Watching Saba tower over his packed New York City crowd, pouring his soul out through the speakers, it’s hard not to smile. He’s clearly doing much more than making a name for himself as an emerging artist, even in the midst of insufferable loss. The 22-year-old Chicagoan from the categorically violent West Side has been dealt a rough hand. But once his fingers tighten around the mic, he triumphantly is rewriting his story, one bar at a time. 

Saba (born Tahj Malik Chandler) stands at the center of the dimly lit stage at Webster Hall on an unassuming Wednesday evening. Bursts of booming bass, laced with chants from the crowd decorate the venue walls, as Saba punctuates the ambience with lyricism trembling through half-full plastic cups of PBR. The whole scene commands all sorts of shaky-yet-determined smartphone documentation. With a vibrant assortment of curious 20-somethings and day-one devotees taking the lead songs like “Monday to Monday,” “The Billy Williams Story,” and “World in My Hands,” it was clear that these are the exact moments Saba has been chasing.

Along with his trusty affiliates and collaborators—a close-knit group of like-minded musicians known as Pivot Gang—Saba embarked on his first-ever headlining tour earlier this year: a 19-date trek scattered with boundless reaffirmations that years of hard work are finally paying off.

“I think we had a moment every night, before the show or after the show, where we’d just be looking at each other, like damn,” Saba later reflects back home at his grandparent’s house in Illinois. “Our jaw was just to the floor from being in awe, every night, in whatever random city we’d be in.”

The promotional run for his debut studio album, 2016’s Bucket List Project, turned into a movement—with bright-eyed fans swarming Saba the second he stepped off stage, hopeful to get the opportunity to talk his ear off about what’s on their own bucket list and how his music deeply resonates with them.

Much to the delight of those in attendance, Saba stuck around, happy to listen and entertain. Even the security team in New York permitted the sold-out affair to stretch well over its allotted time so grinning, sweaty fans could get their handshakes and thank yous into the single-digit hours. With the tour’s magic indisputable, reality hit once the music fades: none of this almost happened.

Two weeks prior to hitting the road in mid-February, Saba’s cousin Walter Long, Jr.—a member of Pivot Gang who released music under the monikers John Walt and dinnerwithjohn—was fatally stabbed during a fight on the street in Chicago’s River North neighborhood.

The heart-shattering news was, at first, enough to have Saba reconsidering going on the tour entirely, something he divulged to a sea of onlookers during the New York pit stop. While running through his catalog, his raw, emotional ad-libs couldn’t completely veil the fact Saba was rhyming through heartbreak. But still he pushed on, turning the piercing pain of losing a squad member into eternal motivation to continue working toward the vision they shared.

“[The tour] was the most special thing I’ve ever witnessed in my entire life, especially because of my cousin,” he somberly admits. “Walt was supposed to be on a lot of those dates with us. We were all in a really weird emotional space. But we were so blessed to be there at all.”

While the shows were full of scenes straight out of a movie that Joseph Chilliams (Saba’s older brother), MFN Melo, and Miami’s Sylvan LaCue all experienced together, the grim reality is that they haven’t been able to properly grieve through the past few months’ calamity and chaos.

“It hasn’t really processed, since we’ve been gone so much, but it’s been the most beautiful last few months of our life, and I know Walt has everything to do with that,” Saba explains. “We’re trying to get a foundation and scholarship set up. Every day is weird but we are pushing through it. We’ll make it happen one way or another.”

Following his untimely passing, Walt’s presence hasn’t dissipated. With conviction, Saba’s actions promise it never will. Leading the audience in a memoriam chant rattling louder than some of the set list’s most passionate and catchy hooks, the Pivot Gang’s visionary leader repeated Walt’s name into the microphone until his voice began to wear. While sporting his signature beanie atop his shoulder-length locs, Saba also donned a light blue denim jacket adorned with an embroidered portrait of his cousin. With the cursive words “Long Live John Walt” beautifully stitched on the back, Saba wore the custom threads with pride, carrying the reminder that those who you love never truly leave you.

“It’s so weird to even have to think like, yeah, I am keeping his legacy alive,” Saba says, his voice tender from fighting the urge to shake in disbelief. “We played basketball yesterday and that’s how he got his name, from playing ball in high school. I do very much feel his presence in everything we’re doing.”

Saba is wise to combat every heartbreaking setback hurled at him by turning to his music. Arguably, such is par for the course for those growing up in a city that has long been tied to its reputation of being plagued by senseless violence, experiencing over seven hundred murders in 2016 alone.

“Everyday somebody you know is gone, or somebody you see every day is gone,” he says. “It’s crazy difficult to be in that and to keep to yourself in hopes that things will change.”

Despite his story being lined with loss, returning to the soft-glowing optimism buried beneath his hardships is very much an integral part of Saba’s character. No stranger to receiving stomach-churning phone calls that can permanently change his world, Saba is fully aware he hasn’t had an easy ride. But he doesn’t let his tragedies constrain him, either.

“Shit is hard,” he says. “Everyday somebody you know is gone or could be gone. The amount of shit you go through living in Chicago as a young person is crazy. It’s just a place where you never know on any day what that day is going to look like, what’s gonna happen, what call you’re gonna get.”

While Pivot Gang found inspiration for its name in a classic episode of Friends (the one where Joey and Chandler help move a brand new couch up Ross’s humorously narrow stairs), the wisdom to keep moving forward was born out of a place of survival, particularly after experiencing death.

Months before Saba released his second mixtape ComfortZone in 2014, his uncle unexpectedly passed away in his sleep, doubling as a wake up call to create with intention and urgency, further proving the mantra behind their moniker is reinforced daily. When one chapter ends, another has to begin. No person or city is exempt from that, although Saba knows Chicago may be more accustomed than others.

“Chicago is the most beautiful city that I’ve ever been to,” he elaborates, not allowing his hometown’s rough edges to detract from its potential. “I think that’s the thing that a lot of outsiders don’t get. I used to have an answer in mind regarding what the city needs. It needs so much help. But I do know there are a lot of artists in the city that are changing Chicago and saving Chicago. That’s one of the things I’m most proud of.”

The fact that the days aren’t promised was further augmented at the top of this year, when Walt called him to reveal that he survived an entire clip being emptied into the side of a car he was in. Such gut-wrenching events are etched into the increasingly common picture of what it’s like to grow up in Chicago. Knowing this all too well, Saba leaves himself no choice but to keep his inner turmoil at bay and look toward the light. This very concept is etched into every song on the Bucket List Project, and is one he keeps close to his chest.

Navigating through a path littered with the uncertainty that life’s next cruel plot twist could be lurking around the corner, Saba’s courageous perspective is lauding him as one of Chicago’s most promising upstarts. From performing at open mics in Wicker Park as a teen to gracing the stage of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert in 2015 alongside Chance the Rapper, the growth that he has experienced is an inspiration.

Such unfiltered tenacity shines through his catalog, and in embracing his story over a refreshingly eccentric neo-soul-meets-rap-inspired soundscape, he’s winning over a widespread audience. In 2013, his first collaboration with Chance the Rapper, “Everybody’s Something,” helped elevate him to a new level—with eyes fixating on Chicago’s prospering rap scene in ways they haven’t since artists such as Kanye West, Common and Lupe Fiasco first put on for the city and garnered national attention. After collaborating with artists such as Mick Jenkins, Taylor Bennett and Eryn Allen Kane, Saba reunited with Chance, creating 2015’s “Angels”—a track that has since seen over 70 million streams on Spotify.

“Every year has been better than the last,” he exclaims. “Making beats for my brother and his friends when I was 13 was one thing, but I had to really step my game up. Now everybody is still trying to out-rap everybody, but those early competitions had a huge effect on what my everyday life is like now.”

From Chi-town legend Twista to industry mainstay Sway Calloway rooting for him, Saba’s new normal includes Chance showing up as a surprise guest during his most recent headlining set, seeing his name selected for The Source’s coveted Unsigned Hype column and landing a nomination for XXL’s 2017 Freshman Class. Despite this growing list of accolades, Saba is trying his best not to get his mentor, FRSH Waters, too excited.

With their friendship dating back to when Saba was 13, FRSH helped put Pivot Gang on the map over five years ago, even guiding Saba to the right rooms to introduce him to Chance and Noname. After getting into some legal trouble, FRSH has since assumed the temporary role of being the group’s unofficial head coach, offering sage advice from behind bars.

“It’s been kind of crazy because he hasn’t been able to see what something he started has turned into,” Saba says. “We try to downplay everything so he doesn’t feel like he’s missing out on too much.”

With more people to make proud than just himself, Saba’s optimistic spirit is taking charge. As he rises as Pivot Gang’s rightful leader, it’s hard not to see how his path mirrors that of Chance’s, whose ascent to stardom stemmed from his early work with his former Save Money crew alongside Vic Mensa.

Although the Pivot Gang has been home basking in their recent triumphs, they haven’t slowed down. A tireless Saba is no exception, performing an assortment of one-off shows at various colleges and already diving headfirst into his next studio effort. His hunger is also presenting him with options for his first real apartment, with the support of his loyal legion of fans affording him the luxury of being able to leave his childhood home.

“I’ve never moved in my entire life so this will be a big deal,” he says modestly. “I’m so excited to have my own thing. I’m trying to make sure I have at least two bedrooms, one for my bed and I want to have a studio in the other room, so we’ll see how that goes.”

His preferences for where he wants to live are strikingly minimalistic, such as requesting natural light and solid neighborhood food options. True to form, Saba’s priorities lie within his music.

“I built the studio in my basement now, and it’s been down there for years and years and years,” he says, detailing his plans for his new studio. “I’m excited to start from scratch and see what it turns into over time.”

While going through what accumulated in the same studio he recorded his first project, 2012’s GETCOMFORTable, Saba struck gold. During the coming-of-age cleaning process, he unearthed a dust-covered box full of cassettes he recorded when he was a young boy.

“I haven’t even listened to them yet because I don’t have a cassette player,” he says. “They’re just sitting there, waiting to be heard. I’m sure some of them are terrible but there could be some gems, too. I kind of remember them being fire…”

With the potential behind those sonic treasures staring him in the face, so is the reminder that his cousin isn’t there to listen along with him.

“I’m still adjusting,” Saba says, glancing at the material possessions peppered throughout the family home. “When I look at the refrigerator here, there are photos of us when we were little and an emptiness kind of takes over my whole body in a way. When I go to the basement where the studio is, he was there with me the day before [he died] so like his hat’s down there and a bunch of his random shit. You know, stuff you wouldn’t take with you if you knew you were coming back the next day.”

As he carefully inspects his belongings and Walt’s, Saba is at an unavoidable turning point, and a heavy one at that. He’s now able to turn his passions into a paycheck, but being tasked with these acts of growing up aren’t burdens made totally easier by his newfound success. However, the promise of a new home base and the months ahead are tipping the scale away from the darker side of Saba’s truths.

“I’m keeping open-minded,” Saba says. “I’m excited to tour again. I don’t even want to be home right now. I’m just going to do everything in my power to keep this momentum going and keep everything we’ve built alive and strong.”

While checking out apartment listings, Saba’s mind can’t help but wander back to FRSH and the brighter days awaiting them both.

“It’s so close to him being able to come home and see for himself,” Saba says, explaining that he recently received a letter from the prison detailing that FRSH’s sentence is slated to conclude this Summer. “I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am. We’re just going to lock him in the studio and turn him into Future and make him do like 80 mixtapes.”

As Saba keeps watch on the horizon and eagerly reviews the blueprint plan of attack FRSH drew up from prison, his music, his determination and his family—in blood and in brotherhood—are all he has. And for Saba, that will always be enough.

The studio can be a place of utter mystery for some rap fans.

For many, the idea of going to “the stu” is synonymous with going to the club. It’s a much more exclusive venue, though, directly related to who you know. An elusive cave of luxury, the studio in its most romantic form boasts a scene full of empty liquor bottles, ashtrays full of blunt guts and braggadocios Instagram posts not-so-subtly begging to be taken.

While having a good time is a part of what comes with the territory of being a buzzing musician working in hip-hop, for an artist like Gizzle, the studio is a sanctuary; a second home and a place to get down to work, ironically, in silence.

As a tried and true studio dweller, it’s a place she visits every single day, and quite often, her productive late nights turn into mornings without even a glance at the clock. Having spent the majority of her career sharpening her swords and lending her talents as a songwriter to a high caliber laundry list of industry mainstays, the studio represents sacred ground. However, while she has shined behind the scenes for years, working with the likes of Kanye West, Puff Daddy, Pharrell, Timbaland, Teddy Riley, Nicki Minaj, Snoop Dogg, YG, Travis Scott, Meek Mill, Trey Songz and more, she’s now ready to invite a different element of her artistry to step into the spotlight: her own career as a solo artist.

For those just becoming acquainted with Gizzle, it’s clear she prefers her work to speak for itself. She won’t casually namedrop any of the aforementioned artists into conversation just because she can. I know firsthand, considering we spoke for an hour and I had to drag out names at the tail end of the convo—prying to see if Diddy showed her love on her new project (he did) and ask who else she’s previously worked with encouraged her individual career (many, with Ty Dolla $ign offering her an “I told you so” moment once she finally took the leap). With over a decade in music under her belt and experiencing her favorite artists becoming her mentors, the next step organically presented itself in the form of an on-the-spot creative challenge that evolved into her first solo release.

Releasing her debut project 7 Days in Atlanta further proved for Gizzle that the studio is more closely related to a creative mindset than it is an opportunity to schmooze for social media street cred. That is part of why she’s been able to accomplish as much as she has. After years of making ripples, Gizzle is getting ready to make waves.

Born and bred in Los Angeles, the 28-year-old artist first got her footing living her artistry as a teenager, writing lyrics on her homework and wondering where exactly her pen game could take her next. Now that Gizzle’s long-awaited debut as a solo artist has finally arrived, she’s about to find out.

What made you want to finally release a solo project? Why now?

The anticipation was building for a while, and I didn’t really have a chance to get my message across. I wanted to be able to say the things that I feel can only be said from my voice. While working with so many people and having the blessing to be a part of so many different people’s careers, I’m still essentially helping other people tell their story.

Eventually, I got to the point where I was just going to have to speak for myself and put that same kind of effort and energy into my own product or projects; make my own legacy. I started off by rapping, and I’ve just been rediscovering my love and passion for that. From an artist’s standpoint, songwriting has been so good to me and is such an important part of who I am. I enjoy it so much and I love being able to speak from different perspectives and help people get out whatever their ideas are and their dreams are. But I think it’s very important for me to step in and say things that I always don’t get to say because you can’t always say or do what you want when it’s on someone else’s behalf, you know?

How did the idea come about to create 7 Days in Atlanta?

We know that a lot can happen in a week. A lot can happen in a day. I planted the seed for the idea last Summer, and the reason I was thinking about it and talking about it was because it was something I wanted to do with other artists. Like maybe we can just go somewhere dope and make a whole project out of the trip. I planted the seed and let it sit there for a while, but last December, I was in an interesting place creatively and personally. I was like, “You know what? I’m just going to go to Atlanta for a week and create.”

We literally locked in just seven days straight where we woke up and went straight to the studio. At the end of the week, I realized that this was the same idea I had from six months ago, and I did it without even really thinking about it.

Going through the material, I realized we really had something there and it was bigger than Atlanta. I’m very familiar with Atlanta and I’m comfortable there, so it’s like a second home to me in a lot of ways. Creatively, I just always find freedom there. Not to mention, the food and the people, too. I have a pretty bad addiction to lemon pepper shrimp, and it’s basically all I ate while I was there. I wanted to figure out which place has the best lemon pepper shrimp, and while I was waiting for my food one day I got the idea for “Single And Poppin’” because my friend and I were just joking and catching up. She asked me about my ex; I just answered, “I’m single and poppin’!” We started chanting it at the bar and making it snap. When we got back to the studio, the idea just stuck. It made a lot of sense too.

So, with the songs stemming from a specific experience, how did “Melanin” come together, for one example?

For “Melanin,” that song was a little bit more focused and less spontaneous than “Single and Poppin’.” We had some girls over to the studio, and we got into a little bit of a debate over the Black experience in America. They actually weren’t Black and they were saying the N-word, and I just wasn’t with that. So I told them, “I don’t know if you probably hang with other people where that may be cool, but I’m not into that.” They weren’t, but they were of Middle Eastern descent and I just felt like they didn’t identify with being Black, so I just didn’t understand why they felt the need to say the word so much, you know what I’m saying?

I didn’t want to discourage these girls or leave a bad taste in their mouths, but I never want to sit idly with something that’s not appropriate, especially if I have a chance to educate or help someone get a different perspective. Although I felt a little bit shitty over the situation, since they got mad and felt bad, I just wanted to make a song that could make all people—but specifically my people—feel good when they wake up. I wanted to let people know that it’s okay to be Black, and it’s okay to be proud. We see that dialogue more now, especially with movies like Get Out, but even though it’s more of a conversation, I just wanted to make something that would be a reminder to my people to feel good about being Black. You can feel how personal it is and that’s not just specific to being Black, it’s specific to being proud of who you are and where you come from and take into account your entire history. This song just kind of wrote itself.

For you, how does your environment relate to your creative process?

Because I’m a creative and I work on a lot of different things, in order to make myself a priority, I have to put my own pressure on myself and put that fire under me. I’ll be doing seven days in Denver next, and I’m so excited.

I feel like, of course, you always have to be in the right mind space, but just living life is very much a part of my creative process. If I’m not maxing out every day and doing everything I can to really be living—enjoying myself and having a full life—then it’s hard for me to be inspired. That’s why I’m able to be inspired when I’m traveling, because I love traveling. This will be my first time in Denver, but I know that things are going to come up and it’ll result in really good music. I’m making a conscious effort to create something special, and from that point on, I’ll always have an ongoing connection to that city. Denver and I will always have that little baby we created.

Why Denver?

I picked Denver because it’s a city that’s pioneering in a lot of ways socially, especially with the legalization of marijuana. I feel like it’s just an up-and-coming city. There’s culture there but nobody off the top is like, “Oh I’m going to go make my album there,” so I feel like that’s important. It’s also a place that called me. I’m excited to see whatever it has to offer.

Do you think that there is a pressure to create socially conscious music under Trump’s presidency?

I think if you’re an artist and you’re not making music that reflects the times then you’re doing yourself, your fans, and the culture in general an injustice. Every day that I wake up, my aim is to learn something, to widen my perspective, and to grow as a person. I’m not a conscious rapper, or a backpack rapper or an overly pop rapper. I’m not a preacher. But I do aim to covertly slip some consciousness into my music. If I experience happiness, sadness, love, or injustice, it’s going to be in my music.

Does anything change in your creative process when transitioning from making music for others versus yourself?

What has changed is that I am a bit more selective in the things that I decide to take on. I’m in an interesting place because I’ve been writing songs for so long—primarily in an R&B and a hip-hop space—so I’m trying to do things that challenge me as a writer. That’s easier to do on your own work. When people call me and say, “Hey, Gizzle, what you got for this?” if it’s not something that really excites me, I don’t want to do it. No matter what it does in terms of success or money, if I’m not growing as a person or if I’m feeling like I’m just doing the same thing I was doing last year or even yesterday, I just don’t want to do it. So for me, it’s about finding that balance of doing things that excite me, working with people that I really care for and if I can aide their career in any way, all while challenging myself. I want to grow and get better, so that hasn’t really changed. I have turned down a few things and that can feel really good. Personal legacy has always been number one for me. I want to feel proud of everything that I’m a part of. Doing the 7 Days project is exactly that. It’s something I am excited for and get passionate about every single time. As I grow, it’ll grow. That’s where I’m at.

Being a songwriter and having spent so much time behind the scenes, how is your live performance?

I’ve always been a natural performer, and I love it. The studio is my favorite part, but both are my safe havens. I go to the studio every single day, but putting on a live show is a lot of work in a different way. My live show has definitely gotten better over the past six months alone. I’m just trying to do something that people are going to remember.

I’m most comfortable having my live band, but am working on tailoring the experience the best I can with the resources I have, since you don’t always get to bring a live band with you. It takes conditioning. I have a deeper voice than most people too, so it takes me a little bit of extra time and care to prepare and recover. With 7 Days in Atlanta, I’m performing it in order so it’s been cool to see how it comes to life in the live setting and just coming with that energy. Slowing it down in the middle and then building back up the energy.

What did you learn from your time at SXSW this year?

It’s all about the importance of the live show. There are so many artists performing and every body has their own angle. It’s cool to get down with your peers, discover new talent and see where you fall into the fold. Make new fans along the way and take them on my journey with me. SXSW just fortifies the importance of getting out there, finding a demographic, reaching out to your fans, testing the people and it’s definitely a great investment for a new artist.

For myself, I say that loosely, that I’m a “new” artist. I definitely paid attention to some of the marketing things that newer artists are coming up with down there, so much of it is genius. Everybody doesn’t have a huge budget and you just see people making due with what they have and with a lot of passion. Some people, who didn’t have CDs or anything, would just come up to you and rap. I love that part of the culture. That part of hip-hop is how I first got into the game. I just decided I wanted to rap when I was 11 after a poetry reading I did had people asking for an encore. Whenever that happens in my live show now, it just takes me back and gives me a little confirmation that I am on the right path. So, yeah, that was a moment for me at South By.

With getting your start in music so young, when did you realize this was going to become your career and your life?

I had an aunt that was signed to Snoop Dogg’s [label] when I was like 12 years old, so I got to see that firsthand. I got to see my aunt go from writing raps in my grandma’s house to being on television. So I saw that, coupled with what I felt like was my natural ability and the work that I was willing to do. I always thought it was a plausible thing; seeing those experiences and seeing the growth that I was making just from writing everyday and the response I would get in school. I wrote raps on all my homework so I’d turn in my homework and I’d have to get it back from my teachers, like, ‘hey, my rap is on the back and I need that!’ [Laughs] I’ve always had that kind of encouragement since I was a kid, so it’s always been clear to me that I had a future in music. I’m really grateful for that.

I think because my family has seen that I’m not quitting and I’m not stopping, their respect level has grown for what I do. When I was younger, it’d be like, “So, what college are you going to?” I think as I’ve reached adulthood and accomplished a few things, saying that you’re a rapper at the family reunion isn’t a joke anymore. It’s now all, “that’s my cousin and she raps!”

Is remaining independent an important focus for you right now or would you consider signing with a record label if the fit was right?

I think ownership is important. I wouldn’t entertain a record deal, but I’d entertain a partnership. You can’t do everything by yourself. The goal is to get the music to as many people as possible and to share and spread the message—the love and the light. But owning what you create is very important. I’ve been offered a record deal every year since I was 16 years old, and I haven’t accepted one yet. At this point, I feel like it’s kind of too late, especially with everything that’s available to you now. I’ve been putting my blood, sweat, and tears into this since I was a teenager, so I feel like I should be able to make decisions and be in control of the message. There’s nothing wrong with signing a deal if you have a great label and a good relationship and partnership. For me, it’s always about making sure that I have the choice and the control to say the things that I want to say, and be conscious of the energy that I’m putting out there. The same thing goes with my songwriting. I’ve had chances to be on many different singles that went on to be successful, but for me, personal legacy is everything. I’m not ever going to compromise that. I just want to be able to look back at all of this and be proud of it. That’s why being independent is important for me at least: to be able to show all the business people, the higher ups, and the powers that be what I can do as a businesswoman.

At the end of the day, what’s your main goal?

At the end of this, the goal is always to just be a better human being; to be better than I was yesterday.

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Every artist starts somewhere. For many, their roots lie in making music in the confines of their own bedroom, recording in their closets and reassuring their not-so-convinced mothers that it’ll all pay off or make sense one day. For Philadelphia rapper Chill Moody, that day is getting closer and closer to finally arriving.

While it’s commonplace for an artist from a small city to have an innate urge to leave it behind them as soon as possible (with dreams bigger than their hometown in tow), for Chill Moody, the opposite rings true. With Philadelphia as ingrained in his identity as it is in his purpose, he’s never going to write off his humble beginnings solely as part of paying his dues. Instead, he’s taking his self-imposed responsibilities to help Philadelphia reclaim its prestige in the music and entertainment industry in stride, doing so by stacking up small victories. For now.

As Chill puts in his 10,000 hours of deliberate practice honing his craft as a rapper, he’s packing a lot more into his days than just his own music. The fact that he recently began assuming the official role of Philadelphia’s Music Ambassador makes for a perfect extension of his artistry; despite admitting he personally has a minimal interest in politics. For Chill, it’s more about seeing an opportunity to effectively bring about a positive change and accomplish what others in his city haven’t yet achieved, such as being the first rapper to perform at City Hall, as a way to inspire others to do the same.

As a trailblazer, Chill Moody is able to separate himself from the hometown hero-esque narrative he’s been quietly and consistently crafting over the years, proving that being a leader doesn’t always mean he requires the validation or the props that come along with taking charge. He’s got his eyes on the bigger picture, and he’s taking Philadelphia with him every step of the way.

From ensuring that his own branding stays on point to crafting his own beer to knocking out five shows at SXSW this year, Chill Moody is building a case playing off his recent EP that It’s Gon’ Be a Nice Year. With his “just getting started” mentality helping him maintain through the madness of making a name for himself in the rap game, Chill Moody is a living testament to the fact that at the end of the day, the goal is all about having nice things. That’s not necessarily in a materialistic way, either. As he puts his work in and motivates others to make the day a “nice one,” Chill Moody is redefining what it means to be a hometown rapper—by way of putting on for his city in every way he imaginably can while perfecting his own razor-sharp and relatable rhymes.

When getting to know Chill Moody through his music, stubborn passion shines through that makes it nearly impossible to want to root against him. With eyes on making his city a better place and his own exploration of his talents unwavering, Chill Moody’s got all the keys.

Do you feel as though attending this year’s SXSW proved to be fruitful for you this year?

This was my 5th year going and my 4th year performing, and it’s all about meeting a lot of people. This year, I probably met more people than I’ve met in any of my years going down there, especially in regard to people who can either directly help or support what I’m trying to do. This year, I went down there with specific goals and it definitely ended up being my best SXSW trip yet.

What was it like performing live now that you’ve got a footing as to how the festival works?

Every audience is different down there and with so much going on, it’s a different crowd every time. I had five shows this year and each one was better than the last. After the very first show, this guy walks up to me like, plastered drunk, says “Hey mate,” and ends up telling me he’s from Australia and that my set was the best he’s ever seen at SX, which is amazing. For me, there happened to be one of those experiences at every show. Either someone was like either “you’re one of the best rappers I’ve seen here” or told me the performance was great. It just felt really good.

Would you say performing live is your favorite part about being a rapper?

Yeah. I 100% lose myself up there. It’s also where I get the best feedback. There are a lot of people who love the music and support my movement but when they see it live, that’s when they’ll be like, “alright I get it now.” Especially because performing evokes a lot of emotion and even just hearing live drums as opposed to listening through your iPhone or something, can really help win someone over to become a fan. I’m pretty seasoned in working a crowd and have performed in front of bunch of people throughout the years, so I always just watch little pockets of the crowd and really just give my all ’cause I know what the takeaway should be.

Listening to your 2013 music versus your more current, it feels like two completely different artists at times. What inspired the transition in direction?

It was mainly a change in producers. There’s always been a lot of instrumentation in my music, but I started working with new producers and new engineers who just brought a different vibe to the table. My voice sounds a little bit different from my older stuff, too. You know, just living and having more to talk about, as well as coming into myself, it all had me pulling back on the aggression a little bit. I’m also more sample-heavy now and just trying to find a balance with everything.

What do you hope people take away from listening to your music?
I want my music to be my representation. I want you to learn about me through my music, first of all. That’s the overall goal that I’m aiming towards, so I just try to give as much of myself as I can in my music and say a couple clever things in between. You know, so you can go tell somebody like, “Hey, did you hear what he said?”

What is your dream for Philly’s music scene specifically?

Just the reclaim. I always talk about the prestigious sound we used to have. When I was growing up, you always used to hear about the sound of Philadelphia and how the Jacksons came here to record… Patti LaBelle, Teddy Pendergrass and you know, just the sound of the old school. It all came from Philly. I had a lot of pride in Philly music growing up. It’s all my mom was listening to, so that’s what I came up on. As I got older, I started seeing things like what The Roots were doing and Jill Scott and so on, and it was like the city was at the forefront of music and somehow it kind of tipped off a little bit. Anybody that’s touring right now got something from somebody from Philly. So it was like, y’all should take more pride in this. I just want to reclaim that and be a part of reclaiming this prestigious spot we once had in the music industry.

How did you initially get involved in local politics?

I was named by Councilman David Oh as the Philadelphia Music Ambassador for an initiative called THL Live, which was kind of like a music festival meets a battle of the bands and was stretched out over a couple of months. It involved artists from all genres of music; everything from jazz to hip-hop to rock to pop and there was even a DJ category and gospel category as well. People from Philly submitted their music and we’d go through it to organize a show of our picks for each genre. Eventually there was a vote from prestigious and esteemed judges from Philadelphia’s music scene and an awards ceremony at the end of the year and everything. That was the initiative that I was very hands-on with, helping them put it all together and finding other outlets for independent artists in the city, such as connecting people with brands and helping them use some of the resources that the city has to offer.

Around two years ago or so, a councilman by the name of Mark Squilla tried to pass a bill that wouldn’t make any sense for our music scene. Everybody pushed back on it and there was a huge meeting at city hall. I was invited to that meeting and I suggested what I thought was wrong with it. I mentioned that he shouldn’t really be making music decisions without consulting some people who have a background in music. That led to the idea of a task force type of committee and now I’m a part of that even though it took a couple years to get started.

What comes with being involved with the committee? How hands-on is everything?

We will have monthly meetings but it’s still brand new. Right now, we’re picking board members, with the group being made up of 15 people. We’re really just there to be the liaison between the artist community, the music community and the city. So that goes as far as us suggesting stuff, us helping get stuff across that the city wants to do, and us taking the concerns of our constituents in the city and seeing how we can make things happen through the city. This also means providing newer, bigger opportunities because we have more resources now to do so. So more free subsidies, less venues shutting down hopefully and in my mind, the end all be all will be a more unified music committee. There are people on the board with classical music backgrounds; there’s like two conductors, lawyers, entertainment lawyers. I think I’m the only rapper. Either way, it’s a vast array of people so we should be able to get a lot done because we can connect through a lot of different genres.

What made you want to approach changing the local music scene by going through, per se, the actual system?

If you come at somebody the right way about a problem, and it makes sense, it’s going to be fixed or a compromise can be found. I don’t think you should get discouraged when things don’t happen right away. I’m also in the Recording Academy on the Grammy board for Philadelphia and I just got invited to go speak to Congress at Grammy’s on The Hill, which is a big invite-only two-day junket in DC. There’s an awards ceremony and a reception and all that, and then we go and basically lobby for artist advocacy. If I can go to DC and talk to congressmen about making progress, then why not?

Does your political persona change from your rap persona in any way, or do you balance these roles?

I’ve always like I’m me, everywhere. I’ll go to City Hall in sweatpants and a snapback one day, or I can also go there in a full-out suit and I feel I’m still representing myself well. I don’t have to be like, “Oh, you know I’m going to talk to a senator today so I gotta be a little…” Nah. Hip-hop got me here. I’m here because I rap. I don’t gotta back off of that. If a Senator comes out to one of my concerts, they ain’t gotta act hip-hop.

So do you have an interest in running for office someday, or do you feel like you can be a leader without being in politics? How does this influence your music?

I have NO interest in politics. Not at all [laughs]. It all came from the type of events I was performing at in the city. So a lot of people don’t know this, but for the past six years or so, I don’t really curse in my music. A lot of people don’t know this because I’m not like hugging a tree or saving the world in my lyrics, but there’s no profanity. Because of this, I was able to get a lot of shows that a lot of other rappers in the city weren’t able to get. Everybody loves hip-hop but everybody still feels a certain way about it when it’s playing loud. I was actually the first hip-hop artist to perform at City Hall like ever because I chose to do that. It’s like if the radio wants to play your music, you have to go get them the edited version anyway. This way my mom can tell her friends I’m a rapper and she doesn’t have to worry about me saying ignorant shit. I didn’t make those choices because I wanted to be a political figure one day. If I was a different type of rapper, I’d never be able to perform at City Hall. For me to be able to keep doing those types of things is really important to me. The message is the same and I’m not changing who I am; I’m just replacing words with other words, really. I definitely don’t want to be a politician one day, though. I feel like not helping others to achieve their goals is just plain evil and weird. I’m like addicted to the idea of “Yo, this is wrong so let’s fix it.” I’m an avid problem solver.

How does repping for your city come into play?

I’ve never been anywhere or met anybody from outside of Philly that didn’t know I was from Philly. Either they knew me or they said something or I told them. You’re gonna know I’m from Philly because that’s a part of me just as much as my last name is. I carry the flag proudly and I make sure I rep everywhere I go. Not only do I represent, I also don’t misrepresent my city in any way. It’s kind of like when your mom takes you to a store and tells you not to embarrass her. You don’t want to do that!

When did you realize that rapping was going to be more than just a hobby?
The first Roots Picnic I did in 2012; it was live. I performed for maybe 5,000 people, and when I was performing, people knew the words and were really engaging with me. Out of all of those people, my mom was standing right there in the front row, and my dad was right over her shoulder. It was like, “How did you get all the way up front?!” Looking at the bigger picture and seeing my family right there made me realize I’m doing something right. They’ve been supporting me from the beginning, and my family ain’t about no bullshit. They ain’t yes men. So to see them there, it was like, aight we good. That was one of the biggest moments of my career so far for me actually.

Tell me more about your alter ego, Drunk Chill.

I just created it so that I could have a separation from the stuff that I really want to say when I’m drunk. Like I had just performed at City Hall and did some other shit, and it’s like, I shouldn’t probably be tweeting about this. So I made a drunk Twitter just so I could sound off on there and be funny.

Interestingly enough, I recently brewed a beer with Dock Street Brewery called Nice Things IPA. It will cater more to the beer crowd when we relaunch it in a bigger way but seeing Jay-Z and Diddy take things to the next level with alcohol, it’s pretty cool to get involved with something like that. I went to the brewery and learned about the process for about three or four months. I helped pick the ingredients, I put my marketing plan together for it, and I learned everything I could about the product. My hands are in this, so it’s a little bit different from other types of endorsement deals where people are just drinking it or promoting it and get involved that way. I don’t think people know how much I did with that and I really take a lot of pride in it. Had a lot of fun too.

What’s up next for this year?

My goal is to take the show on the road, as cliché as that may sound. Leading up to Fire Fly, I’ll drop some records I’ve been holding onto. I feel like I’m underground but not necessarily new, so just seeing my message continue to spread to bigger outlets. What I’m doing needs to be as big everywhere else as is it is in Philly.

Speak your piece in the comments below or over at the UGHH Forums

Page Kennedy just might be the only Shakespeare-trained actor who can say that they once opened up for Biggie Smalls.

While such a duality has been a part of his life for decades—getting his start rapping before he turned double digits and coming into his own as an actor—it was perhaps inevitable that one passion would take center stage over the other as he got older. With his energy fully dedicated to his acting, Kennedy’s love for rap inspired him to work to the point where he could independently fund his own album release, further proving that at the end of the day, if you want to make it happen, you will find a way. No matter what.

With noteworthy roles, such as playing U-Turn on the Emmy Award-winning TV series Weeds and Radon Randall on Blue Mountain State, tying up his time on set, the 40-year-old began building up a substantial audience on social media, something that would later play a direct role in his success as a rapper.

Establishing himself on platforms such as Vine and YouTube helped keep his creativity flowing, and when it came time to put the pen to the paper, he was ready to challenge himself in a way that legendary artists such as Royce Da 5’9″ and Floetry’s Marsha Ambrosius couldn’t help but genuinely tip their hats to. It’s not everyday that a new rapper is able to secure such high-profile features without relying on a beefy budget, something that Kennedy was able to impressively do off the strength of his relationships and reputation alike. With his first official foray into the rap game, Kennedy demands both attention and respect as a lyrical emcee, doing so with a confidence that not even the best actors could pull off faking.

While it’s arguably been a long time coming for this day to arrive, his debut album Torn Pages is a testament to the fact that things happen how and when they are supposed to. While the 14-track collection is not his magnum opus, it’s an impressive first offering. Full of a humble balance of hits and misses, the album builds a strong argument that the 40-year-old is only going to continue improving as a rapper and executive producer with each and every release.

As someone who has lived many lives (both on and off screen), Kennedy’s commitment to the rap game is strong enough to make a believer out of even the most unconvinced critics. As he reintroduces himself to listeners, his personality shines through, showing that when it comes to being authentic to his artistry, that vital quality doesn’t change between mediums.

With each track representing a different story or concept, Page Kennedy delves deeper into his calling as an emcee, inspiring those who have watched his journey unfold from day one to keep tuning in.

When did you transition from acting into rapping?

I actually started rapping when I was seven years old, after my brother first introduced me to it. I moved from Los Angeles to Detroit with my dad when I was six and that’s when I first met my brother. He introduced me to Kurtis Blow, Run DMC, the Fat Boys and I instantly fell in love. It got to the point where I would learn other people’s raps and perform them before writing my own. All throughout school, I was known as a rapper, and I was always the youngest one in the neighborhood. So it was like, “Yo, that little kid can rap!”

When I went back to LA later on, acting stuff started happening for me, so I was like, let me live in the moment. I would still make little CDs and make a bunch of songs, but that was really just for my friends because I didn’t have a way of getting it out to the public. All my friends would tell me that I was so good I should be signed. I always felt that when I made enough money as an actor, I’d put out my own album, exactly how I want to. I was able to do just that.

Do you identify more with being an actor or a rapper?

I feel like the acting is always going to be at the forefront because I’ve established myself enough to be able to do that for a living. With rap, it’s a little bit more difficult to truly flourish and make real money in it, unless you are a certain type of rapper who has a solid label backing or crazy social media following so you can make money from YouTube and touring and all that. For me touring is a little bit more difficult because it could compromise different roles, but I’m definitely interested in doing shows when I can.

Right now, I’m really excited about the rap stuff again. I just put this album out and it was a year in the making. I’ve already committed to doing a mixtape to follow this up, and then I want to get right back into album mode. I have a big movie coming out in August 2018, so I want to have an album lined up to go along with it.

How do you approach making music over preparing for an acting role?

My album is full of concepts and stories and isn’t your typical album. I feel like nowadays, albums are full of things to make you feel good. You turn it on when you’re getting ready to go to the club or you’re in the club. I’m not interested in making that kind of music because there are enough people out there making that kind of music. Why do I need to add to that? I’m interested in making the type of music that you want to listen to in one sitting and makes you feel some kind of way like movies do. So that’s my process.

Was it natural for you that your debut album would be so personal?

Torn Pictures is definitely my most personal album, and part of that came from how I already give my life away to the public with social media. I feel like my fans are my friends and that’s the relationship that I wanted to have with my music too. I want them to feel like they know me. When someone is a supporter of you and they feel like they actually know you, they feel like they have a real connection with you. What that means is they will support you whole-heartedly, and it’s not fleeting. Because of that, I wanted to be transparent in my music too. Plus, it’s therapy for me. People think that just because you have money or are in the public eye, your life is made and everything’s perfect. It’s not. I’m still a human being. I still go through what everyone else does and it’s therapeutic for me to be able to express that with my creativity. That’s why I chose to be so personal.

Considering your acting work has taken the lead over the years, were you nervous to get feedback on the album?

Any time you let other rappers that you respect listen to your work, you might get nervous. That’s just because you really want them to like it. I definitely had a bit of that. But so far, it’s been crazy and overwhelmingly amazing. I haven’t gotten much negative feedback from this album even though I was expecting some of that because it’s so different. You don’t hear albums like this anymore. Since it’s different, I felt like maybe some people wouldn’t gravitate towards it because they’re used to something else. It’s been all positive, though, because I feel like there’s something for everybody. Songs like “Find a Way” inspired some people and then others liked what I rapped on songs like “Assassins” and “Testing Me,” or my story on songs like “Torn Pages,” “The Audition,” or “Therapy.” Any time someone that I respect listens, I definitely get a little nervous.

You definitely have some bucket list features on this project, such as with Royce 5’9”, Mr. Porter, Elzhi, KXNG Crooked, and Marsha Ambrosius. How did it all come together?

I definitely had a plan in mind where I felt like I wasn’t afraid to ask people for stuff, and I’m not afraid to get told no. I put together a list of people that I love, whose music I listen to and who inspire me. I reached out to everyone and tried to get them on my album. Luckily, most of the people on my list I knew beforehand or was connected to on Twitter. I pretty much got everybody that I asked for with the exception of Dej Loaf. I really wanted Dej Loaf, but the timing wasn’t there because I had to leave to film and she wouldn’t have been able to get it done in time. Royce was the biggest bucket lister for me because I’ve wanted to get him on a song for so many years, and it just didn’t work out in the past. Even when it finally aligned this time, I still had to wait a while for it. But when those vocals came in, man, it was well worth the wait. I had to go back and make that one perfect.

With Marsha, she’s been my favorite singer for many years. I’ve been a Floetry fan forever. I knew the song had to be just right because I knew she wasn’t going to get on just anything, which is why I chose to put her on the most personal track that I had (“Torn Pages.”) She said she would get involved if it made sense, so I made sure that it made sense. She’s the only one, with the exception of Elzhi who was with me every step of the way, who actually came into the studio to work on the song with me. I was a little star struck. When she got in the booth and sung her first line, I almost started crying. That’s how crazy her voice was. She was in there full on pregnant too. I just couldn’t believe it came together. Plus, she didn’t just do her job and leave. She hung out with us and told us stories about Michael Jackson, who is my biggest influence in entertainment. It was just amazing.

What’s it been like doing the project from the ground up as an independent artist?

I went the independent route because of the main reason why people go independent: I had no other choice. It’s not like I had record labels knocking on my door trying to sign me and I’m like, “Nah I wanna do it myself.” It’s definitely a roller coaster. I like being in control of everything, so even if the right person hears the project and wants to take everything to the next level, it’s still a little scary to me. I spent a lot of money on this album that I’m never going to get back, but I got to do everything my way. For me to sign to a label one day, it would have to make sense. Being independent just gives you freedom to do what you want. It also gives you the freedom to be broke [laughs].

How connected are you to the music scene in Detroit now, especially since being back in L.A. again?

Detroit is definitely my hometown, but I don’t know if they’ve got the same love for me, like with local radio and everything. I would love to have hometown support because I love my city so much. I ride for my city so much that I want that love back, but I’m not really sure. Maybe I’ll feel different when I go home. It would definitely be nice.

However, Detroit hip-hop is the greatest thing in the world to me because the greatest rappers come from there. Eminem and Royce are my two favorite rappers, and I just feel like the best emcees are from Detroit.

What would you like to accomplish next?

Even though I’ve been rapping my whole life—even before acting—the fact that I never put out a real project makes me feel like I’m a new rapper. So right now, I’m just trying to build a name for myself in this game and see what happens. I want to be the greatest rapper-slash-actor ever created in the world.

 

The Cool Kids, a duo composed of Antoine “Sir Michael Rocks” Reed and Evan “Chuck Inglish” Ingersoll, are back. While some may have no idea what that even means, those who won’t be awarded proper late passes have a lot to be excited about.

Gaining momentum using a medium we all low-key miss tremendously, the Chicago wunderkind rappers first joined forces in 2007, perhaps to appease die-hard hipster fans of underground music that were craving something completely out of left field. With an Internet era defined by the addiction of discovering music that gloriously existed on the fringes of the Internet, by way of scouring for low-quality MP3 downloads, the group began to make a name for themselves way before putting out their first album. As the group capitalized on a movement so many of us are now hopelessly nostalgic for, the late 2000s were a time where fans’ voices not only were heard, but they were also the loudest in the room. It was an uprising rebel-yell of a trend that the Cool Kids totally understood how to use to their advantage.

During a time when you really had to seek out music and put effort into scanning personal blog pages to find the next dope artist, the pre-Twitter era allowed music fans to take control over deciding what was up next and what wasn’t—a natural ability that defines who the Cool Kids are and what they are all about at their core. With experimental sampling drawing from video games, ‘80s hip-hop-era drum machines and other feel-good-weirdness alike, the group created a distinctive forward-thinking sound that promptly captivated a cult-like following and inspired a new generation of unprecedented DIY creativity.

For many, the Cool Kids were not only one of the first breakthrough artists you got to know online—and in turn felt like you were best friends with the whole time they were rising to prominence—they represented something bigger. It was the official shift of the “nerd” becoming the “coolest” in the room, achieving such a feat solely by being themselves and taking calculated risks, albeit carelessly. Hailed as Internet fan-favorites, their quirky 2008 mixtape The Bake Sale gloriously represented everything they achieved in a short amount of time, fully capitalizing on the power the no-parents MySpace era fostered. With a generous handful of incredible collaborations over the years, including working with the likes of Drake, Lil Wayne, Ludacris, Maroon 5, Mac Miller, Yelawolf, and Curren$y, the rapper-producer duo covered an insane amount of ground despite their 2011 debut studio album not finding the same successes their self-released mixtapes had.

Although the road to their comeback was previously permanently closed off—with Chuck Inglish declaring on Twitter that the group would never return—as time went on, it just didn’t sit right. The two members promptly ended their hiatus in 2015 and have been slowly-but-surely returning to the spotlight once again, patiently working towards reminding everyone why they previously were fondly referred to as the originators. With the promise of their new album arriving sometime this Summer, a brand new sketch comedy series titled “Shit Show” and plenty of surprises in store, the Cool Kids are plotting the next installment of their takeover.

While it may have taken them a decade to get to this point of reclaiming what is rightfully theirs again, both can agree that mastering the art of timing is one of those sneaky 48 Laws of Power that still applies to millennials. Considering everything the Cool Kids have been through and have yet to achieve, there’s no better time than right now to dive right back into it. And with both middle fingers up, no less.

How have things been going since you began rolling out your comeback?

Chuck Inglish: It’s actually been way better this time around. It’s like if you were good at sports in one grade, and you come back to school the next year, you’re just way better at everything. It feels like we weren’t as good then as we are now, so it’s definitely been really exciting.

Do you think fans should revisit your old material to get an idea of what you’re doing now or is this an entirely fresh start? Why now?

Chuck Inglish: I would say our new single “TV Dinner” is a good representation of what we’re about these days. I don’t think it’s necessary to listen to the old stuff to get what we’re doing now.

It was just time for it. You have to have a good spirit of timing when you’re doing anything artistic. It’s all about timing right now; it just feels right. We wanted to give people time to appreciate what we were doing and understand that we’re moving forward again. We had enough time to do things on our own and go in our own directions, which was definitely good for both of us. But now it’s like, so many things have happened in rap music from 2011 to now that you can kind of tell what was missing. Maybe some people weren’t fully getting what it was we tried to do the first time and that might be different this time around. We are owners of our masters again and our name again. At this point, we know what we are doing in our careers and we have everything we started with. Now it’s about knowing how we want to display our music, what song we want people to hear first, that kind of thing. It’s all about the details. What we did the first time around was a lot of really amazing accidents, if you know what I mean. Now we have a tighter grip on what we’re doing. Between the two of us, we know what’s cool and what’s not cool, what works and what doesn’t work. We definitely have more of a specific plan now and more goals.

At this point in the year, what does your day-to-day look like?

Chuck Inglish: We’re just working on the album every day. If we aren’t technically working on the music, we’re doing something else related to it. Once this is done, I’ll be able to create a routine again and like, read the newspaper, drink tea and spend less time on the Internet [laughs]. But right now, my life is completely dedicated to this and making sure that this album is something I know that I can feel proud of. Right now, I feel that way, but you know, we still have to finish it. We’re thinking sometime in the Summer will be our best bet. It definitely has a summertime feel and it will only make sense that we put it out in the summer.

How has your new comedy series, “Shit Show” been going?

Sir Michael Rocks: I feel like it’s something that we should have always been doing. We’re just a group of people that funny stuff just always happens to all the time. We got a lot of funny stories and experiences, along with just being funny people off top.

At this point, we have a lot of material filmed and edited, with more stuff being edited. We’re going to arrange it so that it can be a full series. We’d like to take this to a bigger audience and are looking to work with a larger partner. Whatever medium or network we end up going with, it’ll definitely be on your screen pretty soon. In the meantime, we’re just working on editing and putting out clips and content. We’ve been shooting for a couple months now and have some crazy episodes on deck. We’re just sitting on footage and having a little bidding war to see what will be the best fit.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were first starting out?

Chuck Inglish: I’m having more fun now than I was having then so just knowing that it’s about enjoying the journey and appreciating how long it takes to make something happen that you once dreamed of. Even if it seems overnight, it’s never overnight or out of nowhere. We’ve been keeping something afloat for the past ten years that’s artistic, so just knowing we have the ability to weather the storm. Right now, it’s like we’re living out in real time what we had expected to have happen the first time around. Except back then, we didn’t have as many goals and we didn’t expect everything to happen so fast. Now that we know what we’re capable of, it’s easier to set goals and see them out. And we know how important it is to have control over what we are doing so we can actually reap the benefits. What keeps us going is just knowing that there’s still a lot to be accomplished.

How connected do you feel to the local rap scenes, especially being in both Chicago and Los Angeles?

Sir Michael Rocks: It’s impossible to feel disconnected because it’s all relative. We are living it. What’s crazy is that a lot of the new generation, they grew up on us. I still live here in Chicago, so I’m immersed in it a little bit more, just naturally, by being physically here in the city so I’m always connecting with my friends that make music. I think the easiest way to feel connected to [local music] is just to be living it. Always connected and always growing. Chicago is a small city and a big city at the same time, so everyone is one degree of separation away from one another.

Do you feel like you’re a role model for Chicago, similar to Chance putting on for the city?

Sir Michael Rocks:  I’m not a role model at all [laughs]. I fuck up and do terrible things. Don’t make me the role model guy. Chance is the best person for that. I’m like the big brother that always does shit and gets in trouble, but he doesn’t always get caught for it.

However, when I do encounter new artists from the city, I try to be a real person and a real friend. I remember when I was coming up and in high school, I would come in contact with bigger Chicago artists and there was a real disconnect that used to be there. Like people were already too big of a star to engage with you because they were already poppin’ or whatever. You’re better off now engaging with people than you are playing the isolated superstar guy. Everybody is more or less involved with each other so using your celebrity to isolate yourself is counterproductive. I’m not really big into giving advice because I think everyone should do their own thing. I’m still figuring shit out myself and I’m still young too. I think everybody’s best bet is to trust their gut.  

What does the rest of this year have in store for you?

Chuck Inglish: New music to get out and new visuals. We’ll be doing more episodes of “Shit Show.” Solidify our names even more. We’re just putting the work in and having fun with it and just getting better and better.

Sir Michael Rocks: Having fun is the key, especially with rap music or at least with the kind of rap music that we do. It has to be fun for us or all of this would all be kind of impossible.

Speak your piece in the comments below or start the conversation over at the UGHH Forums.