While markets like New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta established their positions in Hip Hop early on, Chicago was a city outliers for the first couple decades the genre’s existence.
While MCs like Twista, Common and course Kanye West inexorably put on for the Windy City, the culture was still somewhat amorphous rolling into the turn the millennium. But in the later part the ’00s, as violence on the city’s Southside became a daily talking point on the national news, artists from that region started going into “art imitating life” mode and the rest the world began to take notice.
It was around that time that Andrew Barber decided to start Fake Shore Drive — a blog that would help bring eyes and ears to the many capable MCs he felt warranted exposure.
“When I first started Fake Shore Drive my goal was to just shine a light on what was happening in the Chicago Hip Hop scene and the midwest in general. Because I feel like this is the most underserved region in Hip Hop,” Barber told HipHopDX, who made the trip out to Chi-Town to cover the 10th anniversary concert put on by Red Bull Sound Select and featuring a who’s who midwest MCs including G Herbo, The Cool Kids as well as Twista, GLC, Bump J, King L, Tee Grizzley and the night was capped f with the Big Tymers (Mannie Fresh and Birdman) reuniting on stage.
Barber, who originally hails from Indiana, far surpassed his initial expectations for the site and was able to make an immediate impact on the culture thanks to some quality artists and good timing.
“Since Fake Shore Drive some the bigger artists that came through were The Cool Kids, Chance The Rapper, Chief Keef, Lil Durk, G Herbo, Mick Jenkins — there have been so many over the past few years,” he noted. “It’s great to still be around 10 years later, still doing it and see the scene flourishing. I think people thought when Chicago kind exploded in 2012-2013 people were like ‘I don’t know how long it’s gonna last’ but we still got it rockin’.”
He continued: “It was a hobby. I just wanted to do it to express myself and become involved and do some great things. I didn’t think it would ever become a full-time job,” he said, also recalling the grind it took to get the blog to be self-sustaining. “I worked really hard. I sacrificed a lot. I worked a job during the day and would go live a Hip Hop life during the night.”
Rapper/Entrepreneur Matthew “M-Eighty” Markf also originates from the Midwest and has seen FSD’s journey progress from a labor love to the benchmark midwest Hip Hop journalism. “It was 2007-2008. I was in San Francisco in Law School. I just dropped my album Hymns, Psalms & Street Songs. I’m on tour opening up for the Wu-Tang Clan at the Metro. Andrew Barber, my boy who I met in Bloomington, he tells me he’s starting a blog called Fake Shore Drive for all Chicago artists. One the first shows that he ever went to was that Wu-Tang Clan show that I opened up for,” said M-Eighty.
“A few months later — I think it was the first Pitchfork Music Festival with] GZA and Killah Priest] and Yoko Ono and Sonic Youth, and Andrew met The Clipse and those were some the early beginnings Fake Shore Drive. 10 years later, I don’t envy any man in my industry, but Andy — my friend, my confidant, I’m envious how this man has excelled within the industry and how respected he is by all our peers.”
Detroit rapper Tee Grizzley gave Barber props, citing FSD as an outlet as meaningful as some the pop culture heavyweights. “To me Fake Shore Drive is an outlet for people to get their music out there. It’s a way for people to be heard, it’s another YouTube, another WorldStar, another social media platform and it’s stationed here in the Midwest,” Grizzley said. “A lot the music scene don’t got no Midwest artists so I feel like Fake Shore Drive puttin’ on for us.”
“They definitely helped usher in a ton awareness for Chicago rappers,” HipHopDX Editor-in-Chief Trent Clark recalls. “I can think Common’s Universal Mind Control getting awareness for an album like that. Or just being instrumental in helping Chief Keef break through the mold and actually get a story out as opposed to just being shown as some kid carrying guns. FSD really dug into what these rappers are all about, nothing really glossy or anything, Barber] actually really cared about the culture.”
The Beginning Of Drill
As the Drill sound rose to prominence and artists like King Louie and Chief Keef and producers like Young Chop started gaining momentum, Chicago — after more than 20 years ambiguity — now had a signature sound and an explosion talent similar to that a college team that just hired John Calipari.
“The first time I heard Drill I want to say was King Louie. Actually it was Pac Man, one Louie’s] homies who got killed, he was the first artist I heard say ‘Drill’ in a record,” Barber recalled. “In my opinion King Louie really kicked the door down for Drill and put the light on the city for that,” he added.
Additionally, Kanye West put his stamp on a new subgenre Hip Hop that lived between rap and R&B with the release his then-polarizing 808s & Heartbreak. It was an album that would shift the commercial landscape Hip Hop and one that would help inspire one Chicago’s most prodigious artists to come out since Mr. West himself.
Enter Chance The Rapper
As Drill music started seeing mixtape rappers scoring record deals, a young man named Chancelor Jonathan Bennett threw a wrench in the city’s newfound identity with the release his seminal Acid Rap mixtape. It was new and different. Before the world took notice, Andrew Barber saw something early on and helped give the mixtape a push into national prominence.
“First time I met Chance The Rapper he came to my fice — I think this was late 2012, he was 18 or 19. He came with his manager at the time, this kid named Matt who had done some writing for Fake Shore Drive,” said Barber. “Everybody wants to take a meeting and you only have so much time but Matt was like ‘You gotta check this guy out.’ So Chance came into my fice that afternoon and I was like] ‘this kid has something special. He’s gonna take f,’ and you never know how far somebody’s gonna go but I just knew he was gonna be huge, and he shows no signs slowing down. It all kind came full circle when he won his first Grammy and shouted me out.”
GLC, Kanye West’s former groupmate with the Go Getters (and who helped pen some Ye’s early hits), remembers a time when the music industry was going through a transformation both business-wise as well as stylistically and praised Barber and Fake Shore Drive’s ability to push through and even grow during the changes. “Andrew] was right there during a time when the business was making a transition to online. He was right there at the start it so if you wasn’t on the radio or on the TV he gave you a platform to grow and develop and keep your eyes on the prize and have something to visualize,” said GLC. “It helped you get your clout up real easy. It gave you a platform because it had credentials. You could tell somebody you were on Fake Shore Drive and that meant something just like if you say ‘I’m on the radio’ or ‘I’m on TV’ you could say ‘I’m on Fake Shore Drive’ and that gave you some validation. Before that all we had was radio and magazines.
With his grassroots approach, Andrew Barber took a path similar to the one most the rappers he helped build recognition for also took. Not only did he help establish the culture for the city he calls home but he continues to move it forward.
And his brand has come to be known as the ficial voice Chicago Hip Hop journalism.