Ethiopian American Producer, Heno. takes us home with "TEKLE"

Ethiopian American Producer, Heno. takes us home with "TEKLE"

cover image
creative direction + design by
Nick Francis
photography by
Andrew Kodama


The nomad spends his days searching for greener pastures— finding fertile land wherever he can. His goals are rather simple: find and grow. Find what others might’ve missed and grow what many couldn’t. He plants himself for only a season and takes his harvest with him to new lands. It is common practice in Ethiopian culture to give your child two names: your birth name given to you by your parents and your Baptist name given to you by the Church.

Ethiopian American producer/artists Yihenew Belay ( Heno. for short ) was anointed with the name, “Tekle Haymanot” after the Ethiopian Saint with his namesake. Tekle’s life purpose was to spread the word of God throughout the several villages he passed through. Heno. is the physical embodiment of Tekle— a nomad who uses his gifts to make the world a better place.

Originally from Takoma Park, Maryland, Heno. spends his days traveling— connecting with local artists, planting chord progressions and beat patterns into fertile land and growing music to feed the masses. Heno’s latest project, “TEKLE,” the first beat tape in a three-part series where Heno. demonstrates various stylistic compositions and feature artists hailing from cities of significance to represent the people, music, and culture that he loves— the first as an ode to the DMV. We spoke to Heno about music acting as his North Star, the making of the “DMV” portion of Tekle, and his life purpose.

Tekle is available on Bandcamp, Soundcloud and Youtube.



photography by Andrew Kodama

photography by Andrew Kodama

On why music is his North Star

Production was always something I was fascinated by but never saw myself as a producer until moving to California. I always made beats before but there's a big difference between making beats here and there and producing records with artists. Understanding song structure, arrangements, progressions, and music theory is something I never knew the technical terms for but the desire alone made me push myself to learn it. I've always felt like music has been a way for me to articulate emotion/mood better than words can.

I moved to California a few years ago because of my need for a new start elsewhere. I was getting into some crazy things growing up and it was music that really proved itself time and time again that would ultimately save me from falling victim to dumb sh*t. It'd be picking between a studio session or a "ride" with the older homies. Every time I picked the studio, I'd avoid a night of someone going to jail or getting into a fight at a hookah bar, someone getting stabbed/shot, someone getting killed/robbed, etc. Not only that but being a first generation Ethiopian American is tough when your parents don't understand how we, unfortunately, had notoriety in our neighborhood to the point where the local police knew us by name. They've broken into my house unlawfully, searched with no warrants/probable cause, would pull me over constantly, harass and even beat me, pull out guns, etc.

Music has been, and is, my vehicle to living the life that I desire over at Point B. I'll get there in time but at least I know I left Point A if that makes sense. The number of trials and tribulations I’ve faced and the fact that I'm still here tells me that I’m here for a purpose and I will push and strive towards my goals by any means.

On the makings of “TEKLE”

People know that I’m the type of person that will pull up on you— I used to have a big Mac desktop that I would carry and I would go to studio sessions and pull it out. Niggas would be like yo you really just be traveling with this big ass desktop I’m like yeah I would make beats on the spot. I can’t do that email shit.

For this first part of the series (DMV), I had 3 features on this 10 track project that each bring something different to the table. I wanted to showcase artists that I support and enjoy the music of, who are all drastically different (sonically speaking) and show how I can make a project where they can all do them to their fullest and it all makes sense. If I were to start any kinda series like this, I wanted to start at home where it obviously all started.

This will be a three-part series highlighting the 3 places that mean the most to me with artists I like in these areas respectively: the DMV, Oakland, and LA. Some of the features include:

Soduh, ASAP MOB/Marino Infantry signee, is someone who's been making a lot of noise outta Baltimore with a heavy trap sound (features on Pharmacist)

Kassim, A soulful lyrical rapper who preaches self-love and more representing PG County, MD who's a first generation Nigerian American (features on Poetry In Motion)

Knyves Escobar is a rising soulful & multifaceted Latinx R&B singer/cellist outta Montgomery County MD/ Washington DC area who's first gen from El Salvador (features on In Dead Silence)

On his Purpose

I didn’t see myself making it past 21 the way I was living and now I feel like I know what my purpose is. I feel hella grateful that I figured it out early. I know niggas who have never left Maryland. When I’m blown I remind myself that at least I know what I’m doing. It gives me a sense of purpose. I feel like I’m 50 for real. I’m a creative that uses my platform to speak on moments in my life that I know others can relate to. I deal with mental health stuff and societal sh*t, but in that I know my purpose is to uplift others and let them know sometimes you’re not ok. And that’s OK.

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