Credit: Paul Araki Elliot

From Morgan Park to South Shore, four Chicago artists took the Weekly to their favorite intimate spots across the South Side. These places fuel their music and have continued to inspire them.

Asha Omega

Standing at the intersection of Jeffery Blvd and 71st Street in South Shore, Asha Omega stepped aside for a dog holding a slice of a pepperoni pizza in its mouth. 

“I’ve just crossed this intersection so much in my little life. I just think that is so beautiful,” Asha said. 

She exchanged a dialogue with the dog’s owner and went back to posing for a portrait photo. Asha Omega is a burgeoning artist from the South Side. Represented by Forever Noir, a media house that advocates for healing through the arts, Asha released her latest EP, ALKHEMY, in February.

“I started making music for myself first,” Asha said. “All my music was affirmations for me and I was hoping that it touched somebody and made them feel good or feel seen.”  

She describes her music, which blends neo-soul sounds with contemporary hip-hop beats, as “neo hip-hop.” Asha embeds positive lyrics and weaves pieces of her community into each song. 

“I think that I’m always keeping my head on a swivel, just to be aware of what’s going on around me,” she said. “I think that type of consciousness influences the way I think and why I write the way I write, because you have to be aware of all things.” 

Her love for South Shore runs deep. A favorite feature is being able to walk to the lake at any moment. At night, blocks away from her home, she said, her neighbors bring foldout chairs, grill, and share in community. 

Laughing, she proclaims, “South Shore, the best shore!”

Khaliyah X

For Khaliyah X—or as she often likes to call herself, Chicago Princess—Morgan Park has a special place in her heart. It’s the community that watched her grow and fostered her love for music. 

“Subconsciously, [Morgan Park] definitely tailored the way that I listened to music and my interest in music. Just being surrounded by so much art and just so much culture very, very young,” Khaliyah said, remembering the countless poetry slams and jazz events she went to with her mom. 

Khaliyah dropped a single in May titled “What’s My Name,” and today her Spotify has close to 5,000 monthly listeners. She posed in front of her childhood home, her favorite spot, because to her it signifies “real security and stability.” The twenty-five-year-old is her grandmother’s oldest granddaughter. As her family gears up for a big move, she can’t help but reminisce on how much impact the neighborhood has had on her. 

“My fondest memories [are] around food and community, and I think that’s what the South Side means to me,” Khaliyah said. “It gave me the ability to know different walks of life.”

Khaliyah said Morgan Park is often overlooked, but it’s been one of the driving forces in her career. Her love for food and community always interlock, and so it’s only fitting that this Chicago Princess will be performing at Taste of Chicago on September 8. 

She also teased the idea of releasing a part two to her 2022 Just For the Summer EP. In the meantime, Khaliyah urged people to try her top two favorite go-to spots: Nicky’s of Beverly and Janson’s Drive-In.


While there are many taco joints across the city, Eschicano prefers his tacos Tijuana style. Tacos El Rey on Ewing Avenue rolled out the red carpet for the twenty-seven-year-old musician when he recently sat down with the Weekly

The South Side “was really like a way to reconnect with my roots,“ said Eschicano. 

His order consists of a spicy michelada and adobada tacos—or as he calls them, “estilo perrones” (dog style). During our interview, Eschicano was gearing up for a performance at Pilsen Fest. Pilsen for Eschicano was the first community to embrace his music. 

“I did my first release party on 18th Street at the APO [cultural center] building, the historical building,” he said. “There was a line down all the way to Blue Island. People coming to my release party, an unknown Eschicano doing his first release party ever.”

Since then, Eschicano has performed at Ruido Fest and collaborated with a variety of South Side talent, tapping into genres like corridos, cumbia, and Spanish rock. Through his music, he has been able to strengthen the link to his origins. 

“I had the Ventra card that was like unlimited swipes. And I was just taking the Orange Line and the Pink Line to the South Side,” Eschicano said. “It was like a veil was lifted from me.” 

While he grew up in Logan Square, Eschicano really began to find his identity by exploring communities like Back of the Yards and Little Village fueling his musical pursuits. 

“I was reconnecting with a part of my culture that I didn’t even know existed.”

Ajani Jones

Ajani Jones began releasing music in 2017, but in the past two years he’s taken it to the next level, making it his full-time gig and garnering more than 21,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. Ajani said he feels rooted, and to him there’s no place like Auburn Gresham.

“This is a phoenix type of situation where it’s like, we’ve risen from the ashes,” he said. 

Ajani remembers moving a lot growing up and struggling financially, but the Auburn Gresham neighborhood was witness to a lot of firsts for the twenty-nine-year-old. 

“My first bad grade, my first you know, experience with taking the bus…Coming of age as a child, a lot of those memories were from this area,” Ajani said. 

That’s why his family home means so much to him. He recently opened his picture-perfect backyard to the Weekly. 

“Everything that’s led up to this point has been us conquering one struggle after the other one,”  Ajani said. “Perseverance has been a really big thing in my life, in my music.“

He released a single titled “Shapeshifter” in May, and he already has other projects lined up to be released. The first is an album (with details that are yet to come), and the second is a music group the young artist has put together alongside Chicago talents S-O-S and Core REX. Ajani also shared plans for a future EP in collaboration with his friend Wic Whitney. 

Ajani said he believes that right now, Chicago’s music scene is coming together once again with a younger generation that’s bringing love and support. 

“I feel like Chicago has been fragmented for years. It hasn’t felt like a community,” he said. “And so now it’s feeling like that—this summer more than anything.”

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Paul Araki Elliott is a photographer and filmmaker based in Chicago. He specializes in conceptual and environmental portraiture, often focusing on artists and entertainers. He has worked with artists such as Tinashe, Towkio, and Vic Mensa, and his work has appeared in such publications as Vibe, The Chicago Reader, TimeOut, and Complex. Elliott is also the co-founder of the multimedia production company

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