Chicago is an integral part of hip hop. Arguably, the city gave the genre its soul. That’s why so many in the city were upset when the 2023 Grammy Awards didn’t include Chicago in its 50th anniversary of hip hop celebration in February. Thankfully, the BET Awards won’t make the same mistake. Drill icon Chief Keef is in the lineup for its upcoming Hip Hop 50th Anniversary at its show on June 25.

“What would hip hop be without Chicago artists?” Crucial Conflict member Coldhard said during an interview with The TRiiBE at the 2023 Hyde Park Summer Festival. He then named some of the architects of sounds that are embedded in the fabric of hip hop: jazz, pop and soul superproducer Quincy Jones, R&B singer-songwriter Curtis Mayfield and blues champions such as Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters; all of them rooted in Chicago.

“Hip hop was built off these songs that were created when our mothers and grandparents were young, and we were able to concoct a sound off sampling they music,” Crucial Conflict rapper and producer Wildstyle said. “We’re a part of that legacy in music and history of music, period.”

On June 18, Chicago gave its legends their flowers during the Hip Hop 50 celebration at the 2023 Hyde Park Summer Fest. Attendees recited back the lyrics, word-for-word, to some of their favorite songs — yes, even the deep cuts — by Shawnna, Crucial Conflict, Do or Die, Twista and Vic Mensa. 

“Y’all better stop sleeping on Chicago women. We the best,” Shawnna said during her set. The daughter of blues legend Buddy Guy, Shawnna was the first woman artist to sign to Def Jam South by way of Ludacris’ label, Disturbing tha Peace. She kicked off her set with her features on tracks like “Stand Up” and “What’s Your Fantasy” before flexing on her solo singles such as “R.P.M.,” where she pops her speedy raps, and her first platinum record, “Gettin’ Some.”

She also brought out Ben One for their collaboration, “Never Leave My Girl,” and queer rapper and dancer Mikey Everything for their new track, “Drip.”

“Hyde Park [Summer] Fest, it’s so monumental. It’s 50 years of hip hop all over the world, wherever you are,” Shawnna told The TRiiBE. “To be specifically recognized here in my own city, at an event like this, I’m just elated. And that’s why I had to take this opportunity to bring some more artists on stage, which I’m trying to show Chicago artists that we need to do more of, is to embrace each other and help bring each other to the forefront and that’s what I’m known for doing.”

Crucial Conflict performed their hits, including “Ride the Rodeo” and “Hay,” two mid-1990s tracks that were light years ahead of their time, melding soul, funk and a little West Side country twang. Additionally, both took the level of sampling up another notch. “Rodeo” samples the old-school Black Chicago picnic staple, “(It’s Not the Express) It’s the J.B.’s Monaurail,” and “Hay” flips Funkadelic’s 1974 underground hit “I’ll Stay.”

“We knew that we had what it takes to come out of Chicago and contribute to hip hop, and we did. We actually had a breakout record in a time when [Chicago] got no shine,” Wildstyle told The TRiiBE after their set. In 1996, “Hay” reached number 10 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. 

The group was inspired by New York predecessors such as Run DMC, Public Enemy, EPMD, Smif-N-Wessun and Black Moon, and NWA out in LA, according to Coldhard.

“So we put on for Chicago, and the whole world recognized it because we changed the landscape of music,” Wildstyle added. “We had to really stick out because no one was looking our way.”

Do or Die performed its fan favorites, “Player Like Me and You,” and “Po Pimp,” which earned platinum status and peaked at number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart back in the 1990s. Twista came out on stage with them to perform the track before going into his catalog of hits. 

“It ain’t no show, it’s a motherf— party,” Twista said on stage. As he slid through “Get It Wet,” and “Wetter (Calling You Daddy),” and the Kanye West-assisted “Slow Jamz” and “Overnight Celebrity,” the crowd rapped every word back to him.

At the end of his set, Twista brought everyone back out on stage to take a group picture. 

Grammy-nominated producer The Legendary Traxster, who is synonymous with the sounds of Twista and Do or Die, joined them on stage for the photo.

“F-ck a world without Chicago hip hop, nigga’s probably [would] still be wearing tall button-down shirts. The style would be so completely different,” Vic Mensa told The TRiiBE. “The fashion would not at all be where it is today. The production would not be where it is today. Honestly, the musicality of hip hop wouldn’t be where it is today. A lot of this can be directly attributed to Kanye.”

As with many others in the millennial generation, hip hop raised Vic Mensa. He closed out the Hip Hop 50 celebration at the 2023 Hyde Park Summer Fest, performing “Didn’t I (Say I Didn’t),”  his verse off Chance the Rapper’s “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” “U Mad” and his new single, “$wish.”

“Hip hop has formulated and influenced my worldview. It’s been my education. It’s been a force that gave me perspective on the world I live in,” Vic Mensa said. “I learned about Assata Shakur from Common’s ‘A Song for Assata.’ I learned about conflict diamonds in Sierra Leone from Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco. Hip hop taught me in ways that the American school system miseducated me.”

is the editor-in-chief of The TRiiBE.