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West Side rap duo Heavy Steppers capitalizes on DIY following

The duo continues to create content — and turn heads — while one member is on the verge of finishing college in another state.

The Heavy Steppers — SBG Kemo (left) and Ke Millie — met through mutual friends.
The Heavy Steppers — SBG Kemo (left) and Ke Millie — met through mutual friends.
Shandru

Ke Millie, one half the West Side-raised rap duo Heavy Steppers, remembers first hearing their seminal track “Heavy Steppers” on the radio.

“It was shocking,” Millie says. “I tried to record it. l was, like: ‘Damn, that’s crazy! We’re really doing it.’ ”

SBG Kemo echoes Millie’s sentiments regarding the relatively instant success the duo has achieved.

They met via mutual friends.

“It’s cool to know people mess with you for real,” Kemo says. “Just lets you know to go a little bit harder. We met through mutual friends. Some people I’d be around are real cool with him. And then I heard his music. It was really different. So I’m, like, ‘Man, I want to do something with him.’

“And then we would kick it as homies. The music stuff does come with it. It would gradually evolve to what it is.”

Last year, Heavy Steppers, thanks to their album “Hood Trophies,” got about 5.1 million streams on Spotify and close to 1.5 million listeners, according to the streaming service.

Standout tracks include “Me and Millie,” “The Playas Club” and “Gangstas Only.”

Fans “probably expect to see a bunch of crazy s—, man,” Millie says. “We bring the energy to wherever we go. Always high energy in whatever we do.”

The duo took part in the “Heavy Steppers Challenge,” which got a boost when Chance the Rapper got involved. Millie says that moment was the catalyst to make him even more dedicated to their music.

“I was working a job driving trucks when Chance did the [Heavy Steppers Challenge],” Millie says. “I was so excited. I almost crashed the truck. I was, like, ‘This is unbelievable.’ I almost called the job to tell them I’m quitting.”

Making a name for themselves in Chicago’s rap scene while one member of the duo is finishing college in another state has posed some problems, if temporary ones.

West Side rap duo Heavy Steppers.
Shandru

Millie says Kemo “finds his way back to the city” when needed.

Kemo attends Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, where he’s studying business and management. He says people will recognize him from the music, which prompted him to take online classes.

“Once I get to school, I try to be regular,” Kemo says. College “is my time to have a break from everything. It still happens from time to time, but I want people to be comfortable with me being around and vice versa.”

He considers himself lucky to be where he is now. In high school, Kemo says he got into a fight and was arrested for attempted murder but as found “not guilty.”

“I guess it took me longer to figure out some stuff,” says Kemo, who says he graduated from high school while in jail. “When I came home, I already graduated. I missed prom. And I was, like: ‘I gotta figure things out soon.’”

People started telling him to rap and to be serious about it.

“It’s tough because you got to balance everything,” he says. “I’m saying you got to be determined to finish what you start. I could have stopped. And I probably would have been farther along than I have been in my music. It’s just me being hardheaded and me being ... determined to do it all at once.”

The two rappers point to local rap legends Chief Keef, Lil Durk and G Herbo, as well as Meek Mil,l as influences.

They believe the city’s rap scene is much more welcoming than it’s been in the past.

“I feel like we’re getting out of that crabs-in-a-barrel mentality,” Kemo says. “We have some bumps in the road, but that’s what comes with it. Everything is everything. It’s all love with us.”