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Vicki Street: “The Voice of the Streets”

Written by on December 23, 2022

No dream is too big for Vicki Street.

Pulling inspiration from ‘90s R&B and hip-hop, Chicago rapper Vicki Street blends the sounds and rhythms of the past with the flow of modern music. 

After finding her home in the city’s open mic scene, Vicki Street has been determined to prove Chicago music has a place in the bigger music world. 

“I’m here to broaden the narrative and prove that Chicago music isn’t just drill,” Street said. When people think of our city, that should not be the top/main genre.”

Her love for ‘90s music is the root of her sound, drawing inspiration from artists like Aaliyah, Missy Elliot, Biggie and Tupac. This strong ‘90s influence can be heard in her latest single “Trippin’” — featured in Vocalo’s November “In Rotation” playlist. With a feature from fellow Chicago vocalist Jaas, “Trippin’” gives listeners a ‘90s feel while remaining in tune with current music trends. 

“As someone who’s directed and edited 90% of her videos, I’m definitely inspired by Missy Elliot. Her visuals are always creative and lyrics are so jiggy.” says Street. 

On “Trippin’,” Vicki Street doesn’t shy away from being vulnerable, touching on personal feelings about a past relationship. 

“‘Trippin’’ started out as a letter to my ex. Since we weren’t on speaking terms, I wrote how I felt,” Street explained. “The hook reveals the vulnerable side that suggests I’m not over my ex, while my verse suggests that I’m unbothered.”

After “Trippin’” was featured on Vocalo’s “In Rotation” playlist for November, virtually sat down with Vicki Street to learn about what inspires her, how she got the nickname “the voice of the streets,” new projects on the horizon and how she brings the ‘90s into the 21st century. 

Photo by Isiah ThoughtPoet Veney, courtesy Vicki Street.

Are you from Chicago originally? If not, when and why did you move here, and where did you move here from?

I am from an area located right between the city and the ‘burbs known as Blue Island. Oftentimes I feel displaced, because I’ve moved all over Chicagoland, but I’d love for my music [to] act as a catalyst to bring both sides of Chicago together. 

What’s your favorite thing about the neighborhood you live in?

I’ve been living in the south ‘burbs majority of my life. My favorite thing about it is the peacefulness. I went to college in the city, so my favorite thing was to come home and debrief from all the commotion. 

Photo by Shaun Andru, courtesy Vicki Street.

How did you get the title “The Voice of the Streets,” and what does that mean to you?

When I went to college, a rumor spread that I was a rapper. While I was a journalism major, it inspired me to pick up a minor in radio due to my voice distinction. My last name was “Street,” so I thought it fit perfectly to mesh the two.

You talk a lot about the love you feel from other Chicago artists. Who is a Chicago artist you haven’t collaborated with that you want to? Why? 

Hopefully this doesn’t sound cliché, but I would love to collaborate with Chance the Rapper. For me, it’s not about the shock value, but more of how connected I am to his story and rise to fame. When Chance put out Acid Rap, I was in my freshman year of college at Columbia [College Chicago]. My dorm was across the street from his high school, [Jones College Preparatory,] and I had been playing the paint off his 10-Day mixtape. 

By the time he dropped Acid Rap, I was engulfed with the stories he told, but felt like I knew him simply because [of] our proximity. I literally watched his story unfold and supported from the beginning. I remember telling my mom, “There’s this guy named Chance the Rapper, and he’s gonna be really famous one day — watch out for ‘em.” Ironically enough, I’m in that same phase right now, and am blessed to be able to articulate it to my mom — this time about myself. 

Vicki Street with Chance the Rapper in 2012.
Photo courtesy of Vicki Street, by Danielle Greenhill.

Do you have any pre-performance rituals? If so, what are they?

I need complete silence for the duration of me getting ready for the event. While doing my makeup, I usually reflect on all the things that could go wrong and prepare for “what if” scenarios. As an MC, this has always helped because technical difficulties are bound to happen, and when they do, I always have a trick up my sleeve for the crowd. Additionally, on the way to the event I keep phone calls to a minimum to allow for additional reflection time. I use my last 20 minutes or so as practice time for my songs and ideating special things I want to do at my shows.

Tell us about your single “Trippin’,” featured in Vocalo’s November “In Rotation” playlist.

My single “Trippin’” started out as a letter to my ex. Since we weren’t on speaking terms, I wrote how I felt. If you look closely at the lyrics, they might confuse you. The hook reveals the vulnerable side that suggests I’m not over my ex, while my verse suggests that I’m unbothered. Faking it till I made it was definitely a part of my healing process and I think many can relate to that. One of the most powerful lines in the song to me is “Can’t get over the fact we pullin’ up in separate Cadillacs.” Because, even in my hurting, I manifested the good life for them, too. 

Photo by Isiah ThoughtPoet Veney, courtesy Vicki Street.

How did you connect with Jaas for this single?

I was very intentional about selecting all of the singers for my EP. I wanted an artist who could make a ‘90s song sound modern, and that’s when I thought of Jaas. We had been trying to link up for the longest and kept missing each other, but thankfully she let me slide in on one of her pre-existing sessions. To be honest, she might never know how much that meant to me, because I had exhausted all of my money on studio time just trying to make a hit. Anyways, we recorded her part in about 20 minutes so that she still had time for the rest of her session. I had already sent her a voice note of how I wanted it sung, so she just came in and put her sauce on it. After we recorded, I remember she asked, “You tryna put this out as a single?” I said, “Yeah, that’s the goal.” And here we are… #INROTATION

RELATED: Jaas Delves Into Soul-Filled Debut ‘Unavailable’

A lot of your music has a ‘90s feel to it. Who are some ‘90s artists you find most inspirational to your style?

Depends on if we’re talking sonically or fashionably. Either way, it’s Biggie, Tupac, Puffy, Aaliyah, Missy Elliot and Foxy Brown. Lyrically, I’m inspired by Biggie’s storytelling and smooth delivery with the demeanor to match. Puffy is going to make you dance and look cool as hell while doing it. As much as I value great lyricism, I always wanna produce a groove for the people. 

As someone who’s directed and edited 90% of her videos, I’m definitely inspired by Missy Elliot. Her visuals are always creative and lyrics are so jiggy. Foxy makes me feel like I can go toe-to-toe with guys, all while being sexy and making them come correct when approaching me. I’m inspired by Aaliyah’s duality. Guys wanna get with her, and girls wanna be her, regardless if she’s wearing something baggy or fitted. That’s me all day. Lastly, it’s Tupac’s passion and staccato’d articulation for me. I recently had a show at The Promontory and channeled my inner Makaveli with an all-leather vest, courtesy of Christopher’s Attic, leather shorts and Timbs. I had my bandana in my pocket. I felt POWERFUL.

If there were a song from the ‘90s you could have been featured on, what would it be and why that particular song?

It would probably be “Can’t You See” by Total, specifically the remix. The way the baseline comes in paired with Biggie’s rap is just *chef’s kiss.* I honestly probably would’ve rapped it similarly if I had the chance. It’s just one of the most chill songs from the ‘90s.

What’s your favorite thing about the Chicago music scene? Why?

I like the duality of the Chicago music scene. It can be gritty, turnt or intellectual. Unfortunately, I don’t think all aspects of the scene get the most shine, so you have to go and find your tribe. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good hood anthem, but the open mic scene is where I feel most at home. That’s where many of the true lyricists are found, in my opinion.

How do you strive to push the Chicago music scene forward with your music, if at all?

I’m here to broaden the narrative and prove that Chicago music isn’t just drill. When people think of our city, that should not be the top or main genre. There is an entire sub-genre of creatives producing alternative sounds that deserve to be heard equally. I’m here to rep the “others.” That’s why I appreciate stations like Vocalo for recognizing what everyone in the community knows to be true. 

Photo by Maddie Neiconi, courtesy Vicki Street.

If you could give a 12-year-old you a piece of advice about your passions and dreams, what would it be?

A piece of advice I would give my younger is to pray and ask God for clarity and direction… because you’re going to need it. You have so many talents and a big heart and you’re going to need your intuition to navigate this world. Grab a dream book, write everything down, and show the world what you can create. And don’t be afraid to tell your story… it might just save someone’s life one day. 

What is next for you creatively?

Next year, I have a lot on the horizon as far as new music and visuals dropping. We’re unloading the clip first quarter with a big feature, and I’m excited for people to hear this new sound.

Follow Vicki Street on Twitter and Instagram, and stream her music on Spotify below.

Interview by Joshua X. Miller & Morgan Ciocca

Introduction written by Joshua X. Miller

Interview edited for length and clarity by Morgan Ciocca

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