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The Evolution of ‘Chiraq’

How the catchword went from a local rapper’s shorthand for Chicago violence to the loaded title of a bigtime director’s next film

Photos: (King Louie) Lennie Gilmore; (Nicki Minaj) istockphoto; (Spike Lee) David Shankbone

Early 2009

South Side MC King Louie coins the term “Chiraq” (pronounced shy-RACK) as a riff on the idea of Chicago as a war zone.

February 13, 2012

Urban Dictionary adds the term, defining it as a “word to describe Chicago because of its violent history and crime rates.”

April 7, 2014

The moniker goes mainstream with Nicki Minaj and Lil Herb’s single “Chi-Raq.” It has been streamed more than 8 million times on SoundCloud.

Mid-April 2014

The anti-“Chiraq” movement gains traction. Designer Alonzo Jackson sells hundreds of T-shirts emblazoned with “Chiraq” crossed out in favor of “Chitown.”

April 9, 2015

Spike Lee confirms his plans for a movie set in Englewood called Chiraq. Local bloggers and the mayor bristle at how the title could reflect on the city.


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