May 8, 2012


You Need to Know: Chicago Teen Rapper Katie Got Bandz

Every Tuesday, You Need To Know spotlights a rising artist that we know will blow up big. Listen now. Thank us later. This week: Chicago rapper Katie Got Bandz.

Chicago's teenage "drill" rap scene, which finds the city's teenagers making lo-fi Waka Flocka Flame-style street rap, has gotten a ton of attention lately, kicked off by a 2,400-word Gawker piece on Chief Keef, the 16-year-old rapper who was famous in Chicago high schools before the outside world recognized his unstoppable hooks and irresistibly confrontational/creepy atmosphere.

Kanye West recently remixed Chief Keef, and Keef posted a photo of himself wearing Waka Flocka Flame's chain. Young Chicago spitters like [recent Def Jam affiliate] Lil Durk, King Louie, Lil Reese, and Young Chop are also getting looks from bigger artists and labels too. But what about the ladies?

Enter Katie Got Bandz, née Kiara Johnson, an 18-year-old rapper from Bronzeville, a neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. "I Need a Hitta," which dropped last October, has been Katie's biggest hit so far and captures the lo-fi energy and indelible catchiness of the best of Chicago drill.

Katie Got Bandz, "I Need A Hitta"

"I'm a freshman at Truman College," Katie told me on the phone. "I study biology and pre-med." I ask her if she works too and she laughs and says, "Oooooh, I don't even wanna tell that! I work at McDonald's at Navy Pier."

I ask her about her relationships with other Chicago rappers like Sasha GoHard and Shady, who are roughly as popular as she is. "Sasha and I graduated from high school together, so we're friends. I've been around Shady for a long time. I've got a tune with King Louie: he just remixed one of my songs the other day. I know Chief Keef—we're not friends, but we're cool."

She tells me she's working on her first mixtape, Bandz & Hittaz, and an all-female remix to Chief Keef's "I Don't Like," the same song Kanye remixed. "We're doing that tonight! Me, Sasha, Chellah and I don't know who else?" She has listened to the Kanye remix, and unlike the producer, she likes it.

She says her favorite rapper is Waka Flocka Flame ("He can rap about anything and everybody's gonna rock with it in the club"), which makes sense given Chicago's Waka Flocka-influenced sound.

So watch the Shady video in which Katie casually waves a gun around ("Yeah, it's real. But that was the old me! That's not me anymore") below, and see her at this MTV2 show (which features like half of the Chicago drill scene). Then let us know what you think of Katie Got Bandz in the comments!

Shady, "Go In"