Everything about Chanel West Coast is a metaphor for both Los Angeles culture and the current state of the American dream. Think about it for a second: she started off the underdog in claustrophobic neighborhoods, but forged a successful career in entertainment through hard work and networking with the right people, quickly earning reality TV roles on shows like Fantasy Factory and Ridiculousness, before re-vitalizing her passion in music. Her voice has a child-like wonder to it, but also soft vulnerability, as if she’s worried that if she stops working even for a second, she’ll fade into irrelevancy. She also smokes mountains of weed, loves driving around in Cadillacs, and raps about money and alcoholism. For better or worse, it doesn’t get much more American than that.
However, like the American dream, Chanel West Coast, who is signed to Young Money Entertainment, is also a complicated concept rooted in exceptionalism, work ethic, and lifestyle. She is a meticulously constructed image who landed gigs on MTV in the post-MTV generation, and is resentful towards the reputation they have garnered her. For Chanel, reality television has been a double-edged sword: on the one hand it helped launch a very lucrative career in entertainment while providing her a platform to interact with young people, and on the other, it pushed her into a corner where she’s forever associated with commenting on YouTube videos with a forty-year old skateboarder. Indeed, there are multiple factors to take into consideration when trying to understand Chanel West Coast’s image and how it’s representative of American culture. We decided to give it a shot by asking hip-hop’s Daisy Buchanan to explain her dual identities, her neuroticism, and what it’s like to party with Paris Hilton.
How does the personality you’ve cultivated on Ridiculousness intertwine with your hip-hop image?
It’s been hard intertwining them because people don’t really get that there’s many sides to a person’s personality. Ridiculousness is a comedy show and it’s very lighthearted, so a lot of people might watch it and not understand how the person on there can be a badass rapper. I think once you get to know me and what I’ve been through in my life and what it is that’s made me who I am, you start to get it a little more. It’s been hard intertwining the two so far, but I think I’m getting better at it and I think the album I have coming out is a good blend of both personalities.
I’ve read, though, that you want to make more of a shift over from reality television to rap. What is the immediate plan for doing so?
The plan is to continuously put out quality content. I got to just keep going harder and harder and putting out better music. To be honest, I’ve found that there are a lot of people out there who are putting out shitty music, but they’re going much harder because they don’t have something like a reality show holding them back; whereas I think I put out really dope music, but it’s been a little harder to get that recognition because of my reality TV show persona. It is what it is.
Do you think there are any other obstacles in getting recognition for your music besides the reality television aspect?
I think in the rap game in general, being a female is hard. Obviously, being a white female on top of it and having a reality TV persona to shake is even harder. But like I said, I’m going to continue making music and going harder and harder and putting out quality content to prove myself. I’m pretty sure people will catch on and eventually see me more as an artist than anything else.
You’re a white female, whereas rap is a genre of music ruled predominately by African American men. How has your gender and your race been a factor in crafting your own image?
It’s funny because when I first started rapping, there wasn’t any other white girl rapping. At the time, I was pretty sure I was the only one. I love all different genres of music, but I think what really made me want to do rap music was like, “yo I’m a little white girl and there’s nothing like that. There’s not another blonde little white girl that’s going to be rapping and doing the type of music I’m doing.” When I first started rapping I was going ten times harder than I’m going now, I’ve actually toned it down and tried to make it a little more poppy, but at first I was just going completely in with thug street rap because that’s the kid I was growing up. Ya know? I was a street kid: me and my friends have been smoking weed since we were twelve years old. I’m not this fictitious image of what people think I am. That’s kind of why I first started off rapping… it was because of my image. I thought it’d be different, unique, and easier, but I’ve had a really crazy path and a bunch of obstacles and stuff come about. People like Iggy and Kreyshawn came out before me, but it’s all good.
Talk to me a little bit about the environment you grew up in.
I wouldn’t say I had the roughest life, but I wouldn’t say I had the easiest life either, that’s for sure. I grew up with a single mom who liked to move and lived in several different places, but mainly within San Fernando Valley and the North Hollywood area. But she was always working and did a really good job supporting me and giving me cool clothes. We always had a pretty cool apartment to live in, but she was never home and I spent a lot of time alone growing up. And I think that’s also how I got into music and being creative, it’s because I was an only child. I had a big imagination and was always kicking it by myself.
Your most popular songs deal with very stereotypical themes in rap music nowadays: drugs, cash, and partying. Is there a conscious degree of satire in making music like this? Or are you just trying to sell this lifestyle better than your contemporaries?
It’s funny because you kind of hit the money. At the same time that it is serious, it is a play on what I know is poppin’. Obviously everybody’s trying to do what’s going to grab people’s attention, but definitely that’s also a lot of what my life is about: I’m a girl, I’m into fashion, I like to party, I’m young, I’m living in Hollywood, I’m on T.V. So obviously, I’m going out and going to cool events and living that lifestyle and making money. I am a Cali Girl; I love to smoke my weed. So it is my life, but at the same time I’m thinking, “this is what the rap industry wants? Okay. Here’s I Love Money, here’s Karl, here’s Alcoholic. This is what you guys want.”
I think it’s interesting how [in the music video for] “Alcoholic” you’re by yourself the entire time. While you’re glorifying many aspects of drinking, you’re also painting a powerful indictment of alcoholism.
I wanted people to know it’s obviously not okay to be this drunk, but we all have those nights, which is why I made a video like that so people can relate to, “Oh my God I drank like an alcoholic that one night.” But that’s why I did put another character in it, so that people don’t get the idea that it’s me. I’m not saying it’s okay to do this.
What’s been the craziest party you’ve attended recently?
I feel like I’ve been missing out on a lot recently because I’ve been so busy. It’s tough… I’ve been to so many…
I heard you and Paris Hilton were tight.
I’ve partied a bunch of times with Paris Hilton, but wouldn’t say that was the last crazy party I went to. I’ve been to events where I’ve ended up partying with Stephen Tyler and I’m like “I’m partying with fucking Stephen Tyler? Like, where am I?” It’s crazy living in Hollywood because you’ll end up in parties with the biggest celebrities of all time. I’ve definitely partied with a lot of cool people. Actually, it’s funny because one of the coolest parties I’ve ever been to was way before I was even on TV. And I remembered when I first met Rob he brought it up because he said pictures of it on my MySpace. It’s a long story, but basically me and my friends ended up at Drew Barrymore’s Halloween party. And we have pictures with everyone, from Drew Barrymore, Ellen Page, Britney Spears, Orlando Bloom. This is way before I was into acting. Me and my girlfriends took pictures with everyone and I would say that is one of the most epic parties I’ve been to because I wasn’t even a celebrity and managed to just wander into this.
What’s the big picture? How do you want to look back at your life and legacy seventy years from now?
I would love to look back at my life seventy years from now and see lots of accomplishments, mainly in the music industry. I would love to see myself winning awards. And after that, I’d love to get into the film industry as well and maybe even produce movies. Like I said, I have a huge imagination. Lots of awards in different areas of entertainment.