Fake Shore Drive is a Chicago-based hip-hop blog founded in 2007 by Andrew Barber. The site has been instrumental in giving voice to the city’s contemporary hip-hop scenes and stars, including Chief Keef, Young Chop, Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper. I recently caught up with Barber over email.
A lot of people view FSD as a star-maker; for younger artists, this is especially the case. How much music do people send you guys, on a daily basis?
Well, FSD turns six in October, so over the years we’ve received a steady stream of submissions—and they come from all over the world. A lot of them are spam, but every now and again you’ll find a diamond in the rough. Some submissions are terrible, some are okay, some are great. Some are threatening, others use the passive aggressive approach. My favorite are the ones that tell me that everything we post on the site sucks, and we need their music to improve things. You really see a little bit of everything. We used to just get submissions via email, but now thanks to social media, we get music from everywhere: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. There’s really no escaping it at this point. Some weeks we get hundreds of submissions, other times it could be thousands. Everyone wants to be a rapper nowadays.
Rappers do seem to be the new rock stars. Who have you received work from recently that you’re excited about?
Some of my favorite music this year has been from relatively new and unknown artists like Lucki Eck$, Caleb James, ZMoney and Lil Herb & Lil Bibby. They’ve all made a pretty big impact in a short amount of time. Most of them even landed on Complex Magazine’s 25 New Rappers To Watch list. I prefer listening to local, unheard material—more so than a lot of major label releases. I like the hunger. Lucki is one of the artists I found perusing the inbox one day a few months back. Now he’s red hot.
What do you think happens to that hunger, when artists more or less make it, and find out they can earn a living with their music?
I think the hunger goes away with money and success. More so the money, because once you have the money you’re no longer a starving artist. Your appetite is curbed. It also allows you to partake in other vices such as cars, drugs, sex and clothes. Anything that distracts you from your actual job. In my opinion, the most successful rappers are the ones who are able to keep themselves hungry. They always want more—they’re never satisfied. Just look at the most successful Chicago rappers—Kanye, Common, Lupe, Twista—they’ve all been able to grow their careers despite the riches they’ve acquired. Of course they’re not without their flaws, but they had the goal of going global instead of just being local. Also, a lot of times with success comes the “yes men” and the “hangers on” and the family members who can become problematic. A lot of times it’s the entourage who most damage an artist’s career.
What young artists around now do you see with that more lasting hunger—Chicago or not; who are we talking about, now, who might we be talking about even more in four years?
In Chicago, it’s too early to tell for many. But I can say for certain that Chance the Rapper will be around for years to come. I think Chance and a lot of the artists in the Save Money collective have the potential for some serious longevity in the game. Nationally, I think Kendrick Lamar and the guys from TDE [Top Dawg Entertainment] will continue to make the most impact. They can’t lose right now.
Chance’s emergence out of Chicago has been a lot of fun. With all the different web-heads trying to create the kind of hip-hop nexus for the city that you have, what do you think it is about FSD that distinguishes it, makes it successful? Why have Chicago rappers been drawn to your brand especially, over the years?
Well, it’s not just one thing in particular. There are a lot of elements that have contributed to the success of FSD. For starters, we were the first people in the marketplace with a blog dedicated to Chicago rap, so that gave us an edge. It was the wild west out here before us, so I think with us being here first, we kind of set the standard. Being consistent is also very important. We’re posting content every single day. No days off, not even holidays. Of course certain days are busier than others, but content is king and you have to give the people what they want. The moment you get comfortable in your position is the moment you die in this business. A lot of people see some success and get lazy or complacent. But there’s always someone right behind you ready to take your spot. You also have to be knowledgeable about what you’re writing about. I’m a hip-hop nerd, and have spent most of my life reading, listening, talking and thinking about rap music. I’ve never grown tired of it. And I never knew the years of studying the business was preparing me for this moment. I just took everything I’d learned over the years and applied it to the site. Thankfully, people enjoyed it and kept coming back, and that’s a blessing. I would still be doing this even if it never turned into a business or a full-time job for me. I have a true love for it and I think that’s why it’s worked out. Luck plays a part in everything, but chance favors the prepared mind. Timing is everything, and we were there at the right place at the right time and made good decisions. I tell young people all the time, the most important thing is making good decisions. Some of the best deals I’ve done were the deals I didn’t do. And finally, just having a good ear for music and talent. You have to be able to spot a trend before it happens and before the rest of the world, or city, catches on. And if you don’t, make sure you have the right people around you who do. Ha!
On September 19, Fake Shore Drive Presents Mannie Fresh, Lucki Eck$, ZMoney, and Giftz at Reggies Rock Club, 2105 South State, (312)949-0120. 9pm. $5 with RSVP, $10 at door. 17+.