G.O.O.D. Music signee Valee (right) with rapper Z-Money (left). Photos by Carolina Sanchez | The TRiiBE

Rolling Stone recently listed Chicago’s own Valee as one of the most influential sounds in hip-hop right now. On Saturday, the 30-year-old G.O.O.D. Music signee set out to prove why he’s earned the title. Alongside labelmates Teyana Taylor, Pusha T, and lyrical vet Nas, Valee took the Wintrust Arena on a brief tour of rap’s future for the opening night of Red Bull Music Festival Chicago 2018.

Blunt in hand, Valee kicked off his set with “Womp Womp,” the standalone summer hit that propelled the South Side native into the national spotlight. “I love y’all, Chicago,” Valee quietly spoke into the mic before jumping into “Skinny,” the fifth track off his 2018 G.O.O.D. debut EP, GOOD Job, You Found Me.

What makes Valee special is he knows exactly what his fans like. He cruised through “Shell,” the 2016 gem that introduced us to his particular style of complex bars over unhurried delivery. He also brought out ZMoney, another of Chicago’s recent signees, to run through their collab “Two 16s” – a light body check reminding everyone of the current swagger jackers out there, including 6ix9ine on 2018’s “Fefe” with Nicki Minaj.

Same time, though, Valee’s performance Saturday night also revealed an unfortunate downside to the super-chill demeanor we adore in his music. Unlike Push and Nas, who journeyed through their hits word-for-word without much assistance from a hype-man or the DJ booth, Valee barely rapped above a whisper. For most of his set, Valee hid under the performance track, allowing his DJ and hype-man to lead the way vocally. 

Despite that particular flaw, everyone still sang along to the lyrics. On “Miami,” another single off Valee’s GOOD tape, the crowd hit peak waviness – bouncing and swaying to Valee’s undeniably groovy chorus. If anything, Saturday night showed that Valee is on track to become one of the most exciting names in rap.

And, most important, having Valee on the bill for Red Bull Music Festival’s opening night proved that Chicago is teeming with stars who – when givens a platform to shine – continually set the pace for what’s hot in hip-hop. Check out more photos from Saturday’s opening night below.

To see the month-long schedule for the Red Bull Music Festival Chicago, click here