Chi-Town’s heiress apparent sets the bar(s) high.
“I could tell you what goes on in Chicago, but it would have to be over a drink,” says Windy City bar-spitter Sasha Go Hard’s manager, Phillip Roche. It was his brother Tony, producer and one half of hip-hop duo Odd Couple, that plucked Go Hard straight out of its infamous South Side – or as it’s ominously named, Low End – rap scene.
It’s a community made infamous for hip-hop gangland murders and Drill, a modern form of hip-hop characterised by 808 kick-drum rolls and machine-gun high hats. Drill preceded Trap, a far more radio-friendly, predominantly West Coast pretty boy beat. Though fellow Chicago Driller Chief Keef’s everyone-sampled “I Don’t Like” remains the scene’s commercial peak, Go Hard’s incredibly menacing, droney “Why They Mad” steps all over it and walks back. And in chola-ass platforms. Elsewhere, the likes of Lil Durk, Shady and Tink continue to keep the scene as vibrant and relevant as ever.
Go Hard, born Yaneisha Franklin, grew up in Hyde Park, Chicago. At six years old, she had befriended now-fellow scenestress and rapper Katie Got Bandz and in their apathetic mid-teens, the pair started barring. “Everyone wanna be doing something in Chicago,” she says. “My mother never let me go out. I feel bad about going behind her back like that, but I learnt a lot. I used to have a lot of regular high school friends, but I have had situations with some of them and have had to cut them off. Now, I have family that live in the middle of war. I told them, ‘Just be careful.’ I learnt that in the past. It was just about being outside and learning stuff.”
One day, back in 2008, she hit Keef up on MySpace, and Franklin was invited to Stonecutter Recording Studios, the scene’s central institution (“pretty much where it all happens. I’ve seen rappers jump each with guns there and stuff like that,” says Roche). There, she met rappers like Keef’s cousin Fredo Santana and his crew, Glory Boyz Entertainment’s SD. “Everyone in the studio was like man, ‘she go hard, you know?’ It made me feel good and made me wanna get serious.” It was also where Franklin dreamed up her nom de plumme (Sasha, because her Uncle said she reminded her of Beyonce, AKA Sasha Fierce). “I thought, ‘I finna ’bout to get serious and keep making songs…’ I never stopped, I never just gave up. I stopped recording raps into Voice Notes and learned how to convert to MP3… stuff like that.”
Fast forward to late 2012 and Franklin is busy working on her third mixtape, Round 3: The Knockout. She gets a direct message on Twitter from Diplo, asking her whether she’d like to collaborate. “He reached out to me, but I didn’t know anything about him. I told my manager – because I noticed he had a lot of followers – that some guy named Diplo had contacted me. He was all: ‘Diplo is fucking huge!’ So he sent me some beats and one especially caught my attention. He was 100 from then on and I ended up on tour with him.” The tune, “Damn” is a typically frantic, whizzing Dip-beat, and opens a player packed out with sugar rush energy. Kreayshawn makes an appearance on “Kill Bill” and Brooklyn’s Queer Rap overlord Le1f knocks out a verse or two on the mix’s highlight, “To The Girls”.
Busy working on her newest full length, tentatively titled Nutty Raw, Franklin’s a ball of pierced-eyed belief and optimism. We veer off topics of Chi-town rap’s continued problems [a brief scan of community crime domain Homicide Watch Chicago is indicative of this. It’s latest story is of the fatal shooting of Keef affiliate Lil Durk, who was murdered outside a South Shore Recording studio in September] and stick to the positives. “I would love to meet [her childhood heroine] Nicki Minaj one day. I can’t wait to be where she’s at.”
Words Jack Mills
Photographer Sam Bayliss Ibram
Fashion Madeleine Østlie
Hair Kota at Caren using BUMBLE AND BUMBLE
Makeup Ann Sofie-Costa using M.A.C COSMETICS
Photographic Assistance Ruth Coutinho
Fashion Assistance Charlotte Davy