Chicago’s Very Own: Zero Fatigue

Zero Fatigue courtesy of @smino

We all know that the city of Chicago has birthed some of the greatest rappers in hip-hop being home to the likes of Kanye West, Common, Lupe Fiasco etc. and it’s evident to see that the tree keeps on giving as the city has a thriving music scene of hip-hop’s next generation. At the forefront is Grammy-Award winning artist Chance the Rapper. Following the release of his third mixtape Coloring Book, he made history at the 2017 Grammy’s with neither record label nor physical copies sales. Chance has also continuously proven his love and loyalty to his city and is dedicated to showcasing young, homegrown talent through events such as “Open Mike Chicago”. Artists such as Vic Mensa, Mick Jenkins and friends of Zero Fatigue Noname and Saba have also demonstrated their individual brilliance, often collaborating with fellow Chicagoan’s.

Hosting an abundance of excellent creatives, Zero Fatigue, led Smino, Ravyn Lenae and producer Monte Booker, has caught the attention of many with their unique and distinctive sound. After releasing many previous EP’s, on March 14th 2017 rapper Smino released his debut studio album ‘Blkswn’ and it was the album we all needed. Throughout the entirety of the album, his notable wordplay and exceptional quick paced rap flow seems to be unmatched in the current hip-hop scene as he makes his breakthrough being named Apple’s Music Artist of the Week days after the release of Blkswn. Clocking in at just over an hour, the St Louis native released four singles prior to Blkswn’s debut including Blkoscars, Blkswn, Father Son Holy Smoke and Anita, an ode to black women everywhere. The visuals for ‘Anita’ showcase the simple yet pure dynamic of a young black couple.

When discussing the song, Smino said in an interview with Hot New Hip-Hop:

“I went to see Hidden Figures and it’s hella disappointing how there’s so many black women in history that aren’t written about so I wanted to make something to emphasize how raw a black woman is. With Trump in office, now is such an important time to be confident about blackness. We need some congregational-ass music that we can sing together.”

The leading ladies at Zero Fatigue, Ravyn Lenae and Jean Deaux, who both made an appearance on blkswn have shown their vocal versatility on many occasions. Upon featuring Saba’s Bucket List Project mixtape, Jean Deaux provided a very soulful hook on the track “Photosynthesis” yet switched up her flow on Smino’s “Krash Kourse” as she was spitting straight bars on a beautifully crafted beat courtesy of Monte Booker. As well as being a stellar vocalist, Deaux is a multi-talented powerhouse as she directed the visuals for Smino’s leading single ‘Anita’.

Ravyn Lenae has sighted artists such as Erykah Badu and India. Arie as musical influences and it’s evident to hear on her most recent EP titled ‘Midnight Moonlight’. I strongly urge everyone to listen to her current projects as it’ll show you that her voice is unparalleled. The recent high-school graduate has caught the attention of artists such as Steve Lacy who publicly express their love and admiration of her art. Her distinguished sound and melodic voice makes me very eager to watch her grow as it is easy to tell she’s destined for a long, successful career.

The album has been hailed for its exceptional beats and that’s thanks to Monte Booker. He was in charge of majority of the production behind Smino’s debut album with contributions from Sango, producer turned artist Phoelix, J.Bird and THEMpeople. The co-founder and of Zero Fatigue was also selected to produce an EP for Soulection’s White Label Series. Another unsung hero that was an essential factor in the creation of this album is one of the most skilled and in-demand engineers, Elton Chueng. From Chance the Rapper to Noname, Chueng known as ‘L10MixedIt’ has worked on some of Chicago’s finest projects and was awarded for his work on the Grammy-Winning mixtape ‘Coloring Book’.

Smino performing in London by Shukri Elmi (@shukriel via instagram)

Smino and the Zero Fatigue crew embarked on the ‘Swanita Tour’ in April consisting of 22 shows across the US and Canada. The collective have continuously displayed there is a familial bond between them that is deeper than just music as shown on recent documentary discussing Zero Fatigue’s very beginnings in St Louis before transitioning locations to Chicago. The tour was then extended to Europe and I was lucky enough to witness their greatness at Smino’s first sold out show in London at The Jazz Cafe. Post-show the whole crew took the time to get to know everybody that came out to see them and this is one of many reasons why I, along with XXL Magazine, strongly recommend if you have the opportunity to see Smino/Zero Fatigue, go! Majority of the Zero Fatigue crew are accompanying TDE signee, SZA, on her CTRL North America tour following the release of her debut album.

Despite many hip-hop fans often expressing their skepticism about the future of the genre as they feel it has lost touch of its roots, Zero Fatigue, a collective creating a safe space for homegrown artists to harvest their raw talent, makes me excited to see the direction hip-hop is heading in. They demonstrate a futuristic funk element of rap, something unprecedented in this genre. Could this be the beginning of a new era?