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Criminal Justice Reform

McKinley Dixon on Police Reform, the Vibrancy of Chicago

"The beauty of Chicago is that everybody has their own space," says rapper-songwriter
Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

McKinley Dixon has a deep admiration for his current home city of Chicago, inspired by the vibrancy of his community.

“I live in Garfield Park on the West Side of Chicago, which is a majority Black neighborhood,” the eclectic rapper-songwriter tells SPIN. “For me, the summers sort of provide this festive parade of life because the winters are so harsh.” And that resilient spirit, he adds, “allows for people within their neighborhoods to really change everything.”

“The beauty of Chicago is that everybody has their own space, and that space then allows for filling in the cracks,” Dixon says. “I [lived in] New York. I lived in Virginia for a long time — these places where the overarching systemic pressures don’t allow for anybody else to change it. I think Chicago, wherever you are, there’s always going to be something, somebody trying to change how that works.”

The musician — who will release his fourth album, Beloved! Paradise! Jazz!?, on June 2 — also opened up about his background and the important subjects he addresses in his work.

“I grew up in a sort of community where a lot of my friends were — the alternatives to the lifestyles that they lived were the hustle, and the hustle can embody anything,” he says. “That sort of hustle has also led me to now be privileged enough to be out of a place that allows me to touch on a lot of topics, including the prison industrial complex, community reform, and also providing a lot of neighborhoods with the idea of dreams … which I think is not really allowed for a lot of young Black folks, especially a lot of young Black folks that are queer, a lot of young Black folks that are trans, and a lot of young Black women. All of this sort of ties into police and community reform.”


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