The subjects in these photos represent the New Chicago Wave: a new era of artists and community members focused on collaborating to produce music and create positive change for their communities in Chicago. Some of these artists have roots in the “Blog Era” —the era from 2011 to 2019, when an explosion of new hip-hop talent put Chicago back on the map— but continue to innovate and organize in their neighborhoods to this day.

Stock Marley, based in North Lawndale, is not only a hard-hitting MC, but has created community in the recording studio, studioSHAPES (owned by producer and engineer Renzell), and got his start with the Free Nation collective, which is also home to Mick Jenkins. Stock’s collaboration with organizations like Chicago Votes have also brought him respect. With his album Building Blocks coming out soon, he’s prepared to let the world know what he’s been up to.

South Shore native Asha Omega is a student of the hip-hop genre and the city’s open mic scene. With a new EP, The Star, on the way, she’s marking her place in the New Chicago Wave and continuing to prove that Chicago has some of the best women MCs in the world.

From Englewood and Kenwood, SolarFive is best known as part of the OnGaud collective, which produced some of the most iconic songs on Mick Jenkins’s breakthrough mixtape, The Waters. He’s now focused on a new EP, Please Don’t Get Cocaine in the Faders, with guest artists like Rufus Sims and Asha Omega, and working with others to produce music.

CantBuyDeem has been advocating for his community in and outside of Englewood, such as encouraging therapy for anyone having a hard time with their mental health. Now, he has a new album in the works with the legendary DJ Hustlenomics entitled CDs, DVDs, Loose Squares Vol. 2, —a sequel to his 2022 mixtape of the same name. He is continuing to pave a path for independent artists in the New Chicago Wave.

North Lawndale newcomer MVTE is also helping to create safe community spaces for artists. She released an album in January, Bad Influence, which is very reflective of her hip-hop roots. She has a new split EP with Rhea the Second, Mama’s House, on the way.

Rhea the Second was a vocalist and member of the legendary nine-woman band, The Highness Collective (previously known as SHE). She’s had memorable collaborations with neo-soul artists such as Mannaseh and Elton Aura, along with the forthcoming Mama’s House EP with MVTE.

I call this shoot “Throwin Hands With My Shadow Work” because it’s not just a reflection of the New Chicago Wave, but also our inner self work and personal growth. 

Makeup: Jazmine Jazstarr Stubbs 

Creative Direction Assistance: Michaella DeVetter

Photos by Isiah “ThoughtPoet” Veney

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Isiah “ThoughtPoet” Veney is a photographer, organizer, and writer from the Chatham and Burnside area. His #HeartMelanin portrait series, in progress since 2013, is a collection of emotions; snapshots of the Black Chicago renaissance.

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