super solid 2016, gaining some nice press, good plays and lots of good looks as well. It’s only evident to those in the know that Adot has a pretty big 2017 ahead of him.
Roo$ki:
Roo$ki had a crazy second half of 2016, just about every song hitting at least 10K plays, and then to close out the year he drops off a new music video as well as some very lit tracks. 2017 Roo is coming for blood. Just wait and see.
 
KAMI:
I’ve had too many people tell me that without Leather Cords and SAVEMONEY behind him, there’s nothing special about KAMI. I personally disagree. If you paid attention to KAMI’s 3 most recent singles, the production and overall harmonies and melodies behind each track is super creative, unique and just straight up artistic. The best part about it though, is that no one else is making music like that right now. 
T.Y. The Great:

I wish I could put the whole FontsNation crew on here, but for now i’ll settle with an artist that I feel has the potential to go down in history with the same levels of respect and influence as Kanye West. Both have carved their own lane musically, utilized their own brand, and cared nobody else except for themselves, their inner circle and their art, which truly are the keys to success. IF T.Y. doesn’t blow up in 2017, Hip Hop’s fanbase has failed me. 


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Best Year in 2016:

Chance:

Chance The Rapper had an amazing 2016. Chano hosted his very music festival at US Cellular Field, released his Coloring Book project, went on his second headlining tour and got nominated for seven Grammy awards just to highlight a few things. I don’t think I really need to say anything else here.

Jeremih:

Despite his recent issues on the Summer’s Over tour with PARTYNEXTDOOR, Jeremih had a super solid year. ‘Mih killed hooks all ‘16, tore it down at Pitchfork Music Festival (and FSD’s 30 Days in LA show) and made sure that people paid attention to what he was doing, regardless of what it was. Jeremih also started working on his next album, Later That Night, this year and I can’t wait to hear that.

Yung Berg:

Yung Berg quietly had an awesome year. Berg, mainly a writer and producer now, worked on Big Sean’s “Bounce Back,” Chris Brown’s newly released “Party” and a bunch of other records from some of your favorite artists — including Jeremih, Kid Ink and Nicki Minaj. Whenever you hear that “Hitmaka!” tag on a record, just know that Berg’s still here.

Dreezy:

Dreezy is another Chicago representer that had a great year. The emcee delivered a hit record in the Jeremih-assisted “Body” earlier this year, then delivered her super-solid debut album via Interscope Records shortly after. Shame on you if you snoozed on Dreezy and or her album.

Kanye West:

The end of the year is ending kind of weirdly for Kanye, but he definitely kicked off the year strongly with The Life Of Pablo — an album that will change the way albums are released and how we digest them going forward, with the album receiving periodic updates similar to game patches. Throw in the success of the Yeezy Boosts, Yeezy Season 3 and another crazy tour and ‘Ye had a solid year, minus his recent issues.

Artists to look out for in 2017:

Valee: Valee is one artist to watch going into next year. He’s been dropping heat all year and it doesn’t look like he’ll be slowing down anytime soon. He’s just one record away, trust me.

Martin $ky: Martin $ky has ‘retired’ from rapping for the time being, but you can bet that he’ll still be coming through with plenty of crazy joints on the production side of things. Dont say that I didn’t warn you.

Joey Purp: I’m expecting Joey Purp to level up even more in 2017. Purple’s got more heat on the way and hopefully, we won’t have to wait too long to hear what he’s been cooking up.

Jeremih: Following this year, I think Jeremih’s going to give everyone another crazy album with ‘Later That Night’ and turn things up even more. Never count ‘Mih out.

Melo Makes Music: I would keep an eye out for Melo Makes Music, as well. Melo’s vibe is different from what people are used to hearing from the city and I think next year is going to be when we’ll hear more of him.


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Jake

Best year in 2016
Chance: 
Are words even needed for this pick? Chance is the GOAT period. Chance has been killing it for years now, and now with the release of “Coloring Book” he’s really taken over the world. After this year Chance has been put on the same level as Kanye, and that’s pretty fuckin’ wild since we’ve all been watching him grow since “10 Day.”
Lucki: 
Lucki dropped two of my favoirte projects this year. “Son Of Sam” and “Freewave 2” both we’re just absolutely insane. Lucki definitely grew a lot as an artist this year and killed with every release. Lucki has a song for every different mood you can possibly be in too so that’s why I really vibe with his sutff.
Warhol.SS: 
Warhol’s my guy and it was crazy being close with him throughout the whole year. I watched him grow an insane amount and he’s getting ready to go on tour now early 2017 with Robb Bank$. He’s only 19 and already passing up most Chicago artists. He also has the craziest work ethic in the city and is putting out new tracks nonstop. 
Plu2o Nash: 
I’m so proud of Plu2o for how hard he came this year. He’s one of the hottest producers in the game right now. Name another producer in the whole world that has A$AP Rocky, Playboi Carti, Tyler The Creator, and Yung Gleesh on one track.
Famous Dex: 
Oh man god damn! Dex came out of nowhere this year and absolutely killed the game. Dex has some of the best energy in the whole rap game and can get anyone T’d. 
Artists to look out for in 2017
BigBodyFiji: 
Rapper, chef, business mogul; Fiji does it all. Fiji made a name for himself in Chicago this year and I think we’re gonna see him take some huge leaps forward in 2017. He brings a new sound and energy to every song and has absolutely killed everything so far.
BrentRambo & Ugly Friend: 
I could’ve easily put these two producers in the list of who killed 2016, but I feel like they have such bigger things ahead of them this year. These two hold the sound of the underground right now in my opinion, and have some huge placements coming in 2017. Be ready to watch these guys take the game by storm this year.
Roo$ki: 
Roo is one of my favorite artists out right now and has a super dope sound. His flow, lyircs, and all around energy is just incredible. I feel like he grew big time in 2016 and we’re gonna watch him kill it this year.
$ike The Drug: 
$ike killed it this year. I feel like in 2017 we’re gonna see his name expand everywhere. More music and more shows are definitely expected. He found his true sound this year and we’re gonna see him use that to his advantage big time this year.
Satchel Stokes:
Satchel was in jail for almost two years. Released very recently, I know for a fact he’s already hit the studio at full force. I remember talking to him over the phone about a year ago and hearing the stuff he had been writing and working on while locked up. Now he’s came back with a whole new attitude and is ready to take Chicago by storm!

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Best year in 2016: 
NoName, Joey Purp, Jamila Woods, Kweku Collins, & oddCouple.
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