Top 50 Chicago Projects of 2022

There aren’t many areas in the world that can claim that they have produced as much musical talent as Chicago, each and every year, we are reminded of why the city is recognized as such a powerful musical hub. For the past seven years, we have tried our best to highlight some of our favorite projects of the year, highlighting both the superstar-established artists and the new rising creatives who are just entering the scene.

What I love most about doing these annual year-end recaps, is that it represents a specific + minuscule moment in time, so I ask that you use the past seven Top 50 articles as artistic individual time capsules. Whether you are reading this in the final hours of 2022, or if you are revisiting it years from now, understand that each + every one of these artists poured their heart and soul into the music that they created, and it is to be respected + appreciated for what it is. I hope that you enjoy these amazing projects as much as we did!

I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that this ranking is just in our opinion, and at the end of the day, our opinions don’t mean sh*t. Take the article for what it’s worth, I hope that you find some new artists from reading this, and hopefully, it’s the entrance into a space where you find your next personal favorite project.


50) Worry Club • Ur Not Real

Worry Club has come across my radar on many occasions before, so it’s definitely a treat that I get to put together a write-up for such a prestigious piece. Over the last year or so, this up-and-coming act has been making many strides when it comes to his music and overall presence as an artist. I’ve been paying attention from song to song, but for completely locked in when the release of his latest EP was announced. The project called, “ur not real”, came out on May 12th, 2022 and received a warm reception from fans and tastemakers alike. With songs like, “Pretty Face” and “Lately”, this 6 song body of work is a certified no-skip experience that will have you revisiting it whenever you’re in need of some easy listening. Make sure to tap in with this project before the year ends!


49) Walker • Phew

I get flooded with press emails on a day-to-day basis, sometimes it can be hard + somewhat overwhelming to sift through, but when you find a diamond in the email submissions, it feels AWESOME! Just a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across an email about a Chicago-based artist named Walker, and by the time I listened to a couple of songs on his new EP, I was hooked! I challenge our audience to listen to the intro record at the minimum, I strongly believe that once you hear the first song of this EP, you’ll feel inclined to check out the rest of the tape! I didn’t know too much about Walker upon discovering this project, I have been trying to learn more about his musical career, but this tape was so good that it just made sense to include here at number forty-nine.


48) Duffle Bag Buru • Brace For Impact

If you’ve been keeping up with the Chicago music scene, or have read our Top 50 list in the past years, then you surely know about Duffle Bag Buru. He is an artist who we shot a few music videos for back in the day, and he’s dropped a couple of great projects such as his 2017 effort Whole Bag. One aspect of Buru’s album that I’d like to point out is that he pays attention to the small details; cover art, cohesiveness, interludes, etc. I think as a whole, Brace For Impact is his best overall project to date, get familiar with it by pressing play below!


47) Casper Mcfadden • Lucky!

Casper Mcfadden might just be the most intriguing and unique artist on this entire list. Back in July, the up-and-comer released a 10-song, 30-minute project called, “Lucky!” And I can honestly say that anyone who stumbles on this will be lucky that they did. I will always respect artists who push artists and sonic boundaries and that’s exactly what Casper does on this project. I can’t even assign this music to a specific genre as it is so different than anything I’ve ever heard. I’m just a huge fan and I’m so glad Casper is making it onto this prestigious yearly round-up. This talent is definitely one to keep an eye on for years to come.


46) JYN • For Fuchsia

Jin Lee, aka J.Y.N. is an impressive Korean American singer/ songwriter from Chicago Illinois is making it into our top 2022 Chicago projects this year. The up-and-comer (formerly known as Bericat) really is a talent worth paying attention to as he is also a producer, engineer, and multi-instrumentalist which makes him all the more enticing when it comes to anyone out there who is looking for a promising artist to latch on to. This will be J.Y.N’s first placement on our top Chicago Projects of the year, but if he continues to make bodies of work like, “For Fuchsia”, then odds are, we will see him again very soon. The EP just released this year and it’s some of the easiest listening that you’ll experience. With guitar-driven production and catchy melodies, this 6-song offering is one that you’ll want to turn on the next time you go on a long drive! 


45) Wemmymo • Holding On To Yesterday

Chicago native WemmyMo is someone who captured my attention way back in 2018 when he released his phenomenal Bittersweet project, but it’s been a minute since then, and it’s been over two years since the release of his last body of work. Earlier this year, Wemmy announced that he was going to be releasing a new EP, and he delivered a phenomenal tape titled Holding On To Yesterday. This project is definitely a different type of sound than I have heard from Wemmy in the past, it’s a much more vulnerable sound than before, and in my outside looking in opinion, it was probably recorded during a time when he was dealing with some hardships. I think that ideology is apparent when you look at the title, it insinuates that Wemmy was holding onto something, and ultimately, he had to grow and move past it. This was a super solid project, which is why it’s landing here, much love to Wemmymo, you have a bright future ahead of you, keep going!


44) Lev UFO • LevUFOrever

LevUFO is an artist that I first got familiar with through my older brother Eric at some point earlier this year, and whenever Eric recommends an artist, it’s usually a gem. I was fascinated with Lev’s music videos when I was first getting to know him, he had an enthusiastic, fun-loving aura around him that I couldn’t get enough of.

A few months back, Lev dropped a new EP called LevUFOever, and it’s been consistently in my rotation. I feel as if this project is just scratching the surface of what he is capable of, there’s some good music on here, but Lev told me in our recent interview that most of these songs were created in 2020/2021. I am eager to see what the future holds for Lev, but for the time being, he is finding a home at number forty-four on our year-end list.


43) Rich Jones + Iceberg Theory • Smoke Detector

Rich Jones is definitely no stranger to our website, I have featured him many times in the past, and he is back yet again, this time landing at forty-three on our Top 50 list! Rich Jones teamed up with Iceberg Theory for an album called Smoke Detector, a project that I thoroughly enjoyed and kept revisiting throughout the year. 

The project is solid from front to back, it was well constructed and at times, almost has a cinematic type of feel to it. My favorite moment of the project though was the intro record “Chilly”, I feel like this type of sound is where Rich excels the most. The instrumental on that record mixed with Rich’s rapping/singing ability was pure bliss.


42) Samuel Aaron • Versions of Love Songs

Samuel Aaron is somebody who I just got familiar with a few weeks ago via my older brother Eric, who shared a few of these projects with me that are featured today. I instantly fell in love with this project, it was so soft and smooth, and the music made me feel calm and peaceful. Part of Samuel Aaron’s music reminds me of an artist named Appleby, they give me a similar feeling, and both possess angelic vocal abilities. This project is sensational, there’s nothing more to say about it, check it out for yourself below!


41) Ondine • Drool For Lust

Just about ten days ago, I was trying to find some new Chicago music when my brother Eric put me onto Ondine’s phenomenal project, Drool For Lust. Here we are less than two weeks later, and Ondine is finding herself at number forty-one on our Top 50 Chicago projects list. 

Considering that I have only been familiar with Ondine for a couple of weeks, I don’t know very much information about her at all, but I do know that what she managed to create on this three-track EP was special. There are less than 10 songs on Ondine’s Spotify page, and I have listened to each of them probably a dozen times, and trust me when I say that she possesses some incredible talent. 

This EP left me craving more music from Ondine, so hopefully, we get another project or some singles in 2023, but until then, stream this EP below!


40) PIWA • Dead Ends

Piwa is an artist who I have been a fan of for just over a year at this point, she has a unique style & her music has some very distinct qualities to it. In early November, Piwa unleashed a brand new EP titled DEAD ENDS, and it’s one of the best tapes I have heard over the past several weeks! It’s a rather quick listen coming in at just under twenty minutes, but it provides a handful of songs that are polished and multi-dimensional, my favorite of the bunch being the intro record “No Fun”. I thoroughly believe that in a few years, Piwa will be one of the young stars continuing the legacy of great musicians to come out of the city, please keep a close eye on her career moving forward. Stream this EP below before carrying on with the rest of the list!


39) Defcee and Boathouse • For All Debts Public and Private

For a decade, Chicago-based label Closed Sessions has helped pump out some very memorable projects, some that will live forever in Chicago history. Usually, when I see an artist have that CS stamp, it gives me the extra urge to take the time to check out the project because they haven’t let me down yet.

Earlier this year, Defcee and Boathouse released their album For All Debts Public and Private (Import Edition), and I have had it in rotation frequently for the last few weeks. This project to me feels like the modern-day version of what the true core values of hip-hop really are, if you take today’s creatives and have them make a project with those principles, this is what you’ll receive. 

This project is just under an hour in length, it’s a rather lengthy listen, but it flows so well + seamlessly together that you don’t even notice. The transitions between records are so clean that it feels like one cohesive body of work rather than a bunch of songs compiled together. The list of features on this tape is quite long, too long to name everyone in this short review, but check out the track list before listening and you will see some heavy hitters and true emcees. I could keep going on, but I will end it here, shout out to Defcee and Boathouse for making this great project, your hard work certainly didn’t go unnoticed. 


38) Godly The Ruler • Dog Days

Godly The Ruler is an artist who I just recently have been tapping into, mainly after I heard about his stellar performance at the These Days showcase at Schubas. This led me to check out this most recent single, which eventually got me to his EP Dog Days which he dropped earlier this year, and it’s been in my headphones ever since. 

A lot of the artists on this list are established or have had a deal of success so far, and a decent amount of these are just now introducing themselves to the world with their music. Out of all of the newcomers that we are featuring here, I feel very strongly about what the future holds for Godly the Ruler.

Maybe I am just stuck in that mode where I find new artists and am obsessed with their music, but I believe it’s more than that, his sound is entirely different than any artist that you can point to. Godly the Ruler is a truly unique artist, and that’s half the battle, not to mention that the music is flat-out great and he has the ‘look’ to go with it. This EP is landing at number thirty-eight on this article, but look for him to be featured in the top 20 in the future.


37) Thelonious Martin • We’ll Be Right Back

Thelonious Martin is more than just a name but truly an irreplaceable staple in the Chicago music community. The well-known producer needs no introduction, but at the same deserves immense amounts of praise which is why it’s an honor to be able to feature him on this year’s list of top 2022 Chicago Projects. Just this year, the highly decorated talent put together an 11-song beat tape called, “We’ll Be Right Back” which is the breath of fresh air that you need before the year ends. 

From top to bottom, this project is centralized yet inventive; branching out to new sonic worlds but at the same time, staying true to the style that Thelonious is known for. I found myself instantly gravitating to the first track and then getting hooked on offerings like “giveME”, “mirror”, “weWantThaFunk” and “whenever”. It’s rare that people find themselves hooked on a collection of songs that have no vocals or lyrics, but Thelonious manages to create a project that stands on its own in every way. No matter what type of music fan you are, it is imperative that you tap in with this one ASAP; Easily one of the best things to come out of Chicago this year.



When talking about individuality amongst Windy City talents, the conversation can start and end with Valee. He began with a very inimitable flow that others attempted to copy with no success, and while he delivered this cadence over minimalistic, pounding instrumentals, there was something so mesmerizing about the simplicity he brought to life within his music. Valee isn’t a very flashy person by any sense of the meaning, so he can just casually drop anything like his brand-new project VACABULAREE whenever he wants, however he pleases, and I know it’s going to be entrancing. The instrumentals are certainly par for the course in terms of their originality as certain tracks utilize samples in a very off-the-wall fashion, but the way I see it, nothing will ever trump the Chi-Town spitter’s lyrics.

It still amazes me to this day that he is able to pull off such subtle flexes that he appears to mention in passing, sharing them with listeners as if he’s tired of talking about these things but does so to continue to appease his fans. I just think it’s the complete opposite of the way other musicians discuss these items because while they scream and shout about jewelry, designers, and luxuries, Valee comparatively whispers them. However, these whispers shine much brighter and seem to highlight his bars in a much more exclusive light than anyone else could ever pull off. VACABULAREE, like many of Valee’s other releases, seems like it’s just another day at the office for him, but longtime fans know that this casual aesthetic is what makes him one of the most atypically gifted, irreplaceable, and unparalleled talents in the industry.


35) CP • Hall of Fame + Year Of The Dog

It’s no secret that CP is somebody who I have known personally for years and is someone who is deep-rooted in the history of Lyrical Lemonade. There are many ties here, but all of my bias aside, CP had an absolutely incredible year of growth in his music career. When he first started making music a few years back, there were some clear deficiencies in CP’s music, but he has worked hard to improve his craft, and now he is looked at as one of the most promising young talents in his lane. CP released multiple EPs this year, so instead of choosing just one, we are grouping them all together here at number thirty-five. 

I will leave off on this one note, CP’s latest music releases + music videos have far improved from the ones he was dropping at the start of this year. That is a great sign and I expect him to stay on that trajectory, tune into CP in 2023 and let’s see where he goes from here.


34) Mother Nature • Nature’s World

Mother Nature and Renzell teamed up this year for a joint EP called, Nature’s World which is deserving of much attention. The Chicago-based emcees have been active for some time now, but it seems like each time I check in on them, they’re paving new lanes for themselves and pushing the limits to their sound. “Nature’s World” is such a good project and I wish I had more words in my vocabulary to properly encapsulate it in this brief write-up. As soon as I turned on “Don’t Worry”, I thought I knew exactly what type of EP this would be, but as I kept diving deeper into the songs, there were pleasant surprises at every turn. Mother Nature is an inventive duo that I’m really grateful for. Not only are they making good-sounding music, but they are telling stories that can relate to listeners in some way, shape or form. Out of everything that has dropped this year, this project is definitely one of my favorites. From a listening standpoint, the sonics are immensely inviting which make for an experience that you’ll want to keep coming back to. This one is a non-negotiable listen, so check it out whenever you have a free 30 minutes!


33) Open Mike Eagle • Component System with the Auto Reverse

Earlier this year, Open Mike Eagle released his project Component System with the Auto Reverse, and I strongly believe that it’s one of the most underrated projects to come out in 2022. Truthfully, I was a couple of months late to checking out this project, as I just got in tune with it this past week, but man it’s great! I’ve streamed through this tape four times today alone, and I have been thoroughly impressed with Open Mike Eagle’s elite rapping ability and beat selection. There isn’t a single song on this project that you could even consider a skip, it’s a cohesive body of work that you can tell had a lot of thoughtful time and effort put into it. I am obsessed with this project at the moment, I am going to take a deeper dive into his catalog and I suggest that you do the same!


32) NNAMDÏ • Please Have a Seat

The talent pool here in Chicago is constantly growing, transforming, and getting more diverse as the days go by, but one person who has been consistently pushing the envelope for years is NNAMDï. On his immaculate project Please Have A Seat, not only did he self-produce everything pretty much singularly, but he showed off such a unique range in a way that is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, and I’m talking even further than the confines of the Windy City.

After listening to this album on multiple occasions, I can truly say that it blew me away more than any of the expectations I originally had could’ve ever lived up to. The first thing I noticed was the fact that not a single instrumental is a “normal” beat as off-the-wall synths and intricate percussion seem to decorate each track remarkably well, giving me a Flying Lotus-inspired feel that is always a mind-blowing style to behold. On another note, NNAMDï’s lyricism is equally game-changing as he demonstrates his nimble abilities in a variety of ways.

Sometimes rapping hastily while at other moments he sings angelically, there isn’t a single predictable moment on this album, and that’s what makes it so damn tantalizing. In the same breath, his naturally whimsical, almost lamenting voice provides an unalterable distinctness that no one else could come close to touching, and that’s one of the main reasons why I feel like NNAMDï is as original of an artist as I could ever imagine. Although NNAMDï has never seemed to conform to what others think sounds good or works in a traditional sense, Please Have a Seat is an album that you need to listen to if you want to witness true creativity come to life.


31) Groupthink • Guilty Pleasure

When I think of the term groupthink, I imagine a group of people sitting in an ideation session trying to come up with new, creative ideas. At the same time, though it seems like during these meetings, there is always one person who needs to be louder or more vocal to overshadow the rest of the group, and I think this is partially what the Chicago-by-way-of-North Carolina native known as Groupthink is going for. At the same time, I also believe that he uses this name as a way of pushing boundaries by doing something fresh and exciting, all while not ignoring others or placing his ideas on a higher level than theirs.

I feel like these two concepts are highlighted on his latest EP Guilty Pleasure because the songs are as one-off as you can ever imagine, but they also just have this accepting, welcoming vibe that could apply to anyone tuning in. Every cut is poppy and upbeat, but there is this indie aesthetic that I can’t overshadow, and I think this is partially accredited to his effortlessly smooth, falsetto vocals that just glide seamlessly over each instrumental. Considering this project is a quick listen, all I can do is hope that there is much more on the horizon for this promising and always entertaining young talent.


30) Henry Verus • Vanity

If you’ve peeped my writing at Lyrical Lemonade, then you know, one of my favorite Chicago artists is none other than Henry Verus. I’ve been a big supporter since he first stepped on the scene back in 2020 and ever since then, I haven’t wavered. His music has impressed me since the beginning, so you know I was excited when he dropped his biggest body of work to date this year. The project, called, “Vanity” was definitely an impressive showing for the artist who is still super early in his career. If you’re like me and you got hooked on Henry after listening to songs like “Your Guilty Pleasure” and “Pretty Little Liar”, then “Vantiy” will offer you a pleasant listening experience that makes you fall in love with Henry all over again. From the very jump, “IF IT’S NOT ME” sets the tone sonically with minimalistic production and Henry’s mesmerizing vocals. As you keep going, you’ll definitely want to replay tracks like “SHE SAID” and the fan favorite “GOMD”. It’s been really cool seeing Henry’s upward trajectory over the last 2 years. There is an inevitable maturity that couples with anything he releases which points to nothing other than his work ethic and desire to make a name for himself in this game. Cracking the top 30 on the list is an impressive feat that Henry is more than deserving of. If you need an introduction to the Chicagoland native, then this is the perfect one for you.


29) Qari • Stronghold

When I think about artists that shaped my music taste and provided me with the spark to want to pursue music as a career, I have to begin with the artists in my home city of Chicago. Artists like Saba, Mick Jenkins, Noname, Supa Bwe, Chance The Rapper, and Vic Mensa were pivotal for me. 

One group that I have to give the most credit to, though, was Hurt Everybody because Supa, Qari, and Lotto just seemed to be this renaissance within the renaissance that was already underway in the city, and they showed me that music didn’t need barriers to be great. In fact, the music seemed to be better when those barriers were busted down, and these three talents knew exactly the right tools for tearing down those walls.

Since then, we all know that they have gone their separate ways and have thrived in their individual careers, and this fact was proven once again this year in Qari’s project Stronghold

Qari has built quite a catalog over the years, but in my opinion, this project is his most prolific work to date. Like anyone who has put 10,000 hours into their craft – Qari’s rhyme schemes, melodies, punch lines, and singing abilities have only grown stronger. 2022 proved to be a great year for Qari, let’s sit back and see where he takes it in 2023.


28) Kaina • It Was A Home

When I think about some of my personal favorite songs to come out of the city over the past several years, Kaina’s record “La Luna” is one that instantly pops into my head. She is an artist that I have been a fan of for some years now, and this year she released her project It Was A Home, an amazing twelve-song tape that I believe is her strongest yet. The fan favorite on this project seems to be “Apple”, which is a groovy – upbeat record that Kaina really crafted into a classic, but the record that stands out to me the most is the intro “Anybody Can Be In Love”. I am looking forward to seeing what 2023 holds for Kaina, but until then, I’ll be streaming her catalog on a weekly basis.


27) Sherren Olivia • Oasis

The amazing Sherren Olivia needs no introduction at all at this point. Since stepping on the scene, it was clear that this up-and-coming songstress was going to win over listeners with nothing other than her amazing voice and mesmerizing melodies. When talking about the most promising talent coming out of Chicago, her name has to be at the top of the list and her 2022 project, “Oasis” is the perfect evidence of that fact. Each song deserves its time in the sun which is super rare to experience when you’re talking about an early artist. It’s very easy to over-exaggerate the quality of a project, but I promise you, I’m not stretching the truth when I say that this is one of the most well-done bodies of work that I’ve gotten to listen to in recent history, From the storytelling that’s present in each song all the way to the raw emotion, there is not one element that is missing. Sherren is truly in a league of her own and I thank anyone who gets a chance to listen to this 9-song offering will walk away feeling the same. This is honest and pure music; something that the world is in desperate need of.


26) Pretty Liyah • On Go

At the start of December, I was at Schubas Tavern in Chicago for a These Days showcase to see my good friend CP perform, and right after CP’s set, an artist that goes by Pretty Liyah hit the stage and stole the show. I had been hearing about Pretty Liyah from a few different people prior to this, but after seeing her perform, I knew that I had to take a listen to her catalog. Earlier this year, Pretty Liyah teamed up with DJ Shon to release a new mixtape called On Go, and it’s a really solid body of work! One of the main aspects of this mixtape that I appreciated is the range that Liyah showed; there was a certain level of vulnerability in records like the intro + the outro, while there were also braggadocious and light-hearted songs to compliment. This song was definitely one of the best tapes to come out of Chicago this year, which is why it’s landing here at number twenty-six, deservingly so!

Listen to the project via Live Mixtapes here!


25) Supa Bwe • NO THANKS

Few people in this city have made an impact quite as massive as Supa Bwe, and that’s saying a lot. It’s a name that all locals know, regardless of their musical preferences, and there’s a good chance they know at least a few songs by the iconic emcee. He has innovated his way to the top of the local rap scene, impacting the way current up-and-comers approach their own creative process, and he hasn’t slowed down in the more than 10 years he has been in the scene.

Over the years, Supa has blessed us with numerous albums, projects, and EPs, and they seem to get better with every new drop considering he refuses to stop growing and evolving as a musician. NO THANKS might be his latest effort, but it ties together his extensive experience in this business with numerous innovative styles and sounds that he brings to life without a second thought. Alongside other Chicago legends like Twista, Mick Jenkins, Chance the Rapper, Jamila Woods, and more, Supa seems to be at the top of his game, but that’s not surprising because he has been one-upping himself since the moment he stepped into the spotlight here in Chicago.


24) Lupe Fiasco • DRILL MUSIC IN ZION

DRILL MUSIC IN ZION is Lupe Fiasco’s 8th studio album, and it is a collaboration with his longtime friend and collaborator Soundtrakk who produced each of the 10 songs that run just about 41 minutes long. Thanks to their longstanding relationship, they clearly work so well together and bring out the best in each other’s arsenal of skills. At the same time, though, there aren’t really any instrumentals that scream at you or truly stick out more than they’re supposed to, but this is where Lupe shines.

Instead of leaning on vibrant, chaotic production to carry the weight of this album, these soulful and smooth beats give him the best foundation to showcase his bars that have gotten better and better with time. He just seems to glide over these buttery instrumentals effortlessly, using them as a catalyst for his tenured lyrics and velvety smooth deliveries. Lupe Fiasco is a solidified legend in Chicago, but it doesn’t take someone like me to get this point across, so you already know that DRILL MUSIC IN ZION is a must-listen.


23) Calboy • Black Heart

In a town that’s filled with some of the greatest emcees of all time, you have to find a way to differentiate yourself from the rest of your counterparts. Calboy hit the scene and quickly gained traction a handful of years ago with his naturally melodic style that fans fell in love with, and he took this traction and ran with it. It feels like his 2019 album Wildboy will always be the project that day-one fans will bring up as being his best body of work, but I think that he certainly continued to blaze a trail once again with his eight-song effort Black Heart that dropped in September of this year.

With a pretty concise tape like this, it can be hard to dabble in various stylistic endeavors, but Cal seems to squeeze every last ounce of talent out of himself, using every single record as a blank canvas to paint a new picture and demonstrate exactly how nimble he can be. The innately melodious qualities within his voice always provide a wonderful spin on traditional drill music, but he just uses this because he has it.

Even if he didn’t, his quick wit, remarkable storytelling capabilities, and obvious knack for hip-hop music would still allow him to shine as brightly as he has throughout his entire career up until now. These aptitudes, along with contributions from Fredo Bang, Jackboy, and one of the most unusually impressive verses from New York’s Joey Bada$$, all come together brilliantly on Calboy’s project Black Heart, making it one of the easiest additions on this list thus far.


22) Montana of 300 • Rap God

It’s been a couple of years since we last received an album from the legend Montana of 300, so I was ecstatic when he dropped his album Rap God at the start of this year. When you think of an artist like Montana, you think of somebody who is an exceptional lyricist and a top-tier emcee, and man did he remind people of that on this project. Let’s just focus in on the introductory record for a moment, Montana gave us over six minutes of lyrical excellence, touching on many topics such as fatherhood – giving advice to his children halfway through the record. I found this beautiful because the music is going to live long beyond us, and this knowledge that he’s dropping can impact people for decades to come. I have the utmost respect for Montana of 300, he’s a rare artist and he deserves his flowers.


21) Joey Purp & KAMI • You and The Money

When I was younger I was a massive fan of the Savemoney group, but even more than that, I was a huge supporter of the duo Leather Corduroys, a duo that featured Joey Purp and KAMI. They released a project called Season which is one of my favorite projects of the past decade, but after that initial release, the Leather Chords never released another full-length project. It’s hard to think that project that I previously mentioned is now eight years old, but Joey + KAMI didn’t stop working together, just under that title. 

Earlier this spring, Joey Purp + KAMI teamed up to release a project called You + The Money, and it is landing here at number twenty-one in this article. The chemistry that these two artists have together is exceptional, you rarely see it these days, but Joey + Purp are an unstoppable musical duo. 

In my opinion, this project is perfect for what they set out to do, it’s not too much or too little. Coming in at just ten songs and twenty-five minutes in length, this tape provided listeners with beautiful tracks like “For You”, hard-hitting bangers such as “PACK”, and timeless records like “Fareal”. Joey + KAMI have always pushed the boundaries of what to expect from traditional “hip-hop” artists, they are much more than that, they are genreless and I appreciate the wide array of music that they provide. 

I believe that I speak for all of their fans when I say that I hope to see them provide more full-length projects in the future, my fingers are crossed that they release another one in 2023. For the time being though, let’s just appreciate the greatness that they have achieved.


20) King Louie • Life with Louie

When you take a second to sit back and admire this list in its entirety, you’ll notice that there is no shortage of absolute legends featured throughout. The number of emcees who have made it big due to their drill music contributions is almost staggering, but I think King Louie is one of those rappers who takes the cake in terms of the innovation he contributed to the subgenre. Plenty of drill talents never shy away from their personality being shown, but Louie was one of the first to really just speak his mind the way his mind spoke to him, letting all of his enthusiasm and personality carry the weight of his records.

On this year’s album Life with Louie, the king shared 10 new songs lasting about 25 minutes long, and considering each one is enthralling, it’s hard to pick a favorite. What stood out most to me, though, was the gamut he ran in terms of his energy because he goes from assertively ruthless tracks to minimalistic songs that allow him to diversify his arsenal of cadences impeccably. There are even a few more emotive, meditative cuts that display another side that doesn’t often come out in other efforts, so I think that King Louie really left it all out on the table with this project. King Louie is already a certified star in the drill movement, but Life with Louie shows that with time and experience comes some of the most intriguing music of his tenured career.


19) • Where’s Warhol 2

When looking at the history of the underground rap scene in Chicago, or even Lyrical Lemonade’s major achievements, there is no overlooking Warhol. He became one of the most successful underground emcees in the city in what felt like a matter of no time, at least someone outside of the drill world, but there was still something within his music that felt like it didn’t stray too far from the subgenre that this town has become known for.

Maybe it’s the gritty aesthetics, the ruthless narratives, or maybe it’s just in the air here, but no matter what it is, Warhol has solidified his spot in our culture. Where’s Warhol 2 is the emcee’s long-awaited sophomore album, acting as a follow-up to his eight-track EP that dropped back in 2017, so fans were ready, and he didn’t disappoint. I think Warhol just settled into his sound as the years went on and he truly knows what it takes to make a hit, giving us 16 jams that are completely diverse and spectacular.

He only features two emcees (CEO Trayle and DC2Trill) on the song “Blue 42”, but other than that, this is his time to share the spotlight with no other rappers, giving us a fantastic glimpse of sounds we’ve fallen in love with in the past as well as other tunes that share his dexterity behind the mic as well. Warhol is undeniably a legend in the city, and Where’s Warhol 2 shows him at his absolute best once again.


18) DCG Brothers • Jungle Life

As we have witnessed the rise of drill music over the last decade or so, we have become familiar with so many talented individuals that it can be hard to name even close to the entire list. Over the past few years, though, a new generation of drill hitmakers have entered the arena, and I don’t think anyone has quite topped the splash that the DCG Brothers have made. Shun and Bsavv both took the city by storm with their playful yet aggressive style, and while last year seemed to be their opportunity to gain traction and expand beyond the confines of Chicago, this year was their chance to prove that they’re here for a long time, not just a good time. Jungle Life is the title of their debut album, and it was well worth the wait in my opinion.

In 2021, they released hits almost weekly it felt like, and even though these singles were catchy, infectious, and appealed to fans all across the globe, I think the one thing listeners were holding out for was a cohesive project. Well, this tape dropped in April and it featured a mixture of previously released singles as well as original bangers, all of which stay true to their playful and devious personalities that are impossible to disregard once you’ve heard even just one track from the brothers. Even though they had some notable features, I feel like it’s almost unfair to other emcees to join them on their proverbial jungle gym because they play by their own rules while others just seem to try and keep up rather than thrive alongside these two innovators. Time will tell what’s next for the DCG Brothers, but if history truly is due to repeat itself, I think we’re just seeing the beginning of what these two talents are capable of.


17) Jeremih • Late Nights with Jeremih

Jeremih has about a decade and a half of experience in music under his belt, but there is no aging when it comes to his talents. Not only is he one of the smoothest, most angelic singers in the entirety of R&B music but he has become a very pivotal individual in terms of bringing more recognition to the city of Chicago thanks to his work with countless other local emcees. When I first saw that he released his album Late Nights with Jeremih, I was slightly confused because of his project of a similar name from 2015 (Late Nights: The Album).

After clarifying the differences between the two efforts, I was mesmerized by the results. Hearing Jeremih on a whopping 16 songs belting his heart out and sharing his God-given gift is already a blessing in and of itself, but being able to listen and confidently say that he has continued to get better with all of his musical experiences is not something most other tenured musicians can claim. Along with a star-studded lineup of features like Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, Gucci Mane, Fabolous, Sir Michael Rocks, E-40, and many others, there is no way that it’s not going to become a mainstay in his discography once his career is all said and done, and he hangs up the mic for good. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen for many years to come because I, and the rest of Jeremih’s massively loyal fanbase, still have so much more anticipation for what he has coming out in the future!


16) Booka600 •  Due For Love

Booka600 makes a rightful and appropriate appearance on this list for the release of his 2022 project called, DUE FOR LOVE. You would think with a collection of 50 projects, there would be drop-offs, but that definitely is not the case when it comes to Booka. From top to bottom, this is a body of work that the Chicago native should be proud of for various reasons. The 11-song project boasts some amazing production and honest subject matter that feels very true to Booka himself. Before the year is done, this is most definitely a body of work that you need to take time to listen to. I’ve run through all 11 songs about 4 times through and I can confidently say that it gets better with each listen. When it’s all said and done, DUE FOR LOVE is due all of the praise, so make sure to tap in with songs like “WASTING YOUR TIME” and “JUGGLED” as soon as possible.


15) Alexander 23 • Aftershock

If I’m being completely honest, one of my favorite artists out right now is definitely Alexander 23. I remember first hearing his music over 4 years ago and it’s been so cool seeing the way his music has aged like fine wine. Pound for pound, when it comes to production, songwriting, and just overall quality of music, I would say that A23 is one of the best on this entire list. Just this year, the Chicago native released his last album called, Aftershock and it was truly one of the most impressive bodies of work that dropped this year. I had the chance to watch him perform live in November and just seeing this stage presence and the way his music translates to an in-person atmosphere makes him an undeniable force to be reckoned with.


14) Lil Zay Osama • Trench Baby 3

As most Chicago rap fans can attest to, project series’ are mainstays in local artists’ discographies. Whether you’re looking at Chief Keef, Lil Durk, G Herbo, or other Windy City staples, they all have follow-up albums that build on the legacy of the projects they’ve put out in the past. Following suit of his own accord, Lil Zay Osama has been a local legend for longer than I can remember, but it really feels like he stepped his game up to an entirely different level in 2022. That’s because Trench Baby 3 really seemed to transcend the previous two installments of the series and show that he wasn’t here to play games, make friends, or be taken lightly even for a second.

Recruiting names like Lil Durk, G Herbo, PGF Nuk, Icewear Vezzo, and Fredo Bang and not getting overshadowed might be a tall task for some, but Zay invites them into his arena, letting them know that they need to either bring the heat or hit the road because he was ready to leave them in the dust with his assertive dominance over all sorts of drill-heavy instrumentals. Lil Zay Osama put his game face on for Trench Baby 3, and after arguably having his biggest year yet, the world is his, and other emcees better not get in his way.


13) The Cool Kids • Before Shit Got Weird

I love full-circle moments, which is why writing about The Cool Kids makes me immensely excited. These Chicago Legends were destined to be on this list, and their new offering, BEFORE SHIT GOT WEIRD will make you a fan all over again. For fans who like longer listens, then this latest project is the one for you as it boasts not 10, not 12, but 21 songs for you all to indulge in. I’ve had trouble picking my favorite song off of it, as each one stands on its own, but these are always the best problems to have as a music consumer. The Cool Kids have yet to drop something that I haven’t liked and BEFORE SHIT GOT WEIRD carries the same trend for me. Any Chicago music fan will really enjoy this project but at the same time, I think music fans from all over will connect with it as well. Make sure you listen to The Cool Kids 2022 outing before the year ends!


12) Dreezy • HITGIRL

Dreezy has been one of the most impactful artists to come out of Chicago over the past five years and no one can convince me otherwise. Ever since she released her breakout album No Hard Feelings back in 2016, she has been a staple in the city and an inspiration for many artists coming after her. This project is a super easy listen coming in at just over twenty minutes in length, and it features ten incredible tracks that make up for an enjoyable listen. The features on this tape made it that much better, as Dreezy recruited Future, Coi Leray, Jeremih, and INK who each added impressive contributions. Hit-Boy was the mastermind behind this project, he paved the way for Dreezy by providing her with some of the best instrumentals that she has rapped over to date, and in turn, it made for some of her most expressive + ear-pleasing offerings yet. I am eager to see what the future holds for Dreezy, I just know that she’s only going to continue to get more and more successful!


11) Whethan • Midnight

Every year, this list seems to get more and more diverse, and that can be credited to absolute tastemakers like Whethan. Thanks to him, and other artists in a similar vein, we are able to highlight versatile musicians that show the rest of the world Chicago is capable of much more than drill music exclusively. Midnight is certainly not Whethan’s first rodeo, but the beat smith always appears to outdo himself every time he drops a new project. When looking at the list of features, it can be surprising to see certain names on the same project, let alone the same song, but Whethan’s skill set allows for assorted artists to come together and make undeniable jams, even if listeners never expected them to work together prior.

Let’s not overshadow these emcees, either, because names like Yeat, midwxst, Matt Ox, Kamiyada+, glaive, Slump6s, ericdoa, KA$HDAMI, Jasiah, aldn, and plenty of others all join the producer in his own world but provide their own individualistic flairs. Whethan is truly one-of-a-kind, and although he seems to work in the shadows and release some of the most underrated music in the world, let alone Chicago, that just means he’s a gem that listeners can discover and appreciate now or years from now. Nonetheless, his talents will be treasured all the same, regardless of the timeline, and I can’t wait to continue revisiting Midnight for years and probably even decades to come!


10) Tobi Lou • Non-Perishable

Ever since the world found out about Tobi Lou, it feels like he has been the glue that has held the Chicago music scene together. He displays equal parts inventiveness, talent, and personality, all of which come together in any sonic endeavor he undertakes. This year, he dropped his sophomore mixtape Non-Perishable, an effort that boasts 11 songs running just over a half-hour long, leaving it all out on the table for fans to interpret and enjoy. He is joined by names like T-Pain, Jean Deaux, and CHIKA on three cuts, but he ensures that not a single moment goes by where anyone can overlook his versatile aptitudes.

What made this tape truly unique, though, is the fact that Tobi planned on deleting it forever after the month of March ended, much like the title of the venture would suggest. Luckily, fans and supporters from all over the world won the battle, giving him no choice but to keep the project up on streaming platforms. Thank god for this, because Non-Perishable has proven to be one of Tobi Lou’s most dynamic and attention-grabbing projects of his entire career, and I can’t imagine a world where it was actually taken down for good.


9) Dreamer Isioma • Goodnight Dreamer

I have been following Dreamer Isioma’s music for a long time and to say that I’ve been a huge fan of the talent is an understatement for sure. There was just something so radical and exciting about the music that immediately drew me into the Chicago-based phenom. For the last 2 years, I can confidently say that Dreamer has not only made an impression on the Chicago music scene but the entire landscape of music as we know it. Overall I’m a huge fan, which is why I’m stoked to be able to add their latest album, Goodnight Dreamer here at number nine on our year-end list. Make sure you go check it out at your earliest convenience!


8) Only The Family & Lil Durk • Loyal Bros 2

The empire that Lil Durk has built over the years is not something to take lightly, and neither is the lineup he has built with his Only The Family collective of other lyrical talents. We might not get to experience all of these artists in one place all the time, but it makes things so much more special when we do, and that was abundantly clear on last year’s Loyal Bros album. Fans raved about this project for the entirety of 2021 and even most of 2022, so it was only right that they made a second installment to the series, and it keeps the momentum going incredibly. The best thing about these albums is the fact that it showcases so many local emcees’ unmatched talents.

At the same time, it also allows them to team up with other notorious spitters like Future, Kodak Black, Icewear Vezzo, Trippie Redd, and more, bringing a little bit of every part of the country to the party. One thing that I have to clarify is the fact that even though this is Lil Durk’s carefully curated project, it’s not strictly his album, and I quite admire the fact that he is able to take a step back on various songs to let some of his homies enjoy the spotlight. At the same time, he contributes a slew of unbelievable verses that bring some familiarity to the forefront without overshadowing some of these less notorious emcees, giving us the best of both worlds. For locals, we know just how powerful every artist on the OTF lineup can be, but it’s a chance for the rest of the world to see their untapped potential, and they rise to the occasion every single time.


7) PGF Nuk • Switch Music

2022 was a fantastic year for music in the city, but I think it would be unfair to PGF Nuk to say that anyone else had more success than the local phenom. He has been making moves in the industry here for a couple of years, but he truly climbed the rungs of the scene and asserted himself as one of the very best up-and-coming emcees in the city. It almost feels weird to say up-and-coming because he has already conquered Chicago with his ruthless attitude and distinct sound. Out of all the moves he made this year, I think it’s safe to say that nothing amounts to his album Switch Music, and I think anyone who is invested in the local musicians here would agree.

Not only did he get legendary hitmakers like Polo G and G Herbo to join him, but he recruited a few out-of-towners as well to accompany him as he continued on his charge of dominance. At the same time, Nuk proves that he isn’t just another singular drill emcee, as Switch Music displayed him in various lights that expand upon and diversify his sound, all while complementing his one-of-a-kind persona. Although it feels like PGF Nuk already has the rap world on lock, this is seriously just the beginning of a career that I’m confident will go down with some of the greats that came before him.


6) King Von • What It Means to Be King

 King Von embodied his name, proving his reign over the industry in just a couple of years prior to his passing, and he certainly achieved some mind-boggling accomplishments during his time in music. Posthumous albums can be tough, but this list wouldn’t be valid without What It Means to Be King because Von’s influence on the local + global music scene was well beyond what anyone might’ve expected early on.

This album seems to serve as a victory lap for the success that King Von received during his career as a star-studded cast of features like G Herbo, 21 Savage, Fivio Foreign, Moneybagg Yo, Lil Durk, Tee Grizzley, Dreezy, and more joined in to celebrate the life and achievements that Von so rightfully earned. Even with so many household names, every single one of Von’s contributions seemed to tower over everything else, and it shows that just because he’s not physically here, doesn’t mean his voice has been silenced. His story will always be relevant, his triumphs will always be celebrated, and his impact will always be felt, here in Chicago and far beyond the city’s limit.


5) LUCKI • Flawless Like Me

Although I believe that LUCKI will always be an underground legend, his fanbase is even more loyal and supportive than most mainstream acts you can think of, and that’s just a fact. It’s not that he can’t be mainstream, it’s the fact that it feels like he doesn’t want to be, and that was never the goal in the first place. This year, I was on the edge of my seat to hear FLAWLESS LIKE ME, LUCKI’s insanely great full-length album. Unlike some of his impressive yet quick projects and EPs that may only last a few minutes, this album features 24 songs that reach almost 55 minutes long, impressively exceeding the runtimes that we’ve seen in the past.

The album is handled entirely by LUCKI, aside from two massive features in Future and Babyface Ray, giving him free rein to create however he wants. This ultimately leads to a slew of versatile hits that are ridiculously addictive alongside a handful of nostalgic sounds that first beckoned us to become fans in the first place. The thing I love about LUCKI is the fact that has never and will never sacrifice his own style or persona for anything, regardless of the platform he has or the opportunities at hand, and this leads to the most authentic, genuine music that could ever be dreamt up. FLAWLESS LIKE ME is just that, and this Flawless effort made it one of the most intricate and unignorable pieces of work all year long.


4) Saba • Few Good Things

I have spent a large portion of the last decade of my life covering and being involved in Chicago’s music community, and there is arguably no other artist that I am rooting more for than Saba. Back in 2014, Saba released a project called Comfort Zone, and to this day, it’s one of my personal favorite Chicago projects of all time.

From that moment on, I have been a huge supporter of Saba’s music, and in my opinion, he is the perfect example of someone who did it the right way. Saba didn’t blow up overnight, he didn’t have a hit record that went crazy on Tik-Tok, he didn’t capitalize on a trend and he wasn’t ever involved in any type of bullsh*t. Saba simply took the path less traveled, he put in the time + effort, and with the help of his lovely team, he truly developed and blossomed into the greatest artist that Chicago has ever had to offer. I sincerely mean that, when it’s all said and done, Saba will be remembered as one of the city’s GOATs – right up there with Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, Juice WRLD, Twista, etc.

At the start of February of this year, Saba released his project Few Good Things – his first album in four years (at the time) – and for my money, the most well-rounded + polished of his entire discography. 

One of the many things that I enjoyed about this project is how it mixed some of Saba’s core collaborators with some of his core influences that helped pave the way for musicians all over the world. Anyone who knows Saba’s catalog knows that he has made some beautiful + timeless music with Eryn Allen Kane, and to see that pair on a song with Black Thought felt like a full circle moment for someone who has been listening for so long, it was inspiring to see. 

On that same note, to see Saba and Smino connect on the amazing record “Still” was nothing out of the ordinary, as they have worked together plenty of times in the past. BUT to see the name Krayzie Bone directly above Smino’s on the tracklist did something for me, to see Saba work with someone who directly influenced him and I’d assume changed the trajectory of his life with that influence – you can’t write it better than this. 

Saba said himself that his dream for this record was to get a Krayzie Bone feature – and has also credited Bone Thugz N Harmony as the reason how he became a rapper. 

Saba has accomplished so much in his twenty-eight years on this planet, he has left his mark on not only Chicago but the whole world. He is now that successful artist who is inspiring the next generation of musicians, some decades from now, there will be an artist at Saba’s current caliber who will feel like his album is not complete unless he gets that feature from Saba. 

Maybe it’s just my bias that I have toward Saba’s career because of how much I have enjoyed watching it unfold over the years, but in my opinion, his story is the type that they should make movies and documentaries about. I know that sentiment is felt by many more people than just me, but maybe I am thinking too far ahead. Let’s truly take the time to appreciate Saba’s greatness and give him his flowers while he’s providing us with some of the most classic projects to ever come from Chicago.


3) Ravyn Lenae – HYPNOS

Sixteen songs is usually a lot to digest, but when we are talking about a timeless artist like Ravyn Lenae, she could drop a 100-song album and I would still listen to every single second. As we construct this list of our favorite 2022 Chicago projects, it was a no-brainer that Ravyn was going to be toward the top of this list, because her latest project had me in a chokehold all year. Ravyn’s album, HYPNOS was released on May 20th and not only is it one of the best projects to come out of Chicago, but I personally believe it’s one of the best collections to drop in general this year. I’ve been a huge fan of hers for some time now, she has accomplished some amazing things so far, and when it’s all said and done, she will be considered one of the greatest Chicago artists of our generation. I wish I could pick a favorite song on here, but each entry is a masterpiece in its own way, which makes this entire album a must-listen. Ravyn outdid herself on HYPNOS and I can’t wait for this one to age like fine wine.


2) G Herbo • Survivor’s Remorse

No conversation about iconic Chicago rappers is ever complete without a heavy majority of the conversation discussing G Herbo, but I don’t need to explain this to anyone who is familiar with the history of the drill music scene. Herb is one of the pioneers of the genre, getting his start as Lil Herb before evolving into one of the industry’s biggest names.

This year, like most other years, featured yet another project from the tenured veteran entitled Survivor’s Remorse, but it’s not just another project on this list. It feels like as time goes on, more and more success comes to the Chicagoan, but he also opens up about a lot more, sharing some of the most eye-opening experiences that he has had no choice but to live through during his upbringing in this often ruthless city. I think what has made him stand out so much is his lyricism, something that has always been highlighted within his discography.

The thing is, it’s not just the words he is saying or the memories he’s sharing, but the way he expresses these memoirs with so much passion and exuberance, it’s like he’s reliving them all over again. The 2016 XXL Freshman didn’t hit us with a normal album rollout, either. Instead, he dropped “Side A” which featured 12 unbelievable tracks, and then unleashed “Side B” just three days later, adding another 13 to the pot for a total of 25 records lasting almost an hour and fifteen minutes long.

Not only this, but he also recruited some of the industry’s biggest names to join him including Offset, Jeremih, Future, Benny the Butcher, Gunna, Young Thug, Conway the Machine, Kodak Black, and more. This might be quite the cast of sensations, but G Herbo is the main character, and the rest just adds even more talent to the mix. No one should have to go through the hardships that Herb has endured, and they especially shouldn’t have to relive them over and over again, but he shares these narratives as if they come equipped with a badge of honor, showing that he has become a better and stronger person despite all of these moments of stress, anxiety, and heartbreak.


  1. Lil Durk • 7220

The journey that Lil Durk has had over the past 10-12 years has to be one of the most interesting success stories to ever come from Chicago. Although he had been creating a buzz for himself in 2010 + 2011, he first made his mark in the music scene way back in 2012 when his record “L’s Anthem” started to blow up, and he began what would become a long-winding road to making his greatest dreams come true. If we are being completely honest, Durk didn’t have a straight shot to where he is now, he had many highs and lows, battled through many adversities and he spoke about some of these troubles on his album 7220. The title of this project is an ode to the address of his grandmother’s house when he was growing up, and within the tape, you will find him at times speaking about the house and stories from that time period.

If you asked a dozen fans of Durk what their favorite song on this project is – you genuinely might get twelve different answers in return – and this just speaks to the rare type of range that Lil Durk has within his music. It doesn’t take much more than a glance at the tracklist and a listen through the album to see this; from “Huuuh” to “Unhappy Fathers Day” to “What Happened to Virgil” – Durk flexed his ability to make any type of sound. He isn’t just a sonically gifted musician though, Durk is one of the best bar-for-bar rappers for my money, his wittiness, and his punchlines are up there with some of the best.

The best part about the major success that Lil Durk has achieved, is that this could really be just the beginning for him. Durk is still extremely young at just 30 years old, and he has many lucrative avenues right in front of him, on top of the fact that he is the hottest artist in Chicago and one of the top five hottest in the country, right up there with Drake + Future. Lil Durk has been building an absolute empire with his Only The Family record label, and I appreciate how he has been signing artists from the Chicagoland area such as Sydny August and Noza Jordan. Even if Lil Durk decided to stop making music today, there is a strong argument that he is the greatest rapper to ever come out of Chicago, the only other artists you can make an argument for are Juice, Keef + Kanye.

At the end of the day, I just hope + pray that we all realize that we are witnessing greatness right now. The run that Durk is on right now is rare and should be appreciated, he deserves all of his flowers and recognition.