99 Neighbors Chicago

July 27, 2020

On The Line With... 99 Neighbors

We caught up with the Chicago collective to talk quarantine fits and how they're spending time at home.

We caught up with the Chicago collective to talk quarantine fits and how they're spending time at home.

This article is part 28 of 31 in the series: On The Line With...

99 Neighbors Chicago

For this installment of On The Line With… we catch up with Chicago-based hip hop collective, 99 Neighbors. Known as a collaboration of creative minds, Swank, Sam, Hank, Somba, and Shane are using this time to focus on creating new music and finding inspiration in everyday life. When they’re not doing that, there’s a lot of skateboarding, video gaming, reading, smoking, breakfast cooking, and somewhat absurd online shopping. Despite 2020 throwing them (and all of us) curveball after curveball, this Chicago crew is staying safe and still stoked about everything they’ve got coming up. Read up.

Please introduce yourselves. Describe what you do for a living and how you are adjusting to the new normal.

SWANK: My name is Connor Stankevich (Swank) and I am a rapper/singer/songwriter. Before Covid was around we were always inside making music, always around each other and always trying to be as creative as possible, and now that all of this has happened, the freedom to go places and do things has shifted and has made it harder to find creativity outside of the home we have been stuck in. I was excited to spend a summer outside in Chicago but hopefully next year.

SAM: My name is Sam Paulino, I’m a 23 yo Rapper/Singer/Songwriter/Producer from Burlington, Vermont and a co-founder of 99 Neighbors.The quarantine came into play during a time where I was locked inside every day making music, that’s still what I’m doing now – 6 months later. 

HANK: My name’s Hanknative, or Hank. I’m a songwriter, rapper and vocalist in 99 Neighbors. Hmm…lots of weed, Facetime and Zoom calls, and reminding myself to breath (with a few slips.) One advantage that I have being a part of 99 is that while a lot of people are really alone and we never are because we live with so many people. 

SOMBA: What’s up I’m Somba I produce for 99 Neighbors with Juju. He and I share a room and the role of executive production, so much of my day is spent talking about what the next step may be. Planning record, write, mix, listen, brainstorms, group meetings, and the interdependencies of our personnel’s function. Who needs what, why, when? All that stuff. My adjustment hasn’t been that crazy, I stay inside all day anyways.

SHANE: Hey, this is Shane here. I have been shooting photos for these guys since around the summer of 2016, just before we founded 99 Neighbors. My role has grown since, and I now do a lot of design work, as well as helping out filming and editing videos. As far as the new normal –  I feel like I’m still adjusting. I just take every day as a new day, and try to look for inspiration in places I wouldn’t normally look. 

99 Neighbors Chicago

How do you typically start your day? What daily rituals keep you balanced?

SWANK: Lately my routine has been wake up, work out, eat, smoke hella weed, then start my day. By then it’s around 11-12 so I’m all good for what’s next. 

SAM: The first thing I do when I wake up is shower, brush my teeth, do my skin care routine, have a light breakfast and start working from noon until I feel satisfied (which essentially takes up my whole day). Usually get some skateboarding or some basketball in as well before the sun sets!

HANK: I smoke weed, text my girlfriend back home, and watch a lot of Netflix. Smoothies sometimes — sometimes (too much) I’ll order out if I’m feeling down or lazy. 

SOMBA: I usually wake up and scramble into work mode cuz I slept too late. If I can get a Yerba I’m good. THC is a must.

SHANE: I typically start my day with a good meal. There’s something about the process of getting everything ready and cooking that kinda gets my mind going, and you need that energy to do whatever you have to do. Also, lots of coffee.

What accomplishment or new project are you most proud of?

SWANK: I’m proud to be with this group. We have taken huge steps personally and professionally. It’s been awesome to see the growth in all of us as we have moved along with this career. I’m most proud of what’s to come. Everything we have done so far makes me so excited for the future. 

SAM: I’d say right now, I’m most proud of this group and our capability to continue creating this new project we’re working on, despite all of the changes to everyday life over the past year.

HANK: My first project ever “Problem Child EP” produced by Somba is something that I’ll always be proud of. It was the legitimization of a dream I’d had for a while and kind of worked up to. Seeing it’s reception in my hometown was kind of the “Okay, I can do this” moment for me.

SOMBA: My drums smack now, those shits in Television we’re weak in comparison. 

SHANE: I have to say I’m currently most proud of myself for starting a Twitch channel. Usually i’m behind the camera shooting the crew, so it’s fun to do something different. I guess you could say I’m breaking out of my comfort zone.

Are you planning to do social distance friendly activities now that some states have opened back up? 

SWANK: We just want to be safe. If that means we can do some things then word, but for the most part we just tryna stay as safe and healthy as possible. 

SAM: I’ll be in the studio until we find a cure and people start taking this situation more serious. I get out and skateboard but you won’t catch me at a restaurant or anything like that. 

99 Neighbors Chicago

HANK: Yeah, I’ll be heading home for a bit to visit my family, my girlfriend, and my dog Jax. I’ll be quarantining between and getting tested. I’m expecting I’ll be okay, and seeing the way that we live now in the 99 house gives me faith (and lots of good practice) in my ability to stay safe right now. 

SOMBA: Nope! I don’t trust this virus shit. Jared and I just finished The Last of Us II and I’m shook.

SHANE: Now that lockdown restrictions have eased up, I’m driving to see my family out of state. We have all the safety measures in place to make sure everybody is ok. While i’m really excited, I think it’s sad that some people see restrictions easing up as a reason to not wear a mask or practice safe distancing. Please be safe out there!

What advice would you give to someone who’s struggling during these times?

SWANK: There’s gonna be a tomorrow. Take life day-by-day. Right now, shit is mad weird and no one knows what the next week is going to look like but all I can personally do is try to stay myself, learn things, teach things, and improve myself to where I want to get to. Try new things too, I started making beats during this time and now I ain’t completely trash lol.

SAM: I would let them know they’re not alone, I believe everyone is struggling these days in one way or another unfortunately. I’m not perfect but I know that there is beauty in the struggle. So take it day by day, step by step. 

HANK: Reach out if you need help, do some research and stay up with current events, take breaks from social media when you need to. 

SOMBA: I’ve been reading more, redecorated my living space and made sure I had a place to go to escape. Get some sun too.

SHANE: I would tell them to try to keep busy! Find a new hobby, or a good TV show. Put on a mask and go for a 30 minute walk every day. Take a zoom workout class, or find some friends to play a board game with on FaceTime. And don’t be afraid to try something new.

What have been your favorite quarantine fits?

SWANK: Damn….probably some Takeout Shorts (shoutout Sam) and just a comfy skate tee. I copped some new pieces I’m super hyped to wear for shows and out and about but right now ain’t the time for the fits. I been comfy though that’s for sure. 

SAM: My Quarantine kits have been mostly relaxed/cozy. Heavy hoodies, mostly Carhartt or Champion. I’m always wearing Rothco Cargos, they’re comfy and fit perfectly. I have nobody to impress lol.

HANK: Some comfy shorts and an Arsenic Anywhere (@arsenicanywhere) hoodie !!!

SOMBA: Comfort Colors for the fundamentals, Nike socks + Footprint insoles in my Vans so my feets cozy but I’m still nimble.

SHANE: My favorite quarantine fits have been ones that you can wear outside or on your couch. I recently got some Birkenstocks, and they’ve pretty much been glued to my feet. I never used to wear shorts much, but I’ve found myself with some mesh shorts or sweat shorts on pretty much every day. I find it really important to put on an outfit, because it sets the vibe for the day and makes working from home a little bit easier.

99 Neighbors Chicago

What has been your most unexpected quarantine purchase?

SWANK: I’m not gonna lie, I been making some fire purchases lately, nothing really crazy unexpected lol. Hmm, probably the military 4’s because those used to be my favorite kicks I owned in high school.

SAM: My most unexpected Quarantine cop was a Projector. It changed my netflix experience forever lol.

HANK: I got a wooden training katana….or suburito?


SHANE: My most unexpected quarantine purchase was a Type II Evisu denim jacket. I have never owned a denim jacket in my life, but the deal was too good to pass up. I love raw denim, because it ages and fades as you wear it, and it’s personal to you and how you wear it. I’m probably going to thrash it once we start traveling again.

What are you most looking forward to once this is over?

SWANK: Seeing my family and playing shows again. 

SAM: I’m looking forward to going back to Vermont and giving my mom a hug.

HANK: Being able to eat out…anywhere. Literally anywhere.

SOMBA: Going to August First bakery back in Burlington, VT.

SHANE: I’m most looking forward to being on the road with my friends again. I feel so incredibly grateful that I have this group, and being out on the road doing shows and having fun for a job is a feeling you can’t replicate. And I can’t wait for the fans to be able to have fun and party with us too.

99 Neighbors Chicago

How are you staying close to your loved ones/keeping in contact with people right now?

SWANK: I try to call my momma and pops a couple times a week if they ain’t calling me so we can stay in contact as much as possible. My mom always got some wild drama goin on so it’s always fun to hear what she sayin. 

All comes down to communication. If you got people in your life you want to stick around, let me know and keep checking in on each other. We losing too many people too quick out here. 

SAM: Luckily I live with 8 of my best friends so I’m constantly entertained, but I’ve never been a big texter so it gets tricky when trying to stay in contact with everyone constantly. I find it easier to give a call every few weeks to my loved ones to check in. 

HANK: Zoom, Facetime, and texting.

SOMBA: I’m FaceTiming more ofc, but also meeting ppl on Xbox live. I play Apex, hit me up @girthy808.

SHANE: My family and I have been doing a lot of group FaceTimes to keep in touch with one another. It’s really important to keep in close touch with your circle, and it’s also pretty grounding and stress relieving.

What have you learned about yourselves during this time? Will you integrate that knowledge into your day-to-day moving forward?

SWANK: I can’t get caught up in my head too much. That’s when shit gets weird. Gotta stay active and distracted out here. Gotta keep writing and see when I am slacking and pull myself out of whatever hole I am in.

SAM: I learned to tap into myself, a lot of reflection, a lot of writing. Learning to be more patient, learning to develop new relationships within the new social climate. Learning photoshop, continuing to learn more and more about Ableton and Logic and finding a new sound! All that good stuff ya know?

HANK: Resilience. We’ve been working while the world is burning and also feeling the same pains. It’s a hard spot to be in but we’ve been doing an amazing job.

SOMBA: I’ve certainly learned more about privilege, personally. There’s no one way to integrate that, but more like every way you can. Learn from your mistakes, anticipate opportunities to better through your day, week, life etc. Protest.

SHANE: This experience has shown me how lucky I am that I can continue to live in a beautiful city and wake up with a roof over my head. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the details, but if my circle and my family are good then so am I. I’m going to try to remind myself of this every day I wake up from now on, and do my best to help people that aren’t as fortunate as I am.