Up and Coming Chicago Artists: the music, the reality, the city
By: Savannah Panagos and Claire Crane
Xander Young, an up and coming hip-hop, R&B, electric rap, describes himself as an eclectic artist that is on his journey to success. Xander, 25, originally from Maywood, has returned to Chicago to pursue what has always been a passion.
JaZZ relaxing prior to recording at the studio. Photo by: Claire Crane
Jay Jay Elvir, artist name JaZZ, is a hip-hop and R&B artist. Elvir, 24, is originally from Waukegan, but pursues his music career in Chicago. When asked why he chose the name “JaZZ”, Jay Jay says, “It’s the type of music jazz is, smooth and mellow. I think that’s just the type of energy I give off.”
The passion for music comes in different forms, both artists said. For Xander, this passion started at a young age. Listening to his parent’s music, Stevie Wonder, and Earth, Wind & Fire. Although his rapping career didn’t begin until 20.
“I actually started writing music maybe around 20-21, he said. “I would rap freestyle and stuff, playing around. I used to write poetry and stuff so I guess I was really writing a long time ago. It was just never rhythm and poetry, it was just poetry. I started realistically taking it seriously at the age of 20.”
JaZZ began to write music in his down time while being a student athlete at Loyola. What first started as him writing down his thoughts, turned into a passion, which lead him to pursue a career in music. The risk was more than worth it to this young artist, who dropped everything to follow his dreams, including basketball.
JaZZ is still an aspiring artist, so when asked what advice he would give to other aspiring artists he said, “It would be advice that I would give myself since I’m an aspiring artist. Just keep being original and keep creating things that I like and that I’m proud of. Don’t let anyone box you in, and don’t put yourself in a box.” Another admirable thing about JaZZ is his love for what he does, no matter the struggle. He says that the struggle is what “breeds creativity and inspiration,” it makes your music meaningful.
JaZZ at his first performance in Milwaukee, earlier this year. Photo By: Claire Crane
When asked about struggle being an aspect of the Chicago music industry Xander did not have much to comment on. He was unable to speak on it due to the fact that it wasn’t part of his journey.
“I feel like struggle, everybody has a struggle, but I feel like the struggle that is branded, I don’t feel like I come from that,” Xander said.
In the cutthroat world of the music industry, and better yet, the rap game, there are obstacles every rapper must face. Especially in a city that is filled with talent like Chicago.
“I would say the most difficult aspect of the industry in Chicago is, there aren’t a lot of DJs that are pushing underground artists that much,” said Xander.
Xander performing at the HVAC Pub this past April. Photo by: Evan Jackson
“I feel like they (people whose job it is to break and push artists) get to the artist when everybody else has heard of them. There is no point in trying to break an artist everyone’s heard. Also, I feel like a lot of talented individuals are here so you’re not going to just shine cause you’re a really dope artist. You gotta put in a lot of work. A lot of the artists here have strong brands and do well at making music and have a really good image so it’s really competitive so that makes it more fun though as well.”
It is not easy being an up-and-coming artist in such a large city. With all the talent that is in Chicago, JaZZ believes there should be more than what there is now. Although the music industry is growing, it is almost nonexistent in this big city.
Places like LA, Atlanta and New York are home to many record labels, publishing companies and media outlets. Which is why JaZZ says he will always call Chicago home and continue to work on music in the city, but he will have to branch out and showcase his talent in other places around the world.
With so much going on in the rap industry in Chicago it’s vital for artists to be recognizable. It isn’t always the job of the producer or record label to do this for rappers. A lot, especially up and coming rappers, must do it for themselves. Especially with the lack of record labels in the city of Chicago, you see more independent Chicago rappers doing it on their own, for example Chance the Rapper.
This responsibility has to be taken on by the artist due to the startup of the career. Artists are afforded with musical platforms such as SoundCloud, Spotify, and Apple Music to promote themselves.
Soundcloud has been JaZZ’s media outlet of choice. His most popular song, “90’s Baby”, has 50,000 streams and counting. His first performance was early this year in Milwaukee, and has since traveled to Texas for another performance.
Photo From Flickr by: Tony Lau
Chicago is a city of opportunity. Sometimes an opportunity must be stumbled upon instead of handed out. It has afforded many great rappers their careers. If there’s one thing to be said it’s that the people love Chicago.
“Everybody loves Chicago. You go out of state and you tell people you’re from Chicago, they’re automatically interested in you because people love our culture, people love our way of life, people like how we talk, how we make music,” said Xander.