If you aren’t from Chicago it may be difficult to plant yourself in the hip hop scene in 2012. Outside of the city, most hip hop fans were aware of Chief Keef, Lil Durk, and the budding drill music movement. Keef was the first drill rapper to take the sub-genre mainstream with his Don’t Like visual, although he had already built a strong buzz with gritty street videos and loosies. Although Keef was the first to really blow, King Louie was another artist that was well respected, extremely popular and a hard worker. Right after high school, Louie had built a strong following passing out CDs around the city. It was after a near-fatal car accident that he locked down and made his best records yet.

His first hit, Too Cool, was played regularly throughout Chicago radio stations and bumped out of cars around the city. Louie’s career really took off when he launched a series of music videos on YouTube, all leading up to his then most popular tape Man Up, Band Up. After its 2010 release and a host of visuals, he grabbed the attention of Epic Records, Kanye West and MTV. Epic signed Louie in 2012, and Kanye grabbed him for a collaborative track on Yeezus titled Send It Up.

2012 also brought the first edition of his Drilluminati series. I was at Columbia College when it was released and instantly fell in love with the tape. I wasn’t the only one, as tracks Band Nation, Rated R, Val Venis, and ESPN became instant Chicago classics. It’s important to note that any of the 14 songs could have easily been radio singles as they had commercial appeal and were very catchy. Too Cool was an obvious hit, but Drillumintia proved that Louie could make them again and again.

Track one, Rozay Flow, was a lyrical assault showcasing Louie’s obvious rhyming skills. The production by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League gave the song flair, but put the focus on Louie. Putting Rozay Flow at the top of the tape drew me in, and I’m sure many others. Band Nation had already been released as a single but was sequenced perfectly at track #2. For the hip hop lovers outside of Chicago, this was a great introduction to Louie without much wait. Rated R was a heavy hitter with an attention-grabbing chorus and intense instrumental from Shawty Redd. I preferred Dope Smoke over R as it was a lighter record, yet still engaging.

Val Venis was the most popular single, and for good reason. Louie’s ad-lib of “Little did they know” was ear candy – a surprisingly addictive adlib at just 4 words. Still, Drilluminati had songs for the ladies, trap-infused anthems, lyrical assaults, and songs to smoke up to. While My Hoes They Do Drugs featured Juicy J and Pusha T, it stood as my least favorite song.

The reception of Drillumaniti was astounding. It grabbed Chicagoians, media outlets, and people all around the country. Louie changed the soundscape of drill music by putting together a diverse mixtape. The word drill is in the title, but Louie showed us that the genre could be explored, and could break boundaries.