Smile Politely

C-U hip-hop is alive and well

“C-U hip-hop is at a high point right now” according to Chase Baby, a long-time local hip-hop emcee. I was able to chat with him ahead of his album release party at the Canopy Club this Saturday.

Smile Politely: Tell me about your new album The Blue Collar. What was your inspiration for this album?

Chase Baby: I got the idea for The Blue Collar in 2013 — over the first year and a half I recorded over 100 songs for it and then scrapped them all before I was able to get more focused on what I wanted this album to be… it’s a story of a person from Champaign who has to work 40 hours a week just to be broke on Friday.

I draw all of my inspiration from my own life experiences. People gravitate towards you when you rap about things that are true to your own life — this allows people that have similar experiences to be able to relate to the music in a meaningful way.

The main inspiration for this album comes from my early 20s — having no idea what is going on, constantly searching for guidance but just having trust that you are on the right path. I feel that as long as you are doing something that you want to do and you have a true passion for it then you are gonna be fine. I don’t want you to think that my entire early 20s was spent smoking weed, drinking 40s and freestyling… but it definitely was a solid percentage of my early 20s [laughing].

SP: How did you get into hip-hop in the first place?

CB: I’ve always had an affinity for music — when I was six, my older brother Tim had a karaoke machine and him and his friends would freestyle, so I hopped in and began freestyling at the age of six. I kept at freestyling for a long time… in 8th grade I got more into poetry — I learned how to actually construct a song rather than just spit off the top of my head. I put a little project out during my freshman year of high school called “Round One” that I recorded from an auxiliary microphone that I plugged into my mom’s computer — sounded horrible, it would be like if you played your iPhone inside a microwave and heard it from outside the microwave… Ended up selling it for $3, made about $300.

I was attracted to hip-hop because it was raw — there was nothing else like it.

SP: What is unique about your style? What are the main influences on your style?

CB: My versatility. On the track “Split Personalities” everyone who hears it thinks that there are three or four different people on the track but it’s just me. The track is about how whenever you make a decision there are different voices inside your head telling you what to do.

My favorite rapper is Tupac — the lyricism, the introspective parts of songwriting and wanting to question things came from him because he wasn’t just a rapper, he was also an activist. Also Eminem, because he had the audacity to just say whatever was on his mind. One of the main influences on my rapping style is Big Pun — his flow is fast as shit and he’s got crazy lyrics.

SP: You opened for Machine Gun Kelly when he came to town — what are some other memorable shows that you have been a part of?

CB: Yeah, I opened for Machine Gun Kelly when he first came to the Canopy Club a few years ago. That was an eye-opener for me, I was able to really learn how to put on a show. Since then I’ve opened for Riff Raff, Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, and others.

SP: What have you been listening to recently?

CB: I get a lot of my music nowadays off of Soundcloud because I don’t want to just hear what other people are hearing. People just make music based off of what they hear and I want to be able to get ahead of that by listening to stuff that isn’t heard everywhere. And that’s where all the waves are being made — $UICIDEBOY$, they are on Soundcloud and they are sick as hell.

SP: What is the current state of hip-hop in Champaign-Urbana?

CB: It’s not as big as it should be but it’s more alive than it’s been in a long time. It’s a lot more unified than it was – people are working together for a common goal rather than just competing to get on stage for the big shows.

A lot of people are scared of hip-hop because it’s an urban crowd and there is always some white guy in a suit somewhere saying “no… not going to book them” — it always has that cloud over it. You can have hundreds of quality hip-hop shows without any violence but if you just have that one bad show where someone gets in a fight then everyone harps on it — that’s the kind of press that Champaign-Urbana hip-hop gets.

SP: Who are some local hip-hop artists that you think deserve more attention?

CB: Truth aka Trouble is one of my favorites locally, he is one of the more versatile artists in Champaign-Urbana. TheGr8Thinkaz are a great collective, they did SXSW over in Austin, TX this year so they have been working hard. I don’t want to name too many names because I might leave people out but there are a lot of local hip-hop artists that are making waves that don’t get the attention that they deserve.

Chase Baby will perform The Blue Collar in its entirety as he headlines the album release party at the Canopy Club this Saturday. Other featured performers include Truth aka TroubleJarrel Young, and Ill State.

More Articles