If Keef, who makes the kind of hedonistic party music that could soundtrack the apocalypse and is regularly arrested for weapons charges, represents the tension between authenticity and bankability that’s as old as hip-hop itself, then Herb, whose acclaimed recent mixtape Welcome to Fazoland ⎯ named for a dead friend ⎯ tempers bleak portraits of urban warfare with a rare technical artistry, demonstrates the form’s ability to spin hopeless circumstances into a vehicle for redemption and joy. Herb’s real-world tales of street violence give voice to metaphorical struggles too, proof that hip-hop can be a talisman for triumph over adversity, a legacy that found its apex in Biggie and Tupac.
An excerpt from my feature on Chicago’s drill music scene which was published in new biannual magazine Museum. Some of the young hip-hop artists I profiled live pretty turbulent existences so getting this story wasn’t easy – but the fact that their lives are such a testament to how hardship can galvanise ambition has made it one of the favourite stories I’ve worked on to date. Read the whole thing here or you can preorder Museum here.