“He’s wearing that jacket again,” was all I could think as I approached Kene Ekwunife at the marble-lined bar top. Coolly sipping a cocktail, a messenger bag slung across his shoulders, Kene, better known as SaveMoney artist KAMI, was impossible to miss in the half-full club. What the casual observer didn’t know is that he’d been rocking the thick-lined bomber since mid-summer. Far from the casual observer, I immediately recalled seeing him at East Room in July, myself sweating through a t-shirt as he stood draped in the neon-orange outerwear, seemingly unfazed as he explained the perseverance of style to me. While it may seem innocuous, that jacket operates as a perfect metaphor for KAMI as a person and an artist: unmistakable yet tempered, patient and consistent. In many ways, he’s evolved in the public eye without having to catch it’s full glare, not yet at least. Continue reading From Understudy To Leading Man After A Journey Of Self-Discovery, KAMI Steps Into The Spotlight
If you’re at all familiar with the burgeoning Chicago hip-hop scene, then the name SaveMoney should carry some weight; the multi-faceted collective has been at the forefront of the local scene for some time. Championed by Vic Mensa, the crew of longtime friends is comprised of 20-something creatives, students, artists, activists and entrepreneurs counting the likes of Chance The Rapper, Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment band in its auxiliary ranks. While not exclusively a hip-hop group, SaveMoney has become a force in the rap world with a packed lineup that is both based in the nuances of classic hip-hop and pushing the envelope for what the genre entails.
It’s a patchwork of styles, aesthetics and sounds that make up the whole, much like the city they’re from. Hailing from a place billed as one of the “most segregated cities in the world,” children are gunned down for walking on the wrong block in their own neighborhoods. SaveMoney, with members that come from all sides and corners of the city, operates as a uniting force that is representative of the future while staying rooted in the facets that have paced Chicago for generations.
While many may know of Vic and Chance, both of whom were XXL Freshmen in 2014, the group boasts a wide-ranging variety of hip-hop intonations that run the gamut of what listeners have come to expect from the Midwest and has allowed the roster to develop into a “next-up” type of situation that has seen each artist release critically-acclaimed projects, sell out local venues and find fans both in and out of their city in the process. Unlike New York City or Los Angeles, Chicago isn’t particularly known for its forward-thinking fashion, it’s artistic intonations or eye for aesthetics. However, this band of kids, raised in the Internet age, is representative of the contemporary, progressive thinking of a new generation that has not only pushed the envelope, but found eyes and ears across the country in the process. While the north, south and west sides of the city may be geographically close, they can often feel like completely different places with separate sub-cultures and influences throughout. SaveMoney, however, has relied on an interplay of every side and corner of the city to create a truly layered representation of their hometown that defies any set boundaries in the process.
Last year, Vic Mensa performed for the second time at Lollapalooza, a festival he almost died sneaking into, and joined Chance on the final night as a headliner. With as much diversified talent as SaveMoney has as a whole, it’s not out of the question to think that might become a regular thing for years to come. The collective has grown, matured and seems ready to take on anything in it’s path, while still remaining close friends in the process. XXL spoke to Vic Mensa, Joey Purp, Towkio, Caleb James, Brian Fresco, KAMI, Dally Auston and Sterling Hayes to find out what makes them tick. —Jake Krzeczowski Continue reading [Feature] Meet Vic Mensa’s Chicago Hip-Hop Collective SaveMoney