ICYMI: Meet The 5 SaveMoney Artists Making Waves
If Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa had blown up 10 years ago, or even chosen a more traditional route, they would’ve inked a distribution deal with Interscope or Atlantic, or another major label and brought the rest of SaveMoney—the ultra-talented crew of MC’s they came up with in Chicago—along for the ride. What probably also would’ve happened is that the rest of them would’ve languished in label purgatory while Vic and Chance flourished. This is partially based on speculation, of course, but also a sad reality of the rap scene back when artists had limited options for getting themselves out there.
Luckily, while Chance has been hitting spots across the globe with his Magnificent Coloring World Tour (part stadium-sized bubbly rap show, part Sunday sermon that’s bigger than Texas’ most ostentatious mega-church), and Vic has been focused on activism and fashion, much of the SaveMoney crew have been producing noteworthy tunes that showcase their versatility.
They all have their own unique style, balancing soulfulness with grit, and have cut their teeth dropping mixtapes and singles that have kept Chicago rap scene thriving over the past few years. In a way, the rise of Chance and Vic has allowed each of them the space to develop their own unique lane; it’s nearly impossible to confuse one of the SaveMoney MC’s for another, and though they obviously share influences, collaborators, and subject matter, they’re the furthest thing from the interchangeable rhymers that many superstars are surrounded by.
Each of the artists below has churned out excellent recent work, and has the potential to take a massive leap this year, so make sure you familiarize yourself ASAP. The Save Money era is officially the present, and if all you know are Chance and Vic, then you have a lot of homework to do. Start here:
Dally AustonAuston already dropped a project this year with the atmospheric, occasionally fatalistic 99¢, his first mixtape since 2014. On it, he showcases a sound that is nearly the opposite of Chance’s. While Coloring Book was filled with exaltations that descend from the heavens, Auston’s gritty tracks feel like they’re rising up menacingly from beneath the floorboards. “My Life” is an autobiographic, ski mask rap heater that will bring you up to speed on the rapper even if you haven’t heard a single bar of his prior to your first listen.
“Dear Parrish” is his take on gospel, with thick, soulful piano that seeps into every nook of the beat. It also features chilling bars from Auston about the dire situation in his hometown. “I hope there’s heaven somewhere because we perish down here,” he spits.
Auston’s development as a rapper is evident from his last project to his latest, and his observational style means that he’ll keep the crew anchored, no matter how high they rise.
Joey PurpChance may have broke out on a national mainstream level last year, but within rap circles the rise of Joey Purp was one of 2016’s best stories. Purp manages to blend humor, bravado, and vulnerability effortlessly on his iiiDrops mixtape, and is the kind of MC who has universal appeal in our increasingly polarized musical landscape.
His single “Girls @” sounds like the Neptunes if they came of age during the Twitter era, and it’s packed with bars that toe the line between raunchy and self-parody. Purp also displays plenty of depth and intensity on tracks like “Godbody” and “Cornerstore”, the former of which is two-and-a-half minutes of raining fists, while the latter is an emotional encapsulation of what growing up without options in Chicago is like. “I used to hit the blunt and get lifted and then envision / Making college tuition flippin’ a hundred chickens,” he raps.
Purp is on tour all spring, and his live show is strong enough to cater to diehards and also turn those who may have missed the hype into ardent believers in his talent.
KamiAfter dropping agonizingly few tracks over the past few years, Kami has been on a hot streak, with four new (and stellar) singles in the last four months. He’s a frequent collaborator of Purp’s, but also has a unique solo persona, sharp bars, and an eclectic sound that has really shone through on recent collaborations with singer-producer Knox Fortune.
These include the gloriously camp, deliciously ‘80s influenced “Home Movies”, where Kami trades rapping for an all-out warble that is an absolute riot. It feels like he’s singing the vocals at a karaoke dive bar during its busiest night, and it’s one of the most enjoyable tracks to come out of Chicago rap in months.
But like the rest of his crew, Kami has lyrical bona fides that he flexes on the slow-burning “Foundation”. “The game we playing in is not fair / Take what’s yours, it looks like it’s ours and we do not care/100,000 contract but they wrote that backwards,” he spits, voice cracking.
His long-gestating Just Like the Movies is slated for a March release, and he’s accompanying Purp on tour as well.
Nico Segal The man who helped quarterback the rise of Chicago’s blues and soul-infused rap scene (and thankfully dropped his Donnie Trumpet moniker) is not only one of the most gifted trumpet players in contemporary music, but a tremendous producer in his own right.
He doesn’t drop a ton of solo tracks, but did produce a delightfully off-kilter track for Paul Simon with fellow Social Experiment member Nate Fox, and recently dropped “The First Time”, a 10-minute odyssey that skips between genres like they’re a pair of jump ropes and kicks off with a heady extended solo from Segal.
It’s unclear what will come next from Segal, but it’s a safe bet that after taking the Grammy stage with Chance, it’s sure to be even more massive than what’s come before.
Brian Fresco Fresco came ready to slay with Casanova, one of 2016’s most underrated mixtapes, and recently reemerged on “Miracle”, a searing single where he asserts himself as an MC with killer delivery and something to say.
There are plenty of show-stopping moments on Casanova, including the blistering “Call”, a bouncy Chance collaboration “Higher” (which feels a bit like a predecessor to Coloring Book’s “All Night”), and the rousing “Fam”, which boasts a chipmunk soul sample that would make mid-2000s Kanye proud. The project is diverse and brilliantly assembled; it feels like the kind of album-disguised-as-a-mixtape type project that launched Chance (10 Day), Vic Mensa (Innanetape), and Purp (iiiDrops).
If SaveMoney were TDE, Fresco would be the Isaiah Rashad, an MC who offers both dexterity and charisma, and an artist with all the tools to reach the next rung of the ladder.
Images via Save Money, SWGRUS, The Fader, Noisey, and RedEye
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