Extended Edit: Chicago Fire, Families

Photographer Daniel Shea
May 10, 2013
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    In our annual photography issue, we usually showcase multiple essays from different photographers. This year, we dedicated all that space to a single feature by Daniel Shea. Last year, Shea photographed our cover story on Chicago’s drill scene, focusing on the young rapper Chief Keef and members of his local-clique-cum-record-label Glory Boyz. Now, returning for a month to the same neighborhoods, Shea looks at the city’s South Side from the perspective of teenagers whose careers haven’t spirited them away from their home blocks. Shea returned from his month on the South Side with more photos than we could ever fit into the magazine. We'll be publishing our favorite outtakes here all week, along with conversations between Shea and FADER's photo editor, Geordie Wood. Today, they talk about teens and families in violence-stricken Chicago neighborhoods that are trying to make things right.

    For many young people on Chicago's South Side, music provides reprieve from the daily routine and a route out of the neighborhood. We spent time with two aspiring rappers, Young Killa and Young Trell, and a family with who's chosen to stick around their neighborhood, where they're working to eliminate violence and raise a son, Chase.

    Who are Yung Trell and YK? Yung Trell and his father are affiliated with an entertainment group that have one foot in each word. He and his dad are doing business, production company stuff. But they alluded to other types of activity. Someone is probably selling drugs to pay for Yung Trell to be a rapper. Trell and his father are working within that system of making money and trying to build something else. Yung Trell is blowing up a little bit locally, his father is supporting him. YK was involved in cliques and violence, drugs, whatever, and started rapping. He made a very deliberate decision to focus on music and not deal with his past lifestyle anymore. He wants to be known only as a rapper.

    Being a rapper is a way to escape. Totally. But they still want to talk about what rappers talk about. Trell is younger so when he’s talking about bitches or drugs or whatever, he’s maybe mimicking the hyperbole he sees in hip-hop lyrics, the alternative universe within the song. YK and Trell are both successfully out of the world they’re avoiding, but weirdly with this new career that feeds off the imagery of that world.

    What motivates Chase and his parents to stay in their neighborhood? How are they trying to make their lives “normal”? Chase’s parents are overly cautious with him. They don’t let him go anywhere by himself. They pick him up from school. The normal social life of young people in these neighborhoods sadly involves getting involved in cliques, which turns into drugs and violence. His parents are preventing him from being socialized in a conventional sense, or like other kids his age. In that regard, their lives are not really normal. Chase is not walking down the street to the park to hang out. His parents live to work. They work so that their kids can have a good life. Chase’s father has a strong personality. He’s a military man. He does not fuck around. He is starting a community organization. He hates anything related to gangs. He thinks they are destroying the neighborhood.

    Extended Edit: Chicago Fire, Families