WATCHLIST WRAP-UP: Evaluating 2018 Chicago Artists Watchlist

2018 was an interesting year in music for the city of Chicago. With numerous of artists and producers signing record deals, in conjunction with billboard charting songs from various artists. It was pretty clear that the wave we got in 2012-13 has returned. When we dropped what many in the city refer to as “The List” in February of 2018, it became the talk of the Chicago hip hop culture for the next 6 months. That list exposed the city to various artists such as Juice WRLD & 147 Calboy. The list also caused a lot of controversy between artists because of their ranking, and or those who felt they should of made the list.

After 11 months each of the 25 artists on the list, had their chance to illustrate the abilities to Chicago. Each month displaying why they deserved the recognition. Lets be clear the list wasn’t to say who would blow up and be the next music star. It was to highlight those who have been working and had something special about them. The New Wave was the theme, and if you ask me the new wave of Chicago music held its own in 2018. Below after a full year we have evaluated the artists and ranked them based off their performance in 2018.


25. Ezkiel (Previous: #17)

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More of you and me this year. //: @shootwithx

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He was really quiet in 2018, really expected a lot from him, but no music released from him earned him the last spot. Don’t sleep he is still a great talent, and he has recently made a statement that he will be releasing music in 2019. So be on the lookout.

24. Panamera P (Previous: #24)

I was really big on Panamera P, I felt he had great potential. He is very talented, THE POE 2 PROJECT was solid but I guess that City didn’t cling on to it like we all hoped.

23. Rico Recklezz (Previous: #15)

Rico another one that was really quiet this year, but towards the end of the year he dropped some nice music, that I feel the city slept on, but I heard through a source very close to rico that he is coming back with some heat this year.

22. Phor (Previous: #14)

Phor had the city smash “Chi-Town” going crazy in 2018, but outside of that and the reality show Phor didn’t really spark as expected. He is a talented MC, I doubt if this is the last we will see of him.

21. JOEL Q (Previous: #22)

His grind this year will not go un noticed, with no real push like most artists buy Joel Q seems to not disappear. His project Tsunami was filled of BARS, quality music, just felt rushed. By rushed I mean no proper roll out and track list felt incomplete. The talent is there, just need some re-direction moving forward. Joel Q, once again is the J.Cole of Chicago.

20. OZ (Previous: #16)

Oz is still one of my favorite artist in Chicago. He gives me Drake vibes. His buzz grew this year, but he still has ways to go. With Oz I believe he needs to pop out in streets more, gain a fanbase outside of the north side. A kid this talented is one solid EP away from being an international star.

19. VO (Previous: #18)

Bar for Bar Vo is still one of the best MCs in the city of Chicago, its just what I feared would hold him back, did hold him back in 2018. Vo failed to deliver a single. The song action featuring Twista and Mike Notez was a good start but it didn’t put him over the hump. My A+R brain believes, radio hits is not the way for Vo, I could see him being an amazing independent artist such as Tech n9ne.

18. OHANA BAM (Previous: #7)

BAM is very talented, 2018 was just a slow year for music. He really didn’t release the much last year. He did obtain a huge placement on a Starz network commercial. Ohana Bam is known for placements on movies and tv shows. In 2019 I believe he will release a project that will “Blow Your Mind”.

17. KD YOUNG COCKY (Previous: #21)

We waited all 2018 for Squad Goals, only to get it in 2019 Lol. Listening to it off the first ear it was worth the wait thus far. To recap KD’s 2018, he delivered us some dope tracks such as Animal and two features that were incredible. This and That and Mikkey Dollaz “Outwest“ were two major slept on records in 2018, and they both included KD’s Pen.

16. MIKEY DOLLAZ (Previous: #25)

I stated las year, Mikey is straight raw talent, just need direction. if 2018 isn’t proof of that I don’t know what is. Mikey released music off the muscle, no real rollout nor push and still had success.

15. Chimeka (Previous: #23)

Chimeka released 2 projects in 2018, some amazing visuals such as “Champagne Showers”, and dope records such as Elevator music. Chimeka ultimate influence this year was “Don’t Do Coke”. The media platform that she created and the marketing strategies they implemented to promote her EP release party, the pizza and a movie event, and the Camp Smokey Bear Festival was beyond amazing. Her impact in 2018 was more than music, she opened artists eyes to the power and importance of marketing.

14. The Boy Illinois BKA ILLI (Previous: #12)

ILLI formerly known as The Boy Illinois, had a solid year. Started an amazing press run for the release of his Windy project. Performed on several morning shows and festivals in 2018. Ilii went viral for standing up for the City’s image against ASAP Baris Vlone Chiraq collection. A true Chicago patriot. As a Indy artist you could say he had a very balanced year.

13. Nia Kay (Previous: #11)

Its extremely un fair how hard this 17 year goes in the booth. I witnessed he work ethic in countless situations, and she never seizes to amaze. For Nia Kay in 2018, was a year of transformation, she reached 1 Million followers on instagram; she went viral went her “Who Run It Freestyle”. Nia had a spark in 2018, but like most adolescents she is going through struggle of finding her mature identity. This not a bad thing , its just hard to rebrand and produce at the same time.

12. ‘Lgado (Previous: #10 )

There is nothing but good things when you mention Gado, he is one of the most well put together artist we have in the city of Chicago. Gado is an all around star, I can see him in movies, making billboard hits, etc. Gado is just one hit record away.

11. Supa Bwe (Previous: #13)

Supa Bwe had a really good 2018. He had a successful tour, hit the stage at Lollapoolza, made the Billboard charts with the Walacam song with Chance The Rapper. Got a placement on NBA 2K19. Even settled his differences with his former group Hurt Everybody. Supa was really on point in 2018. Freddy really does have magic.

10. Joey Purp (Previous: #4)

The Savemoney member had a solid year, had some dope late night placements and nice features. He murdered the Reboot and Own Thing records. The Quarterthing project was solid. Overall a smooth year for young purp.

9. FEMDOT (PREVIOUS: #20)

FEMDOT came for blood in 2018, what many might considered an underdog is now a favorite in 2019 and beyond.

8. Cdot Honcho (Previous: #2)

There is no doubt that Cdot is talented, and that he has a huge following. In 2018 Cdot Buzz stayed consistent. He is a streaming sensation, but his yet to deliver that transcending single. The “So Long “ song was amazing and the video was even better. A high energy such as Cdot Honcho will be around for a while.

7. Ann Marie (Previous: #19)

The beautiful and talented Ann Marie delivered one of the best songs in 2018, Handle It has over 15 million streams on platforms such as Youtube and Soundcloud. Ann is a star, her new joint with Secret proves she is not a 1 hit wonder.

6. Z Money (Previous: #9)

Fresh off coming home from the FEDs Z Money moved as if he didn’t miss a day. Signing with Gucci Mane was one of the many accomplishments in 2018. With songs like two 16s, Bone Appetit, and other bangers that featured on his Chiraq Mogul project. Z Money really shook up the Trap in 2018.

5. Queen Key (Previous: #3)     

Queen Key’s release of the Eat My Pussy EP took the culture by surprise. The Classy-Rachet Chicago queen really had women in their boss bag in 2018. Still waiting on that smash single from the Queen, but she is still one of the hottest artist we have in the city.

4. Saba (Previous: #5) 

 Saba Care For Me Album, is arguably one of the best projects released in 2018. Saba really made a name for himself, he solidified himself as one of the best MCs of this next generation.

3. Valee (Previous: #1)

  Valee had a very interesting year. He signed to G.O.O.D Music at the top of the year, released a solid EP, had some acting roles and got his flow stolen by multiple acts. Valee proved that he is a very unique talent, and outside of guys like Lil Durk & G Herbo; no other Chicago artist had a more consistent year. To Quote Kanye West in a interview with Dj Pharris “Valee and drill are the most popular styles in rap”

2. Calboy (Previous: #8) 

It’s two words that sums Calboy’s 2018, “Envy Me”  as I stated last year, Calboy was one single a way from becoming the star I knew he could be. His song Envy Me is racing up the Billboard charts without any real support from radio, this illustrates the popularity of the song. Calboy once again is one of the hardest working acts that i’ve witness. Having this new deal and stability, the world needs to get ready for Calboy.

1. JUICE WRLD (Previous: #6) 

When I first created the list I wanted to put Juice WRLD number 1, a true lesson of never second guessing yourself. When I first him in 2017 he sent me  Lucid Dreams and the sticks and stones records, I knew from the first ear this kid was special. Juice Wrld is a transcending act. Who would of thought the top act out of the city of Chicago would be a Imo Rapper. Releasing records like Lucid Dreams, All Girls Are The Same and on top of that a joint tape with Future; 2018 was pretty lit for this kid. I said at once and I’ll say it again Juice Wrld is the future!