The New Class
The New Class: Kembe X, Legit, Calez, Thelonious Martin, Alex WIley, Chance The Rapper, St. Millie, Caleb James

On March 27th we will host a special edition of Digital Freshness at Reggie’s.  This is the first Digital Freshness that will feature a complete lineup of artists 21 or younger, and will showcase some of the best up and coming talent Chicago has to offer.  These are the new-new emcees.  As artists like YP, Hollywood Holt, L.E.P., Rockie Fresh, Mano, Scheme, Add-2, etc all take the next steps in their careers and go national, this is a new crop with the potential to supply Chicago’s underground with a steady stream of music.  While they’ve started to populate Chicago blogs,  they are relatively new to Chicago stages with just a few shows under their belts.   This Digital Freshness puts them all one stage with the aim to formally introduce them as new artists to check for, and hopefully ones that a new generation of Chicago Hip Hop can build around and grow with.  Take a closer look at each featured artist below, and be sure to catch them on March 27th at Digital Freshness: Under 21 Edition.

Kembe X

Kembe X of The Village
“My task is simple,” Kembe X raps on “Patience (What Is That?)”, explaining his objective, “get sick enough to make ends.”  It’s a great and fitting line off Kembe’s latest mixtape, Self-Rule.  Although Self-Rule’s release happened during the here-today-gone-tomorrow digital age, this is really a timeless project and I hope it sees a legit re-release sometime soon.  “Sick” is exactly how I would describe Kembe, as well as his long-time collaborator, Alex Wiley.  Kembe is an emcee’s emcee, and I envision him making Self-Rule and other records constantly trying to push himself lyrically, studying Hip Hop greats of the past.  The Village crew embodies a style of Chicago Hip Hop and culture, their music carrying the same vibe as many 12″ and 7″ inch classics. Word on the street is that Kembe X has been garnering attention from Nas, and a couple others.  That’s what I heard around Austin. It may just be a senseless rumor, but it would make perfect sense… Also, I think the first time I met Alex Wiley, I thought he stole my jacket…
Further Reading:
RH First Look, Self-Rule, Can I Borrow A Dollar?


Chance The Rapper

Chance The Rapper of SaveMoney
Chance The Rapper turned a 10-day suspension from Jones Prep into a new musical youth movement.  If you were at his show at Reggie’s a couple months ago and saw 300 teenagers yell “Fuck You Tahm Bout”, then you know what I mean.  Chance is still growing into himself as an artist, and it’s great to see. He keeps getting better and digging deeper into his biggest talent, which is his raw emotion and musical fearlessness.  He uses his voice as an instrument on many tracks, something he picked up from influences such as Freestyle Fellowship.  Chance also employs weapons such as an unorthodox flow reminiscent of early Eminem or Cage, and a singing voice that ranges from a whine (“Coming For Your Spot”) to at times an eerie element (“All BLK”). Chance does a lot of material in-house with his band Instrumentality, as well as his SaveMoney Crew.  He has also been in the studio with veteran producers such as Million $ Mano, the Blended Babies, and Chuck Inglish, a good sign for things to come.  Lastly, Chance is just interesting and unique.  People genuinely want to hear new music, making his #10Day release date of April 3rd circled on many calendars.
Further Reading:
In The Studio with Chance The Rapper, “Fuck You Tahm Bout”, “22offs”




Calez of 2008ighties
Calez has no shortage of confidence, something he shares with the rest of his 2008ighties crew.  The group is a team of DIY kids making music, artwork, and videos.  Calez caught my attention pretty much out of persistence, emailing me regularly before dropping “Middle Finger”.  The record directly addressed his frustrations with being overshadowed, and genuinely asked for guidance in getting his music to the masses.  It worked.  Calez combines influences from Hip Hop’s Native Tongues era with the current trends in genre-straddling.  His proper debut, Kid With Raps, was an honest and reflective assessment of one kid just trying to make it.  With a growing fanbase, strong crew, and mentions from 9th Wonder and others, Calez is another artist that can be here for years to come.
Further Reading:
First Look, “Middle Finger”, Kid With Raps


Thelonious Martin

Thelonious Martin of Homme Team
Life is pretty good for Thelonious Martin, the producer and Columbia College freshman that once had to excuse himself from class after receiving a text that Action Bronson wanted to work with him during a Closed SessionThelonious is going to need to pile on the summer school and credit hours if he hopes to grab that degree before production duties are taking up 100% of his time.  Martin is creating new work at a prolific pace, releasing 3 projects in the last year and getting ready to drop another one March 27th, followed by a new album with Columbia’s AEMMP Hip Hop label.  In the mean time, he’s also scored production credits with the aforementioned Action Bronson, Sir Michael Rocks, Hodgy Beats, Vic Mensa, Chance The Rapper, and many others.  Martin is a Dilla-head with a great work ethic, humble approach, and endless potential. 
Further Reading:
RH First Look,  “Dear Heather” feat Action Bronson, Rockie Fresh, and Macie Stewart, Super


Caleb James of SaveMoney

Caleb James describes his move into the music as something that just happened.  He’s perhaps the most existential member of the SaveMoney crew, not that he necessarily knows it or really cares.  Caleb’s “have fun and go with the flow” mentality have made him an interesting artist to watch and listen to, and also somewhat of a hidden gem in the SaveMoney camp.  His musical roots and legacy in Chicago Hip Hop are also an ace in the hole for Caleb, who has no shortage of inspiration or tools around him.  He has not released too much content as of yet, but there’s a definitely an audience ready for whatever he has to offer.
Further Reading:
“Like A Pimp”, “Grind Like Me”



Legit of 2008ighties
I like to think of Legit as a provider of clarity in this new class of Chicago Hip Hop.  It gets tougher and tougher to discern quality music from a good publicist and high quality camera equipment these days.  There’s a lot of pop-up emcees that demand to be taken seriously, without any practice or knowledge of what they want to be a part of.  Legit is a break from that insanity, and he is simply nice.  Legit gives listeners feel good music, and thoughtful prose.  You can tell he’s a thinker, more concerned with his music than his swag.  Legit just dropped a new mixtape, Coloring Outside The Lines, which garnered a lot of praise for the current college student, especially for the way in which Legit tackled interracial dating on “A N***er In Northface”.
Further Reading:
First Look, “A N***er In Northface”, Coloring Outside The Lines


Saint Millie
St. Millie

St. Millie is by the far the freshest face on this list, and was highly recommended by Jugrnaut as an addition to Digital Freshness.  While he may be new, he’s got an impressive team behind him, including The Gift, who handled a lot of production on Rockie’s Driving 88 and The Otherside. Millie made a strong entrance with his debut song, “Eight2Nine”, which also featured Rockie Fresh.  St. Millie will have a chance to prove himself at Reggie’s on the 27th, and I know he also has plenty of new material just awaiting release.
Further Reading:

You can catch all of the artists above at Digital Freshness: Under 21 Edition at Reggie’s on March 27th. Tickets are available at Jugrnaut as well as online via Reggie’s.  We couldn’t add everyone to the Reggie’s show, but there are other artists under 21 that you should know.  Be sure to check for: Julian Malone, Alex Wiley, Chief Keef, Murph Watkins, Martin $ky, and Fonz-E Mak.  Maybe we’ll get them on the next edition of Digital Freshness under 21…