Chicago is the 3rd largest media market in the United States, and the top market overlooked by mainstream "GATEkeepers" in our nation. The city is robbed of its’ money and culture, without return of vital keys to place the city in a playing field with New York & L.A. The phrase "Chicago needs an industry" is a cliché, as if the richness of its industry is extinct. It was brought to my attention by Darshei Goode (a rising GOALkeeper), that GATEkeepers don't have the power, the GOALkeepers do.
“Gatekeepers stand between you and your chosen path. Or at least they think they do," a phrase from Marc Ecko’s Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out. "We tend to give to give too much power to GATEkeepers, when the GOALkeepers are the ones who actually keep the score, " the Complex founder shares.
GOALKeepers care more about what you are making and even care about how you make them FEEL. GATEkeepers focus on what they can get out of you. GOALkeepers matter. GATEkeepers think they matter. Perception versus reality.
Musically, GOALkeepers listen to creations, help guide, and give constructive feedback. In fashion, it's those who wear your clothes. Business, it's the consumers who purchase products.
The issue in Chicago is that we ask for permission of mainstream GATEkeepers when the needed resources to push Chicago to it’s mainstream capacity resides right in the city. I've compiled a list of "New Chicago" GOALkeepers; platforms, DJs, and influencers who are doing their part to push our industry forward.
25. NayR Creates: The NayR is an A+R, creative content strategist, and music journalist. Need an inside of new artist and music? Follow his page on Instagram (@Nayr_creates). He’s widely known for flooding your timeline with new artist and music, not only from Chicago but St. Louis, the Bay area and more. His goal is to push Chicago’s industry forward in creating structure. “I’m just trying to play my role.” [Nayr] The young Bull of the game, currently stamping his niche will develop into playing a huge role in Chicago’s hip-hop culture. Not fully a guy that can put you on YET, but definitely can connect you and keep you in tune. Chicago needs Nayr Creates.
24. Connect The Starrs- Starr is an individual, that does everything but you would never know. She is always in every room, and knows almost every OG in the city. Due to respect for Starr, her jaw-dropping accomplishments will stay disclosed for now. If you are a rising hip-hop artist in the city, Starr is the woman to connect with for her services. It will be very beneficial.
23. DJ Victorious: DJ Victorious was one of the hottest DJ's in the Drill Era, he has DJ'd for many such as Chief Keef. It was he that hosted Sosa's most iconic mixtape "back from the dead" His recent accomplishments are in producing and doing A+R work in the city. It was him that connected Valee with ChaseTheMoney, and he the legendary connection came as he introduced JUICE WRLD to No Limit Gmoney, the rest is history.
22. So Many Shrimp: David Drake is a fellow journalist whose rise began during the drill era back in 2012. Drake has written for some of the most prestigious national hip-hop publications as the insider for Chicago’s culture. As a seasoned writer in the game, he has placed his eye on providing an outlet to the original key component in Hip-Hop, the DJ/Producer. His podcast titled “So Many Shrimp” does just that focusing on those behind the boards instead of behind the mic. This is very important because MCs grasps the spotlight unconsciously when the DJ/Producer has always held the key in creating iconic sounds. Their stories should be told as well, and with the city brewing some of the best Producers in hip-hop like D.Brooks Exclusive, C-sick, DJ L, 808 Chase Davis, Rio Mac and the adopted son ChaseTheMoney, David Drake’s outlet is very much needed.
21. Dough From Da Go: As a tastemaker, Dough has assisted labels such as Def Jam Recordings in Lifestyle Marketing & Promotions in its Chicago market. He has lead the push in mix show & street team campaigns for some of the biggest recording artists in the world that include: Jeezy, YG, Jadakiss, Big Sean, Pusha T, Jhene Aiko, August Alsina, Jeremih & many more!Dough recent project "Mineral Water" will help expose a lot Chicago's raw talent and provide them with examples to how to successfully rollout out a project, and elevate artists from the "Go Watch My Video" culture.
20. Merk: Merk is like the Unicorn GOALkeeper. Providing more than one resource for the culture, especially rising musicians. The owner of COMPLEX 2010 STUDIOS, Merk began with giving south side artists, producers, and engineers a home to create dope art. Artist from lil Durk, FBG Duck, Gherbo, Juice WRLD, and more laid tracks in this studio. The GOALkeeper also holds the title of Manager to two of the city's hottest rising acts Chimeka & Ty Money. Merk contributes to the culture through providing guidance to creatives and media outlets as needed.
19. Right NOW TOUR: Created by Peter Jaysin, The Right Now Tour provides Chicago talent a platform to showcase on main stages. Artist are booked for tours across the nation, local showcases, and panels. The Right Now Tour SXSW stage is always one of the best to be a part of. As a Chicago artist, most of the City's top acts began at Jaysin’s tour. It was here where I discovered Queen Key.
18. Urban Grind TV: In 2018, Urban Grind TV celebrated 10 years of providing urban content to the city of Chicago. A cable deal with Comcast and radio deal with FUBU has set them apart from other urban content sites. They provide the culture with a national audience. For many artists in Chicago, being featured on urban grind has set a platform for many artist first television appearance. Wally Lockhard, the founder of Urban Grind TV, has a genuine love for Chicago culture and uses that authenticity to push the culture forward.
17. Illanoize: A platform providing radio broadcasting, marketing, promotion, website design, media coverage, events, distribution and more. Illanoize has allowed Chicago music to transcend from a movement into a brand helping upcoming artists become noticed. Illanoize radio has become a popular media stop for rising Chicago influencers, and their LETS GET SOCIAL showcase makes way for a new stage of artists to perform. Their most precious asset is the headlining shows they do for rising talents at the Wire. The ability to perform in front of sold-out crowds, and get paid is great for indie artists.
16. D.Brooks Exclusive: He and KD Young Cocky are the Pioneers of the phrase "NEW CHICAGO.” The platinum producer (Produced NBA YOUNGBOY's Untouchable) does his part in pulling rising Chicago talent together in the studio to make great music. Brooks uses his platform for artist exposure on national publications such as The Fader, Complex and XXL, putting on for Chicago. Chicago needs a heavy in City producer, Brooks is growing to be just that.
15. DJ L: DJ L is is most known for his role in the drill movement with artist such as Gherbo & Lil Bibby. L now serves as A+R for the Streets. If there is an artist that you need to get connected with chances are L can set up a studio session, a meeting, or even face time. L is what you call a connector, his network ranges from rappers, executives, politicians, and more. He provides artists and rising producers with opportunities and knowledge that is not easily obtainable in the music industry. He has the wisdom and resources to fill a void in Chicago hip-hop culture. A mixture of Joe Budden and Dame Dash nonetheless, a true GOALKeeper.
14. Hustle Simmons: Hustle is one of the hardest working influencers in the city, even though his clout was due to a fight going viral between him and the BMF crew, his resume speaks for its self. He’s launched his way into the entertainment industry hosting various music events and concerts throughout Chicago. His creation in HUSTLEPALOOZA has featured an extensive list of notable artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Mos Def, Chance The Rapper, Big Sean, Wale, Rockie Fresh, Meek Mill, and Def Squad to name a few. Now indulged in his newest company, Watershed Creative Agency. Hustle Simmons will use this company to give management and marketing in building artist/athletes brands. Connecting them with corporate America alongside connecting them in the tech world.
13. Vocalo Radio 91.1FM: Vocalo Radio is Chicago’s Urban Alternative. They’re a non-commercial, independent radio station. "We care about more than celebrity gossip. We care about you. Our city. Our communities. We give voice to those that enrich our city culturally and socially." Vocalo holds similarities to WHATS THE WORD but in world of radio. They focus on Chicago's Culture in giving a voice to those who are non-main stream. This station is where you will hear Chance The Rapper, Saba, Common, Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, Daniel Ceasar and others. This station is what the hip-hop forefathers envisioned.
12. 247HH.com: - 247hh.com is a digital video content platform that focuses on multi-cultural urban music content. 247hh.com has partnered with Vevo, Youtube, Dish Network, Amazon, and Daily Motion. 247hh also has a broadcast deal in the U.S. with music choice. 247hh.com interviews the most popular celebrities in hip-hop culture, not really a outlet for rising talent, but serves a purpose. It gives us an mainstream voice outside of radio stations such as Power 92.3 and WGCI.
11. HOME TURF: A platform presented by Chicago WGCI an iHeart Radio station. It has 2 components, the first is the local show hosted by DJ Jamal Smallz Sunday night from 11pm to 1am. Which goal is to play Chicago music, and host Chicago Artist. The second is the free concerts they through headling all Chicago talent. The Home Turf Live shows has featured Dreezy, Twista, and many more! This a dope platform that gives Chicago talent to be highlighted on one of the largest media platforms in the city.
Joe FreshGoods, gained national fame when Chance the Rapper volunteered to model the 30-year-old designer’s Thank You Obama collection: a line of tees in tribute to the former first family.
"Joe continues to be ahead of the creative curve, capturing the hearts and minds of America’s youth today; he’s one of the most in-tune yet eager-to-learn creatives coming out the gates strong from Chicago," said RED BULL.
Outside of fashion Joe is a DJ, consultant, artist manager, and teacher. What makes him a GOALkeeper is his access. Being one of the hottest fashion designers in the culture right now has allowed him to build relationships and access to industry resources that are missing in the city. His first step of many was collaborating with Valee for the Shell pop-up shop. His Fat Tiger brand offers a space for Chicago hip-hoppers to meet, converse, create, and elevate.
9. Briahna Gatlin (Swank PR): My first encounter with Briahna Gatlin was during Oreo Fest back in 2015 when she was representing DJ Oreo. She is the most live person in the business. No one parties harder than Bri. Even though she parties hard, she works even harder. She owns SWANK PR, one of the best PR firms for Hip-Hop Culture in Chicago. All artist need a PR rep, not having a PR rep is like not having a 3 Point shooter in today's NBA. If you need event coordination, media access, and just an overall buzz created around what you have going, Swank PR is your GOALkeeper. Her clients have been featured on Sway In the Morning, Windy City Live, XXL, Forbes, and More. Bri has earned the title "Chicago's Queen of PR" as it relates to hip-hop culture.
8. Lakafilms: Lakafilms is an SIUC Saluki making noise in the entertainment industry. Laka got his start in cinematography creating visuals for Famous Dex. As Dex grew the Lakafilms brand did too. His Youtube page includes videos from Soulja Boy, Gherbo, Key Glock, FBG Duck and More. Laka holds the ability to give Chicago culture exposure to his Youtube audience of 500K+. What Cole Bennett is doing for the Northside/suburban area of Chicago, Laka does for artists from the Southside.
7. Mark Hubbard: Award-winning artist and music industry veteran Mark S. Hubbard has recently been elected as the Chicago Chapter President of the Recording Academy (The GRAMMYs). His NEXT SHOWCASE provides a platform that educates, motivates and accelerates artists in their journey to achieve next level success and accomplishments with access to other industry execs willing to share information and feedback for the betterment of an artist’s musical career.
6. Machine Entertainment Group: When creating an industry in Chicago, you will need a record label that believes in the city's talent. Machine Ent. Group is just that. An independently & black owned entertainment company Machines provides their artist with the resources and guidance that any major label will. Ran by JB & Mikkey Halsted, Machine partners with their artists to help them become successful musicians but entrepreneurs as well. Artists get assistance with starting their own LLC, music business training, merchandise deals and more. With a roster filled with Gherbo, Queen Key, and now Tink. Machine is ready to take on the industry; they have many similarities to QC The Label in Atlanta. Their name fits them perfectly, their the machine behind some of the dopest talents brewing in the city.
5. Cole Bennett: Cole Bennett, founder of Lyrical Lemonade, is the most popular cinematographer amongst a new wave of Hip-Hop artist. His Youtube account has over 1 million subscribers, his resume includes Famous Dex, Wiz Khalifa, Kevin Gates, JUICE WRLD, Trippie Red, and More! Cole not being from Chicago, but a local suburb has left a sour taste in the mouth of many in the Chicago hip-hop community.
Bennett has been viewed as a culture vulture, while others embrace his creativity and platform. It's clear he doesn't speak for the streets; he provides an outlet for those from the north side, the hippie hip-hoppers, the misfits. One major knock on his brand is his focus on artists with a large following and not rising Chicago talent, but that is not entirely true. He provides a platform for artists such as Taylor Bennett, Supa Bwe, Warhols, Nike Boi and Femdot. Cole Bennett is definitely needed, he also provides mainstream credibility that Chicago needs.
4. Zack TV: RIP to one of the biggest GOALkeepers to ever bless hip-hop culture in general, and not just Chicago. Zack was recently murdered earlier this summer in Chicago, which was a major blow to Chicago hip-hop culture. Zack was the only media outlet that had the ability to go in some of the city's worst neighborhoods to get news. Zack TV was labeled “The Hood CNN,” by the Chicago Sun times.
Zack career started with a negative connotation, but by the time of his death his message was changing. He had numerous projects in the works with Netflix and other huge publications. Zack was a major staple in Chicago who provided the world with a raw uncut view of the city's urban culture. Zack TV is a GOALkeeper who will never be duplicated and will be truly missed.
3. Real Radio (Power 92): Real Radio led by the legendary DJ Pharris, is a mix-show on Power 92.3. The show cast consists of DJ Pharris, DJ Nehpets and Paris Taylor as producer. Real Radio is the #1 radio platform in the city as it relates to Chicago hip-hop. No one in Chicago is responsible for breaking more records than DJ Pharris & DJ Nehpets. The show also allows listeners to call in on Tuesday & Thursdays to request music.
Pharris and Nehpets are arguably the two of the best DJs in Chicago, they have the south suburban club scene on lock. Nehpets will always include the hottest songs in his mix mainstream or local. Every major celebrity that comes to town has a unique story with DJ Pharris (I mean Kanye West shouted him out on a song). By adding the personality of Paris Taylor to the mix, the 3 have created a night-time breakfast club; a must stop when you're doing a media run in Chicago.
2. Andrew Barber (FakeShoreDrive): Andrew Barber is the Godfather of Chicago Hip-Hop blogs. His outlet Fake Shore Drive (FSD) is a staple in the Chicago hip-hop community. FSD was one of the main blogs covering the drill movement that birthed Chief Keef, Lil Reese, Lil Durk and others. Also, it was one of the first publications that gave guys like Chance The Rapper & Vic Mensa the stamp. Getting featured on FSD at a point was like hearing your song on the radio in Chicago; it was a major accomplishment.
Andrew has gained industry notary and now have deals with Adidas, Red Bull, Complex and more. As of late Andrew has expanded his talents to artist consulting and management. The latest achievement by the OG, is quarterbacking the career of the rising star and GOOD music signee Valee. Andrew Barber is a key player that is helping to sustain an industry in the city, and not let Chicago culture continue to walk out the door.
1. Hot Rod (Power 92): Hot Rod hasn't even been on the radio for a full year, but has turned his LIT PIT show to the most trending hip-hop platform in the city of Chicago. After being mentored by radio legends- The Hot Boyz (Tone & Shagg) and DJ Pharris, Hot Rod is one of the leaders of the next generation in Chicago Hip-Hop.
The struggle to get your song played on the radio has plagued rising Chicago artists, many of them thought it was a lost cause. Hot Rod changed that by using his prime-time slots to give back to the city's creatives, and the streets are buzzing. Teaming up with DJ Nehpets, Hot Rod has changed radio by breaking local artist albums during the 9'Oclock hour. The young bull was the first to break Chance The Rapper & Jeremih’s "Merry Xmas lil mama" live on air, and featured other artists such as Tink, Dreezy, Juice WRLD, Famous Dex and more!
The icing on the cake is his Saturday show when he breaks new trending music from both mainstream and local talent. #WhatsHotRod is a game changer. Being a feature on #WhatsHotRod is the same feeling artist get when they got the NOD from Fake Shore Drive years ago. Hot Rod is a true GOALkeeper.