Late last night, album-mode Nicki dropped “Chi-Raq,” an eerily understated collaboration with rising star Lil Herb, who despite having one of the strongest releases of 2014, is probably reaching the majority of listeners for the first time here. It’s a great look for Herb, the biggest moment of his career thus far (Drake cosign who?), but there’s a sketchy side to the song too: what does it mean when an artist co-opts another city’s supposed “edge,” particularly an artist who has very little to do with that city whatsoever? The term “Chiraq” is already controversial: as Natalie Y. Moore wrote earlier this year, using the term as a badge of honor marginalizes citizens as casualties of war and ignores people struggling for solutions. And there’s something undeniably icky about reaching for street cred by association with an already inaccurate idea of “Chiraq,” even if it is a good song in every other regard. (It would’ve been much easier to stomach if this had been a Lil Herb song with a Nicki feature.)
Dreezy reclaims her city on her just-released remix of “Chiraq,” which sounds like it was recorded in a blaze of righteous indignation. She’s one of the toughest spitters in Chicago right now—see February’s excellent Schizo mixtape—but it still takes a whole lot of balls to fire shots at one of the biggest rappers in the game: Soon as you set a foot in Chiraq, you will feel uneasy, which is less of a threat than a guarantee. She pulls it off with blistering confidence, and I have to be honest: I prefer this version.
Download: Dreezy, Schizo