Teklife's Heavee is a Reluctant Security Guard Who Makes Sexplicit Footwork Jams
His latest EP is an ode to da booties
Photo by Wills Glasspiegel
Heavee is a lesser-known, but prodigiously talented member of Chicago's most elite footwork crew, Teklife. His latest EP is full of blockbuster footwork tracks sprinkled with sexplicit lyrics—drawing from the culture of Chicago ghetto house, footwork's musical predecessor. "Freaky Hoe," for example, is about that type of girl who's getting hyped on the dance floor all night, shaking her ass because every song is her favorite song. The best kind of girl, basically.
He's also holding down a job as a nightshift security guard to pay the bills and fund his real passion—making music. "Music has never been a hobby for me," he tells me. "I feel empty without it." Heavee's talent is undeniable; one of his tracks, "It's Wack," featuring the late DJ Rashad, was a standout on the Grand Theft Auto V soundtrack.
Heavee's TEK x TAR Vol. 4 EP, which you can stream in its entirety above, is part of a series by LA's TAR label and Chicago's Teklife collective—the 21-person family of DJs and producers who we can thank for bringing footwork from its origins in Chicago's dance halls to ears all over the world. Previous installments have included DJ Earl, DJ Manny, and DJ Taye.
I talked to the Chicago producer about hating his day job, Chicago's current footwork scene, and his friendship with DJ Earl.
THUMP: Hey Heavee. Tell me about your gig as a nightshift security guard—how long have you been working that job for?
Heavee: I work security and I really wish I didn't have to. I tend to work downtown [Chicago] high-rise residential buildings, constructions sites, malls and college campuses—pretty much wherever they send me. I've been doing security for five years and it's always there to fall back on. I got my first job in college as a dishwasher, which I worked to buy my first machine from Native Instruments. I quit that job when I got my machine, by the way [laughs]. Full-time DJing is definitely the goal and dream. Music has never been a hobby for me. I feel empty without it. One day when I can tour a little more consistently I will let the day job go.
When did you start producing your own music? How did you get into footwork?
I've always gravitated toward anything music related. I sang a lot as a kid, wrote poems, lyrics... whatever I could do to past the time. The progression to producing music began around 2007, when I had met DJ Earl. We joined the same footwork dance group, Animosity, and instantly became best friends. He was already experimenting with production through programs like Fruity Loops, and he introduced me to it. I was hooked and it was a daily ritual from there to much hang out and work on music. Naturally, because we were a part of a footwork dance group, we wanted our music to be the soundtrack of these battles here in Chicago. And that's where it began for me.
How did you get involved with the Teklife crew?
Well, Teklife came from Ghettoteknitianz which is a DJ collective based out of Chicago founded by people like DJ Spinn, DJ Rashad, DJ Gantman, and a few others. In 2011 I believe, these guys put their heads together with the purpose of rebranding us with something we could share with the world, and that collective idea was Teklife. A brand to highlight music production, DJing, our juke and footwork culture, as well as other forms of art exclusive to Chicago and anywhere else we gain inspiration from. I was there for the transition of Ghettoteknitianz to Teklife and it was an amazing experience being around so many talented people who shared a common goal.
Do you still participate in dance battles in addition to making footwork?
The battle aspect of footworking is over for me, although I still kick a leg or two at events when I'm around my footwork family. However, when I'm producing, I tend to envision footworkers in battle, people like: Lightbulb (The Era), Frost (Leaders, Teklife), and Lupe (Taliban, Tog). These guys are at the top of their game. They show their talent at places like "Battlegrounds" [ed: a long-running footwork event in Chicago]. They all have my respect for leading the new school of footwork with innovation and dedication.
Footwork has really taken off in the last year—DJs all the way in Belgrade are playing it in clubs now. How has this affected the scene in Chicago?
There's a generational shift going on and I think they're ready for new leaders to step up. I think our footwork scene is alive, but they need more outlets to showcase what they consistently work so hard on. I love going to "Battlegrounds" and just being a fly on the wall. It's an intense energy to see these footworkers perform in battle at their peak, it takes me back to when I used to be where they are, and that's usually where inspirations sets in.
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Heavee's Tek x Tar Vol. 4 EP is out today, September 16. Get it here.