DJ and producer Squeak, a member of Chicago’s Pivot Gang alongside rapper Saba, was shot and killed in Chicago Monday, according to a representative from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office. The 26-year-old — born Javunte Wheeler — leaves behind a devastated community of artists, friends, and family, including a daughter.
While other Pivot Gang members like Saba, Joseph Chilliams, Squeak’s older brother Frsh Waters, and MFn Melo rap, Squeak served as one Pivot Gang’s in-house producers, his moody style often characterized by dreamy, mellow soundscapes, even at their most upbeat. In June, he released his debut project, a collaboration with MFn Melo called En Route. Melo and Squeak developed a deep bond when Frsh Waters was jailed in the early 2010s. “Melo was my big brother when my big brother left,” Squeak said this past May. Squeak also contributed production to Pivot Gang’s 2019 album You Can’t Sit With Us and Saba’s breakthrough album Bucket List Project.
Squeak told the Chicago outlet The Triibe that he only began making music when Frsh Waters asked him to join his group. He became a DJ when he realized the group needed one. “I said f— it. I’ll just teach myself how to DJ and then I started getting booked,” he said. Artists and music insiders in Chicago like Chance the Rapper and Fake Shore Drive’s Andrew Barber have contributed to a stream of tributes to Squeak on Twitter. “God bless Squeak and everyone that loves him. Great man,” wrote Chance.
Pivot Gang has seen the violent deaths of two of its members now. Squeak’s En Route features late Pivot member Dinnerwithjohn, who also recorded as John Walt. Walt was fatally stabbed at 24 years old in 2017. Saba’s 2018 opus Care For Me strikingly contends with this loss.
Created by Chilliams and Frsh Waters, Pivot Gang released their first mixtape in 2013. Their name is derived from a Friends scene in which some of its central characters try to maneuver a couch up tight apartment stairs (“Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!” Ross yells). Saba told Complex the name more significantly is a reminder of progress and positivity. “Even in the Friends episode, they were moving, like literally,” he said. “So it was like Pivot, we moving.”