DLOW is a Chicago-based hip-hop dancer, rapper and choreographer who emerged from the city’s West Side with a unique talent for dancing, and particularly for innovating the Bopping style of dance. Now, a decade later, he’s released “Shuffle 3.0,” and hopes to make a difference by promoting creative expression among generations to come.
Originating from Chicago’s West Side, Daryon Simmons, more commonly known as DLOW (Determined, Loyal, Optimisticvand Willing to Learn), has committed his professional journey to challenging detrimental stereotypes associated with Chicago. His primary focus lies in empowering young individuals by offering creative avenues for their success. In this pursuit, DLOW embarked on a remarkable journey that began with the formation of Team Fiesta, a group of mostly teenagers who encouraged others to get out and dance. Originally consisting of DLOW and his close friends Lamont and Tay, the group quickly expanded from a trio to a formidable collective of 200.
“I think I knew bopping was gonna be crazy when we created Team Fiesta,” DLOW recalled. “Team Fiesta was just an organized group of kids. We were 17, 18, 19, 16, just getting up and dancing. Dancing, making videos, just wanting our presence to be felt in unison.”
Chicago’s own “Bop King” DLOW is back with a brand new bop anthem: “Shuffle 3.0” Morgan Ciocca/Vocalo Radio
Team Fiesta’s unity and positive energy laid the groundwork for their success, underscoring the transformative power of young Black and brown individuals coming together to promote harmony within their community.
“You know, that unity. That’s it,” DLOW said. “That’s all we was trying to push: unity. We can get together as young, Black and brown kids and don’t hurt each other. Have no negativity, no fights. We gonna go to parties, we gonna throw our own parties, we gonna shut off the blocks and just have a big dance party in the middle of the blocks.”
DLOW’s breakthrough moment arrived with the release of his music video for the single “The Dlow Shuffle” in December 2013. This video showcased his signature style of bop, propelling him to perform on notable platforms such as the Steve Harvey talk show and Fox 32’s “Good Day Chicago.” Building on this momentum, DLOW continued to release music in the subsequent years, delivering more hit singles like “Bet You Can’t Do It Like Me” and “Pregame.”
At this stage of his career, DLOW finds himself increasingly dedicated to giving back to his community, aligning with his original intentions. He has been actively involved with learning center META24, channeling efforts to assist youth in underprivileged communities by imparting essential skills and values through project-based learning, ultimately equipping them for the future.
“I’m more focused on being hands-on with the youth,” he said. “I’m more focused on just really healing through doing, really being present. I’m 100% invested into META and really showing what this is, because I know this program. This curriculum helps change generations … and generations to come.”
DLOW’s journey represents more than just his personal success. It shows the cultural significance of dance as a unifying force within the community. Through bopping, DLOW and Team Fiesta created a platform that showcased the talent and creativity of young individuals from Chicago’s West Side, challenging stereotypes and promoting positivity.
Recently, DLOW visited the Vocalo studios to discuss his latest release, “Shuffle 3.0,” with mornings host Bekoe. The two also delve into the meaning behind bopping, the story of Team Fiesta, his aspirations to give back to the community and more.
Before their conversation, Bekoe dug into the Vocalo vault to bring listeners a segment about the origins of bopping, produced by Storytelling Workshop participant Tariq Weaver in Summer 2013. The segment follows visual artist Phil Jackson as he introduces Weaver to DLOW and fellow Chicago rapper (and “Bop King”) Lil Kemo, and was part of a Storytelling Workshop facilitated by Ayana Contreras and Adriana Gallardo.
Bekoe: You’re tuned into Vocalo Radio, 91.1 FM, Chicago’s only NPR Music station. I’m your host Bekoe. Man, it’s the windy city playing all Chicago artists only. And you heard an exclusive throwback, dug into the archives so you can learn more about the culture of art and music and dancing from Chicago’s West Side, a place where I reside — and a place where my special guest, DLOW resides. How you feeling, DLOW?
DLOW: What’s up, man? How you feeling? I’m blessed. God is good, man. Happy to be here. Happy to be in your presence, brother.
Bekoe: I’m happy you’s in my presence, man.
DLOW: Come on, man. Come on.
Bekoe: It feels good to finally be able to catch up with you. And man, I want to say one time I remember — I remember a couple of times. Remember we was at Adriana’s, right?
DLOW: These were some times, right there.
Bekoe: I want to say this is around the time you released “DLOW Shuffle.” And you, I don’t know if you were a special guest there or what, but I remember running into you. This is before “DLOW Shuffle” took off.
DLOW: Really prevailed, yeah.
Bekoe: And we was at Adriana’s. I said, “Yo,” you had a Pelle Pelle coat on.
DLOW: I stayed with the Pelle Pelle. Shout out to Pelle Pelle, man. Appreciate how y’all was rocking with me back then.
Bekoe: And I walk up to you. I say, “DLOW, yo, if you all promote ‘DLOW Shuffle’ right, your life is gonna change.” You remember that?
DLOW: Yes, sir.
Bekoe: And your life done changed, brother!
DLOW: And it did it, by the grace of God. He’s in control, man. He made it happen for us, for sure.
Bekoe: Platinum recording artist, at that … Take us back to the time when you noticed that bopping and dancing was gonna make a breakthrough for you.
DLOW: I think I knew bopping was gonna be crazy when we created Team Fiesta. Team Fiesta was just an organized group of kids. We were 17, 18, 19, 16, just getting up and dancing. Dancing, making videos, just wanting our presence to be felt in unison. We all just turned up and loved each other. That was the time I knew we had something special, just for this many people to be intrigued, this many people to be locked in, this many people to be so passionate about the same thing. That was it. That was it.
Bekoe: Whose idea was it to create Team Fiesta?
DLOW: It was … my friend at the time, name was Lamont. It was him and this guy named Tay. It was only two of them, at first. So then I got involved, it was three of us. And then from that three, it became 12. From that 12, it became 50. From that 50 it became 200. It just expanded … it was crazy, bro. It was crazy.
Bekoe: I remember those times too. Y’all was flooding y’all’s colors: red, white and blue.
D: You know, that unity. That’s it. That’s it. That’s all we was trying to push: unity. We can get together as young, Black and brown kids and don’t hurt each other. Have no negativity, no fights. We gonna go to parties, we gonna throw our own parties, we gonna shut off the blocks and just have a big dance party in the middle of the blocks.
Bekoe: What we call it?
Both: Fifi! [Both laugh]
DLOW: Yes, sir. It was just something new for the culture, man. It was amazing.
Bekoe: Now, let’s fast forward a little bit. Because you spoke on unity … Do you see that in today’s time?
DLOW: Not as much. I feel like, nowadays, it’s so much judgment and so many expectations. And people lose their self trying to live up to them expectations, instead of being their self. Instead of just being thankful for the way God gave them life, and live that life God gave them they try to fit in everybody else’s universe … Don’t make no sense, but we’ve lost that unity. But we’re taking steps into getting it back … We’re doing the dirty work to bring us back together collectively.
Bekoe: And you have been taking some major strides on keeping that unity alive. I’m thinking about, too, back then, how even in the podcast I played, [the Storytelling Workshop piece from Summer 2013,] how they were calling bopping a “lane.”
Bekoe: I love how … you took the crown of that and made it fun. And you made a lane for it, you and [Lil] Kemo, as well. I remember seeing you guys in videos, before TikTok had the dance challenges, you all were doing that. People would send you songs, and you would dance to the songs to help put a spotlight on the songs. People don’t know that you were the, honestly, like the first to do choreographed challenges … before now.
DLOW: Yes, sir.
Bekoe: And now the time has come where you’re still doing that. Knowing that “bopping” has changed your life, how are you looking to … continue to change these kids’ lives?
DLOW: I’m just present. I’m really one of the ones that’s doing the work, that’s really healing through doing, with the programs I’m running, with the foundation I got with my MZUZI store, with the foundation I got with META24. We’re actually doing the dirty work. We’re actually creating jobs. We’re creating young entrepreneurs, we’re creating the next generation of geniuses, through just doing. Teaching them how to do their own personal health care line … They can build and create soaps and candles and bath and body bombs and essential oils. Or we got 3D printers, laser printers in our store, where they can come do any 3D graphic they want, bring it to life, anything. We got merchandise, shirts, hoodies, sweaters that they create, their own clothing line.
And this is worldwide, we’re not just doing this in Chicago; we’re doing this in New York and Detroit and Milwaukee. We got five stores open across the nation. We really present, we really showing them a way. And we’re not doing this outside our communities, we’re in the community. My MZUZI store’s in the heart of the West Side. The heart. Where still violence, where still anything that we’re all trying to run from, but we’re not running. We’re creating the resources, and we’re putting it right in their face. We’re helping kids improve with their math, reading science skills. I got a DLOW Camp for the summer, a dance camp, but it’s more than just dance, I’m teaching them all the qualities of everything that’s in my store. We’re trying to really shift the perspective, and we are in control of the narrative.
This narrative that we’re painting right now is: You don’t have to be a statistic, you don’t have to be a follower. You can choose your own path, and we give you the resources to choose your own path. And that’s what MZUZI is about, that’s what META24 is about, and I just want everybody that’s listening, everybody across the world and know: We are present, we are right here. And we’re accepting. Anybody that’s not in school, anybody that’s struggling, throughout the summer, come be with us. We’ll help you improve in every aspect of that. Any adults that don’t have an outlet. It’s not just for kids, any adults, you want to become your own business owner, you want to … learn construction, we do workforce development programs. We have everything set up for the culture, for our people. For anybody that needs help, we ought to help.
Bekoe: That’s what I love to hear. We’re going to tap back into this conversation about MZUZI, as well as META24. Before I get into this break, let me give you a hand clap for that, first and foremost. Because you’re putting some solid work in, over from an area I’m from.
DLOW: Appreciate you, bro
Bekoe: Before we get into this music break, though, I gotta ask you — how did you become known as “Bop King”? How do you earn that title?
DLOW: It was hard, can’t cap to you. It was hard. But I felt like I’ve earned a title of “Bop King” because of the consistent work I put in. And I feel “Bop King” is more than just the dancing. I became “Bop King” because of who I am to the community, who I am to the kids. Like I said, bopping is more of a lifestyle than it is a dance. And it’s so cringy when I say it, when I speak about it to people, because they look like, “No, no, that’s just a dance.” But the foundation of DLOW — DLOW became DLOW from bopping, the acronym: “Determined, Loyal, Optimistic, Willing to learn.” I created that through bopping, what I was going through, what I was experiencing, and it helped me ultimately figure out the characteristics I felt I needed. That’s what bopping is, I became the king of bop because I’m the king of helping you find a direction. Even if it puts me in a position where I got to suffer, I’m okay with suffering, because God got me. I just want to make sure whatever direction you got, we make sure it makes sense for you, and we figure out who you are in the process of building that. I feel like that’s why I’m the “Bop King.”
Bekoe: We briefly spoke on MZUZI. But before we tap into more of MZUZI, I actually want to jump into META24. Because, to my knowledge, META24 is where a lot of things took place for you, a lot of blessings came your way, joining META24. Can you break down what META24 is for everyone?
DLOW: META24 is basically a non-for-profit. The founder of META24 created a curriculum that helps improve math, reading, science skills, the whole nine. Really, it was created to help learn what sustainability is. This program has built labs all across the world to help kids learn how to be entrepreneurs, learn, “How do we monetize our craft? How do we get paid for the things that we love doing?” Which is one example, once again, making candles, making bath and body bombs, making pillowcases, making whatever you think of. Anything you could think of right now, as an entrepreneur, and you want to go after it, we make it. We help you understand what it is, we put together business plans for it, it’s the whole nine yards.
Bekoe: A whole program!
DLOW: A whole program, man.
Bekoe: It’s entrepreneurial opportunities.
DLOW: We really try to teach the importance of ownership. So, of course, we can get grants and stuff like that. But we’ve been able to sustain META24 and MZUZI through really selling the products that the kids make. That’s where the money comes. If we do end up getting grants, anything, we push it right into the school — get another teacher, get more help, or whatever it is to make the program really vital for these kids.
Bekoe: How were you even introduced to META24?
DLOW: I attended the school. I dropped out of high school my junior year, became DLOW. But then, when I became DLOW, I couldn’t find a school or a place where I was going to be treated like a regular person. So I ended up finding META24. It was located inside the school called Banner on the West Side of Chicago, right in my neighborhood, right across the street from where my auntie stayed, right where we used to shoot videos in the parking lot of that school. And I went there. They gave me so much knowledge, so much love, so much family, but so much push. And I graduated, I got my high school diploma through them … And from there, I was always in and out of the program, always welcomed with open arms, always had an outlet, a foundation. But, you know, DLOW was DLOW, and I was traveling a lot. But now I’m more focused on the educational aspect of life. I’m more focused on being hands-on with the youth, I’m more focused on just really healing through doing. Really being present. So I’m like 100% invested into META, and really showing what this is. Because I know this program, this curriculum will help change generations and generations and generations to come. That’s how I got involved, that’s what it is.
DLOW is an acronym; it stands for “Determined, Loyal, Optimistic and Willing to learn.” Rakim Winfert for Vocalo Radio
Bekoe: Because we’re talking about change, what did you learn about yourself that changed you, from joining META24?
DLOW: That I’m capable. A lot of my struggles in my life came from me not having the resources I needed to prevail, to be better. I got into META, and I got all the resources I need. All the resources I need to be great. Ideas I had that I never knew I could bring to life, I brought to life. I had a clothing line I started called Optimistic. I didn’t know how to start a clothing line or the logistics, the numbers, how to come up with a business plan. META24 taught me that. I put a halt on it because, of course, DLOW, but we back at it right now, again. I’m back, I’m still present in the program; the program still is teaching me, to this day. I’m still getting knowledge, I’m still learning. As I’m working, I’m involved, I still get knowledge, that’s what we get. That’s what we give. You don’t have to stop everything you doing just to focus — we’ll help you maintain a lifestyle where everything is possible.
Bekoe: I got to transition it to MZUZI. First and foremost, that name is interesting. Can you break down the name first? Why did you know you all considered MZUZI to be the name of the store?
DLOW: It’s Swahili for “innovate.” And it’s just the lifestyle. I get this question a lot, and I feel like I go so many different directions with my answer, but MZUZI is just a lifestyle. It’s innovation. It’s a safe space for you to come create, come just express, come and just get all the knowledge you need to maintain and sustain life. That’s the easiest way I can put it.
Bekoe: With it being known as “innovate,” you’ve been innovating and recreating yourself, still remaining to be yourself throughout these years. With the kids being part of things, how have you been innovative for the kids? I know you said you got … the bath wash, the arts and crafts. What’s helping them become more innovative outside of that aspect?
DLOW: I really can’t take credit for what they do. Because the drive, the ambition, the hunger that they have is internal.They come, they show up, they make it an obligation to create, to sustain it. They do all the dirty work themselves. I’m just there like, “You can do it. I’m right here, look at me, take my story as an example.” And then I’m an accountability partner, I’m holding them accountable. Like, “Gotta be done.” I just want to give a special shout out to Dr. Prince. That guy, man. Look … God do certain things and be putting certain people in certain positions, but that guy has been changing kids’ lives for the last 15 years, consistently giving, helping [and] most importantly, teaching, just pushing these kids to the limit. Because when they don’t got it, they don’t get it from home, they don’t get it from school, they give up. But then you meet people like Dr. Prince, and he puts you in a position, in the direction you need to go just to be great in life.
Bekoe: And you said, I’m MZUZI and META, it’s not just Chicago, it’s spreading. Again, let people know the additional locations that’s available, and let people know how students can get involved as well as how adults can get involved.
DLOW: Like I said, we’ve got locations in Detroit, we got locations in New York, Milwaukee, and the significant thing about it is we’re building more. More stores, more labs, in different schools and different places around, and it’s only gonna get bigger. Trust and believe it’s only gonna get bigger. And you can come be a part of this, even if you don’t want to take the courses, if you’re not interested in being involved, you can donate. We take donations. Come by, go online and purchase the products the kids are producing. And if you do want to get involved, you can go on the website. Go on the website, we give our different courses, tell you the different things you get in these courses, and whatever that best suits you, best fits you, lock in. It’s on my Instagram, the link is in my bio, follow me on all social media @IamDLOW. Follow MZUZI at @ChuzMZUZI, and lock in, man. We’re creating something that’s gonna change your life, help you change your kid’s life, help your kids’ kids’ life be changed, and just build generational wealth. Take advantage of this, man, take advantage of it. We ain’t going nowhere. It ain’t no limit, we’re here to stay, but take advantage of it, man. This is a “welcome” to any and everybody that’s interested.
Bekoe: I got to ask you, man, you got to say the website. You said it’s in the link in the bio — man, you better spit that website out so people can visit!
DLOW: Chuzmzuzi.com. It’s for the online store. Y’all go shop, man, go lock in with us. We’re doing some great things, and I know y’all want to be involved, so just be present. Be involved.
Bekoe: And that voice you heard all the way in the background, that was Dr. Prince.
DLOW: Shoutout to Dr. P, man. Y’all know, he with me, it’s some good stuff going on.
Bekoe: Like I said, man, you’ve been doing some impressive things. IG been going crazy. How has the support been so far? Have you seen an impact since you’ve been posting things, in support of the MZUZI?
DLOW: Yeah, it’s been amazing. It’s been overwhelming to see the love and the support people are showing me … I posted a video of me explaining the store, that video had 200,000 views, and people sharing it, but it was just like this is the satisfaction I get. At first it was just DLOW dance and dance, dance, dance, dance. Go, do a show, leave the show. No knowledge, no direction, no outlet. Now, I have my “Why.” Like, you’re here, you’re present, you’re turning up, giving them a show, but why are you doing this? Here is my “why”: MZUZI, META24 is my “why,” now I have that “it” factor. Now, it’s just not me going to dance and turn up, take pictures and letting them go and live the life that they’re not comfortable with, live a life that they don’t understand. Now I got an outlet. I’m here, you’ll see me, I’m on stage rapping, turned up. But look, you see these lights up here? You can create these lights. You see the background, all the imagery that I got? You can do this. You see the DJ? You can do this. You see my shirt? You can make this shirt! I have a reason, I have a direction. And that’s the best part of all this, for me. Now, I got something that I can give back to the community, back to our people, back to all these broken homes, all these broken environments. Now, we have the resources, so that’s the best part for me.
Bekoe: I’m happy you didn’t … Some people, they get on, they become a platinum recording artist and they dip. Nah, not you. You stayed right here …
DLOW: Every step of the way…
Bekoe: And I love it, my brother, and … before we get into your single, too. You ever thought about having kids? I feel like you would be an amazing father.
DLOW: Yeah, man, but it’s in God’s timing. The right woman gonna come about, then he gonna make it happen the way he need to make it happen. But …I want me a decent amount of kids, though. If I find me a wife, we gotta go. We gotta keep going.
Bekoe: Keep that legacy going!
DLOW: We’re gonna teach our kids, we’re gonna love them, we’re gonna let God guide and we’re gonna teach them who God is, but I need a few. I need me a few, I can’t cap.
Bekoe: “DLOW Dhuffle. 3.0” is out right now. This ain’t the first time, ain’t the second time, it’s the third time. “DLOW Shuffle” was a major success for you, but what makes the “DLOW Shuffle 3.0” different?
DLOW: I feel like “3.0” is the new lifestyle, the new direction. I’m just trying to really express that, no matter how much life tries to bring you down, don’t be submissive to it. It’s gonna take you time after time after time, but that one time, when you really get it and you really understand, it’ll work. Right now, in my opinion, I just feel like we living life right now, and God is putting us through these situations to prepare us for the afterlife. So everything we’re doing right now is for knowledge. Knowledge purposes only. So me, going through “DLOW Shuffle” was for knowledge, losing it all, doing “Do it Like Me,” knowledge “DLOW Shuffle, Pt. 2,” knowledge, even this, right now. I’m not putting all my eggs in the basket on “DLOW Shuffle 3.0,” it’s just my love. This is my baby, soI nurture it, and I provide it what it need, and I let it grow and I let it blossom. But it don’t stop there for me. My mind is in a different place, I’ve grown mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially. I walk different. I’m strategically putting my life in order now. I’m not just living free, I’m not living for me no more. I keep saying it and I’m gonna have to keep saying it, God is in control. God is in control, and he’s directing me down my path. I’m just trying to get people to understand, it doesn’t stop when you think he does. Have faith in yourself, have faith in God and use the DLOW method. Be determined, be loyal, be optimistic and be willing to learn. And the rest is history. You can’t lose from that. Accept your flaws.
Bekoe: Love how you put that together. You’ve been pushing that for some time
DLOW: I’ve been pushing that for some time, and what I really noticed — and this is something that we as a people have to notice. We do things and we go through things and we try to complement other people. It breaks us, and when we get broken, we don’t have a direction, we don’t understand, and then them same people come back around us. And I live by this quote, and Imma conclude it with this, “Whatever you going through in life, however you going through it, just understand you might not know.” It might not make sense, but God is fixing you in front of people that have broken you. God is letting you understand: yesterday is history, tomorrow is the mystery but today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present, so we got to cherish that present.”
Bekoe: That’s deep.
DLOW: That’s what its about. You got to live life every day happy. Sometimes it gets hard, but you got to brush that off, keep it going and just move. Move with faith and move with love. And that’s what I’m trying to teach with this “DLOW Shuffle 3.0.”
Bekoe: You gotta teach me the dance, alright!
DLOW: I got you.
Bekoe: Off-air I’m gonna try and have you shake some of this rust off my bad knee, so we gonna see how this works out, okay?
DLOW: No, I got you. I know you got some moves in you, bro.
Bekoe: I got a little something.
DLOW: You from out West, bro!
Bekoe: I can get my one, two step on, but I’m finna get my “DLOW Shuffle” on now, man. I got “3.0” loaded up, let people know who produced this record.
DLOW: My man Mike Will produced this, it’s an amazing record, it’s turnt up. Shout out to Will Mass for the video. Thank you, that was amazing. And just shout out to everybody that was involved. Shout out to Dr. Prince, again. That’s my guy, man. Thank you for your support with this video. And just shout out to the whole DLOW nation, the whole Chicago, everybody in the world we turned up. “DLOW Shuffle 3.0,” baby boy, you better turn up!
Introduction written by Omi Salisbury
Interview and audio production by Bekoe
Video editing by Bekoe, filmed by Rakim Winfert
Photography by Morgan Ciocca and Rakim Winfert
Transcription and editing for length and clarity by Omi Salisbury and Morgan Ciocca
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