King Chip may have moved over 2,000 miles west of Cleveland, but the 26-year-old rapper is still the same man that grew up on 120th & St. Clair. Sure, it's a little warmer in Los Angeles, where palm trees and sunshine replace stratus clouds, but Chip's music doesn't reflect this change of scenery. His upcoming mixtape 44108 (his hometown zip code) is set to provide listeners with some of his darkest moments as an artist. You can take King Chip out of Cleveland, but, well, you know how the rest goes.
We recently spoke with Chip as he puts the finishing touches on 44108, which is due out September 4. Chip talked about the direction of his new project and detailed some of the features that listeners can expect to hear. The Cleveland rapper also talked about his plans following 44108, including his debut album Charles Worth, and what it was like to meet Michael Bolton while recording for Kid Cudi's Indicud.
Interview by Edwin Ortiz (@iTunesEra)
Just a few weeks ago I would have said that King Chip is one of the best rap artists to come out of Cleveland, but evidently I need to add actor to that title as well. What role are you playing in this movie Maul Dogs?
Yeah man, it’s a comedy, it’s a pretty dope movie. I’m one of the thug guys that works at the bowling alley. We’re like assholes, just playing a real asshole. It was fun.
You’ve been an advocate of extending your brand as an artist and an individual. Do you see yourself putting music to the side down the line to focus on acting?
I definitely could see myself involved in a film that takes so much time that I would just have to dedicate myself to that for a long period of time. When you’re in that realm, your attention has to be undivided. Depending on your role, if you got a real good role.
You’re releasing your new mixtape 44108 on September 4, and that title pays homage to the zip code of your hometown. What would you say the mission statement of this latest project will be?
I feel that I make a lot of really good music, but I have yet to make something that represents the detailed surroundings of where I grew up. A lot of my music, like Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s music, you might not be able to tell exactly what I’m saying, but you can feel the authenticity. You may hear Bone talking about East 99th Street and you have no idea what that is, but you feel the authenticity.
I have songs like that where I’m describing parts of my neighborhood where you would have to live there to understand. The people who hear that who are from there, you can only imagine the feeling that they get. Like, “Oh my God. He’s got a song with Scarface? And he’s talking about being in my neighborhood?” That’s how I felt when I listened to Bone and The Notorious B.I.G. or when Bone did a record with 2Pac. I was like, “What?” I used to ride my bike past East 99th Street all the time. East 99th is in the 44108.
That’s how I felt when I listened to Bone and The Notorious B.I.G. or when Bone did a record with 2Pac. I was like, “What?” I used to ride my bike past East 99th Street all the time. East 99th is in the 44108.
I want to touch on the artwork for the mixtape because I feel like that’s something you pay very close attention to. In the past you had covers for Gift Raps and The Cleveland Show where it was Family Guy-esque cartoon covers. Last year you put a spin on it with Tell Ya Friends and the photo of your son Cash. This time around your cover takes a very minimal approach with a black background and a highway exit. In that respect, would you say this project has a darker theme than previous ones?
Yeah, this project is very dark. Cleveland only gets about 40 sunny days out of the year and the rest are just gray stratus clouds. They’re real heavy and dark, even in the middle of the day time. That became something that I love. Then I got out here to California and people were saying, “Man, it’s a bad day” when it’s a cloudy. I’m like, are you kidding me? This is great. I don’t got that sun beaming on me, I’m so used to the gray.
Being out in Los Angeles, it really let me know how much I love where I’m from. I just wanted to write about it away from home, that way I can really miss things that I took for granted. It’s for me as well as the people. It’s kind of like my journal.
That’s an interesting dynamic. Like you said, you moved to Los Angeles a while ago and that’s a similar move that your Midwest brethren Kid Cudi did, as well as your close associate Chuck Inglish. Did that move affect your music at all?
Not at all. Even Bone, those guys have been out here for a while. Krayzie Bone lives down the street from me actually. That’s my homie, shout out to Krayzie Bone. My move hasn’t changed my music at all. I’m still the guy from 120th & St. Clair.
I have so many memories it’s like, where do I start? The possibilities are endless with making music because I’m away from all of those memories and now I can go through them easily. You know how you got lines on your hand, and when you look at the lines on your hands if you put them in your face you can’t see them? You have to pull your hands back to be able to see the lines. It’s kind of like that. Those lines on my hand are just the memories and everything else that I have. When I’m in Cleveland, they’re in my face. When you’re away, then you can see them.
When you spoke with Complex last year, you said, “I always get nervous before I drop a project." Is that still the case this time around for 44108?
I think that feeling may be going away. It’s still there to some degree, but now I think that something came over me where I don’t really worry about anything anymore. I used to worry a lot over the years. Then I had a son. When you have a son, your life changes. I think now I’m at a point where I don’t have any worries, and even in my music, I think it’s better now that I don’t worry and that way I can have fun. When you’re having fun, people attract to others having fun. If you’re not really having fun, then you’re frustrated and nobody wants to hear anybody that’s frustrated.
I bet. Having more fun also makes it more entertaining to work with other artists in the studio. Do you have any artists already lined up for 44108?
I’m definitely going to have my brother Kid Cudi a part of it, for sure. I’ve also got an amazing record with Scarface and MJG.
Amazing record. Those are the perfect guys to help tell the story of my neighborhood, because for a long period of time the music coming from Texas had a big impact on Cleveland. Those artists will tell you that, their business managers will tell you as well. I don’t know what it it was, but there was definitely a strong connection between Cleveland and Texas. Just having Scarface be a part of this project, what more can you ask for? MJG? Wow. Those guys are like Gods of the game. I also got Boldy James, he’s an amazing artist too.
Cleveland only gets about 40 sunny days out of the year and the rest are just gray stratus clouds. They’re real heavy and dark, even in the middle of the day time. That became something that I love. Then I got out here to California and people were saying, “Man, it’s a bad day” when it’s a cloudy. I’m like, are you kidding me? This is great.
Out of Detroit, yeah.
Boldy James is 90% of what these rappers say they are. The content of what they’re talking about, Boldy James did all that. You can’t get more official than Boldy James coming from Detroit, which is three hours away from Cleveland. I remember taking rides with my mentor Hawk, who has now passed, to Detroit. I didn’t ask what was in the trunk, we would just roll. He introduced me to what Detroit was all about in the deep down under. Whenever somebody told me they were from Detroit, I always showed them the utmost respect.
I also got Vince Staples, he’s from out here in California. I got introduced to his music through this one record, and his verse was just so amazing. I just like, “We got to get this guy on here.”
That’s a dope lineup for features. I know that you’ve been dabbling in producing. Are we going to hear some King Chip beats on this project as well?
Definitely, yeah. I got some equipment and Hi-Tek taught me how to engineer, so I engineer my own music. When people hear records that I release, they’re mixed by me, it’s all done by me. I don’t master, but I feel like mixing is a big part of your artistry. It’s like the part of the paintbrush that you’re using to paint the song.
With all these big tracks that you’re going to be releasing on 44108, is there one in particular that you’re really looking forward for hardcore King Chip fans to hear?
I couldn’t say I like one that much more than another, but I have a record that I shot a video to, and I’m just hoping that it does what I want it to do. It’s one of those records where it’s very detailed. I’m describing me and my surroundings, where I grew up. It’s called “Black On Black.” It feels amazing. People from Cleveland, people from where I’m talking about will definitely feel it more than anyone because they’ll be like, “Oh my God, I’m right here, right now, where he talking about.”
With 44108 dropping next month, I take it your debut album Charles Worth is on the horizon. What kind of progress have you made there?
I have some records that I have set aside for the debut album. After 44108, I’m releasing a project called Clevelafornia. that’s going to be an EP.
So Clevelafornia is still coming.
Yeah, it’s still coming. Then from there will be Charles Worth. Charles Worth, that’s my cannot and will not fail album. That will be a success. But time has to play a part in Charles Worth.
Before I let you go I have to ask this. Who’s fresher, King Chip or Michael Bolton?
Man. I would say King Chip, but Michael Bolton had on this blue sweater. I seen a picture, it was so fresh, and he had his haircut. It’s a close call, but I might have to give it to Michael Bolton. Michael Bolton is so cool. He just sat there for “Afterwards (Bring Yo Friends)” and it’s like, he did everything that we never did. Kid Cudi and I were just soaking up so much game from him. We were like, “I wish he was my dad.” Shout out to Michael Bolton. I think he definitely won the fresh contest for real.