The Come Up: Bandman Kevo
The Chicago rapper has a promising career ahead of him.
Written By Jake Krzeczowski
Crossing the street and entering the ice cream parlor it was easy to pick out Bandman Kevo. Clad in sweatpants and a pair of Louis Vuitton sneakers, he stood out from the typical Baskin Robbins patron. Shaking hands with the rising 24-year-old hip-hop artist, who has taken his hometown of Chicago by storm with a series of lavish, gold-encrusted singles that have seen regular play both on Chicago’s Power 92.3 & 107.5 and the web, he approached the counter and ordered. After grabbing me a mint chocolate chip shake and a sundae for himself, we crossed the street, entered his building, and headed up the elevator.
Minutes later, lounging in fancy patio chairs on a swanky balcony thirty stories up in the heart of the downtown section of the city, he stared in on the swirl of whipped topping engulfed in a world away from the streets below. Casually slumped in a oversized wicker chair, he leaned back in his seat to explain the story behind the artist best known for the Chicago street anthem, “Baller In Me.”
Settling into conversation one thing was readily evident: Bandman Kevo is two people at once. A diamond and gold watch he ballparked around $60,000 and a fully loaded 2014 BMW mask a certain depth that is not readily evident in his music, a thoughtfulness that doesn’t permeate on his Instagram posts and a penchant for others and a worldview that sets him apart from his decidedly “drill” peers. Chicago’s reputation for violence and myriad gangs has been well-documented in the mainstream media as of late with the killings of Mario Hess, better known as Blood Money, cousin to Chief Keef and 21-year-old McArthur Swindle, better known as OTF NuNu, cousin of 2014 XXL Freshman Lil Durk who was gunned down in a parking lot. Kevo, though, is decidedly more Rick Ross than Suge Knight, more Frank Lucas than Al Capone as he straddles a life that was born in the streets, but now exists in the clouds.
“Honestly, I’ve never had no confrontations or nothing with anybody. It’s a different look, they know I don’t gangbang, they see me as the money man,” says Kevo. “It depends on what you’re around mostly. Like I’m around a lot of big people with a lot of money so I can rap about a lot of money. I just want to rap about richness and nice looking women.”
Money and women are constant themes throughout Kevo’s collection of loosie singles, which make up the majority of his library to date. Released over the course of just over the past year, they have created enough buzz for local tastemaker Andrew Barber, owner of FakeShoreDrive to describe Keef’s appearance on the “Baller In Me” remix to pouring gasoline on an open flame, going on to declare “The streets are now on fire. Ball ’til you fall.” Local benchmarks like the Southside’s Adrianna’s, a mainstay for big artists local and national also regularly offers up sets. Kevo’s buzz is not just contained to his hometown, though. Regular posts on WorldStarHipHop like his “Baller In Me” video which was at 4,167,252 views at press time have garnered him notoriety both in and out of Chicago for being a sort of larger than life character, risen from the city’s streets without bloodshed or violence.