If I bring one thing to the These Days table, it's my obsessive knowledge of the Chicago instrumental world. Since the middle of 2014, I've released three instrumental compilations that showcase Chicago producers. From WindChill to W2NDCH2LL (two volumes) to W3NDCH3LL (three volumes), the 92 songs spotlighted 78 producers all over the Windy City. Some names are larger (Saba, Nate Fox, Tree) while other names are still on the climb (BoatHouse, Noah Sims, Spanish Diego). This article/list that I've crafted below is meant to highlight five names I enjoy that have been buzzing this year. Five artists that haven't reached the "next level", whatever that means, but five names that are on the cusp of greatness, that are on the road to stardom if they continue creating the kind of material they have shown us in 2015. Look out for plenty more producer lists from me in the coming weeks/months. Without further ado, here are five rising Windy City producers that you need to look out for.
[Side-note: Shout-out to both JAROFMY and SEER of Beach Jesus. They're not on this list because I manage them and that simply wouldn't be good journalism, now, would it?]
[Additional side-note: BoatHouse is releasing his instrumental debut EP, GIRL, on October 15th. A little too late to be placed on this list, but know that he is a name to also watch/listen for.]
Produced for: Towkio, ShowYouSuck, Defcee, Frank Leone, Beach Jesus (forthcoming), yU
Essential Project: The Future Will Kill You (2015)
Biggest Song: “RN” by Towkio
When Walkingshoe was interviewed by Red Eye Chicago earlier this year, he was quoted as saying, “I try to make my music sound like it's a live band jamming.” The hip-hop producer/multi-instrumentalist handcrafts some of the most unique instrumentation in the Chicago scene, sounding something like a fine mixture of samples and controlled chaos. His album, The Future Will Kill You (his second through French label Cosmonostro), sounds like a really long Adult Swim commercial break. Four instrumentals and four track with vocal features, the cohesive project remains one of this year's most slept-on releases. On top of it all, Walkingshoe may or may not have a whole project in the works with ShowYouSuck and he may or may not also be working on a folk album. I've said too much.
Produced for: Leather Corduroys, Vic Mensa, Towkio, The Social Experiment
Essential Project: Season by Leather Corduroys
Biggest Song: “Mexican Coke” by Leather Corduroys
Although producer Knox Fortune has yet to release a solo project, he has plenty of tracks in the works. A singer as well as a producer, Fortune doesn't have a massive portfolio made visible to the public quite yet, but his exclusive chemistry with Leather Corduroys is undeniable. He produced four tracks on their January LP Season, and is also planning to release a solo project, hopefully sooner than later. To get a taste of his singing, enjoy the last 25 seconds of Leather Cords' “Remember Me”, posted above.
Produced for: Telana, Smino, Abandoned Mall Arcade (w/ Jabril Power), Auggie the 9th (forthcoming), Beach Jesus, Iris Temple
Essential Project: Inscribe EP (2014)
Biggest Song: “Up” by Telana and Smino (Co-Prod. Monte Booker)
Elias is a promising new name within the Chicago community. With great connections and a great drive, the 20-year-old artist not only used to help with Closed Sessions, but he is also the production assistant to Stefan Ponce, who might have been on this list if I made it last year. Abid most recently joined forces with vocalist Jabril Power and formed the group Abandoned Mall Arcade. Their self-titled EP, which was released last month, demands multiple listens just to capture the atmospheric and emotional production, not to mention the lyricism. Posted above as Abid's "biggest song" is “Up”, which he produced alongside Monte Booker, with vocals from Telana and Smino. At six minutes in length, the song manages to host four different instrumentals as well as impressive vocal switch-ups. Abid's piano solo closes out the track so nicely. Look out for much more from this talent, and if you want to go back in time, be sure to enjoy his solo Inscribe EP as well as Runaway Island, a collaborative release with singer Margo May.
Produced for: Smino, Telana, Ravyn Lenae, Jay2, Appleby, Jarreau Vandal
Essential Project: Zero Fatigue (forthcoming)
Biggest song: “Your Highness” by Jarreau Vandal
Monte Booker is on the come-up in a big way. Having produced almost exclusively for both rising vocalists Smino and Ravyn Lenae, the 20-year-old producer has been providing the backdrops for some of the biggest singles coming out of Chicago in 2015. While Smino has yet to release a full-length project, which will most likely be entirely produced by Monte Booker, the two did just release a three-song EP together known as S!CK S!CK S!CK. On top of that, Booker produced six of the eight songs on Lenae's debut Moon Shoes. He's also worked with Zero Fatigue artist Jay2 on a bunch of loose SoundCloud singles. Booker also produced a large chunk of “Up”, which I praised in the paragraph above, and which might be my favorite song of 2015. It needs a music video.
Produced for: Sage the 64th Wonder, Vagabond Maurice, Cresce, Mothica, Drip Drop
Essential Project: Sacred Frequencies EP (2015)
Biggest Song: “For Nujabes” (Solo)
Muten Blvck. Representing a different side of Chicago, Sage Nebulous is not a Windy City household name. Instead, his popularity and attention lies within the Internet. All the more reason that he deserves to be on this list. He might be categorized as a SoundCloud producer, but that doesn't remove him from being a Chicago resident. Nebulous, formerly known as Sage Starkiller, has been producing retro futuristic synth goodness for a while, and has most recently started oozing out of the screen and into the streets of Chicago by assisting with vocalists like Sage the 64th and Vagabond Maurice. Together, as well as with Kariu, The Gameboy, they formed the group Muten Blvck, which is part of the Onsuru Collective, which I think is all part of Onsol and Slumpgang? Meanwhile, Sage Nebulous is part of other clans, like the Internet label Dream Ocean Records. Needless to say, this is a different side of Chicago, one lush in imagination, one rich in anime fixation, and one with a strong focus on positive spirituality. And marijuana.