From Bop to Pop, IKON Is Bringing Private Stock To The Top Shelf

Photos by Michael Salisbury

Ivan ‘IKON’ Pryor is one of the Chicago’s best-kept secrets. A foundational member of rising Chicago label Private Stock, his fingerprints are on some of the city’s defining music. It feels like he’s on the verge of something big. IKON is asserting himself more as an artist, making high-quality music on his own terms and becoming more comfortable as one of the faces of Private Stock.  I sat down with IKON at Private Stock studios, curious to know more about his rich history in the Chicago scene and his masterful shift to electronic music.  

IKON is a dynamic producer with dramatic range. He began in the hip-hop world, collaborating with popular group Sicko Mob on several tracks, helping define the Westside ‘Bop’ genre. While he wasn’t the only producer that worked with the duo, he is a consistent presence on their albums, producing some of their most popular tracks that touch on IKON’s pop sensibilities. The group took flight, gaining national popularity and eventually signing with RCA, providing IKON his first experience with high-level music industry. Sicko Mob was making things happen, and IKON got to take it all in. “It was impactful. It was our first taste of the industry side of the game.”

That early exposure to industry was bookended by the relationships he formed with some of the rising independent stars in Chicago. His open demeanor and willingness to work formed true friendships with artists like Noname, Saba, and Malcolm London, all of whom appear on the 2015 track ‘Food for Thought’ produced by IKON. The song is a rare assembly of talent that is a joy to listen to, one of those songs that any veteran of the Chicago scene should be familiar with. The track appears on  Private Stock, a 12 track project full of smooth production with a distinctly Chicago hip-hop feel to it. 

The album is, in many ways, one of the better projects you can listen to that represents the sound of Chicago in 2015, and yet, it is oddly missing from much of the conversation around this time. In fact, it’s hard to even find the album online because IKON has removed it from some of his profiles. Considering the bevy of heavy hitters on the project, I ask him about his reasons for disassociating himself from the project. “I think it’s more just being a producer in general. I don’t want to be labeled as just doing hip-hop or electronic music. I produce music. I could do anything. You put me in there with a rock band, we’re going to do something. And I think that’s kind of what it is.”

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With this declaration, it is clear that IKON is carving out a lane all his own, where he can establish himself as a go-to producer deeply embedded in the industry. There is little doubt that IKON has Top-40 chops, and he is aligning his ambition with his public presentation. The Auragami EP is IKON betting on himself and his own musical leanings. IKON has long had a love of electronic music and wanted to present that style on his own terms. When asked about making this shift, he says the most important thing was “Developing the sound, because it was a new sound. It was always something I was doing, but how could I put it together and make it sound good?”

Highly aware of packaging and presentation, IKON knew that his shift in sound would surprise people. “[We wanted] everything when it hit people to be a shock. We wanted the shock value.” While some artists are good at achieving shock value, very few can deliver on quality when the chips are down. Shifting sound can derail careers and alienate fan-bases, but IKON’s raw talent and attention to detail made Auragami on par with top quality pop music. It’s full of infectious hooks, deep bass, and snappy drops that bring you in immediately. The opening track ‘Wanted’ is such a cool listen, and it’s amassed a big play count already. 

While IKON’s sound may not fit in with the current trends or expectations in the city, anyone that knows music will recognize the quality. IKON erects foundations solid enough to carry vocalists like Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga, a rare talent that will surely carry him to the top charts in music. IKON’s deep understanding of production led to success in hip-hop and electronic music, and he’s only just beginning to delve into different genres. With future plans to move to Los Angeles, IKON is an artist to keep close tabs on as he begins to embed deeper within the industry. He could end up being one of the great hitmakers of the next 10 years, something Chicago artists should wise up to before he’s flying well above the clouds.