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The Columbia Chronicle

We've got you covered

The Columbia Chronicle

We've got you covered

The Columbia Chronicle

ChiBrations media platform promotes Chicago artists

Alex Suarez


ChiBrations, an artist-led media platform, started in 2017 as a way to bring underrepresented artists forward in the Chicago music scene.

“This has been a passion project,” said Sam Thousand, musician and founder of ChiBrations. “There’s not much money at all that’s been made over these last three years to do this. It’s just out of love and wanting to create platforms for the artists. Ironically, ChiBrations was put in place to be a voice for artists other than hip-hop artists because at the time it was all that people talked about when it came to Chicago music.”

For the first two years of ChiBrations, primarily soul and R&B artists and their bands recorded their music and had videos produced and released on YouTube by the platform every month, promoting about eight to 10 artists a year.

In addition to promoting artists, ChiBrations was also created as a way to bring people together.

“There’s a lot of despair,” Thousand said. “There’s a lot of issues that my community is dealing with. Black musicians, artists, performing artists in general…I feel like there needs to be more creation together.”

Thousand graduated from Columbia in 2013 and majored in Jazz Studies. Two months into his first year of school, he joined Sidewalk Chalk, a jazz, soul and hip-hop band whose members at the time were all also students at the college.

“I think my greatest asset from going to Columbia is my community,” Thousand said. He added, “every encounter there was so right, and so potent.”

After graduating from college, Thousand taught music at a high school in Chicago. He ended up quitting a year later to be in Sidewalk Chalk full-time. The band toured independently for five years at various Chicago venues and opened for Hiatus Kaiyote when they did their first show in Chicago at Double Doors.

Teaching is something Thousand sees himself picking back up in the future.

“I want to be known as someone who could give knowledge and offer advice and help future generations,” he said.

Since being a student himself, Thousand said “hip-hop has changed in a way where anything goes…there will always be a space for individual expression in a way that hip-hop allows it and affirms it.”

Early in the fall, ChiBrations helped put together an event at the Museum of Contemporary Art designed to celebrate 50 Years of hip-hop. This included an art exhibit as well as a poet, comedian, panel of women hip-hop artists and a live DJ.

“Hip-hop is fine art, I’ve always considered it to be that,” said local writer, artist and educator known as Psalm One, who led the panel discussion at the event.

Psalm One, her artist and pen name, said she’s watched hip-hop go through many stages, and when she was growing up, embracing hip-hop meant absorbing it into every part of life.

“There were a couple of breakdancers breaking in the museum,” she said. “That was one of the best parts for me, because this is something I never thought I’d see. You know what I mean, growing up, we used to get kicked out of places for breakdancing…and then having a panel full of women rappers. That’s powerful stuff.”

Asha Omega, a local musician who was also on the ChiBrations panel, views hip-hop as a tool for storytelling and expression.

“To me, hip-hop means using your words, and using intention, to tell your story, or tell a story,” said Asha Omega. “Telling your truth and speaking your truth about what’s going on, not just with you, but in the community around you, what you’re seeing in the world and using your voice as a tool to uplift yourself and the people around you.”

Thousand said hip-hop ties into all different types of performance art, and the goal of ChiBrations is to bring those forms together.

In terms of the beginning hip-hop itself Thousand said, “it affirmed and validated the personal story and I feel that it really affirmed this idea of the collective voice and the individual voice.”

Thousand continues to bring ChiBrations beyond just soul music and plans to move it beyond music in general. He said the goal is to think about how he can bring all of the performance art together.

“Comedy, theater, musical theater, poetry, storytelling, burlesque and variety acts, you know, like, all of that performance art,” he said. “What I love about engaging art forms is that you’re creating moments in real time and that is the magic that people are seeing, that is the art that people are reveling in and are wowed by.”

“What’s important for us is for us to not find out what the city can do for us, it’s what we can do for ourselves,” Thousand said. “How can we bring our strengths together? How can we centralize first and then explore and discover our strengths? And use that collective power to solve our own problems.”

Resumen en español

Fundada por Sam Thousand en el 2017, ChiBrations es una plataforma de medios, dirigida por artistas, que se dedica a promover el avance de las carreras de los artistas subrepresentados en la escena musical de Chicago. 

Durante los primeros dos años la plataforma promovió artistas de soul y R&B. Como promedio, cada año se promovían a 10 artistas. 

A principios de otoño, Chibrations ayudó a organizar un evento en celebración del 50 aniversario de hip hop en el Museo de Arte Contemporáneo.  El evento incluyó una exposición de arte, un poeta, un comediante, un panel de mujeres artistas de hip hop y un DJ. 

Para Thousand, su meta es lograr unir a los diferentes medios de arte. “Comedia, teatro, teatro musical, poesía, burlesco—toda actuación artística. Lo que a mí me encanta de participar en cada forma artística es que estás creando momentos en tiempo real”, dijo. “Esa es la magia que la gente ve; ese es el arte con el que la gente se deleita y queda cautivada”. 

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About the Contributors
Maya Swan-Sullivan, Reporter
mssullivan@columbiachronicle.com   Maya Swan-Sullivan is a senior journalism major, with a minor in creative writing. She covers Columbia classes and Chicago festivals and events. Swan-Sullivan joined the Chronicle in June 2023.   Hometown: Asheville, North Carolina
Alex Suarez, Creative Director
asuarez@columbiachronicle.com   Alex Suarez is a senior traditional animation major and has created graphics for Chronicle stories in various sections. She joined the Chronicle in August 2023.   Hometown: Hebron, Indiana