How did the success of "I'm Awesome" lead to you signing a deal with Universal Republic in early March?
The record was played on WCYY and was the No. 1 most requested song for like a month. About three weeks into that, a Top 40 station in Portland, Maine called [WJBQ] Q97.9 picked the record up. At that point, my mixtape, We Smoked It All, was also in a local independent store called Bull Moose Music and the initial pressing sold out instantly. So there was this buzz like, 'Who is this kid?' Universal caught wind of how many spins I was getting out of nowhere and called up the radio station to try and find me. They called the record store. They even called my mom's house. [Laughs] Then they finally ended up getting my number and called me like 15 times one day when I was in class in Boston. I was convinced it was somebody trying to collect a bill because I have a lot of those random numbers calling looking for loot that I owe. So I didn't pick up. Finally, I got a text message saying who it was, called them back and they picked up the record.
It's interesting because this isn't how this is supposed to work today. Most successful artists make an impact on rap blogs first and then use that as leverage to get some kind of label deal.
Right, right. Honestly, I would have been elated to see my stuff on NahRight or something like that. If I had proceeded as an independent artist, that is probably the exact route I would have pursued. Dropped some freestyles, dropped a mixtape, and hopefully gotten some props for them. I know the formula. I'm familiar with it. Asher did it, right? But I'm really enjoying flipping the script and doing it the other way.
By bypassing the blogs, you haven't been submitted to the dreaded comment sections of some of those sites. Are you ready for the inevitable wave of hatred coming your way at some point?
I'm prepared for it. It might be different if this had happened to me when I was a stubborn 19-year-old but I'm 24 now and I know how to pick my battles. Trying to please every hip-hop head is impossible. It would be the stupidest thing I could ever do. But, you know, I was satisfied when I could go to the University of Maine and 150 kids came out to see it. So if only ten people appreciate me and my music, cool, I get it. If hundreds of thousands of people appreciate it, cool.
Thanks to your situation, it must feel a little like you hit the lottery right now. What's the biggest thing that’s changed for you in the last month?
I don't feel guilty when I buy Taco Bell anymore. [Laughs] Actually, not a lot has changed. I'm still living in the same house. I just did all the dishes and took out the trash. But it's all happened really fast in a surreal manner so I haven't had a chance to sit back and take it all in.
It has all happened pretty quickly for you.
I used to blaze a lot—and by "a lot," I mean all the time. But ever since this record deal shit happened, I find that whenever I smoke, everything hits me like a big paranoid ton of bricks. It's like, 'I'm going to be on TV and shit!' [Laughs] But as long as I stay in the moment and focus on one task at a time, I don't think I'll get wrapped up in all the nonsense. I don’t want to change. I'm actually thinking about calling my album Happy Medium. As in, 'I don't need to be large with a mansion and my exploits on the news and TMZ.' I'm happy being where I'm at right now: medium.—Chris Yuscavage