Chicago’s drill scene is as influential as it is infamous. When marquee acts like Kanye West and Nicki Minaj looked to add a level of grit and authenticity to their highly polished sounds, they sought out Chief Keef, King L and Lil’ Herb, not unlike boutique shoppers breaking in selvage denim with sand, saltwater, and dirt. Unlike Kanye and Nicki, however, their lyrics are hyperviolent and often delivered in a percussive, joyless deadpan.
The violence seems almost cartoonish, until you count the ever-growing number of murdered rappers and associates from the scene, and view the media coverage that resembles war zone reporting more than local news. The production, most famously orchestrated by Young Chop, is harsh, jarring, and riotous. The severity of the music propagated by these grim-faced teens is enough to make you wonder whether Chicago has lost its figurative and literal, soul.
In recent years, fellow Chicagoan MC Tree has been a welcome alternative. Describing his production style as soul trap, Tree combines his dirty fingernails, diggin’ in the crates ethos, with punchy drum work that would elicit a spark of recognition in a vacant eyed killer. After serving up his brand of emotive soul on his own Sunday School mixtapes, he links up with fellow Chicago emcee Chris Crack for a seven-track EP entitled TreeSwag.
Chris Crack, not unlike his collaborator, is a vocalist that immediately grabs your attention. However, while Tree practically exhales his perpetually hoarse lyrics, Crack’s delivery is more sudden and aggro. He is purposeful, declarative, and almost impossible to ignore. The duo are a match made in soul trap heaven, and don’t sound like anything else you’re going to hear on the blogs or radio.
They aren’t just different from other Chicago artists, they’re different from everybody, and well worth a listen.
Download — Chris Crack & Tree – TreeSwag EP