The Sound of Chicago: Where Creativity Meets Innovation

Iconic Chicago Music Venue, the Metro
Iconic Chicago Music Venue, the Metro

I'm Jake Trussell, a proud Chicago Ideas Co-op member. By day I'm creative director at World Business Chicago, a public-private, non-profit partnership that drives inclusive economic growth and job creation, supports business, and promotes Chicago as a leading global city. By night I’m a family man, amateur musicologist, and DJ. In my former life I ran a couple of indie record labels, produced music, and toured the world playing it.

I often wonder what is it about Chicago that generates so much creativity and innovation. After all, this is the city that gave birth to both the zipper and the skyscraper; the city where Ferris invented his Wheel; the city where these mobile phones we all carry around were first designed. Is there something in the water?

When I consider Chicago’s musical identity, I think about the immense continuum of innovation running through the city’s black music history. From Louis Armstrong’s earliest jazz recordings, to Mahalia Jackson’s developments in gospel music, to the urban blues of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, up through the house, juke, and footwork creations of Frankie Knuckles, DJ Funk, DJ Rashad, and the drill sounds of Chief Keef, it’s hard to think of another city with so many indigenous genres that've been as influential around the globe.

“Visionary #ChicagoMade artists are emerging from across the city’s patchwork of neighborhoods to make their mark not only through music, but as entrepreneurs disrupting old industry models and blazing new paths to economic viability.”

I recently recorded a DJ mix that represents a current wave of musical creativity emanating from Chicago. It’s a movement that offers an alternative to some of the dominant narratives about our city. Visionary #ChicagoMade artists are emerging from across the city’s patchwork of neighborhoods to make their mark not only through music, but as entrepreneurs disrupting old industry models and blazing new paths to economic viability. Chance the Rapper, a figurehead of this movement, recently became the first artist ever to win a Grammy without releasing a physical recording, or needing record label behind him.

Listening to this explosion of sound led by Chance and crew, I wonder; is this yet another (to-be-named) Chicago music genre? There are elements of jazz, gospel, blues, house, juke, footwork, and drill, yet this is a new sound entirely. It's hip-hop, but breaks the paradigm of gangster-rap, party-rap, backpacker/conscious hip-hop, and trap, to create something that transcends them all.

Chi-Town? Chi-Raq? No. This is The Go!

You can listen to the mix on MixCloud here.

Jake Trussell is Creative Director at World Business Chicago, public-private, non-profit partnership that drives inclusive economic growth and job creation; and a member of the Chicago Ideas Co-op, a new-age networking group aimed at sparking action within the community. You can follow him @JTrus and listen to his mixes on MixCloud.

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