Why you should care
Because this is #BlackGirlMagic.
Off the Record: Real talk with a fresh wave of musical influencers who will be making moves onto your new playlist. Watch the rest of this OZY original series here.
Meet an important face of the rising Chicago lyricism scene: Ravyn Lenae. Onstage, Lenae is cool and collected. Her breathy vocals and fierce eye contact make for arresting live shows, her short red hair bouncing slightly as she struts in front of the crowd.
And in her posse, someone wears a T-shirt from best new artist Chance the Rapper’s most recent tour. It’s a not-so-subtle nod to the fact that Lenae’s part of a Windy City crew that includes Chance, the up-and-coming female rapper Noname and singer Jamila Woods. “The [Chicago] scene features great poets/lyricists and produces music with great soul. Chicago has had that since the days of Curtis Mayfield, and Ravyn follows in the footsteps of giants,” says Justin Kaufmann, a radio host who had Lenae on his show when she was just 16.
In this group, she’s the youngest. Now a senior in high school, the 18-year-old is known to skip class for tour dates around the country. “Her music seems so beyond her time already,” music critic Adrienne Black says. “Instead of just trying to make something catchy, she’s really making music that’s thought-provoking.” With a sound akin to Solange, Lenae is a concocted mixture of R&B and ambient notes. While she’s just getting started in her young career, she’s got what it takes to become a deadly solo artist and an ideal collaborator for fellow Chicagoans like Chance the Rapper or even Kanye West.