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If Migos choose to be hip-hop journalists instead of world renown emcees, their first major piece might have been titled “Chicago, Chicago, Chicago, Chicago, Chicago”—of course they would’ve known to put the obligatory “and” there, proper grammar guys. Right now, the Windy City is producing more talented artists than Curran$y could’ve produced mixtapes back in ’09. Covering a variety of styles and talents, from Chance the Rapper’s unique blend of conscious and house, to Chief Keef’s no holds bar street anthems, it has become increasingly clear that the Second City might soon move to the forefront of future hip-hop culture.

Everyday a new crop of emcees are rising up, already ripe and ready for public consumption. Fighting to be acknowledged amongst all of their peers is the difficult task each young rapper faces. Some take to twitter spamming, others hope they get noticed by local blog Fake Shore Drive, while others take a much more proactive approach and post an insane number of videos to Youtube.

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Spenzo choose the last option. A quick search will result in your computer screen being filled with titles like “Started From The Bottom Freestyle” or “Get Money.” He posts a ton of freestyles, music videos, and behind the scenes video blogs to maintain a connection with his young fans—whose numbers grow on the daily. And like ’09 Curren$y, his prolific nature doesn’t signify the deterioration of his musicianship, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Spenzo seems to be evolving right in front of his supporters eyes, who watch his every step.

“I’m always working, 24/7. Just trying to make better music at a faster pace,” he admitted. His work ethic became a subtle theme during our conversation. It’s hard to deny it, we have documented proof of it, and it is slowly but surely getting him noticed in his city and the country.

After releasing his highly anticipated mixtape, In Spenzo We Trust, a break would be well deserved. However, Spenzo is not one to sit down and reflex on his past actions for too long. “To be exact, I went straight to tour. People were calling and booking, just showing love.” This love and support can definitely be felt in his native city and was the motivation he needed to stay on track.

“I’m from Englewood, Chicago. The Southside. I’ve lived there for ten years, rough childhood. I went to King High School, low end in the eastside. Since then I’ve been focused on music and staying positive. Everyone around me pushing and staying positive. Just working…

I am the most hardest working 18 years old coming out from Chicago.”

Staying optimistic in Chicago’s Southside is no easy task. It is an area that is being ripped at the seams thanks to gang violence, drug use, school closings and unemployment. Just last year alone, over Chicagoans buried over five hundred of their own thanks to the gun violence that has reached epidemic level, but by now it feels like a part of life for those living in it.

“’Englewood’ actually came from me being from Englewood. I come from a place that a regular person wouldn’t be able to handle or withstand,” he says when discussing the first track off of In Spenzo We Trust—a gripping detailed account of life in his neighborhood. Instead of only documenting the atrocities that have become commonplace or succumbing to the environmental influence, he wants to be a tool for spreading real positive truth to those around him. “Obviously there are people out here that want to have fun; I just try to be completely honest Spenzo. Some of these rappers are not true to themselves, they rap about killings, drug they never took, hoods they’ve never been in…

…I just try to be myself”

He is trying to grind his way to top, but a piece of him is attached to the suffering that he has witnessed. It is a history that is infused into his lyrics and musical styles. Spenzo is keenly aware of the plight of those still in the thick of things in his Englewood neighborhood. “I just wanted to show my neighborhood some love, I remember everyone out there, and I will never forget it,” a statement that certainly holds true, especially when he passionately discussed the need for help in the Southside neighborhoods.

“To be honest man, how I feel about what’s going on in Chicago? It’s sad man. I say that because the government has a lot to do with this. And they aren’t doing anything to help. Government shut down, and they are not helping. We just need some help out here. I mean we are starving out here, and nobody wants to care. We need them to look at us. We need money, jobs, education. They close 51 schools down, who does that. We don’t need more police. And then they wonder why people are acting crazy, and murdering. There is no money in the community.”

He has witnessed and been influenced by the violence of the streets first hand. His cousin unfortunately passed away at a young age. Spenzo found the motivation to continue and focus on his music more seriously. “Get Money’s” video was dedicated to his cousin. “I was referring to my cousin, who died at 17. After that, I was like man I don’t want to see this happening to me, there is too much hope in me and people looking at me. I want to live and do something with my life. I don’t want to die anytime soon, if I could live forever I would,” a sad testament to the affairs of his life. “I was basically re-enacting my cousin’s life that was actually his house and all of his friends.”

Spenzo is marking his own lane, one which is motivated by struggle, driven by the support of those closest to him,  and made to provide a fun or enlightening space for the people around his neighborhood.

“To be honest sir, I’m the next big super star coming out of Chicago. I say that you can’t categorize me, I can go left to right, back and forth. The backpackers are going to embrace me, and since I come from Englewood, so the hoods are going to respect me.”

When you mesh all of these characteristics with his tireless work ethic, big things are in store for this young emcee.

Jimi (@Nativejimi)