In music, there are moments that will often be imitated but never truly duplicated. Ever. For some, it was the simple joy of digging in the crates for that one old school sample that hip-hop's golden age was built upon. For others, the first Walkman your parents bought you for Christmas to bump the mixed CDs you learned how to burn was the ultimate win. Or maybe miming through countless MySpace Music Players for the next big thing was your more your speed. Any way you look at it, the millennial generation is being brought up in a world where you store music and just about everything in an imaginary cloud, so that should tell you all you need to know about where the musical landscape is headed.
Contrary to public belief, the Internet’s coolest kid has his own personal gripes about the evolution of the World Wide Web and how music has changed because of it. If Chuck Inglish had his way, the Internet only would act as an accessory. "It should be used like the little walkway in the airport. You can use it. It can help you out and sh*t but you don’t have to," he tells VIBE. "That’s kind of how I would like the Internet to be with my music. You can get there on the Internet but, you could just walk there too."
But this isn't a diss to the same place that made him and his Cool Kid partner, Mikey Rocks, stars. Of course, with time, all things evolve. While serving as one half of the Chicago rap duo, Inglish revitalized hard-knocking boom bap and bass as well as the eccentric streetwear of the late '80s and early '90s to present-day timeline users. Coincidentally, Chuck has always been pretty much 10 steps ahead of the crowd, pioneering today's new wave of artistry fueled by URL links and SoundCloud streams in 2007. Chuck has been ducked off in sunny California for the past year, gearing up to challenge the status quo. (Here's a hint: he's staking his spot in the industry as that "big brother" that Vic Mensa, Chance The Rapper and Earl Sweatshirt have all come to for advice. )
VIBE caught up with Chuck on a conference call just hours before he announced the release date of his next album, Everybody's Big Brother. Taking a quick breather from contriving sounds, he dropped knowledge on his rise during the Internet's golden age, contemporary consumerism and surviving the Internet age. –Ashley Monaé
VIBE: Your initial claim to fame was being one half of the Cool Kids. What made you really decide to go at it alone?
Chuck Inglish: It’s more of an evolutionary thing. I think we were growing up. The energy created was cool to us, but it was also, like, 'Let’s just not play it out.' I was seeing a lot of, what I would call tracing, of what we did all over the place. I didn’t want to chase that. I didn’t really plan for what we were doing to be the “it” thing of that time. Honestly, I didn’t expect what we did to blow up the way it did. I didn’t see it that far ahead.
The dissolve of the group really stemmed from going through the legal battle we had and all the efforts we put towards that. We were hindered by little missteps due to legal sh*t or things we signed that, in the end, actually hindered us from acting on a lot of opportunities. It became a sour experience, just personally for both of us, but we have such a strong friendship that that none of the negatives came between us. [Mikey] started making music on his own and I had always had dreams of producing for people and this urge to create things that only I could accompany.
You’ve been making a lot of major solo moves for the past few years. Last year you dropped your debut album.
Yeah, I started my own label too, Sounds Like Fun. I did partnership with ADA and Warner Bros. last year for the Convertibles record I did. This time, with every single thing, I’m just trying to establish my identity in full. I want to be 10 years ahead so when certain styles stop and certain things catch on and take shape, I’m always prepared for the next wave.
Do you have anything dropping from Sounds Like Fun in the near future?
I’m doing a Sounds Like Fun compilation with everyone that I’m forming on the label. It was inspired by The Neptunes' Clone album. It’s like a power team of sorts how it was Aaliyah, Timbaland and Missy, I’m trying to create that wave and keep it. Pharrell and Timbaland had these waves I grew up on, but it never fully continued due to whatever unfortunate circumstances. Those waves raised me so I’ve always been inspired to create a wave that can be infinite. That’s what Sounds Like Fun is all about. I don’t want to have to create waves that will deplete. In my case, most of the artists I work with are independent so whatever they’re going to do, they’re going to do it on their own. And when they create with me, it sounds like fun. There’s no way to end the circle.
In that same vein of Pharrell, you straddle that lane of producer/rapper. Are you going to be focusing on one more than other?
No, I just make albums. I make music; I perform music. I would say I’m a well-rounded musician. I can produce records and see others' vision. But I feel like we’re becoming a hybrid era where you can’t keep on trying to put things in a box. A lot of the bigger artists that we listen to now produce their own music and some have already been producing their own music – Kanye, of course, and J. Cole. I’ve always been that person behind the boards and behind the mic. I’ve played the producer; I’ve written a lot for other people. I just always have the idea for the song. Also, as a producer, growing up, everything Pharrell and Chad did, I paid attention to. You can’t take him away and say Pharrell wasn’t a rapper when majority of the songs that you heard him on or producing, he was the guest verse. In hip-hop culture, we have this problem with classifications. If it’s not classified or not in a box, people just don’t understand it. It’s like you really don’t have anymore options but to just adjust your views and understand that the majority of the artists coming up produce their own music, write their own music, play every instrument on the song, and still manage to be the artist. So, that’s just what the artistry is now. I’ve been that from the start.
[As a musician,] I envy the satisfaction that fashion designers get because they create something and it’s right there in their hands.
As The Cool Kids, you guys were really part of the first wave of rappers to reap the benefits of the Internet. Today, people are all about having an online presence to get their sound out. What's your current POV of the Internet?
Definitely. The Internet has expanded at least by like 20 to 50-fold. Things are just like a mosh pit. There were like four or five social networks at the time when we were using MySpace. It was like Black Planet and some other stuff. The world of sharing things, communicating, starting friendships and connections through the web was a brand new landscape. When good things were passing through [the Internet] it was a bigger news story, like if everyone was talking about three things, to hear about it was just an amazing experience because that sh*t had never happened before. Now, it’s like, “Who gives a sh*t?” That’s really the only difference. Everyone has got an Instagram page, MySpace page, Facebook page, a f*cking Tumblr page. It’s like impossible to keep up. So, I’m not really trying to play any games with the Internet. [As a musician,] I envy the satisfaction that fashion designers get because they create something and it’s right there in their hands.
Are there any ideas you have that will make sure you're not working solely for the Internet, but also catering to your audience in an engaging way? I know last year you had vinyls of Convertibles. I’ve always had this vision of an album poster. I saw Dom [Kennedy] put a billboard of his new project on Fairfax right by The Hundreds store and I thought that sh*t was so cool. I love seeing sh*t like that. It’s like when you used to see sh*t on the Internet and you thought it was cool because you had only seen it in real life. Now, we’re at a point that you only see so much stuff on the Internet that when you see it in real life, it’s like cool. So I have a plan for a little wheat paste like dope poster that you’d want to really rip down and keep. I want to bring that tangible element back to music. I’m making something and creating something and I really feel like you don’t really get the full value of being an artist because no one can actually hold your music. They can’t hold your tangible art. I envy the satisfaction that fashion designers get because they create something and it’s right there in their hands. We’re still human. You still have to grab your toothbrush to brush your teeth and sh*t. You can’t digitally brush your teeth so there are certain things that have to exist in your day-to-day that aren’t digital, but they still have to coexist with the Internet perfectly. It can’t just be more Internet and less life. That’s just my approach: if you balance them out then this world could be trippy as f*ck.
Fans waited for nearly two or three years for your debut album. Now, you're back and dropping a new LP titled Everybody's Big Brother. What sparked your urgency? It was this urge to contribute something right now and not just want attention, but making something that really took a lot. Given I started it in April and my initial plan was to make a record that was a bridge into another record that I did, I still worked things out and created Everybody's Big Brother. I actually have another album that is consecutively coming after this one that I made with The Blended Babies. It’s a collab album called Ev Zepelin and that was supposed to kind of shape out how I did things and then just given the climate of what’s happening today and how high stress media is, I wanted to make something now and see if I could really add some medicine. You know, see if I could make some shit that everyone could agree on and be like, “Yeah, that one was good.” That was the true motivation behind it. I tried to make the best thing to contribute to this year. I’m also using it as the introduction to how I’m running a label. I’m not doing it how it’s been done before.
#EverybodysBigBrother 10/2/15. A photo posted by Chuck Inglish (@oldinglish) on
You lived in a house with Flosstradumus, A-Trak, and Diplo at the start of your career, too. I can only imagine what that was like.
At that point in time, it was a big a** circle of a little culture forming. They were the DJs so I didn’t really know how old anyone was at the time. I just knew that during that whole year, Floss was kind of courting us. They took all of our sh*t and were just sharing it with everyone they were cool with. A-Trak got a hold of it, but Diplo was trying to get us first. He actually hit me up first and played our first. Alain [a.k.a. A-Trak] was just around more. At that time it was just cool to know the biggest DJs in the whole world and our friendship was on some organic sh*t because they knew about our music just by word of mouth. It wasn’t any hype sh*t. It wasn’t like they saw us on the Internet and hit us up. It was more like friend of a friend type of thing. It was a lot of cool sh*t happening. That was just the era no one will ever be able to replicate.
Did they drop any gems on you that has helped you throughout your career?
They were really diligent. Curt, to me, is a low-key genius. I will never forget, we had these mopeds and I would spend all day fixing mine. Curt’s was always in perfect condition. I remember coming back in and out of the house and he was just upstairs the whole time. He built a f*cking talk box, like a Roget Troutman talk box from scratch out of some toys – it really worked, too. He made a beat out of it within hours. That was like everyday with them. It would be some new other gadget to create music differently from certain projects that they had put together at the time. It was just cool being in a network of your peers and watching what your potential could be. I mean, I was their roommate who was just starting this ban, and they were touring all parts of the world and playing for thousands of people very night and coming back to the same living conditions as me.
Swish A photo posted by Chuck Inglish (@oldinglish) on
What can people expect from the LP?
It’s really colorful. From the intro to the outro, it was like my ideas right now. I don’t want to say its counter-emotional, but I use a lot of emotions to create a cool place in my head to escape to and chill and experience different soundscapes I haven’t really entertained. I haven’t made beats like these in a while. They have a lot of high energy but a lot of space in-between them and a lot of compositions too. I just let my brain work and I wrote to it, instead of creating an idea or how the album’s supposed to work and thinking of a feature first. 90% of the features on this album were done in my house at the time of me making the song. It wasn’t like I had to reach out. I made this with people walking in and out of my house or being in my daily life at the time of creating this project.
Out of the 12 tracks, only one song doesn't have a feature.
It’s like a cast of people on the rise that I think are really talented: Manolo Rose, Boldy James, Donmonique. 10ILLE , who was on a lot of the Cool Kids stuff, is on the first track. I’ve got Maxo Kream, Asher Roth. I’m being futuristic here, again. When I did Convertibles, no one really knew who Vic and Chance were at that time. They were just the homies. I will always believe in putting that into my records and doing records with those that I think have “it.” It’s kind of like [Dr.] Dre’s theory with The Chronic. You didn’t really know anybody on when he first put it out but it took shape. That’s where using certain talents come in handy.
We've all grown accustomed to this throwback feel to your production. Did you switch up your style or would you even say that there is such a thing as a Chuck Inglish sound?
Naw, that will never happen. There's no Chuck Inglish sound. Once you hear the album you’ll understand. For instance, the intro has nothing to do with the second song but they go well together. I produced it from several parts of my brain instead of going out and getting tons of other people. I just did it myself. I took sounds and certain songs that I always wanted to have that feeling from and added it to my album. But it’s also cool because I’m using this album as a step to get towards this place where people expect that unpredictably about my sound, where you know it’s my sound, but you don’t know where the f*ck I’m coming from. A lot of producers have a sound and as soon as they want to do another sound it seems like a reach. I just was never down for that box for anything. I always feel something different. I don’t listen to the same shit. I listen to something different everyday so I want to be able to be as free as my ears are. I feel like I’m been able to allow myself that. I have a texture, I have a color, but I don’t really have a sound. It’s a feeling for sure.