When it comes to noise-making movements and exciting new trends, media attention tends to pool around metropolises like Los Angeles, New York, Miami and cities across Texas. However, if you’re not paying attention to Chicago, you’re missing out on a massive chunk of the cultural picture.
Chicago is a rich and complex town, the birthplace of iconic pop culture hallmarks and a key stage for unfolding conversations on race and immigration. The city’s residents have birthed revolutionary hip-hop movements, lifted punks fighting rampant oppression, created spaces for thought-provoking storytelling, called out discrimination in sports and even helped unite and protect local culinary traditions. Battleground issues like gang violence, government corruption, severe underfunding of the city’s school system, ICE raids, and constant belittling from the Trump administration make Chicago a place where creativity must thrive in the face of adversity.
Through the years, we’ve covered the indelible mark Latinos have left on the Windy City by highlighting everything from music festivals to local icons. Today we are extending that spotlight to the next generation: the emerging musicians sharing the points of view and experiences of diverse communities from across the city and carrying the cultural torch into the future. Chicago is the beating heart of the Midwest and a barometer for nationwide scenes on the rise. If you want a glimpse into the sound of tomorrow, check out the following list of Chicago artists paving new roads today.
With roots in Mexico and Colombia, psych pop quartet Divino Niño is one of Chicago’s most promising bands. Their impressive 2016 album The Shady Sexiphornia Tapes and incessant touring around the Midwest have positioned the band for a moment in the national spotlight. Divino Niño is playing Ruido Fest for the second time, where they’ll be performing cuts from their forthcoming album, out later this year.
There is a magical lo-fi energy to VICTOR!, aka Lil Chismoso, the alias of self-described “bathroom pop” singer Victor Cervantes. Tracks like “Tinder Song” and the recently released “U Got My” have racked up thousands of plays on streaming platforms. The Cicero native began self-releasing music via SoundCloud last summer, and has already collaborated with indie peers like Jasper Bones.
Kaina Castillo has earned a reputation as one of Chicago’s bright collaborative forces for her work with local indie talents like Morimoto and The Burns Twins. However, the Wicker Park native’s soulful vocals are best showcased in her recent debut EP 4u, which is packed with buttery, hook-driven R&B. Castillo, whose parents are Venezuelan and Guatemalan, recently opened for Kali Uchis on a Chicago tour stop, so expect major moves from her soon.
Kathy Patino began playing open mics around Chicago last year under the pseudonym Girl K, but it wasn’t until the fall that she put a band together and recorded her sunny garage rock debut Sunflower Court. Make sure to check out the band’s latest single “Division Club,” a breezy, 90s-tinged track commenting on materialism and losing touch with reality.
The Albany Park native’s earliest introductions to music came via duranguense and mariachi bands, but as her career has progressed, a glossy R&B voice has emerged and blossomed. With two EPs under her belt, 2017’s Ladyfinger and 2018’s Vitral, DÉCIMA is making rainy-day music that hurts oh-so-good.
With a career that started nearly a decade ago on YouTube, Tatiana Hazel is one of Chicago’s most prolific young talents. Tatiana’s musical style has evolved from acoustic ballads to beat-driven anthems of independence, with a prodigious personal style to match. Make sure to follow her Instagram page for a fashion feast for the eyes. Plus, check out her personal shop, which features handmade designs created by Hazel herself.
Los Gold Fires
Los Gold Fires are one of the best representations of sonic collisions happening in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. Known for their fearless mix of surf rock, psych, spaghetti westerns, and Latin American rhythms, their latest single and video “Ya No Llores” synthesizes their penchant for genre-hopping while addressing themes of depression and gentrification currently ravaging Pilsen.
Little Village native and former Brother Star Race vocalist Mán Cub is writing songs of seduction and heartbreak and sit at the intersection of indie rock and R&B. Mán Cub recently released a string of collaborations with local producers BoatHouse and SUVÉ, and is currently working on his debut EP, expected out later this year.
Karma Wears White Ties
Known for their hooky and heart-pounding indie rock, which is reminiscent of bands like Friendly Fires and Two Door Cinema Club, Karma Wears White Ties have crafted an impressive catalog over the last four years. Formed by Dante Zonzo and brothers Brian and Jesse Flores, the band has cut their teeth across Chicago, playing for Anglo and Latinx audiences alike.
As one of Chicago’s beloved producers, Stefan Ponce made a name for himself on early hits by Childish Gambino and hometown heroes like Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper. In a 2015 interview with Remezcla, the Grammy-nominated producer shared his aspirations to be a role model for young Latinos the way masters like Quincy Jones and Mark Ronson have inspired so many emerging creators. Check his debut album The Boy Who Fell From Earth…, which includes features from local favorites like Jean Grae, Ravyn Lenae, and theMind.