UChicago students are notoriously quirky in their pursuit of the life of the mind. For some students the life of the mind manifests in writing and performing their own rap and hip hop music. During their time at UChicago, students Ben Glover and Atrician Lumumba have supplemented their academics by fostering their talents as rappers. Glover, a fourth-year Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies Major, started rapping under the name Kid Wicked, changing it to Chief Wicked a few years ago. He has produced three albums and several singles, and his most recent work is an EP called “No Jelly.” During TedxUChicago this spring, Glover gave a speech called "Off the Dome" on the ways that rap is not a monolith. Lumumba, a fourth-year Public Policy Major, has produced two albums and several singles, under the name TRIC. His most recent single is called “Swedish Sofas.” Their music can be found on Spotify, Apple Music, SoundCloud, and their artist Facebook pages, and both rappers have performed on campus at frats, apartment parties, and the Organization of Black Students’ annual culture show. College Media Editor Adia Robinson sat down with the two of them at the end of last academic year to talk about their music.
How would you describe your sound?
Ben/Chief Wicked: Lyrical–it's not much of a deviation from how rap typically sounds. Not too experimental, just kind of within the parameters.
Atrician/TRIC: Mine is the opposite end. Very experimental, very focused on rhythms. Lyrical in the sense that I like to tell stories, but not all the way because I don't know how to rhyme as well as Chief does or do a lot of different rhyme patterns.
How has your sound evolved?
Ben: When I first started making music, the references that I made, a lot of the word play I used was sports based. Because that was all I knew, that's what I thought was cool. The problem was that it went over a lot of people's heads because they didn't like sports as much as I did. Four or five people would get every [reference]. That's not the point of making music. You gotta make it so that maybe not everybody enjoys it, but a larger group of people can. I think the biggest step that I made was just rapping about things that were relatable to a lot of people. And also just getting comfortable rapping different ways, different speeds, using different rhymes schemes, adding more techniques to the arsenal.
Atrician: When I first started rapping, I just wanted to be hype. The sound has changed. At first, I just wanted to make hip hop beats, and very strictly rap, something that very much so just followed a formula. And then, the first song that I made that lots of people liked, was when I didn't follow that formula. It was called "Lucid." From that point on, I just kinda went with that, going more organic.
How has UChicago supported you or inspired you?
Ben: If I hadn't met all the other musically minded people I met my first year, I wouldn’t be where I am now in terms of music. It really helped being around people, almost constantly, who had the same ideas about music and wanting to make music as I did. Outside of musically minded people, there's just so many smart people here. I think it boosts your knowledge just by being around them, being in class with them. Some of the things I've rapped about, some of the concepts I try to take on, maybe I wouldn't have thought of, had I not come here.
Atrician: Yeah same. I think Logan is probably the best kept secret that this school has. I didn't find out much about all the resources that are here until spring quarter first year. UChicago also has a lot of people who are very critical, which always pushes you to be better. Especially within our friend group, we're always pushing each other to be better. So I definitely wouldn't be making the type of music that I'm making now if it wasn't for the people constantly pushing you.
Can you explain your rap names?
Ben: Kid Wicked came from a TV show, Teen Titans, which was one of my favorite shows growing up. There was this villain vigilante dude in a few episodes, his name was Kyd Wykkyd. I just thought he was the coolest one because he was just silent the whole time and he was murkin' dudes. That's why I picked Kid Wicked, and Chief Wicked was more of a gamble on myself. I feel like I'm going to be rapping for a long time, and so if I am rapping for a long time, I can't be 25 with the name Kid Wicked. I'd rather change it sooner rather than later.
Atrician: Tric the Tyrant sounded cool when I first made it. That was basically it. A lot of the music I made as Tric the Tyrant was a character. I cut it down to TRIC because it’s much more organic, much more real. Much closer to me. The music I make as Tric is much more personal. Much more reflective.
What would you each say was your defining moment in your career as a rapper?
Ben: For me, either the Brooklyn show or the Mercedes video. [Ben performed in November 2016 at the Brooklyn Bazar in Greenpoint and has performed at other venues since.] The director didn't even [know me], he was just like I've heard some of your stuff and we need to work. He worked with Roc Nation [a media company founded by Jay-Z] for a few years. It was just the first time that I really felt like a rapper. Like an actual rapper. I had felt it before, making music and things like that, but there was no one experience that made me feel like this is something I could really, really do until then. And the Brooklyn show was really close to that also. I think it was like a month or so before. Those two together. They made me feel like this is for real.
Atrician: For me, being a son of two immigrants, it was when my dad was like “Oh, you can actually do this as a career.” I think that was the most defining moment for me. Even though they have musical talents, no one in my family has really taken it anywhere.
What's next for you?
Ben: I really want to key in on storytelling and crafting a narrative rather than just bars. I want to do more visuals, and not even just music videos, but just recording the progression of songs in the studio, and freestyle videos and things like that. I just wanna keep on creating a brand. Not really merchandise, specifically, but I want to separate me from my rapper persona and just focus on creating the most engaging rapper persona I can. That's how you get noticed.
Atrician: I spent a lot of time this year making stuff by myself. I really want to work with other people. I want to make more music with my friends [and] a couple of people have noticed my stuff that I just want to work with. So collaborations are definitely a top priority for me. Definitely want to make more visuals, I like the last one I made, it was really fun. I just want to do weird stuff. I want to try to play more shows, I want to produce a lot more, pay more attention to sound. I think that's something I did well on my last project.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.