The late, great Tupac Shakur once wrote a poem about a rose that grew from a crack in the concrete. The anomaly of a gorgeous flower growing amid adverse conditions serves as a metaphor for individuals from under-resourced neighborhoods who rise above systemic challenges in order to contribute something beautiful to the world. If there’s anyone in Chicago today who embodies the spirit of a rose growing from concrete, it’s Englewood rapper Heavy Crownz.
The self-proclaimed “63rd Representer” cultivates an organic aesthetic in his music as well as his personal life. He says his purpose is to be a force for positive change, describing himself as a combination of the rappers Common, Gucci Mane, and Curren$y. The lead single for his newest album, Whole Lotta Seedz, is the appropriately titled “Grow Sumn.” Over a soulful sample and drum loop, he pushes listeners to grow from the things that are holding them back in life.
“My whole brand is agriculturally based. I like to use beats as a landscape to plant seeds,” Crownz says. “With it being called Whole Lotta Seedz, it’s just me keeping people up to date with all the things that I’ve grown through with experiences on my journey through self-growth and reflecting on my upbringing. . . . There’s a lot of places that I put energy into and not look for anything back. So a lot of places I’ve served and put time into, I can see the fruits of my labor. It’s like been a whole lot of seeds.”
He credits his affinity toward this organic lifestyle to his spiritual beliefs. After reading a book about the power of grace by evangelist pastor Joseph Prince in 2020, Crownz says a switch flipped for him to develop a Christ-conscious approach by extending grace to himself and others. He isn’t just planting figurative seeds in the ears of music listeners, though. After teaching both elementary and high school students on the south and west sides, he currently serves as youth program manager for Imagine Englewood If (IEI), a holistic nonprofit organization that provides mentorship and food sustainability programs for the community. One of his goals with IEI this year is to put his hands literally in the dirt with community gardening projects that will give residents living in food deserts more healthy options.
“I’ve been blessed to plant seeds of positive intention in those areas,” Crownz says. “I was born and raised in Englewood, 63rd and Parnell. I grew up with a lot of the pioneers of the drill scene and know them on a first-name basis. It was always important for me, once that the scene took off, that that was not the only narrative imagined by residents. Before I even knew of the proper terminology of labels, I always was moving with a loving energy amongst all the different chaotic things that was going on in Englewood.”
One of IEI’s upcoming projects is a Unity Day on May 14, when residents and other organizations are invited to help clean up 100 blocks, beautify the organization’s peace campus at 64th and Honore, and come to a community cookout after. Following in the footsteps of his favorite rapper and community activist, Common, Heavy Crownz says he is geared to continue being a vessel for peace and positivity, whether it be creating new music or strengthening bonds with the people he serves.
“I’m proud of going into this purely and organically. I’m making sure that my life reflects my music and my music reflects my life. I’ve been blessed to see a lot of dope momentum grow in the last two years,” he says. “As I grow, I gotta give myself grace. A plant don’t really stress when they grow, they just grow. The rain come in the air and they grow. The sunlight come, they add to it and they grow. They just stay present. We gonna grow regardless, bro, so let me love on you. And let me love on myself while we at it.”
All photos by ThoughtPoet of Unsocial Aesthetics (UAES), a digital creative studio and resource collective designed to elevate community-driven storytelling and social activism in Chicago and beyond.
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