Hip Hop Graffiti
Hip hop may not be the oldest musical genre to exist in Chicago, but it's arguably one of the most prominent. While the city has pumped out a good deal of superstars in its day, the local scene has never been more alive and thriving. Like rock music, rap is so ubiquitous and influential it can't be contained to just one neighborhood or one type of venue. Here's the backbone of what you need to know to get acquainted with Chicago hip hop.

Key Players

Kanye WestKanye West - Before the baseball stadium marriage proposals and award show debaucles, Kanye West was a firery 20-something-year-old from the West Side of Chicago looking to make it big in the music industry. What started as a promising career as a producer has catapulted Kanye to the top of the rap game. His 2013 album Yeezus is one of the most popular and controversial of the year.

Do or Die - One of the earliest hip hop groups to put Chicago on the map, Do or Die also produced one of the most well known rap songs with a Chicago origin, "Po Pimp." Despite the fact that they reached the height of their game in the ‘90s, you can still hear them making music here and there.

Common - Chicago is known for producing socially and politically conscious rappers and perhaps no hip hop star from the city elevates the quality of his lyrics with such grace as Common. He's got a few more movie titles than album drops under his belt as of late, but Common's influence on Chicago's hip hop scene is never forgotten. 

Lupe Fiasco - Another Chicago rapper with more than a pretty face between his ears, Lupe Fiasco is an outspoken advocate of eliminating violence and ignorance within his hometown and his music challenges listens to take the same stance. 

Chance the Rapper - Chicago most recent rising star isn't even old enough to drink a beer after one of his sold out shows. The wily young rapper attained national recognition early this year with his self-released free mixtape "Acid Rap" and now he's touring the country before even signing a record deal. 

Essential Spots


Subterranean - If you're a young MC looking to prove him or herself on the mic, you'll likely be at Subterranean every Tuesday. The Wicker Park lounge's 606 Open Mic Hip Hop night has been around for ages and has provided a melting pot-type meeting place for underground rappers all across the city. Come back every third Wednesday as well for Sub-T's #HelloHipHop night as well.

The Shrine - Few stages in Chicago have welcomed as many hip hop legends as this near south side hotspot. The Shrine also plays home to R&B and reggae but you can bet if a hip hop artist isn't doing the arena thing, they're probably playing here. 

Funky Buddha Lounge - Funky Buddha's live rap programming has waned in recent years but the cozy, eclectic club still plays host to many of the hottest hip hop DJs in the city on a regular basis. 

Must See Shows

ProbCause at Lincoln Hall (11/14) - Another Chicago hip hop head on the rise, ProbCause mixes a love of all things Chi-Town with a North Side flow that makes his songs both fun and engaging. Download a copy of his latest mixtape The Recipe Volume 2 and check him out at Lincoln Hall on Nov. 14. Tickets are just $12 in advance. 

Juicy J and MGK at UIC Pavilion (11/27) - If you listen to rap music on a regular basis then there's no way you escaped Juicy J's ubiquitous hit "Bandz A Make Her Dance" this year. Supporting a long awaited new album, J is swinging through the Chi with quick-spitting Texan MGK (Machine Gun Kelly). Tickets start at $29.

Chance the Rapper at The Riviera (11/27) - Chicago's spunkiest young MC doesn't even have a record deal yet and he's already selling out theaters. After his first show at the Riv on Nov. 29 sold out in just days a second was added due to high demand. Tickets are still on sale for his Nov. 27 concert starting at $21. 

Drake at the United Center (12/12) - In case you missed it, Drake has pretty much taken over the world. The Canadian rap phenomenom. He'll be in the Chi on Dec. 12 to promote his new album Nothing Was The Same along with R&B crooner Miguel and fellow rapper Future. Tickets are still available. 

Kanye West at the United Center (12/17, 12/18) - Praise Yeezus, Kanye returns to Chicago! The hometown hero is bringing his first solo tour in five years here Dec. 17 and 18 with skyrocketing newcomer Kendrick Lamar. Tickets are still on sale for both nights