'It's Different in Chicago' Chronicles Two Divergent Music Scenes in Chi Town

Alicia Baron

'It's Different in Chicago' Chronicles Two Divergent Music Scenes in Chi Town

Chicago is the birthplace of house music and an incubator for hip-hop hitmakers, yet the city remains divided over how it views its musical legacy.

In November, a forthcoming documentary titled It's Different In Chicago is slated for debut at the Black Harvest Film Festival and global streaming. This film uncovers the animosity between house music fans, "house heads," and conscious rap fans, otherwise known as "backpackers." A new documentary to be released in November explains the enmity between two of the city's music scenes.

Directed by David Weathersby, the film explores how this divide manifests through the lens of numerous Chicago-native industry professionals who provided their first-hand impressions. They touch on how Chicago hip-hop and house are still locked in an ongoing boundary battle for respect at home and abroad.

It's Different In Chicago Teaser Trailer

Weatherby told the Chicago Sun-Times, "Chronicling this and chronicling it from the people who are taking part of it, makes it, so it's accurate before it becomes a topic that somebody outside starts coming in. They might come in with a preconceived notion of Black Chicago. I wanted to have the people who are a part of it have their say first."

While making the documentary, Weathersby uncovered a recurring idea that Chicago natives must choose between house music and hip hop. Behind it is a perceived belief that Chicagoans needed to make a binary choice, pledging to one of the city's legendary scenes, which tends to be relative to factors that root down to the culture around each music scene rather than the music itself. This documentary tells a story about two unique and often opposing worlds.   

In most instances, house vs. hip hop was not necessarily based solely on music. The decision on what scene a person fell under generally was about the culture around the specific genre of music—rooting back to sexuality, gender, and geographic neighborhood.   

Weathersby sees the upside of this divide: the fact that Chicago has numerous musical roots, each of which is worth exploring in its own right. These roots have spread far beyond Chicago—each scene in this rich culture feeds into each other to build a one-of-a-kind sociocultural dynamic. A testament to the city's diversity of culture and its influence on the culture behind the music.

"Chicago has enough of a musical and cultural load, so you can have a difference – also among the house. Some people are Frankie Knuckles people and others like Ron Hardy," says Weathersby. He aims to show the nuances that distinguish Chicago from other cultural landmarks. The aim is to truly highlight the scenes' creators and the blood, sweat, and tears put in to build these respective global entities and how they work together to build the musical epicenter, Chicago. 

The film will be available to stream starting November 24th.   

(Movie Trailer: https://vimeo.com/513068405)