Over the past several years, Chicago has consistently been in conversation as a city producing some of the most talented hip hop artists. But while we’ve seen the rise of the likes of Vic Mensa, Chance The Rapper and Mick Jenkins, there’s another group who isn’t getting the shine they deserve. Black female singers. Below we highlight some of the prominent and upcoming Black female singers on the rise in the Chicago music scene.
In 2010, Akenya released her debut EP ‘Overcome.’ At only 23 years old, she has opened up for Esperanza Spaulding and collaborated with the likes of Chance The Rapper, Mick Jenkins and NoName Gypsy. The Chicago native caught my attention recently when Soundcloud’s shuffle algorithm introduced me to her track ‘Absent Mindedness.’ Her style eloquently combines jazz, poetry and neo-soul. Although only two songs on her current Soundcloud, they’re enough to keep you wanting more until she drops her follow-up EP sometime this year. Give her music a listen below.
Hailing from Chicago’s west-side, Jean Deaux has used her roots in house, r&b and hip hop to define her district electronic sound. Her 13.5 thousand followers on Soundcloud has led her to a recent performance at the House of Vans showcase at SXSW and a takeover of Nylon’s snapchat. She’s collaborated with the likes of Mick Jenkins and production/creative collective THEMPeople. While she’s caught my attention with her tracks XYZ and Don’t Kall My Name, Alone is by far my favorite. The 8-min track produced by Nico Segal and ThemPeople touches on not wanting to be alone after the ending of a bad relationship. “Have you ever been so in love with somebody that you never wanna be alone?” Give it a listen below.
Daryn Alexus is originally a DC-native who migrated to Chicago like many artists to attend Columbia College Chicago. But music wasn’t a new idea to her as she attended the world renowned Duke Ellington High School for the Arts. The school boasts such notable alumni as Dave Chapelle and Angela Davis. The 25-year old singer touches on real issues many millennials/creatives can relate to. Student loans, past due bills and following dreams. “Bow your head and say a prayer.// For the little girl who lives inside of me.” She’s garnered a increasing following in Chicago, catching the attention of the Chicago Tribune. In an interview with the Tribune, she speaks on how the passing of her aunt (also a singer) in 2012 is what led her back in pursuit of music. To date, Alexus has dropped two projects, Green and The Wildflower Series. Some of my personal favorites are ‘1990’ and ‘Then Again.’ Out of the 5, she’s probably the one I have the closest connection with. I witnessed first hand her very first performance while a student at Columbia. She’s come quite a ways over the past several years, and it’s only a matter of time before I believe her music will meet the speakers of the masses. On April 10th, she’ll be performing at the world renowned Double Door in Chicago. Check out her music below.
You can’t mention the Chicago music scene these days without brining up the name Eryn Allen Kane. Like Daryn Alexus, Kane also transplanted to Chicago from Detroit to attend Columbia College Chicago. But it wasn’t until after graduation that she started to gain the attention of music lovers all around the globe. She’s been co-signed by Prince, which would later lead to a collaboration between the two and a special performance at his benefit concert for Baltimore, live-streamed by Tidal. Around the same time, she would catch the attention of Spike Lee, who hand selected her to play a small supporting role in Chiraq. Last year she dropped Aviary Act I and less than a year later followed up with Aviary Act II. One of my personal favorites, Piano Song was featured on an episode of Being Mary Jane. Kane has collaborated with the likes of Chance The Rapper and Donnie Trumpet, who helped boost her name before releasing her solo material. She’s easily the most popular of the five, but has somehow maintained her graceful, charismatic personality in spite of everything that’s happened over the past year. If for some reason you haven’t heard of Kane before now, or simply forgot, you’ll quickly fall in love with Kane’s powerful, soulful voice. No doubt, Have Mercy is a personal favorite of the fans, amassing over 660,000 spins on Soundcloud and over 100K views on YouTube. Listen to her music below.
You might recognize Jamila Woods from Chance The Rapper’s Sunday Candy or Macklemore’s “White Privilege II.” Woods earned a BA in African American Studies and Theater & Performance Studies from Brown University. Although she’s made a name for herself as a singer, Woods is just as respected as both a poet and activist in Chicago. She currently serves as Associate Artistic Director of Young Chicago Authors where she helps organize the largest poetry festival in the world. In 2012, Woods released her debut Chapbook, ‘The Truth About Dolls’ inspired from a Toni Morrison quote. Earlier this year, she would pen a record deal with Chicago label, Closed Sessions. Her controversial collaboration with Macklemore is what caught many media outlets attention as they wrote about their new discovery of the Black female singer on the track. Her song Blk Girl Soldier speaks on the Black Girl Magic movement, paying tribute to freedom fighters like Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth and Assata Shakur. “But what they don’t understand. //She don’t give up.” Give it a listen below.