Over the past five years of covering the Chicago music scene, interviewing artists, and making relationships with these creatives, I have noticed something that I believe is super intriguing: there have been so many talented individuals who went to Homewood Flossmoor High School at (or around) the same time. It’s not too often that you see this many extraordinary creatives come out of the same place at once — at least I have never heard of something like this before — but even more so, I think it’s a rarity for to have this type of talent come out of the same school especially in the same field.
I believe that a big part of this should be credited to the opportunities that Homewood Flossmoor provides to their students, in all avenues, but especially in the music field. The school has engaged students in music industry classes, Jazz orchestra courses, holding rap contests (and giving out prizes to the winners), shooting music videos for their senior students at times, giving them their own radio show to practice freestyling + DJ’ing, and they even take their bands on extraordinary trips to places like Japan. It’s crazy to think about what can happen if schools give these types of resources and opportunities to their students, and I believe Homewood Flossmoor is the perfect example of what can and will happen if you do so.
While in this piece I am highlighting the rappers/singers to come out of Homewood Flossmoor, it should be noted that the school’s students excel in other fields as well. In the past year alone, a former Homewood Flossmoor student Seun Adigun appeared on The Ellen Degeneres Show because she started the Nigerian Bobsled team and competed in the Summer Olympics. I have met multiple people that hold positions at companies in the music industry that attended HF back in the day, and another interesting thought is the fact that Shawnna (a part of the Infamous Syndicate) attended the same school back in the ’90s.
When it comes to athletics, Homewood Flossmoor High School has also produced top-tier talents such as NFL players Zach Fulton, who currently plays for the Houston Texans, and Super Bowl champion and former New England Patriot Michael Buchanan, but that’s only a couple of the multiple NFL + NBA talents that have attended the school.
As if this doesn’t give you enough of an idea, here are a couple more examples of the greats to come out of HF; former first-round NBA draft pick Julian Wright, Andrew Gertler (manager of Shawn Mendes), 670 The Score’s Laurence Holmes, MLB pitcher John Ely, DJ Hoop Dreams, the viral sensation Hott Headzz and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith just to name a few.
There is something to be said for the amount of greatly skilled people to come out of the same place, but now let’s focus on the rising hip-hop stars that attended the school in the past decade or so.
*Juice WRlD on Viking TV early in high school*
One of the most interesting artists that we have ever worked with is Juice WRLD, the twenty-year-old creative who has taken the world by storm with his massive hit records such as “Lucid Dreams” and “All Girls Are The Same”, both of which have incredible videos that were directed by Cole! Of course, that’s not the only time these two connected for visuals, they have made multiple timeless visuals and even shared the experience of going on a European tour together. Aside from just the collabs that we have done with Juice, he has impressed fans, critics and publications alike with his fantastic and extremely successful projects Goodbye & Good Riddance and Death Race For Love.
The rise of Juice Wrld has been an amazing thing to watch. In just under two years, he has become one of the greatest new artists of his generation, and yes you guessed it, he is a former Homewood Flossmoor student himself! Juice Wrld attended HF from 2013-2017, making him the youngest of all of these artists I am featuring, and although each of these creatives are legends in their own right, Juice has the potential to be a generation-defining artist. Seriously though, when it’s all said and done we might be looking at Juice Wrld the way that people currently see the GOAT Kid Cudi. I know it’s early to say but considering this trajectory and the way that his music makes people feel, I don’t think it’s far fetched.
*Juice Wrld & other HF students in their senior music video*
In my time at Lyrical Lemonade one of my favorite experiences was watching the rapid and massive growth of Juice Wrld in such a short time; it seemed like one day we were featuring him as a new artist on our website when he first released “All Girls Are The Same” on Soundcloud, then a few weeks later Cole is shooting the video, and by the time I blinked he was touring the world, getting a record deal and working with legends like Future and Young Thug. I believe that Juice is arguably the most talented artist to come out of Chicago in the past ten years that isn’t Chief Keef or Chance, but in a way that’s almost a different generation or class of emcees because of the age gap. Needless to say, Juice is the leader of the new artists in the city.
One of the greatest parts of Juice Wrld’s success is the fact that it’s far from over. He has introduced the world of hip hop to a new subgenre that no one else has even come close to replicating. This is partially due to his unique voice but also partially because the person behind the lyrics and songs is the real Juice, and that’s something that others simply can’t replicate. Beyond this, we can hopefully look forward to another album before the years up, according to the man himself. If the follow up to Death Race for Love is anything like its predecessor, it might just go number one also, which would make for two number one album releases in one year (Death Race for Love released this past March). Along with this feat is sure to be more tours, merch, and collaborations which will hopefully include the teased but never released joint project with Ski Mask the Slump God titled Evil Twins. Either way, Juice Wrld is rapidly going from being one of the top new artists in the industry, to one of the top artists period. It’s been a blast watching his ascension and it’s not going to stop anytime soon, that’s a fact.
Femdot is one of the first Chicago artists that we ever shot visuals for during the early days of Lyrical Lemonade, and to this day he is still considered family to all of us here. Before we met Femdot though, he was a high schooler walking the halls at HF from 2009-2013, having dreams of becoming an artist & idolizing MMG signee Rockie Fresh who walked the same hallways just a few years prior. It’s weird to think like this because Femdot is still in his early twenties, but he has been working at this dream of his for well over a decade now, and has built up his following little by little (or brick by brick, if you will). Considering that he is fresh off of his first nationwide tour opening for Tobi Lou + a well received release with 94 Camry Music, it looks like it’s paying off.
One dope aspect of this long journey that femdot has taken is that a piece of it was documented during his days at HF, on Viking Television in 2011 they released a quick video called ‘femdot: The Dawning Of A Rapper’, a seven-minute story about the buzz he was gaining around campus his sophomore year of high school. During this video, you will find them speaking to Rockie Fresh and his manager Andrew Gertler who spoke highly of the (at the time) sixteen-year-old emcee, and plenty of fem’s classmates stated their opinions and future predictions, as well. This piece that was recorded at HF was an interesting foreshadow as what was to come for the Chicago native, and it’s even more special because just recently, femdot released a new record with Rockie Fresh called “Coming Up“.
There is something to be said about a high school that supports their creative students this much. Femdot got this feature documentary because he won a rap contest at his school, which is something that HF has continued to do for years now. Let’s be real, have you ever heard of a high school holding rap contests with prizes for their students before now?
Femdot is also a recent graduate from DePaul University in Chicago, where oddly enough, he met LL’s own Cole Bennett in their public speaking class during their freshman year of college. Since then, this random meeting has led to great friendships between all of us here at LL and fem.
Since they met they have shot three music videos, the first one being ‘Body Bags‘ in Jan. 2016, the second ‘King Dilla Freestyle‘ six months after that in July 2016 and then 2018’s visual for ‘O’Something‘.
Femdot has appeared on several LL shows in the past and was on the bill at this past year’s Lyrical Lemonade Summer Smash Festival. He was also the lead role in Cole’s short film ‘Lone Springs‘ that dropped in 2017, so it’s safe to say that he’s a veteran around here.
With the release of his brand new project 94 Camry Music, more and more people are starting to get in tune with the lyricist — his numbers have been steadily growing and he is knocking out his goals one after another. Just this year, femdot has performed at major festivals, on Jimmy Kimmel alongside Taylor Bennett, went on his first nationwide tour alongside Tobi Lou and now he has released his best body of work to date. Anybody who has been following Femdot for some time now has undoubtedly noticed his steady growth, and the simple fact that his dreams are coming true before our eyes. As I’m sure is the case with any other avid fan of the Chicago hip-hop community, it’s been beautiful to watch.
Let’s be real, Queen Key is one of the best new artists coming out of Chicago. She has blown up rather quickly and it doesn’t look like she’s slowing down anytime soon. During my interviews of (most) of these artists, one thing was common, they all stated that Queen Key is the same person now that she was back in high school. I understand that statement might sound a little simple, but when you think about it especially in this day and age, how many artists are truly being themselves and how many artists are just playing a role?
*Queen Key x femdot in 2017*
Although Queen Key’s personality is something that all of her fans love, you can’t look over the amazing music that she has released, and her numbers will show just how good it is as she has accumulated hundreds of millions of streams. I’ve seen her rock crowds with thousands of people and sell-out crowds across the nation, and as you probably already assumed, yes Queen Key is a former Homewood Flossmoor student as well. Queen Key attended HF in the early 2010s and from what others like Ohana Bam tell me, she has always had this entertaining & feel-good presence to her.
Queen Key is not only a thriving artist out of the city, but she has also become a leader in the community. Her ‘Camp Queen’ program has been doing some great work in the city providing children in Chicago with resources and activities such as free food, arts & crafts, health guidance, helping with confidence and so much more. There have been plenty of artists to come out of Chicago, but not many are giving back like Queen Key does. You have to respect everything that Queen Key is doing in her career and for Chicago as well, and if you aren’t familiar with her just yet I highly suggest that you get in tune with her music.
Truth be told, when I was interviewing Tobi Lou in New York a couple of months ago at Governors Ball, we spoke briefly about his time at Homewood Flossmoor, and once I found out that he attended this school as well, that was the final straw that led me to finally dive into this piece.
Tobi Lou is one of the brightest artists to come out of Chicago’s thriving music community. I first caught wind of Tobi when he released his sensational visual for “Troop” featuring Smino, and after watching that video at least 1,000 times I quickly became a fan. Then, after seeing Tobi perform live a couple of times at major festivals across the nation and eventually interviewing him, I became an even bigger fan and I couldn’t wait to see what else he had in store. Since then, Tobi released his UNBELIEVABLY good project titled Live On Ice and in my opinion it’s one of, if not the best Chicago project to come out this year. A bold statement, sure, but anyone who sits down and spends some time with his project would be hard-pressed to disagree with me.
Tobi’s aesthetic and style are second to none. Everything about him has this special vibe, and he has an infectious feel-good energy; some of the best visuals and his music is so unique that you can’t compare him to anyone else, he is in a class of his own. He is also very careful about his whole aesthetic — everything from his merchandise to his visuals that play behind him at shows — and he always comes through with a 10/10 product.
You can tell a lot about an artist by seeing their live performance, but more importantly, seeing their fan base. I have watched Tobi Lou perform at least a dozen times this year and trust me when I say that I haven’t seen a rising Chicago artist get this much love and support from their fan base since back when I worked for Chance The Rapper & got a close look at his rise (it’s eerily similar in my opinion). It’s something that the average music listener might not realize until they see him live, but Tobi has definitely built something like a cult fan base over the past few years. He’s a superhero to them, and rightfully so. Just as much as his fans show him love, Tobi always makes sure to reciprocate the same energy back to them. It’s not often you’ll see artists reply to the fans and help them out whether that’s helping them pay for Ubers to and from shows or handing out a dozen fair pairs of brand new Nikes in the crowd during his set.
I believe that within the next few years Tobi Lou is going to become a name that any fan of music will know about. He is simply too talented and his team has been executing too well for him not to be, and considering that he has already come this far in this short amount of time, it’s not far fetched to believe that he’s not only Chicago’s next big thing, but the music industry’s too. Please keep a close eye on Tobi Lou if you aren’t familiar with him yet, he has the potential to be one of Chicago’s greatest artists of all time.
Another artist who has attended Homewood Flossmoor High School is Ohana Bam aka Brenton Smith, who has been making a name for himself in the music industry since he graduated back in 2013.
You may know Ohana Bam from his monstrous hit singles such as “Blow Your Mind” and “All Roads Lead Home”, but when you take a closer look at his catalog, you will see that he has built up quite the resume for himself. Ohana Bam is in another world when it comes to getting his records big time placements. How, might you ask? I have no idea myself, but Ohana Bam has managed to get his songs featured every from the soundtrack to Madden, Fifa & NHL video games to theme songs of the WWE Royal Rumbles as well as movies such as the latest Fast & Furious movie. This obviously isn’t just by chance, however — Ohana Bam makes some undeniably hot music and some well pieced together projects that make up his stellar catalog.
It’s interesting because when speaking to artists like Shawnee or Femdot, because they will tell you first hand that Bam knew this was going to be his career all along. Femdot and Bam started recording music together back when they were just seven years old after meeting in Kindergarten two years prior, and that chemistry is on full display when they connect to this day. I don’t care what the ‘thing’ is, there is something to be said for any kid under the age of ten to declare what he’s going to do when he grows up, and then actually follow through with it.
Although some of these music industry classes & after school programs weren’t fully available yet while he was attending the school, he does give credit to the after school radio show that Charles Lauste held as a resource that helped him perfect his craft. One other person who played a pivotal role in Bam’s high school days was his teacher Mr. Booth, who was something like a mentor to the young creative while in school and still until this day.
Ohana Bam’s most memorable day during his time at HF was his Senior year talent show, where he performed a solo track as well as a collab record alongside femdot, a moment that in hindsight seems as if it was just practice for what was to come for these two. He also recalled playing high school football with current Houston Texans offensive lineman Zach Fulton as another memorable time — it seems like no matter what the craft was, the students seemed to excel.
Just be ready for Ohana Bam to continue to take over in the years to come. I feel as if he is just now hitting his full stride and he’s only going to improve: as a matter of fact, go ahead and follow him here to get more in tune with his movement. If you aren’t familiar with Ohana Bam, I highly suggest that you give him a shot because chances are, you’ve probably already heard his music in a commercial or your favorite movie.
Martin $ky is one of the most interesting and talented characters to come out of the Chicago music community in the past decade. He is one of my favorite producers to ever come out of Chicago, and once upon a time, he was one of the coldest rappers that the city had to offer in the early 2010s. Actually, at the time that Martin was attending Homewood Flossmoor, he was putting up hundreds of thousands of views and streams on platforms like YouTube, something that your average high schooler simply doesn’t do. It’s clear that Martin $ky knew his skills would take him a long way from an early age, and although Martin is a self-made success, I have to think that some of the music-related courses he took at HF helped him in some type of way.
*femdot x martin $ky in 2012*
Although he gave up rapping a couple of years ago, he took to focus solely on producing which has helped transform him into one of, if not the best producer out Chicago, and damn near even the Midwest. He has created some of the most soothing instrumentals that I have ever heard, pieced together timeless projects, he does a fantastic job at giving other dope creatives spotlight by collabing with them. Often throughout the year, Martin will bless us with a beat that will turn into the soundtrack to that week for me; I’ll find myself leaving his new releases on repeat for hours and hours on end. Any young aspiring producer should take a close look at Martin $ky and study just how he mastered his craft, you can sharpen your own material by studying legends such as himself.
We interviewed Martin $ky for Lyrical Lemonade way back in April of 2015, and Martin told us at the time that he started making beats at the age of 13 & he quickly learned to write bars and rap, leading to him changing his name to Martin $ky in high school. Martin described his definition of success as ‘Paying your rent off of doing the shit that you love to do, being able to hold your own and doing what you choose‘ and to this day Martin is still excelling and doing what he loves to do, nearly five years later.
The last question that Cole asked Martin in this interview was “Where do you see yourself in five years”, and now that we are coming up on the anniversary of that interview, his response was perfect.
“In five years I am producing for your favorite singer or rapper, I am crossing over into other genres, really just doing it all“.
At this point in time, Martin is doing just that, continuing to live off of what he loves and collabing with some of your favorite artists.
I feel like when you examine all of the artists featured on this list, Rockie Fresh holds a place in a lot of these artist’s hearts because he was one of the trailblazers who paved the way for the rest of them to do their thing. He made them feel like it was possible to become a successful artist after walking those same hallways just a few years prior.
Shortly after Rockie Fresh graduated from HF (in the later 2000s) he signed a record deal to Rick Ross’s massive MMG label that featured the likes of Meek Mill and Wale at the time. He was dropping some timeless music and rocking shows around the globe, so it only made sense that all of the aspiring artists from his old school/hometown were looking up to him.
From a first-hand perspective, they got to witness a person who came from the same place as they did with the same opportunities that they had, but now he was apart of one of the biggest platforms in hip-hop and doing some serious numbers and touring across the globe. Although there was musical talent to come from this school before Rockie, this is what I would consider the moment that the door got kicked down for hopeful talents from his school — the moment that this all became possible.
You have to respect the impact that Rockie Fresh had on Chicago and also his old hometown/high school, as he really showed all of these kids that it was possible. However, don’t just think that Rockie Fresh stopped there, as he has gone on to have an amazing career. He has released some classic projects and great projects over the years, he has been something like a fashion icon in the city, and that’s not to mention that he has released timeless songs like his latest record featuring Chris Brown.
Another thing that I believe is important to note is that Rockie Fresh wasn’t one of those cats who just blew up and forgot where he came from. He continued to go back to Homewood Flossmoor and interact with the students — hell, he even had HF’s choir do some background vocals on one of his tracks about five years ago.
This year alone, Rockie has put out some incredible records including his latest record ‘Round Here’ as well as two collab records with two artists on this list, Tobi Lou + Femdot. He isn’t going to be letting up though, as he has told his fans on his social media earlier this year to be expecting more heat from him, and I am predicting that a full-length tape will be coming from him before the year’s end.
Rockie Fresh doesn’t get his flowers enough for the important role that he played not only at HF but in Chicago as a whole, and hopefully, this piece helps give more insight to what he has accomplished.
Shawnee Dez is probably the ‘newest’ artist out of the bunch considering she has only released a couple of songs up until this point, but trust me when I say that her talent is up to par with every one of these skilled creatives. Shawnee is an interesting case out of these artists because she only spent her senior year at Homewood Flossmoor after transferring from a private school, but at this school is where she would meet her life-long friends who would push her to start pursuing this craft. One of these individuals being the mega-talented Johari Noelle who we featured in an interview earlier this year when she released her project TYCSOL, who befriended Shawnee during her first days at the school and would invite her over to do YouTube covers of some of their favorite artists including Lauryn Hill. Soon after, she would get in tune with Ohana Bam and Femdot, and before long, they would all be linking up after school to create music in their home studios at either one of their houses, and then eventually hitting official studios such as Soundscape at the time.
Shawnee took a music industry class during her year at the school. It was the first year that HF had offered the course and she credits that for helping her get more interested in the field. She recalled having classes with Martin $ky, who even in high school was putting up unreal numbers on his tracks; “I was really watching Martin $ky at that time too, he’s the shit but he was super quiet and humble in class“.
Shawnee’s close friendship to Ohana Bam has continued throughout the years, but he played a pivotal role in getting her comfortable making music, introducing her to more people, and allowing her to use resources such as his in-house studio set up.
“He’s the same person he was in high school, he has so much drive, that dude was so passionate about music at an early age and he manifested it into a career” – Shawnee on Ohana Bam
Shawnee’s friends might have helped her get her start creating music, but all credit has to go her way for what she has done with it. Shawnee has released some soothing R&B type jams that are damn near impossible to not fall in love with, not to mention that she has accumulated hundreds of thousands of views on her terrific SoFar Chicago live performance videos — and anybody that personally knows Shawnee will tell you that she’s one of the best musicians + people they know.
“She has a very sensual and smoky sound, her music sounds like a hug and her personality is like a walking sunflower, she brightens any situation” – Femdot on Shawnee Dez
Follow Shawnee Dez On Instagram here.
Chicago native Charles Lauste has been doing a ton of behind the scenes work in the music community in the city over the past five years. He has produced some of the hottest records from a handful of Chicago’s finest emcees and he has even grown into one of the best rising DJ’s the city has to offer. Before Charles Lauste was one of Chicago’s most sought after producers and DJ’s in the city, he was a student walking the halls of Homewood Flossmoor from 2008-2012.
Charles Lauste has played a big part in several artists’ careers, especially when it comes to a handful of artists on this list, mainly because Chi was the head of the radio show ‘Turnt Up Radio’ that went live on 88.5 WHFH after school through their broadcasting department, providing a platform for artists to step up to the mic and test out their freestyle skills and get used to being in that environment.
More importantly, Charles was able to help jumpstart his own career, he added; “It felt like our own WGCI or our own Power 92. It gave me the practice I needed to eventually get my mixes on those same platforms”.
Charles himself described Homewood Flossmoor as a “melting pot” of different types of people, and that was his favorite part of the school: all the different types of people he came in contact with. Two of the teachers he came in contact with left a lasting impression on him including computer science teacher Mrs. Alexander and Mr. Noah who taught him in geometry. At the time, both of these educators helped push him to pursue his dreams no matter what. It’s obvious that at least some of the knowledge that they preached to Charles worked, because nowadays, he is excelling at his craft and he’s only getting better, so be ready to see his name more and more.
Cover photo by Grif