Chicago wasn’t always a city that came to mind when people discussed hip-hop music, but that has changed significantly over the last several years. The city is now home to several well-known rappers, many of whom have helped to popularize drill music. Drill is characterized by its aggressive and often violent lyrics. For many rappers from the city, the style is the perfect way for them to share their stories of growing up in some of the rougher areas of the city. What many people don’t realize, however, is that there is one specific area in Chicago that has very close connections to the drill sound and hip-hop in general. Keep reading to learn how O Block in Chicago has had a major impact on hip-hop music.
What Is O Block?
If you’re not from Chicago or aren’t familiar with the city, there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of O Block. However, this area has a very well-known reputation throughout Chicago. O Block has widely been considered the most dangerous block in the city. According to a story from the Chicago Sun-Times, O Block has more shootings than any other block in the city. Many of these shootings have been connected to gang activity Although things on the block seem to have gotten better in recent years, it’s still not a place that most would consider safe.
O Block is also home to Parkway Garden Homes, a famous housing project in Chicago that has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The housing development was constructed in the 1950s. Originally, the complex was seen as a nice place to live and residents took great pride in the community. In fact, former first lady Michelle Obama once lived in Parkway Gardens. Unfortunately, that slowly changed over time. The projects were put up for sale in 2021 and Chicago rapper Lil Durk attempted to purchase the property but he was outbid.
How O Block Has Impacted Hip-Hop
The long history of violence that is tied to O Block has given the area a very infamous reputation throughout the city. For those who grew up there, things certainly weren’t easy and many O Block natives have had to witness things that no one should have to see. For some people, the pain and trauma they experienced on O Block became the inspiration for music. Lyrics about gun violence, betrayal, and survival are common themes for rappers from the area. Despite the tough circumstances they grew up in, they’ve managed to turn their experiences into something creative and artistic.
There is a long list of rappers who came from O Block and many of them have been instrumental in continuing the city’s legacy in hip-hop. One of those rappers is Chief Keef who rose to fame in 2012 with back-to-back hit singles “I Don’t Like” and “Love Sosa”. Unfortunately for Keith, legal troubles would cause his career to slow down. Chief Keef is often credited with creating drill music which essentially means that O Block is the reason that drill exists. While it’s true that not all of the rappers from O Block are drill rappers, the area has become synonymous with that style of music.
King Von is another popular rapper who hails from O Block. Von’s debut album, Welcome to O’Block, was released. Sadly, King Von was shot and killed in November of 2020. He was just 26-years-old at the time of his death. Both Chief Keef and King Von lived in Parkway Garden Homes and references to O Block can be heard in their music.
The Future Of O Block
When news broke that Parkway Garden Home was up for sale in early 2021, many felt it was a sign that O Block was finally going to be revitalized. While the housing project isn’t the only thing the block consists of, it is arguably the most well-known thing in the neighborhood. As mentioned earlier, Chicago-based rapper Lil Durk attempted to buy the property, but his plan fell through and it was purchased by someone else. Now, it looks like gentrification is in the future for O Block.
According to Hip Hop DX, an online post about the sale said, “O-Block (Parkway Gardens) will be disbanded and relocated. O-Block has been sold, and best believe it’s going to be developed beautifully and completely out of the price range of most current Woodlawn residents. That Jewel and Metrosquash facility should have been the writing on the wall. This is about to get interesting, and eerily familiar…can someone say Cabrini or Stateway.”
While no major plans appear to be set in motion as of yet, it looks like O Block is on the verge of being changed forever.