Music by VICE

Listen to Teklife DJ Heavee's New EP '3K'

We talk footwork, the loss of DJ Rashad, and positivity with the Chicago music maker.

by Aliza Abarbanel
Jun 23 2015, 2:37pm

Teklife DJ Heavee is a sonic force of positivity. One of the cornerstones of Chicago’s vibrant footwork scene, Heavee is continuing to push the lifestyle forward. Cue the release of his latest EP in celebration of his 3k followers on Soundcloud, aptly named the 3K EP. Sonically, 3K leaps forward, mixing together grime and acid house sounds with the distinctive sound that made Teklife a global name. The resulting songs are fused with pure Chicago sound, featuring a Cakes Da Killa remix and collab with fellow Teklife member DJ Taye.

Heavee’s place in the Teklife pantheon is cemented, and he’s keeping busy as a producer (see: Mic Terror’s EP “Live From Your Mama’s House"), but he still flies below the radar. So, I took to the internet to speak with the DJ, find out his origin story and his thoughts on Chicago’s scene. Here, Heavee talks music, positivity and footwork after the death of DJ Rashad.

Noisey: Tell me about the motivating factors behind making this EP.
Heavee: I recently reached 3,000 followers on Soundcloud, and really wanted to celebrate this milestone with everyone who has been a part and will be a part of the journey! Getting music directly to the listeners who enjoy what we do, possibly gaining any potential listeners who aren't as familiar, and keeping the fans informed and entertained are always the top priorities for me! For the 3K EP, I also wanted to thank all the people who have been involved in everything I've been apart of! The friends, family, and fans have made the last three years of my life truly unforgettable! A lot of progression has taken place and while I'm in between projects and touring, I needed to keep everyone out there up to date on what Heavee is doing!

How did you get involved with Teklife? How have you seen the crew evolve since you first joined?
I got my start in high school working on tracks with Earl, who was also a part of the same footwork crew (Animosity) at the time. Then, I came into contact with Rashad and Spinn In 2008-2009. I got the OK to come over to Spinn's house and meet them and check out their music-making process. I was immediately shadowed by how amazing they were, but they managed to see potential in me through the rough collection of noise I called tracks. Coming from a dancer’s standpoint, I felt like I never had enough tracks, and that was where the urge to make the music really came from.

Spinn and Rashad were like the first real music producers I knew of. Coming over to Spinn's Studio to absorb any advice, tips, lessons, or just how to conduct myself, may have been the most influential moments of my life. These moments allowed me to see a vision for myself, through watching them go after their own dreams. I began to pursue music daily which enabled me to stick around, I would take what I learned at the studio, and go home freshly inspired and attempt to replay what I heard. making new tracks every night, made me get better and using my dance crew as a test crowd showed me which direction to take and what didn't work so well.

College took me away visually, but using my time wisely I befriended music majors, choir members, piano players, people who saw music in a traditional way. Giving me a chance to become more in touch with music theory for the first time. I think I grew as a producer from this experience, seeing music in an alternative perspective expanded my way of thinking and opened my eyes to more possibilities. I attempted to remain in the picture by sending music home and keeping in contact & meeting up whenever possible via Google hangouts, which was one of our favorite apps when it first came out!

Watching this crew transform over the years from a Producer/ DJ collective to an international lifestyle brand catering to art in every form from music, dance, painting, visuals, and even fashion, is more than I can comprehend at times! Teklife is something that is supposed to be shared, it really is a lifestyle, and people who are about that life see that dedication and family rooted love that we have for what we do and they share it with others! That's what it's all about!

Footwork is distinctly Chicago, but it’s gaining a lot of traction worldwide. Why do you think people are so into it?
Footwork is Chicago! It's infectious because it's rooted in positivity. It's original intent was and has always been to keep people partying together and out of the streets. Footwork, in cohesion with the music performed, can be known to uplift spirits and bring people closer together as if we're sharing the same frequency. It's not about the people, it's not about who's on top, as a lot of our music suggests it's all about the feeling!

What makes performing in Chicago unique?
Being at home performing can be a double-edged sword. And I say that because it's a great feeling to be a part of Chicago dance music history, carrying on the torch as one of the up and coming DJs. In the same breath DJ's work hard and too often are overlooked and underpaid. Never the less, I say the love of Chicago is unmatched. The performances that showcase the dance and music together allow crowds to better receive the entire experience, which rarely gets to happen on the road due to a lack of traveling, road-ready dancers. I hope the up and coming footwork crew "The Era" will be the guys to come in and change that! Look out for them!

How are you continuing to push forward? What’s the next big sound?
Pushing forward is literally doing just that! Sometimes it gets rough with the passing of Rashad, but I feel like he made it clear that if I want to do this, nothing is in the way of me, except me! I want him to be proud of everything we accomplish, because he worked hard to show us that there are opportunities and a different life available if you dedicate yourself to your dream and give it your all! As far as the next big sound, I'm only one person so that's tough to say, but continue to check the growth and progression of Teklife to see what comes next!

There’s an overwhelming sense of positivity in your online presence and I was wondering if that was a conscious choice. Do you aim to have a positive outlook on life? If so, how does that fit into your life and music?
I make a choice to put out good energy because that's what I want around me. Ideas become reality when we believe in them, so it would seem beneficial to Look at life from the bright side! Even on a rainy Monday like today I can smile and appreciate the bad times, because they too are apart of the path that bring us closer to our destiny. Whatever that might be, I hope it's lit!


Aliza Abarbanel already misses Chicago. Follow her on Twitter.