This past July, Chicago-based media company illanoize hosted a sold-out artist showcase at the Promontory in Hyde Park. The illanoize showcase is one of the premier stages for artist discovery in Chicago hip-hop, and its July 7 return event, aptly named “Back Outside,” signified a reinvigoration of Chicago’s DIY music scene. 

These circumstances presented the night’s artists with an unenviable challenge: each of them had to entertain a crowd that hadn’t been in a concert setting since the COVID-19 pandemic forced us all inside in March 2020. And 24-year-old Stevon Odueze, aka OG Stevo, was itching to go heads up with that challenge.

“A lot of people get on stage and want to act too cool. I’m trying to give y’all your money’s worth,” Stevo told The TRiiBE in our July 14 interview. “I feed off of the crowd’s energy. If y’all turnt, why wouldn’t I be turnt right with y’all.”

Flanked by his fam, the Original Guap Getters (OG), he stormed the stage at the Promontory, rocking one of his trademark Von Dutch trucker hats. While Stevo’s discography hasn’t exactly reached ubiquity, when the DJ drops the needle on some of his hits such as “Lemonade” and “Salsa,” it’s enough to ignite the crowd each time. 

While the songs themselves are head boppers, it’s Stevo’s stage presence that takes the performance to the next level. He raps from atop the speakers, crowd surfs and hands the mic off to fans to finish his verses. His 2019 track “Salsa” is the perfect vehicle for the OG shuffle, a dance he and the OGs popularized in the accompanying video for the DJ Balor-produced song. 

Stevo’s energy is infectious — so much so that the crowd doesn’t feel like they’re just watching a concert, but that they’re part of it. And the fact that the stage is teeming with the biggest Stevo fans of them all, his OG family, shuffling, moshing and rapping along, only adds to the excitement. Together, the crew creates the illusion of the audience spilling on and off the stage, adding to the interactivity of the OG Stevo experience.

Whether during performances, studio sessions, business trips or photoshoots, Stevo is usually surrounded by his family and labelmates. In today’s exceptionally talented pool of Chicago up-and-comers, what sets Stevo apart from the others is his unyielding ability to share the energy he gleans from the community that has formed around his burgeoning music career when performing for even the least familiar of crowds. 

On July 14, I caught up with Stevo at LSD Studios. We talked about his return to the stage at the Promontory earlier that month, his ability to move a crowd and how invaluable his team has been in building his career.

Stevo’s childhood friend, Micah Williams, aka OG Mic Will [pictured right], is a multi-instrumentalist trained in piano, bass, guitar, drums and trombone. Photo by Darius Griffin // The TRiiBE
Today, Mic Will is the in-house producer and engineer for Original Guap Getters, and has worked with other rappers including Polo G, Lil Keed, Calboy, and Gunna. Photo by Darius Griffin // The TRiiBE

“I look at it this way; As an up-and-coming artist, most people aren’t going to know the words to your music to be able to sing along with you,” he said. “All those people in the crowd who don’t know you or your music, you have to give them something to cheer on. Dance, jig, do something.”

Music is embedded in Stevo’s DNA. Before he was turning up concert crowds as OG Stevo, he had a musical childhood that included turning up at family parties and singing with his band.

“When I was in fifth grade, me, my brother and my cousins used to call ourselves a little band. We would go to all the African parties and perform for the aunties and uncles,” he explained. Stevo is Nigerian and was raised on the North Side of Chicago in a close-knit Nigerian community. “I’ve always been around music in some capacity. I was a part of the church choir, elementary school choir and high school choir.”

Stevo had his first solo on-stage performance in 2012 at Von Steuben Metropolitan High School’s talent show his freshman year. He recalls it being a nerve-wracking experience, and there wasn’t much dancing to be done while singing R&B crooner Miguel’s “Sure Thing.” It was during high school that Stevo began writing music. 

“I was going through a lot at the time, issues with my girl, with my family; I lost one of my homies. Writing music was just my way of journaling. I needed a way to express myself,” he said. “I chose writing songs because it came naturally to me. I’ve loved music since I was a kid.” 

By his sophomore year at Northern Illinois University, he was ready to share the contents of his journal with the world, but it couldn’t be done without the help of the homies. 

“From when he first started showing me, I was remembering the lyrics word for word,” said Daniel Beach, aka OG Glizzy. He was the first person Stevo ever rapped in front of, so naturally, he was the first person to learn an OG Stevo verse. He also became Stevo’s manager, and is still his manager today. “I was bumping his shit just like I would any other artist.” 

Stevo and Glizzy knew about each other back in high school, where they played basketball for rival teams, Von Steuben and Prosser Career Academy. But they mostly built their bond on the basketball courts of Northern Illinois University’s rec center. 

Since Stevo didn’t have a car, Glizzy would give him rides to shows where they performed early on. “I was nervous as hell the first few shows, so this n-gga used to get on the stage with me so I wouldn’t be nervous,” Stevo said about Glizzy. “It’s a lot easier to do when it’s two people up there. That’s how he ended up being the one that’s always with me on stage performing.”

Stevo’s childhood friend, Micah Williams, aka OG Mic Will, is a multi-instrumentalist trained in piano, bass, guitar, drums and trombone. He started contemplating the direction of his own music career in 2017, around the same time as Stevo. As Stevo jumped into his career as a rapper, an opportunity arose for Williams to turn his aptitude for music into a production and engineering career. 

“I knew that I could do music at a high level, but I never knew what that meant,” Mic Will said. After going half on buying a YouTube beat with Stevo one time, Mic Will decided to take matters into his own hands and learn the particulars of production. 

Today, Mic Will is the in-house producer and engineer for Original Guap Getters, and has worked with other rappers including Polo G, Lil Keed, Calboy, and Gunna.

“I had a home studio at my apartment in Pilsen in 2018, so we would be there recording for days at a time,” Mic Will recalled.

The Original Guap Getters, pictured left to right: OG Mic Will, OG Glizzy, OG Stevo and OG Neaks. Photo by Darius Griffin // The TRiiBE

Asking Stevo what it’s like working in the studio with Mic Will kicked off a good old-fashioned Black man’s compliment battle between the two. 

“Every time, I’m in the studio like ‘this n-gga raw as fuck.’ Like, he could really make a beat in like 10 seconds,” Stevo said with a smile spreading across his face.

“It’s the same way working with him. He’s a star. He’s doing really cool shit,” Mic Will chimed in. 

Stevo cuts through the gushiness with a sarcastic, “awww,” before Williams continues. “I’m dead serious. I be impressed,” Mic Will said, “Most times I’m like, I never thought of doing that.”

The back and forth ended with Stevo giving a definitive statement about the camaraderie of Original Guap Getters: “There is no OG without them. OG is all of us,” he said, gesturing around the studio to Mic Will, Glizzy and Niko Ande, aka OG Neaks, Stevo and Mic Will’s high school basketball teammate turned OG business manager. “One person missing, then it’s not OG,” Stevo added.

On July 24, a few days before its official release, Stevo dropped a video snippet on his socials for his song “Big Losses” from his latest project, Days in LA. It featured himself and OG Mic Will performing the song, where Stevo sings, “I’m a youngin’ I done seen it all / When it comes to my brothers, I’m gon lead em’ all / made a promise to my dawgs, I’m gon feed you all.” Mic Will strums the acoustic guitar accompaniment. 

On the studio version of “Big Losses,” though, Mic Will’s acoustic guitar is replaced by a twangy guitar loop fashioned by Chicago-based producer Allday that accompanies Stevo’s weeping vocals.  

During our interview on July 14, Stevo was in the studio working on “Big Losses.” He caught me nodding my head to the beat from across the room. “You like that? I’m trying to give ‘em something a lil different,” he said.

“Big Losses” is a slight departure from Stevo’s usual delivery where, on songs like “Neighborhood Hero” and “Tech Suit,” he offers ad-lib sized samples of his choir-boy roots. On “Big Losses,” he dives headfirst into the Lil Durk-tinted waters of street R&B. 

The entire four-track Days in LA EP, released on July 29, shares the deeply reminiscent energy of “Big Losses.” At different times throughout the tape, he refers to the loss of loved ones, and being raised with meager means in Chicago, as formative experiences that are difficult to square within the modicum of the success he’s seen thus far, yet inexorable in understanding his story fully. 

“I’m really meticulous about what I put out. If there’s any doubt, it’s not getting released,” Stevo said. This much is evident by the hour he spends recording a single bar for an unreleased song in the studio, trying different cadences and timing. 

“It used to be to the point where I didn’t feel like I could leave the studio until we finished a song,” he continued. “Now I might just lay down a hook and leave it alone for a while so I can come back to it with a fresh head. I don’t want shit to sound forced, I just want to take my time and get it right.”

is a staff writer with The TRiiBE. Email him with news tips.