10 Essential Bop Artists From Chicago

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By Holiday Kirk

There’s a revolution waiting in the opening notes of Sicko Mobb’s “Fiesta” but it sure doesn’t sound like one. Some scene defining rap songs kick the door in with guns blazing, with beats slamming and MCs unleashing their tightest rhymes. Others are more nuanced and thoughtful, sketching out an alternative to all the slamming and unleashing going on elsewhere. But “Fiesta”? It begins with a goofy little riff that could soundtrack a gang of clowns tumbling out of a tiny VW Beetle. As the most popular bop song to date, it can be a disorienting experience for newcomers seeking a sample of Chicago’s bop scene. It sounds nothing like a rap song should sound. Then the hook happens.

“NA I BEE CRACKIN ANN ROLLIIN/AHH MY NIGGAAHS TOTEIIN/GOT BAT BITCHES WE SOWIN’/ALL DEE HOE BE GOIN!”

It’s one of those rare hooks that impacts with such immediate force that no matter how you feel about the song itself, you will remember that hook.

Bop music is Chicago’s first post-drill music scene. In drill’s wake bop has risen, a scene that acts as the antithesis to drill’s defining features while cribbing some of its tricks. In place of drill’s murky nihilism and anger is a hyper poppy sheen. But bop keeps drill’s approach to hookcraft through repetition of melody and phrases, along with its subject matter. The two scenes coexist, with many prominent drill rappers (such as Chief Keef and Lil Durk) crossing over into bop while bop artists often work in the drill scene as well. The bop scene is friendly and communal, with “fiesta” and “fefe” being bop specific terms for bop-centric parties. The west side of Chicago, where bop originated, is more accessible than the south and this has created an environment of collaboration rather than competition.

Because bop dares to be as poppy as pop music can be it will have to suffer the slings and arrows of the bars-and-lyrics crowd, but bop will persevere because it taps into the part of you that wants to enjoy something so boldly poppy. That part of you that used to sing along to boy bands on the radio back when you were too young to know they were lame. Bop music is completely constructed around the altar that all popular music worships at: the hook. This means, with the right opportunities and support, bop music could break through to national radio.

With the scene still feeling out its limitations, now is the perfect time to get to know its prime acts. Here are the scene’s best and brightest, ten bop artists from Chicago that you should know.

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