Exploring the difference between creative talent v.s the fight for popularity with Chicago’s rising hip-hop artist, Ano Bank$.
Written by: Emily Dahlquist
On April 30th, 2020, we went behind the scenes with artist Ano Bank$ to discuss the reality of Chicago’s contemporary talent structure, the power or the “DIY” scene, and a discussion on Ano’s latest EP, Blue Smoke.
“She gave me a map to this underground shit and I haven’t stopped since.”
What is your relationship to Chicago’s underground scene?
Back in 2017 Ano met a Poet in an Uber who introduced him to the “DIY scene” of Chicago, also known as the underground scene that consisted of hopping around to galleries, “shows”, warehouse spaces, and artist collective headquarters in the South and West neighborhoods of Chicago.
Ano: “The DIY scene when I first got here… I heard about it - that’s when the Chance’s were coming up. Back when East Room was crazy (2016), I heard about that. I wasn’t a part of that time and I don’t know those artists, but I know that the artists that I’m around and that I go to see perform, got the same kind of juice.”
Ano has a personal foundational map of exploring and supporting the underground scene, that he refers to as “hit the circuit” - his circuit consists of hitting up his favorite spaces and events; Backyard Series, Surreal Chi, Corner Series, Soul Speak, and FDC Studios.
“I performed with a live band for the first time at Soul Speak and it changed my life.”
Raw Talent Over “Clout-Chasing”
As Chicago has gained National attention from brands, agencies, and global entertainment events like All Star Weekend, certain creatives have been utilized to boost brand activations and campaigns. Brands have been filtering dollars (or lack thereof) through local talent, unlike other cities at this time. Though, there is no question that Chicago’s creative scene has been amongst a surging creative renaissance for the past 5 years, the question remains - “are these brands giving enough?” and “What are Artists really getting out of it?” People are starting to recognize who is and who isn’t accepting brand dollars.
Ano: “In Chicago people want to monetize popularity, and they don't want to monetize talent. The thing about popularity, is that it fades if you don't have a nurtured art form. For some who don’t really create like that, in order to keep it going they stomp out other people's light.”
There is this kind of unspoken, but known reality that Chicago does not have a supportive music structure like other cities, like Atlanta for example. Chicago people don’t collaborate enough out of genuine interest. In Atlanta, people get down with collaborating.
Some artists measure success in brand recognition, and some artists measure the success of the reach and social impact of their next creation that was derived from their own perspective and interest.
“Layered artists don’t come out ‘happy’ first. People need to be happy with themselves and rock that shit gracefully.”
Chicago’s Lack of Access
Chicago doesn’t have major lifestyle media platforms, easily accessible talent PR agencies, or quick access to major global events.
Ano: “I wish I could easily walk into a PR company or to someone with a relationship to a PR company to promote or represent me from a touring perspective and help to get my name out there… but there’s no place to do that. Touring with someone else gets you seen. The best artist at a concert is the one you didn’t go there to see.”
The DIY Scene Post-Pandemic
In a new world where gatherings will be limited to 50 people or less, underground venues and galleries with a capacity of 50 people now have the opportunity to impact the cultural infrastructure in Chicago by providing needed space for community. Fear aside, Chicago artists have the foundation to express an explosion of creativity post-pandemic. Will brands transition their festival dollars into underground dollars?
“The people who have been doing it, we have to support them first.”
What do you think artists are going to do now that they can’t have live shows?
Ano: “The ones that got personality are gonna eat, the ones that got good music are gonna eat.”
Blue Smoke Review
The ladies in the Baptist church said Ano could sing when he hadn’t even found his talent yet; they taught him how to emote and perform. Ano is an artist that is so comfortable with himself and his self-made image and he hopes to promote that same kind of natural self-awareness through his music.
Ano Bank$ dropped a must listen to EP called Blue Smoke on April 20th, 2020. “It’s versatile, but not trying to fall off the map. It wasn’t rushed, it’s uplifting. It’s like a breath of fresh air.” says one of Ano’s close collaborators Que of Ninety8Views; a creative talent management and curatorial platform.
The 3-song EP consists of “stoner singalongs” Fronto, Pressure, and Sundae Driver. On May 1st Ano’s team put out an episode on his IGTV called “How to Roll a Fronto”. Ano and his team are dedicated to create raw content that speaks to other artists. Tune in with Chicago artist, Ano Bank$ on Instagram to see what he has coming next.