ANDREW BARBER INTERVIEW
Chance the Rapper. Twista. Chief Keef. The list of hip-hop artists born and bred in Chicago goes on and on. While it’s well known that all three success stories share the same stomping grounds, few are aware of the other common thread that unites them; the man behind the scenes – and behind the blog: Andrew Barber.
Barber is the brains behind the highly influential music blog Fake Shore Drive, which highlights the latest and greatest hip-hop acts of the Midwest. Since launching in 2007, Barber’s connection to Chicago hip-hop has spanned the city limits and reached a worldwide audience that includes over 150,000 followers on social media.
In a candid conversation with Vivid Seats, Barber takes us through the expansion of the Fake Shore Drive brand and gives a glimpse into his predictions for the future of hip-hop.
Vivid Seats: You've been on the scene since 2007. How would you say Chicago hip-hop has evolved since then?
Andrew Barber: The scene, much like the rest of the industry, has truly come online. It’s clearly the standard now, but back in 2007, it was very much a foreign concept to a lot of artists in the local scene. When I first started the site, I was going to events and artists were still trying to sell CDs hand-to-hand. They were also still focused on trying to get their videos on MTV instead of embracing user-friendly platforms like YouTube. I’d say the biggest shift came in 2012 – that's when the scene really started to embrace and take full advantage of social media and the digital word. I think the artists that kicked the doors in for that era truly understood the power of the internet like never before.
VS: Fake Shore Drive has grown into something greater than just a music blog. What has it been like to expand the brand into new avenues, like radio?
AB: I just felt like it was a natural progression. As a brand, you always have to be evolving. You can’t just stick to one thing – at least not in the music space. The technology moves quick, so you always have to try and stay ahead of the curve. I saw the blog landscape changing, so I wanted to plant my seed in other areas. Reinvention is always key.
VS: The blog prides itself on giving the up-and-coming artists from Chicago a platform. What does the process look like for scouting new talent?
AB: Well, not just Chicago – but the Midwest as a whole. I think I’ve been successful at scouting talent because I’ve always been a fan first. I read every magazine I could, read every blog or website that had to do with rap growing up, so I had a keen understanding for what might work or catch on. I also trust my ear, but sometimes it’s not about what I like, but what I think other people might be into. I also have people in key markets like Detroit, for example, where my guy Taylor Greer finds the hottest artists before the rest of the world catches on. He handles all the Detroit posts. He is a true expert of his market.
VS: FSD has been credited with discovering artists like Chance the Rapper and Chief Keef before they went big. How do you know when you've stumbled across someone with star potential?
AB: Sometimes you just know. You see how other people react to them. Some people just have natural star quality without even trying. Like the first time I met Chance, he walked into my office and he just had an aura about him. You just knew he was a star. He had “it,” but describing what “it” is, is almost impossible.
VS: In the same way FSD has evolved, so has your career. What has it been like managing artists like Valee?
AB: It’s been great. I always enjoy taking on new challenges and adventures in the music business. It has been dope to learn the management world and the major label world. You really get to see the inner workings of that side of the business and how they operate. I've learned so much, so fast, and met people I’d never worked with in the past.
VS: With only two months left in the decade, what are some of your favorite music moments from the 2010s?
AB: I think seeing the Chicago scene explode in 2012 was amazing. I was on the frontlines for that and really didn’t know we were witnessing history. You really don’t when you’re in it, but seven years later, you see the affect it had. People said it wouldn’t last longer than a year or two, but here we are in 2019, and it’s still going strong. Lots of careers were made and people are making a living off their art. It’s a beautiful thing. But hands down my favorite moment was when Chance the Rapper shouted me out after winning his first Grammy in 2017. That was probably the craziest moment of my career. I wish I could bottle and sell that feeling.
VS: What's the best live show you saw this year?
AB: I would have to give that award to Kanye’s ‘Jesus Is King’ listening event in Chicago in September. I’m pretty sure I’ll never see an event like that ever again. Kanye knows how to command the world’s attention, that’s for sure.
VS: Looking ahead to 2020, what can we expect from Fake Shore Drive?
AB: Diving into other aspects of entertainment. I have some irons in the fire now, so just stay tuned. Always looking for a new challenge and new places to take the brand.