As far as the independent rap music scene in Chicago, there’s perhaps no bigger name this side of Chance The Rapper than that of Andrew Barber, owner and operator of respected blog, Fake Shore Drive. Having long established himself and the brand as a necessary resource for a scene that has exploded in recent years, Fake Shore has surpassed the bubble of blogs and stands today as an example of local reporting. As the website turns ten years old this year, Barber has been celebrating with a series of events and a renewed spirit that has seen him grow the operation from blog posts to reuniting the Big Tymers, which he’ll do at his ten year anniversary show November 4 at Portage Theater as part of Red Bull Sound Select’s 30 Days in Chicago.
Founded as a hobby back in 2007 while working a desk job, Fake Shore Drive has since grown into Barber’s full time job that has taken him around the world and back again while realizing dreams he could have never imagined a decade ago.
“I definitely didn’t expect it to continue for ten years. When I started it was just a hobby, I didn’t think it was anything I could turn into a career at all, that wasn’t my goal when I started it,” Barber said over the phone last week. “But I’m very thankful that I was able to do that and that people still care about it ten years later. It’s hard to make people care about anything for a few months let alone ten years so I’m just happy to still be here.”
In the time since, the website has become a staple of Chicago hip-hop and has served as a digest for the scene as it has bubbled into one of the country’s most exciting. While the site thrived in the heyday of the blog world from roughly 2007-2014, things changed in the last couple of years as artists have taken control of their own images and streaming sites and playlists or the infamous “pivot to video” have replaced thoughtful writeups and posts on singles. The changing tides of the last few years saw the end of plenty of early tastemakers like Potholes In My Blog, All Hip Hop, The Smoking Section and others who either ceased operation or were sucked up into the ranks of the larger Vice, Complex, Uproxx contingents. Fake Shore Drive though, seemed to be an outlier in the general down-tick in music-based blogging, continually evolving while staying true to the audience that was there from the start while maintaining it’s autonomy. For Barber, who focuses on the brand full-time, growing was a necessary step for survival that he’s been careful about throughout.
“It was one of those things where in order to have started a blog then and to kind of have a successful one at that you kind of had to see three steps ahead and I saw the blog landscape changing three years ago, I knew it wasn’t going to last forever,” Barber explained. “The big sites just kept getting bigger and were getting more funding and they were starting to wipe out a lot of the smaller sites, social media was blowing up, streaming was on the horizon. The blog has definitely been the vessel, but in order to kind of survive and thrive you gotta do other stuff and that’s just kind of what I saw was happening so I was happy I was able to jump on that early.”
Strategic partnerships over the years with the likes of Red Bull, Complex, Apple Music and a host of other brands has allowed Barber freedom as he inches further into his thirties. With a wife and two young daughters, he’s built a life and a career for himself through realizing his wildest childhood dreams. Memories have abounded over the course of the last few weeks and months as the anniversary has approached and got a proper collection in physical form last month at his pop-up ‘Fake Shore Dive’ bar in Wicker Park that saw Chance The Rapper, Twista, Bump J and more coming out to toast to the man himself. As far as reminiscing goes, there’s a few points from the journey so far that certainly stick out.
“The most obvious I think would be when Chance shouted me out at the Grammys, I mean that was pretty amazing, a total emotional moment and I felt happy at that, just to see him win, to see somebody come from someone I knew as a young kid becoming a global superstar, I’m just so proud of that and so proud of him. Just to have seen that get to where it is has been really exciting. And then just any type of coverage or press that we got,” he said. “But really just being thankful that anybody still cares and that people stuck with us all these years its really just amazing, I can’t even really believe it.”
This week, he’ll add to those memories as he celebrates ten years at the helm of the iconic site with a show November 4 as part of Red Bull’s ’30 Days in Chicago’ where Detroit rapper Tee Grizzly is set to take the stage ahead of a reunion of Cash Money heads Mannie Fresh and Birdman. Also teased on the bill are ‘friends of Fake Shore Drive’, which have become plentiful over the years, and therefore should produce some excitement.
“Big Tymers, are a group that I’ve always loved and to get them back together for a Fake Shore Drive show is beyond my wildest dreams so I’m really excited for that one to see Birdman and Manny Fresh back together again and we have some really dope special guests that night that will be popping out, it should just be a fun night all around I’m looking forward to it,” Barber said. ” As for the future, I’m just trying to keep expanding and move into doing other things while just keeping the integrity of the brand alive whether it working with Apple on playlists to having the radio show on Sirius XM, I’m working with Valee, a dope artist coming out of Chicago right now. Just trying to step out and try some different things you know, continue to push forward and hope that we can have another conversation in ten years.”