“Oh, you know my guy Westley?”
I cannot count the times I’ve heard this utterance in the weeks leading up to my conversation with Westley Parker.
Like some wildly dominant synapsis in the Chicago brain, Westley Parker is a channel through which it would seem all creative traffic flows. An overlord, even. With his ringed fingers in many projects, it is hard to sum up exactly what it is that Westley does, aside from it being the most. So I reached out to have the lofty sit-down that so many interviewers painstakingly organize, which eventually turned into cruising around Chicago, listening to Baka Not Nice on repeat and dapping with friends on every street in Wicker Park.
Current favorite song “LIVE UP TO MY NAME” linked here:
I give Westley the aux cord in the car, to which he incredulously asked if I am sure I am ready for how many songs he is about to play. He excitedly shares songs he says he has to listen to at least eight times a day; the focus on the music is tangible in the car.
We make our way to our gracious hosts at Fat Tongue Studio, a cozy and welcoming recording studio on the come-up in Logan Square, founded by Joel Gutman and the brothers Kenzie, where the homie Rich Jones currently records. At Fat Tongue we talk about what is happening in the city’s music scene today, and I gather details about Westley’s life, catching up since our intro in the early 2010’s back in the day with The Pigeon Bench where I first met Westley wearing a cow-print onesie.
After our hang at Fat Tongue, Westley has places to be. We roll over to Chop Shop for the All Summa party. Among other nomadic wanderings on a late summer day in Chicago, we make a stop for a mobile phone charger.
“I got like eight of these at home, but I need to start bringing them out. I should not buy another, but I’m not about to be out here with no phone.”
Westley’s cell is always, always blowing up. He always picks up. He is the input and output for all things buzzing in Chicago tonight.
A Chicago native who has worked for years to get where he is today, Westley Parker has become inextricable from Chicago music and events. He is a tastemaker and a catalyst to the current moment that many are calling the Chicago Rap Renaissance. He is an artist manager (formerly Hurt Everybody/Supa Bwe, and full-time-nurse/rapper UG Vavy; currently DJ Oreo (DJ to Chance, Vic, and Lil Yachty), and Ric Wilson).
He has booked every popular venue in Chicago: Metro, Lincoln Hall, Reggie’s, Schuba’s, Emporium, just to name a few of the more frequent.
If that isn’t enough, Westley also is a co-founder of These Days, the all-seeing eye in the latest in Chicago hip-hop.
So, in framing a way to introduce the you to Westley, I ask Westley how he frames his own persona. When asked the question, “What do you do?” Wesley responds laughing, “I don’t do shit that I don’t like. I work with my friends.”
A self-employed Renaissance man, Westley is a fan of everyone who helps make this world go around. He jokes in his interview with the Better Off Said podcast that he has bars, but he loves us too much to focus on making his music right now. He works with a lot of artists who he considers to be like family. Chicago’s music industry is community based, Westley explains. Perhaps what he does is make it his central obligation to care for that community.
He has more Stitch Gawd jackets than damn near anyone else in the world, barring Chano, perhaps. In fact, one of the first Emma Mckee pieces to hit the Chicago scene was an Urkel sweater made for Mr. Parker himself. Since it’s humble beginnings, Mckee’s work has come into demand by the giants of hip-hop, including a commission from the rapper formerly known as Mos Def, among many others.
I try to dig for more information about the rumors of the alleged Stitch Gawd Tape, a collaboration in-the-works featuring all the artists who rock the cross-stitch masterpieces (so you know this tape is going to be legendary). Westley can only tell me it is a work in progress that he is not centrally involved in at this point. He tells me that watching McKee’s success has been the most insane glow-up he has ever seen of any artist around him.
Like the cross-stitch that has come to garner the attention of the likes of Mr. West, Mr. Parker is inextricably woven into the fabric of Chicago hip-hop. Wearing the first of the Stitch Gawd jackets that have come to adorn the finest in the game, Westley embodies the front-line of some sort of fashionable omnipresence with its roots in fostering relationships of mutual respect with a whole city of hustlers. Keep eyes on DJ Oreo, or just go outside of your house; Go to any rap show in Chicago and you will likely see Ovrlordblakk there with his locks, his headband, his Stitch Gawd jacket, running the show.