King: Kanye West
Crowning Achievement: 2007's Graduation, where he achieved bona fide crossover pop stardom, sold 950,000 records in the first week, and managed to go double platinum in a single month.
Predecessor: Bump J
Royal Court: Chance The Rapper, Lil Durk, Chief Keef, King Louie
When it comes to rap, Chicago has self-esteem issues. We all look at what other cities and movements are doing and get frustrated that we don’t have the unity or outlets in place. So we project that frustration onto each other, causing mindless beefs and silly squabbles. While newer crews make strides to dead that mentality, it's still so prevalent that "Worrying about what everyone else is doing" sometimes seems like the real King of Chicago rap.
In case you were wondering, the editors didn't go for it. But really, there’s no other argument to be made: Kanye West is the King of Chicago.
In 2009, Bump J was the undisputed King of Chicago. That was also when he got sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in a 2007 bank robbery. The lane was set for Kanye to ascend to his current role.
Actually, let's pump the brakes for a second. I'd like to go ahead and make sure we're all on the same page going forward.
*Sits you down, hands you a water*
You DO realize that Kanye West is the King of Chicago rap, right? You're not going to bitch and moan about minor trivialities, right? "Oh, well he doesn't live here anymore!" What are you, high? The conflict, the shit-talking, the willingness to speak his mind about damn near anything you can have an opinion on, the sense of humor, the transparent aspiration to do more and do it better. Hell, the man IS Chicago. The best of the best are able to unite crews, give shine to the future and truly represent for the past, present, and future of Chicago. Kanye was a major player in bringing mainstream attention to the music in this city by co-signing Keef, Louie, L.E.P. and other acts that have been bubbling forever. He didn’t just put them on songs, but shouted them out on his own music. That's some Solomon-level diplomacy, n'est ce-pas?
It's one thing to win the title, but it's a whole 'nother to defend it and keep defending it. Whether you liked it or not, his most recent release, Yeezus, got people talking and still went gold in under a month. We may have to institute some sort of Chairman Emeritus-type of situation going forward. But in the meantime, Mr. West is Mr. Best.
As for the other contenders: Chance the Rapper stole a lot of looks and attention on both a national and local scale with his early 2013 release Acid Rap, a tape that has been lauded by the streets AND the suits, to the point that Chance is on tour with Eminem and Kendrick Lamar as I type these words. With "Dis Aint What U Want" continuing to gain airplay (not to mention Meek Mill jumping on the remix) and his breakout hit "L's Anthem" still impacting (French Montana just jumped on that remix), Durk has managed to avoid the complacency that has befallen a few of the rappers who got their big look in the Chicago takeover of 2012. The hope is that he stays out of trouble long enough to keep it going. Speaking of that aforementioned complacency: Keef and Louie both released recent projects that lacked the consistency and hits that we all know they can create, although they still remain a significant presence. —Ernest Wilkins