Chicago bop music is a solvent antidote to the blues. As a rule, bop—the smiley, youthful subgenre of hip-hop conceived on city’s West Side in late 2012—is non-confrontational and easily digestible, a fiesta bowl of sunkissed synths, Caribbean steel drums, yodeled ad-libs and ginger, and Auto Tuned melodies. Bop MCs are creatures of the nightlife. Their implied objective is not to educate, but to keep the “fefe,” or party (short for “fiesta”), medicated with Patrón, Rémy Martin, and Xanax.
But strip away bop’s sparkly trimmings and you’re left with a DIY take on protest folk born out of abject circumstances. Earlier this decade, Chicago’s national image was compromised by a volcanic rash of gun deaths, the bulk of which were concentrated in resourceless, hypersegregated neighborhoods. Even as the rest of the city beautified, many West and South Side communities stayed stuck in a quagmire of entrenched poverty, social unhappiness and civic dishevelment.
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