XXL’s Guide To Chicago Hip-Hop: Top Five Producers

1522106_558352047590197_2118632672_nThe Social Experiment

If you’ve been to a festival or accessed the Internet anytime over the past few months, it’s pretty certain that you’ve heard something that’s been touched by The Social Experiment. Chance The Rapper’s in-house band and production team—comprised of Peter Cottontale, Nico Segal, Greg Landfair and Nate Fox—has been busy since releasing Acid Rap last April. That included crisscrossing trips across the country playing sold out venues as well as spending time in the studio with the likes of Skrillex, SZA, Jeremih, James Blake and Justin Bieber, just to name a few.

Producing sonically beautiful backing tracks that are both a play on the pillars of Chicago music thus far and a trajectory forward of where it can go, this group has been able to make hip-hop music that is palpable to the general public. Currently working on the follow up to Acid Rap, each of the members of the collective have plans for solo albums over the next year that should prove to continue the forward-thinking production across the spectrum of music.

Closed Sessions 5Odd Couple

Part of being from Chicago is knowing hard work and that is certainly the case for local producer The Odd Couple. The 24-year-old seems to hardly exist outside the walls of Soundscape Studios, where he has been steadily plying his craft while working with Mike Kolar and Alex Fruchter of Closed Sessions on a variety of projects, including several tracks on Alex Wiley’s latest, Village Party.

Currently, he’s working on a project of his own with the independent imprint featuring a who’s who of the scene around him: The O’My’s, Saba, Joey Purp and Kami De Chukwu to name a few. Production-wise, Odd Couple possesses the ability to deftly maneuver between multi-tracked bangers and symphonic backing with ease. Having worked with most of the acts bubbling in Chicago, expect to see his name in the credits for some time.

Thelonious Martin by Andrew ZeiterThelonious Martin

While not a Chicago native, Thelonious Martin, also known as King Thelonious, has been pumping out a steady stream of content from his Columbia College dorm room in the Loop for the better part of the past four years. The New Jersey native’s resume reads like a who’s who of the contemporary hip-hop world, with names like Mac Miller, Chance The Rapper, Action Bronson, Vic Mensa and Ab-Soul on his resume.

Martin culls his craft from influences like Madlib, J Dilla and Pete Rock, and all are evident in his sample-heavy compositions and tireless work ethic that have propelled him to have a steadier career post-college than many of his classmates.


C-Sick is what I like to describe as the silent assassin of the Chicago hip-hop scene. If you look hard enough, you’ll see his name everywhere, but his notoriety hasn’t quite caught up to his star-studded credits. The 23-year-old producer came to prominence in his hometown after winning the 2008 Chicago Big Tune Beat Battle at the tender age of 17.

Since then, the self-proclaimed “’90s kid” has produced for Nas on “Film,” progressed his local scene forward by working with King L, Sir Michael Rocks, Lil Herb, GLC and Fredo Santana and toed the big time by laying the groundwork for Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber’s track “Twerk” with YMCMB artist Lil Twist. The Avignon, France native appears intent upon continuing to add to a discography that warranted a list of favorites from Fake Shore Drive late last year.

IMG_20140218_104101Na$im Williams/Million Dollar Mano

Treated Crew is the hip-hop collective in Chicago led by Kanye West’s DJ Million Dollar Mano. The clique is one of the most well-respected and visible in the city, with acts like Hollywood Holt, Sulaiman, Mic Terror and more. The squad has also been a breeding ground of sorts for young artists, and no one has taken better advantage of that network than Na$im Williams. The hip-hop composer seems to have a sort of apprenticeship relationship with Mano, who provided the majority of production on the recently released compilation project, Treated Tribe.

Williams handles seemingly everything else, having worked recently with the likes of Chandler London, Vic Spencer and Scheme while hopping on tour with Travis $cott and Boldy James this summer. With the amount of talent, both in and around him, Williams appears to have a bright future ahead.



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