NYC Rapper Chapman Releases “Drive” feat. Lil Versailles, & Gives a Definitive Interview


NYC Rapper Chapman Releases “Drive” feat. Lil Versailles, & Gives a Definitive Interview page.">
Listen to NYC rap impresario Chapman's "XL Life" mixtape (photo: Elizabeth De La Piedra) on his page.

“A hustle like mine is so hard to find…” begins NYC rapper Chapman in the chorus of his new single “Drive,” which also introduces new female powerhouse Lil Versailles on her first “non-borrowed beat.” And indeed his hustle is currently unknockable, having translated the release of his debut mixtape “XL Life” four months ago into snowballing hype and rowdy shows on both coasts, proving that at least when it comes to him, internet buzz does not exist in a vacuum.

Chapman, who admits he is “all about embracing technology,” chose freeform internet collaging platform to premier “Drive,” allowing him to create a multimedia experience, “adding different levels to the presentation with the visual aspect.” It’s clear that positivity is key to the Chapman brand, which, combined with his open-minded creative outlook and tendency to surround himself with strong-minded and equally talented women, will be instrumental to his success.

Lil Gov: Not to use the phrase “came out of nowhere,” but your rise to #relevance over the past year has been quite remarkable. Tell me about Chapman IRL; your music, your writing for Interview magazine, etc.
Chapman: Everything has happened super organically. Nothing has really been forced in terms of my direction; I’ve been in the “music business” since I was 16 in Chicago, interning at management companies and booking agencies, writing for blogs, putting on shows, doing anything I could to be involved in that scene. Once I came to NYC I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to be involved in music and writing, so I started freelancing and interning at different publications. One day I was like, okay, if I close my eyes and imagine me doing exactly what I wanna be doing, what is that image of? And it was of me performing. Like, okay it’s time to try and do this.

Well that brings a tear to my eye. Sounds BEAUTIFUL AS FUCK, tbh.
I started messing around and met Chippy Nonstop; we became friends and she likes my stuff, so we went into the studio together and cut a record. After that I wanted to do this all the time. I’d been making music, acting, in chorus, classically trained in guitar; it something I was already doing that I hadn’t taken seriously as a career path. I can channel everything I’ve ever done in to it: my musical training/interests, my writing and the relationships I’ve gained with that, my experience from Chicago. Sometimes it feels like everything I’ve ever done has led up to right now, on some cosmic meant-to-be shit.

It’s really de rigeur  to ask people with a social media following how their URL persona interacts with their IReaLity. Talk to me about your relationship with the internet (single, taken or it’s complicated)?
LOL my relationship with the internet is definitely complicated. People tend to project a lot on the people they follow, to the point where it’s akin to the cult of celebrity but on a different scale; it can make things awkward when you have to cross over from URL to IRL. For the most part, if people are real on the internet, they are in real life too, it’s just a matter of breaking that wall down and remembering everyone is still human, no matter how many followers they have, ha! When I was in L.A., I met so many people that have heard my music from the internet or follow me on twitter, and that was such an amazing, powerful thing to me, to see the real life reaction. It made the whole thing feel more purposeful. Sometimes when it’s just you and the Macbook it can feel a little surreal.

Now that our devices and networks have become an extension of ourselves, it’s a lot more fluid. We create so much content with so little extraneous thought; it’s merely an outer monologue for a lot of people now. Creating actual art exists in case you feel like putting your time and thoughts into something worthwhile. It’s always funny to me that people think it requires so much effort to be good at internetting. Tt’s an intuited (and occasionally learned) skill.
Haha true. I feel like that’s a big problem for me. Something that irks me is that the internet and art are linked so closely together that people misinterpret what art is for.

Interesting, continue.
The purpose of making a song and putting it on Soundcloud shouldn’t be strictly to be cool. Use these tools, but put a reason behind it. Because everything is so accessible, it brings a whole wave of people who take advantage of that without asking themselves why; I’ve noticed so many people rapping simply because they can, or maybe because they enjoy the attention or responses.

It can feel sort of empty, although you can definitely sniff those people out vs. people who are using the technology and genuinely enjoy making the art.

Like a beautiful “stone” sculpture that you poke with a pencil and realize its made of paper maché.
Right, but in this case you probably realize it’s paper maché before you even touch it.

All successful art has some element of vulnerability.
And if it doesn’t, if it has no purpose; transparent without a lot of dimensions.

It’s easy for a lot of young people who have grown up completely saturated with image image image not to be confident enough to connect with the uncomfortable emotional place where a lot of art is made. Self-consciousness is kind of a death knell.
That’s a big part of my message to my fans.

It’s actually one of the things I’ve admired about you from the get; you don’t seem too concerned. And it’s easy to diss a new white rapper guy “from the internet” with a lot of friends who do rap, to put it bluntly. It’s extremely refreshing that, at least from an outside observer’s perspective, that you haven’t been quick to entertain that at all. Some people feel the need to “fight” whatever they see as others’ perception of themselves, and there’s never been an element of pushback in your strategy.
I think that’s an annoying white people thing [LG: what isn’t???]; not acknowledging your privilege as it exists systematically. I know I have privilege, because I am not ignorant to how this country works. So instead of fighting it I want to acknowledge and make strides to change that. It’s easy to feel the need to defend yourself, like Macklemore making a song about being white. But I don’t let any of that shit get to me; all I feel I owe people is high quality art. That’s what Kanye says! He says don’t expect nothing more from me, and I’m like same. Funny tweets, good music, sexy looks, positivity and love.

Did you also invent leather jogging pants? Asking for a friend.
Hell no.

Follow Chapman + Lil Versailles on twitter.