CHICAGO — In a city with such a rich music culture, sometimes it’s easy to miss underrepresented and up-and-coming artists. But a team of young reporters and music enthusiasts are making strides in highlighting Chicago’s underground scene.
Real Ones is a rising local multimedia music platform. What started as small as interviews on Instagram Live has turned into a space for emerging Chicago artists and the latest news from the city’s music scene.
Real Ones thrives on social media, with nearly six thousand followers on Instagram, over a thousand followers on X (formerly known as Twitter) and nearly one thousand on YouTube, the where the majority of its content is posted.
“Since recording the first episode on a park bench on an iPhone,” reads the YouTube channel bio, “we’ve interviewed over 100 creatives from Chicago and beyond, becoming a go-to for news on the city’s best rising talent.”
While a journalism student at Northwestern University, Real Ones founder Ben Moskow said he enjoyed doing interviews with artists on the school’s radio station, WNUR. His interest in hip-hop journalism eventually led him to working with Real Ones co-founder Brandon Washington on Project Filo, where Moskow would host interviews with artists through the platform.
Eventually becoming its own entity, Real Ones has now expanded past interviews, curating concerts, playlists, open mic events and more. They’re promoting a show by the L.A. band Rubber this Saturday at California Clipper, 1002 N. California Ave.
“Some of the craziest stuff has been the most spontaneous. Like running into somebody at a certain location. They happen to be down to do something and then, you know, they’d end up going kind of crazy,” Moskow said.
The Real Ones team has interviewed Saba, JPEGMAFIA, Teezo Touchdown, Ric Wilson, Femdot and many more.
Interviewer Sydni Dorsey joined the crew late last year. In an industry that can often be male-dominated, Dorsey told Block Club she strives to push boundaries and make a name for herself, while also uplifting other women who want to be a part of the scene.
“Like if you have a niche that you think is cool, and especially if it’s male-dominated, don’t be scared. Don’t set limitations to yourself and if people are being an obstacle in your way step over them and keep going,” she said.
Elizabeth Rosales joined the crew as photographer and production assistant. She enjoys combining her passions of music and photography.
“I love documenting the beauty of people and I wanted to combine that with my love for music. I’m always learning.”
She has been able to shoot at shows like Pitchfork Music Festival and Silver Room Block Party, as well as various venues around the city. Her pictures for rapper Mick Jenkins ended up in cannabis magazine High Times.
Rosales’ fellow photographer, Jordan Esparza, described the significance of visuals for the crew and how it helps audiences understand artists.
“If there’s no video portion attached to the article or podcasts, you might be wondering, what does this person even sound like?” Esparza said. “Do I go listen to their music? What’s their vibe? What’s their body language?”
As the eldest of the crew, Esparza also refers to himself as emotional support for the team.
“The biggest thing for me has always just been to really build up, congratulate, acknowledge, hype up and recognize every single thing this group achieves,'” he said. “I think that’s what what young people need in general.”
Another Real Ones interviewer, Tyrel Tchinchinian is a New Jersey native who arrived in Chicago for school with hopes of getting immersed in the city’s music culture. Despite being raised on East Coast rap, the talent from the local music scene blew him away.
“Chicago is one of the most talented if not the most talented city in America, let alone potentially the world. You come out of these shows, it’s like a star is born, like every f—ing week, it’s crazy,” Tchinchinian said.
With such a tight-knit relationship with local artists, Real Ones tries to provide them with the best resources they need to succeed.
“We started doing panels and things of that nature, to really get the community involved,” Tchinchinian said. “The people that have come out to the events have learned a lot of stuff on marketing and how to get like booked for shows. Which if you’re an artist in the city, those are two huge things.”
Getting Into The Underground Scene
For those looking to get in tune with the underground hip-hop and R&B scene, the Real Ones say it’s best to just start showing up.
The group itself functions as an aspirational tale of people striving to make their love of music into an eventual full-time career. (Moskow currently works in public relations for Nettwerk Music Group, a music label based in Los Angeles.)
“I personally think you can only get so far by sitting in your house. The people you want to go talk to, see what they’re going to, see what they’re involved in,” Moskow said.
“Be about it if you want to be about it,” Tchinchinian added.
Real Ones can be followed on Instagram and Twitter, @realonesshow, as well their YouTube channel, Real Ones Show, where you can find majority of their visual content. Real Ones podcast episodes are available on Spotify.
Listen to the Block Club Chicago podcast: