Vocalo Radio

Chicago's Urban Alternative

Current track



th0rn Weaves Their Words Into Chicago’s Creative Tapestry

Written by on July 4, 2023

From humble beginnings exploring melodies as a child to commanding stages across the city, th0rn’s musical journey is a testament to their unwavering passion and dedication.

th0rn is a visionary musician making waves with their captivating performances and unique blend of poetry, rap and singing. Originally from the west Chicago suburb Woodridge, th0rn has been immersed in the world of music since a young age. Singing and playing various instruments became second nature, and they even began penning their own songs in notebooks. Although it took until 2019 for th0rn to take their craft seriously, those early musical experiences undoubtedly laid the foundation for their artistic pursuits.

“I’m gonna talk my talk, but wrap it in velvet. You feel me?”


“I needed an outlet,” they said. “I had always used music as an escape form,  whether it was writing, playing instruments, or listening to songs. It became therapy for me, and still acts as such.”

th0rn draws inspiration from a diverse range of influences, including Andre 3000 and Kendrick Lamar — who excel in delivering thought-provoking verses – as well as soulful singers like Erykah Badu and SZA, who infuse their music with depth and emotion. th0rn’s musical style is a harmonious fusion of these influences, skillfully blending their introspective storytelling and clever wordplay with powerful and soul-stirring vocals.

Back in April, th0rn released their first EP above all else., featuring song “n0t her” which was featured on Vocalo’s “Poised to Break Through” playlist for May 2023. Most recently, they dropped a new single “angel dust” which was added to Vocalo’s “In Rotation” playlist for June 2023.

During a virtual conversation with Vocalo, th0rn discussed their transition from spoken word to signing and rapping, their love for Chicago and their future artistic aspirations.

Starting July 18, th0rn will be opening for fellow Chicago artist Ridgio on a 10-city tour, concluding with a show in Chicago at Cole’s Bar on August 1. Find more information on Ridgio’s website.

Tell us about how you got started making music. Were you always an artist?

I’ve always been singing or picking up instruments since I was a kid. I started with piano and would write little songs here and there in my notebooks. One of my earliest memories is writing a song about Thanksgiving when I was like 7. Obviously it was a bunch of nonsense, but it was the first thing I got real praise from and I think that made me want to stick with it. I didn’t take music seriously until 2019, though. I started off doing spoken word at open mics, and realized if I could do that, I could do what I really wanted – which was to sing and rap. So I gave it a shot the next week at the open mic, and haven’t stopped since. 

Are you originally from Chicago? If not, when and why did you move to the city? If so, where in the city did you grow up and where do you live now?

I grew up in a small suburb west of Chicago called Woodridge. Not too much going on there. In 2020, I crashed on friends’ couches on the South and West Sides, and lived out of my car for a bit. I used to sleep under the train in the back of my van and I really can’t fall asleep now without that sound, haha. I did anything to stay and be in the city.

I got my first apartment in Uptown in 2022. Moving up North was a transition, because I hadn’t spent much time there previously, but I’m pretty comfortable there now. I currently room with a house full of other creatives and that’s been a dream come true. 

What inspired you to start making music?

I needed an outlet. I had always used music as an escape form, whether it was writing, playing instruments or listening to songs. It became therapy for me, and still acts as such. I’m pretty emotional, and need to make something out of what I feel. If I have to sit with pain, I’d rather see it poetically. I was inspired to continue due to inspiring others. Having people come up to me, saying they relate or need my art… it means everything to me. There’s a quote I love, something about the things that make us feel alone connect us as humans. I think that’s what my art is: A connection, and that inspires me to keep going. 

What influenced your particular style, and how would you describe it to someone who’s never listened to your music before?

Man. This is a tough one because I really think I’m still solidifying my sound. I like to describe it as an experience, because I know that’s true above all else. I’m heavily influenced by wordsmiths, Andre 3000, Kendrick Lamar… and equally by soulful singers, Ms. Erykah Badu, SZA. I think my music is a blend of that – I’m gonna talk my talk, but wrap it in velvet. You feel me?

How does your personal background influence your music, if at all?

My dad is a singer. He’s a cancer survivor, and hasn’t sang since having cancer, but prior to that, he would always be singing around the house. I believe being born from that voice put one intrinsically in me. I hope one day we can sing together. 

Do you feel Chicago shaped your sound or artistic identity at all? If so, in what ways?

Absolutely. I think performing in Chicago, you really can’t be wack. There’s a certain standard we set out here, and people are not afraid to not clap for you. Nobody really fakes the funk. So if you wanna be good, you gotta be good. That really pushed me to elevate my craft. In New York, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere, and I think in Chicago, if you can make it out of here with love… you can make it anywhere.

Can you share a little bit about Rhythm and Purpose?

Yes! Rhythm and Purpose is a showcase series curated by my good friend and fellow creative Asha Omega! I “grew up” with Asha. That’s my cousin. Ask about it. But for real, Asha and I have shared spaces with each other since the very beginning, and I was very honored to rock at her first installment of the series at Cole’s Bar in early June. The name really speaks for itself – everyone involved is very purposeful with their craft . The next one will be on July 13. I won’t be on the lineup, but it’s stacked – and at my favorite venue in the city, The Gard3n. (688 N. Milwaukee)

RELATED: For Chicago Musician Asha Omega, Healing Means Embracing All Parts Of Yourself

You just wrapped up your local tour. Tell us about that! Why did you decide to go on a locally-based tour? What does life look like for you while “on tour” in Chicago vs. regular life in Chicago?

Well, you kinda caught me. I honestly just market my monthly gigs as tours. It’s provocative. It gets the people going. But in all reality, ya girl is booked and busy, and it often feels like I am on tour when I have so many shows back-to-back. I’m really grateful to have so many opportunities to share my art. During these months where that happens, I spend a good amount of time rehearsing, figuring out ways to elevate my performances to do different things each time. I also do my best to pour into unique marketing for each date. I really enjoy getting creative with videos, photoshoots, and instagram reels.

How did you choose your tourmates?

Like I said, I really did just market my bookings as a tour — but, I’ll take this time to talk about the B0tanical Barz set we did on June 24. B0tanical Barz is a showcase series birthed by myself and Chicago legend DJ Skoli. I choose artists who I not only think are dope, but consistently show growth both artistically and personally – hence the “b0tanical” theme. And, you know, I’m th0rn. So we’re always planting seeds on this side. We’ve been on a bit of a break, but have been lucky to do pop up performances like we did last month. The B0tanical Barz showcase will be back in September in collaboration with popular music blog “Real Ones,” which I’m overly geeked about. 

What did the production/creation of your song “angel dust” look like?

I wrote “angel dust” last spring. I was on the Red Line and had a melody in my head, so getting back to the crib I started playing around with words. At the time, I was going through a realization that anything that’s ever left me comes back to me tenfold. I wanted to affirm this through the power of self – we all hold that special thing that people are drawn to. I chose “angel dust” to represent that, because… Ego. I felt as addictive as one may be to a drug. Once I had all my lyrics, I found the instrumental on YouTube, leased it, and the rest is history. I don’t often write songs without an instrumental first, but this track really just arrived to me differently. It speaks of a spiritual experience I was going through, and I believe the song was transferred the same way on wax.

You honor your Black listeners with opportunities like your Juneteenth giveaway. Why is it important to you to support the community in these ways?

I’m so happy to talk about this. I would like to make it very clear I would be absolutely nothing without Black people or the Black community. I’m very grateful to be accepted by the community for who I am and for my art. Most of my Chicago audience is Black, and I wanted to do something for them. I wish I could give away millions of dollars instead of tickets to a show. But that’s on its way.  Outside of the ticket giveaway, as a curator, it’s important to me to give as many bookings as I can to Black artists. I love Chicago, but there is a lot of foolery that happens behind the scenes with promoters and venues. Black voices need to be heard and honored, and I strive to be at the forefront of that change in the city. A lot of these artists are my peers and homies as well, so it’s personal. We have to do better.

Are there any communities or styles that have influenced you?

Hip-hop. I live my life with its five elements: knowledge, rhymes, dance, visual artistry, beats. A quote said by many, and with good reason, “Hip-hop saved my life.” I don’t know where I’d be without it. I hold extreme gratitude for being able to honor those who came before me and alongside me in the craft. 

What do you imagine for the future of your sound?

I’m really trying to blend storytelling and wordplay with powerful vocals. In my debut album, By Any Other Name, set to release late fall of this year, listeners can expect to be captivated by an experimentation of sound as well as being pulled in by what I’m saying. I want to end the cliché of “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” I believe both are equally important. Let me bar you down and hit you with harmonies at the same time. I really don’t strive to make commercial music. I make art. I’d like to form my own genre. I’ll know I’ve done it when “th0rn type beat” starts popping up on YouTube.

Anything else on the horizon listeners should know about?

Oh yes. We talked about my local “tour,” and I’m very proud to announce I’ll be touring across the states this summer. Ten cities, opening up for one of my favorite Chicago artists right now, Ridgio. We leave July 18 and end with a homecoming show in Chicago at Cole’s Bar August 1.  Perhaps I’ve manifested it in marketing the local tours, but I really give so much praise to the most high and so much gratitude to those who’ve been loving on me locally. I’ve dreamt of doing this for a very long time. 

RELATED: Ridgio Makes “Truth Music”

Other than that, look forward to my debut album By Any Other Name this fall, and keep streaming my debut EP above all else

Keep up with th0rn on Instagram and Twitter, and stream their music on Spotify below.

Interview by Imani Warren

Written introduction by Omi Salisbury

Answers edited for length and clarity by Morgan Ciocca

More from Vocalo: