Chaz French has been making subtle waves in the D.C. hip-hop community for the last few months. He performed at D.C.'s Broccoli City Festival back in April, and he's released a few songs including "Came Down," "YNN," and "LMGLML" featuring GoldLink in anticipation of his debut EP Happy Belated, which we're premiering today.
As expected, the tape is full of bangers, most notably "Came Down," "Erryday Stuntin" featuring Eddie Vanz, and "The Sh!t," which all provide a potent rush of adrenaline that will make you want to jump up and mosh. However, what's most surprising about Happy Belated is his honesty. Rather than flex for 13 songs, Chaz is extremely introspective. On "Primavera" he rhymes about his relationship with his baby daughter and her mother while on "Intro" he opens up about his alcohol abuse and addiction. He's not scared to let the world see his flaws. So what if it's his debut EP? We spoke to Chaz about the project, putting his daughter on the album art and more, below:
What music influenced you growing up?
I'm not someone that can say I grew up on old school hip-hop, or that I grew up listening to certain rappers that people might normally reference. My household was strictly gospel music, so by the time I was old enough to really do what I wanted and listen to what I wanted, I was into Kid Cudi and Kanye West, of course, as well as Outkast. Also, Lupe Fiasco was a heavy influence growing up, and early Wale stuff was major for me at that time. I like to listen to a lot of old school R&B records, too.
How has D.C. made an impact on your music?
I can honestly say that by the time I really started to take rap serious, I was living in Texas for a period of time, so there's a few influences in my music that were drawn from the culture down there as well. But D.C. is home and just a part of me by nature. People tend to say I really don't sound like a "D.C. rapper," whatever that means. Yet the scene here in D.C. is really changing, and lately I've been receiving a lot of love from the area, so that's the important thing.
How did you end up homeless?
Me being homeless was a pride thing and being-young thing. I left home because I felt like no one supported me at the time, so I had the whole, "Fuck everybody, I'mma get it on my own attitude," but it back fired and it got to the point where it was REAL! I really wasn't ready or mature enough to face the world alone and I saw the results. But I honestly learned so much from that experience I actually thank god that I went through that situation, because it really played a big part in Happy Belated.
What made you want to start rapping?
I've always been into music. I started out playing the drums, and then I guess I grew out of that phase. One day, I got in trouble when I was like 7 or 8 and they told me I couldn't go outside for like a week, and at that age going outside was life. So I was I sitting in my room furious at my parents and I just started writing "raps" about how I felt about the situation, and every since then I just been rapping. I know that sounds lame but fuck it.
How did you meet GoldLink and what's your relationship with him like, personally and musically?
Well, my manager was telling me I should check out this guy from the area cause he was dope as fuck and he thought that it would be tight if him and I worked together. So of course I'm like, "Yeah, aight. I guess, whatever, I'll check him out." Until I eventually ended up on YouTube searching for this GoldLink guy, and I think this is when "When I Die" had just dropped, which is actually one of my favorite songs. Needless to say, I was like bro, this nigga is a beast, and decided to reach out to him on Twitter and ever since then we just been bros. Like we are not just homies because we both do music, we didn't have to ever do a song and that wouldn't change anything. We both work kind of the same, so if there's a record I feel like he would do or vice versa then it just happens organically. Otherwise, we just kick and do "rapper shit." [Laughs]
Your daughter is a character throughout Happy Belated, specifically on "Primavera." Why did you decide to put her on the cover?
Akai, my daughter, is God's gift to me, and I feel like she's what kept this process going, so it was only right... My drive to provide a better life for her is all I need to endure anything. Plus she's beautiful... Why not? [Laughs]
What song on the project means the most to you and why?
That's a tough question... The entire project means everything to me, but if I had to say, I guess I'd say the "Intro," because it was the root of it all, it's where Happy Belated began. I'm taking you through a time where, at that point, I didn't even know if I would be here talking to you today.
Is there a statement you're trying to make with this project?
Not so much of a statement; more so a form of encouragement to people that are going through or may have gone through some of the things that I have. I just want people to live the life they dreamed of, and not try to live up to other people's expectations. You can make it out of any struggle. The struggle isn't always a bad thing - so much positive can come out of it. That's why I call it struggle rap [laughs].
What's the meaning behind the title Happy Belated?
I feel like my music is my contribution or gift to share with the world, and it's taken a lot of sacrifice, struggle, and time to get it out. No matter how long it took, I'm here to share the gift with the world. When you give somebody a gift later than it was expected, we say Happy Belated.