Chris Webby Wants Hip Hop To Stop Letting In Rappers Who Don’t Deserve To Be There
The art of show and prove is well embedded at the core of hip hop, or at least it used to be. Connecticut-bred rapper Chris Webby knows his bars are up to par, but he’s keenly aware that respect in the industry is something that’s supposed to be earned. Thanks to the internet, it’s much easier for rappers to squeeze into the hip hop mainstream without being thoroughly screened for both skill and substance.
“There are just so many rappers, period,” he says. “Like, just too many rappers. Social networks are great. Without social networks, I don’t know if I’d be here, but they’ve also allowed a lot of passage through.”
Although Webby’s got several album-like projects under his belt, but he’s hoping to have recruited some new believers with his debut LP, Chemically Imbalanced (Oct. 27). Instead of the album focusing on material things neither he nor his listeners have, he tackles everything from political power and saving the environment to “Dopamine” and sparking up to relieve stress.
CT’s buzzing rap poster child opened up to us about his new album, embracing (but eventually transcending) the “white rapper” label and where he fits within today’s self-indulgent rap scene.—Stacy-Ann Ellis (@stassi_x)
VIBE: You rep your state pretty hard, but it’s not a place you hear too many people coming out of. How do you feel being the flag bearer for Connecticut?
Chris Webby: It’s very cool. I think there are definitely artists that are talented out there, it’s tough to come out of a place that doesn’t really have a blueprint written for it. There aren’t really role models to follow. There’s Apathy, who’s an underground legend for sure and he’s been like a big bro to me. He’s an unbelievable lyricist but, again, he made the choice to keep it underground. So for me to try and take it to this next platform, it’s been… you hear a lot of people say “Connecticut?” But I think it’s cool. It’s refreshing. There are so many people that come out and some of them are very dope, don’t get me wrong, but it’s always refreshing to hear something new.
Do you feel a responsibility to make sure to take it to the top because of that?
To an extent. I mean, being that it’s such a relatively unknown place in hip hop. I got Connecticut tattooed across my chest. You gotta represent.
It’s inevitable that people will make the “white rapper” comparisons. How do you handle that? Do you embrace it, hate it or shy away from it?
I think there’s no shying away from it. I’m not even tan, so it is what it is. Of course I hear it all the time. In this day and age, when I was first starting to come up on the mixtape circuit it was still like a shock thing. Of course there’s Eminem—and at this point I wouldn’t even consider Eminem a white rapper, he’s in his own league—but you know, the directly post-Asher Roth era where that kinda opened the door for other people, white people, to start to hop in. I was a part of that Asher Roth time and since then in the past two or three years, it’s all over the place to the point where it’s definitely a little excessive. It’s crazy to see that. And I don’t know if everyone’s getting fully checked before they enter the building type shit. I mean, you gotta earn your stripes. This is hip hop. This is a genre of music where authenticity and skill are both so important. Credibility on the mic has always been heralded as such an important thing and in this day and age, I feel like black, white or other, a lot of people are getting through the door that don’t necessarily deserve to be there as opposed to some others.
Who are some of your main influences, be it their flow or their approach to the game?
Well, I think about it as a very specific time period where I was really starting to dabble into hip hop and learning how to do it, so the artists that I was listening to in that time period are the one’s I’d say I looked up to the most. Obviously Eminem, being the guy that allowed me to even realize that it was a possibility, and obviously he’s lyrically unbelievable. His ability to allow you to get a sneak peek of his life is… I don’t know if any other artist has quite matched that. You really feel his while family, which is amazing and a sacrifice at the same time. Hailie just graduated high school last year and I was all on her Facebook. Everybody feels like they know Hailie, it’s wild. But at the same time, in that era I was listening to a lot of Dre, Chronic 2001 is my favorite album of all time. Xzibit, Snoop, Dre, Nate Dogg on the hooks, it was my favorite era of hip hop. But I grew up listening to Fabolous when he first started coming out, D Block, Busta. This was an era where these guys were radio too and that was the dopest part because they were so lyrical. There’s always been room for Cash Money. I used to love old school Cash Money, which you might not think because I like underground stuff. There’s always been a place for that type of hip hop.
There is room for everyone, it’s just that I feel like the more braggadocios about wealth and stuff like that, which again has always been a part of hip hop, but I feel like that does really push everything else out of the spotlight. At this point, I don’t know why people want to hear about all these things that they don’t have. I come from the suburbs. I come from the middle class, so I just bring what I know. I didn’t grow up having to sell drugs to get by, but I also didn’t grow up in a mansion or anything. I just give my point of view and I think that’s way more real to people than just talking about things that they don’t have. I’d rather connect with the people. Having that connection with people where they can really relate to you is important. It’s gotta be hard for a dude like Jay Z to still try to tao into that early Jay Z because his lifestyle has changed so dramatically.
But at the same time, when some of these guys are coming out, they’re rapping about some of the same things that they don’t even have yet. Why is that hot? I don’t understand. You say something enough times and it happens. Like hey, I wanna be a rapper, but I just don’t understand why people want to hear that when people don’t have that much. It’s not a great time financially for so many people. It’s a tough world out there. I understand you need an escape sometimes, but I just don’t understand the whole concept of going to the club and throwing money. Why do you go to the strip club and waste all this money? You hear stories of people going out and throwing a hundred racks. Why is that cool? That’s a waste of money! That’s not cool. I would rather donate a hundred thousand dollars to a fucking rain forest protection thing in South America or try to clean up the oceans—I’m an environmentalist—so these are things I like. Why is charity not cool? It’s growing to be very self centered. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be on the mic like “Yo, it’s Chris Webby, I’m dope” but there’s more to it. These rappers need to be dynamic. They need to cover different grounds. It shouldn’t sound the same all the way through.
Tell us a little about what went into Chemically Imbalanced and what people can expect from it?
Chemically Imbalanced is my eleventh project and my debut album at the same time. It’s the end of a chapter and the beginning of a new one. I was on the mixtape scene for a long time, I’m sure a lot of people whether they’re familiar with my music or not have seen my name come up in various blogs. Maybe they haven’t clicked, but they’ve seen it. This is the one where it’s going to be in everybody’s faces to the point where they’re going to have to check it out. This is the one I want them to check out. This is the first body of work I can step back from, look at it and say wow, this is—without sounding arrogant and all—this is more or less as far as my capacity a pretty flawless project. And not that I won’t continue to get better, but this is so much better than everything I’ve done before. It covers so much ground and it’s much more mature. Everybody knows me as the party [guy]. Of course I still do that, I still like to party but at the same time there’s other things. Like I said, I do cover world issues like politics, climate change, things that are real. Environmental stuff gets no coverage in hip hop. I feel like no one cares. They’re wearing fur and all this and that. I’m not down with that. It’s like, just care about something. Being a rapper, you have a platform to reach so many peoples’ ears to put some positivity behind that is just enough to bring awareness to something. It’s important to do that and let people know what’s going on in my life.
There are songs that talk about how being a regular guy who’s very down to earth and humble and getting thrown into this world where most of your peers aren’t. And you’re not expected to be, and how crazy that is dealing with fans all the time. You just see yourself as Christian Webster and they see you as Chris Webby, it’s a whole ‘nother thing and it’s great. I always hang out with the fans. I stay after and sign everything, but sometimes I just wanna be Chris right now. I want to be Christian and go to the gym and get in my zone and not do the whole “Yo, what’s up? Yeah, a picture?” You know, I’m actually on the sit up machine or doing some weight work. It’s a little crazy but at the same time you can’t be mad at that. This is what we do this for. People think this life is so glamorous and like the show Entourage. There are so many sacrifices to be made. Being on tour is physically so demanding. So many people need to know that this is not one big party at the club then you record a song or two. This is a full-time thing. I don’t get to see my friends and family very much and a relationship is literally impossible. I wouldn’t even engage in a relationship with a chick, there would be no point. It’s the little things like having a routine. It may get boring but there’s some beauty in that when you’re all over the place all the time. I cover a lot of ground on this album and of course there’s still the bars and the punchlines that I came out with originally in the mixtape shit, because I’ve always been known for the punchlines. It’s cohesive.
Since this is your big official debut, do you think you were a perfectionist towards the creative process?
I was way more of a perfectionist with this. There are three interludes on there that are like skits that lead into beatbox freestyle things, because that’s how I came up. It’s a house party one, blowing rhyme one and a label office one. Just on the interludes alone, we probably spent more than 35 to 40 hours. It got down to the point where we’d be in the process of recording a song and then another anywhere from 10 to 30 hours working on that song just to make sure it’s perfect. You get those drops right, every ad lib is perfect, you put all the effects, you pin different things to different sides of the headphones. We got real scientific. And the amount of hours we put into it, if you include the recording process, it’s well over 500 hours. This was serious. I treated my mix tapes with respect. I made sure they sounded as close to albums as possible, but if something wasn’t perfect then it was like whatever. It’s free. That bar sounds a little weird but fuck it. But this is a different story. Everything had to be perfect.
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