Interview: Meet Crunkstep King Crizzly

“What you do [for Crunkstep], is you put on your gold shoes, you get your Sprayground backpack, you put the shades on, you hit the club up, you put your fist face on, and you just get hyphey. You put your two hands in the air and you just rage” -Crizzly

Throw your hands up for Crunkstep’s captain. Chris Marshall, a.k.a. Crizzly, rocks a gold chain and a “money stacks” Sprayground backpack – the swagger of a Kanye, but missing the arrogance. In fact, Crizz is eerily relaxed on the private ferry ride back from playing to the packed crowd at Governor’s Island last weekend. You wouldn’t think the 22-year-old producer just closed out for big-league producer, R3hab, played 14 shows in 14 days and just reached 100,000 fans on Facebook.

As mainstream radio makes dance music sound more and more homogenous and un-inspired, it is musicians like Crizzly who push genre-barriers aside and carve out their own niches within EDM. VIBE sat down with the crunk-dubstep-rap innovator to talk Warped, crunkstep, and of course, Lil B.

Crizzly’s 100,000 Fan Mixtape: “Crunkstep Vol. 2: Back to Da Streets”

VIBE: How’s the Warped tour been going?
Crizzly: It’s been incredible. I can’t even describe how awesome it is. It’s been the best experience as far as touring goes, I’ve loved every minute of it.

I know you played in Chicago this morning. What’s it like hopping on planes and playing multiple shows/festivals a day. Exhausting? Fun?
It’s different because I’m on a bus now so I’m not exhausted. Being on a bus tour makes it a thousand times easier. I can just crash on the bus and have a ton of more downtime. It’s just way more convenient on the road. It doesn’t feel like a big deal, you get a rhythm of it. It’s my life now, I chose it, it’s awesome.

What’s your favorite show been this summer?
EDC New York, for sure. Something about New York, everyone felt the vibe. For some reason I closed out the night…well I guess I closed out the night tonight, maybe I should get used to it [laughs]. But it still feels weird playing in front of that big of a crowd, it just feels amazing. The New York crowd was so welcoming.

You’ve been crowned “The King of Crunkstep.” I mean you basically coined the term. For the people reading this that don’t know, what is crunkstep? What are you doing?
What you do, is you put on your gold shoes, you get your Sprayground backpack, you put the shades on, you hit the club up, and you put your fist face on, and you just get hyphey. You just put your two hands in the air and you just rage.

So what about the actual music? How would you describe the genre?
It’s dubstep, it’s loud music, a lot hip-hop. I had really mixed taste while I grew up, I was listening to Depeche mode and Ramstein at the same time. Like it was nothing, I had a Ibiza CD too.

So far you’ve only done remixes, are there any plans to officially collaborate with rappers in the future?
Definitely. I met with this dude, a hip-hop DJ, in Texas. And he’s been super open to the idea of hooking it up with a big time rapper because he knows everyone so he’s all into that idea so it’s just a matter of time.

Who would you want to work with?
I’m gonna have to pick a few. Maybe French Montana, definitely Future. I love Meek Mill, and obviously Jay-Z and Kanye. Big Sean….. Lil B! That’s my answer. That’s who I want to work with [Laughs].

Have any of the rappers, like Waka, Macklemore, Lil Flip, A$AP, that you’ve remixed hit you up and said they liked your remix?
I know Flocka has heard that one. And I know Lil Jon was playing it for awhile because he DJ’s. Lil Flip hit me up after that one remix and we did a string of shows together and it was awesome because it’d be my last song, and he’d come out and sing the verse on the breakdown and then would just go into his set.

I noticed you played a lot of trap and hip-hop in your set. What do you think the direction of EDM is going merging with hip-hop and becoming more popular?
It’s just becoming mainstream. Hip-hop has been on the forefront of music for at least 20 years. But yeah, I’ve always noticed that dance never really went to hip-hop realm for the longest time, and then trap got huge, and that’s what is being pushed at the hip-hop scene right now. It’s just a matter of bringing in new sounds to EDM and whatever is in the mainstream is gonna be brought into EDM at some point or another.

How are people reacting to all this hip-hop you’re playing?
For me, it felt right playing at the end of the night tonight because for one it’s hip-hop, you can kind of bob your head to it, and just kind of chill out to it. But yeah they react to it differently every time. Tonight was a tough crowd because it was a house crowd but usually people just are in the mood to get down, like for Warped tour for example. They have no idea what’s going on but there’s a mosh pit every single time. It’s just about the right state of mind and the attitude. And everyone is open to hip-hop so it usually just goes down.

People are starting to criticize dance music for starting to sound all the same. How do you combat this and stay true to your own style and stay unique?
Honestly for me, it’s kind of hard to open up ableton and not do what I want initially. And whatever I end up doing turns into my own unique style. It’s not a conscious thing I just open it up and I do what I do and it ends up sounding loud and annoying at first then I tweak it and then it sounds more like my stuff. To keep it interesting I add hip-hop because not many people are doing that still. And as long as I have hip-hop it sort of fits the mold. Trap is definitely taking over now but I still feel like it’s missing that hard hitting bass – it’s missing harder shit.

You just dropped “Crunkstep Volume 2: Back to Da Streets” for reaching 100,000 fans on Facebook. What about this mix is getting it back to the streets?
It’s just about being on the grind, and that’s what this whole Warped tour and Festival tour has been about, just getting into the zone. I’m trying to buckle down and finish up a lot of projects I have going on right now. I’m doing a lot of re-edits of my older tracks just to play them out because they’re more trap and festival friendly. I have some original stuff in the works I’m just putting it on hold until I finish up all these remixes.

You’re co-headlining a fall tour with Figure. You guys have very similar styles, is a tour with him something you guys have always wanted to do?
It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. We played a bunch of shows together, we have the same style but completely different it’s weird. We both play drumstep which is one of my favorite genres to make it’s like drum and bass but half time. I remember on soundcloud I had my track up, and he was one of the first DJ’s to hit me up and he commented on it. I was like woah that’s awesome was awesome that he was out there listening to music like I was. And it’s crazy how we’re going on tour now finally, it’s a really big honor because I definitely looked up to him when I started making this stuff because he’s one of the innovators of drumstep in the first place.

Who are guys you look up to?
Diplo for sure. I remember bumping into him at my first EDC in Vegas. I felt like I won a prize or a giveaway. I didn’t honestly feel like I deserved to be there, but somehow I ended up playing Vegas, had an opening slot, and just you know, it was an honor. That was my opportunity to go meet people and spread my name if I could. I didn’t shove it down people’s throats or anything, but like I made a bunch of USB sticks and talked to each producer individually and told them how much they influenced me.

If you weren’t producing what would you be doing?
I’d probably still be working at Wal-Mart. I don’t know I’d probably just be playing acoustic guitar in my room and just jam out while going to school studying sound engineering or something. Working in front of a mixer or something like that.

What’s one thing you don’t leave the house without on tour?
My gold chain.