Chapman's Got Something to Say & He's Just Getting Started
Chapman sits across the table from me, his bright eyes and brown floppy hair beaming from the sunlight that emanates from the large windows that face the Highline in Manhattan. The musician is eating a burger while I steal his fries, and he’s telling me how excited he is about the release party for the LP Progress Report, his first album, and the follow up to his successful EP XL Life. It’s no coincidence that the party will be held as part of a Duh NYC party, which the Chicago native created and has been hosting and DJing since, proving just how busy he always is.
The incredibly tall NYU graduate is wearing a black sweater and light blue jeans from NVRMND, which Chapman wears regularly, including in the videos for the LP, partly because the founder is one of his friends. This is no surprise seeing as he knows everyone – even while we talk, various people keep approaching him to say hi, and his phone doesn’t stop blowing up. And his charisma isn’t only evident as I talk to the eloquent multi-talented artist, but one look at the collaborators on his LP are proof enough: Jeremiah Meece, Ian Isiah, Dre Green, and Hari Nef, (whose been making headlines for getting signed with IMG Models). “I talked to her on the phone and I was like, ‘Bye bitch, see you never, you’re about to be so Hollywood,’” Chapman says.
Between burger bites and texting breaks, Chapman talked to Milk Made’s Ana Velasco about growing up in the new album, getting encouragement from the haters, and why visual identity is key.
Why did you do the videos all at once?
I think that having a sort of journalistic mind, I know what’s a really good pitch and what’s not and what will hit and what won’t. Obviously you have to think about that type of stuff when you’re fielding pitches from random people, and I think – in this time, where everything’s accessible on the internet – what is the lifespan of a project? If all you’re going to do is put something out on Soundcloud and have that be it, then the impact is just going to be so minimal. I wanted to create something with levels and depth, and so I made that a goal.
Well the other stuff that you’ve put out is also super visual…that’s a huge part of what you’re putting out there…
I’ve definitely tried to give myself an identity, visually and musically, but especially with this project, this felt the most true to who I am – the most tapped in that I’ve ever been into something real for me, and I really wanted to expand on that. I didn’t want to just put out the songs and have that be that. Unless it’s some amazing life changing project where it happens to get picked up by a certain person, it’s gonna burn out. I wanted to create something that visually represented what the music was about and I feel like we really did that and it feels complete.
On the interview with Fact Magazine you talk about your first EP and how ‘before I was just like ‘fuck you I’m here, this is me, listen to me.’ And I think this album sounds super complete if you listen to it from start to finish, but also each song sounds like a totally different sentiment, a different meaning.
With this project I was just unpacking so many feelings and I felt so sure about everything because it felt so true to me. Every song is painfully true to me. When people ask you ‘what’s this song about?’—I feel like I’ve said everything I need to say in the songs and they just speak for themselves. Everything I wanted to say, I put in the song. That feeling is one I’ve never had. And I think that’s why they’re all so on their own but stand together because they’re all coming from that place of ‘I have something I want to say, and I’m just going to say it all.’ I think that’s how can they stand together and also be apart.
I don’t think there was a scene for LGBT music in general and being like ‘fuck you, listen to me,’ was necessary, and to realize that Macklemore isn’t the person we should be tuning to to be our gay savior when he’s not.
I think for the time it was the right thing to do. I was still speaking from a real place but I think now we are establishing ourselves in this super wide spectrum of queer artists or just people that are different that are making different sounds and saying different things. Now I think we’ve become this sort of next wave. It’s crazy to see it go from everyone being confused by it to everyone buying into it and embracing it.
I saw this video of you interviewing Skrillex when you were a rug rat and you asked him ‘Dubstep is on the rise, is it exciting to be in the middle of it?’ and it’s so funny because I would ask you the same question right now.
It’s hard to get perspective—I mean I haven’t reached the point I want to reach by any means. I honestly feel that just this year my career started. Everything was kind of building up to this. It was a slow build, whereas a lot of people I saw would just pop up and that was it. But it feels surreal to think that people I might be hanging out with on a regular day are people that are at the center of cool youth culture right now, and the names just keep getting more and more. I feel like it’s getting to a point where everyone I’m near has started becoming recognized for their role in this whole thing.
You’re a bi-city artist, but what has New York done to you that’s different from Chicago?
I think it’s a cliché but you really can make it anywhere if you make it here. If you can push yourself and not crumble under the pressures of this city and the competition and the speed of everything then everything else feels like a piece of cake. But I think because of that, Chicago is so much more rooted in humility and reality. Here vanity is such a large part of everyone’s day to day. Everyone here is obsessed with themselves. So Chicago’s just a more humble place. People are just more real. That kind of real love is harder to find here.
So in the midst of this whole party culture, how do you weed out the people who just wanna be in the scene?
It’s really just how you choose to operate. A part of it is that I come from a place where I just know real. If you’re fake, I can just smell it on you. I think also from being here you learn that there are different ways of going about pursuing what you want to pursue. You can go about it in this really calculated, disingenuous, aggressive way that for sure people will claw their way to the top, but there’s also this option to actually try to be genuine in how you approach people and move up in that world. Those two types of people are easy for me to distinguish at this point. You meet enough people and you get this sense of who’s real and who’s not.
So what’s the craziest shit that has happened at a Duh party?
One of the craziest things was the night we came back and A$AP Ferg performed and people were literally moshing and crowd surfing in the club and that was kind of the definition of that party. That was a really hectic night, but just seeing someone crowd surf in like a bottle service club is pretty much definition of what we’re trying to do with that party. It was a crazy moment.
Who would be the ideal Chicago rapper or musician to collaborate with?
Well definitely working with Jeremiah was of a goal of mine. He’s been a friend but we never actually got to do any work together. He just has such an amazing talent for production and he’s making sounds that are the kind of sounds I would want to make. When you get to work with someone whose production is at a level you want to be at, but haven’t necessarily experienced, it’s such a fulfilling thing. But Kanye of course. Kanye is my dream. I have worshipped him since I was 13 or 14 when College Dropout first came out.
Where do you want to be with your music? Do you want to tour?
Yeah that’s my main goal– to travel off of it more than anything else. I don’t have any number goals. That’s the classic thing, there’s no such thing as overnight success. Everyone out here has been working out for a while. Even if you’re just hearing of them now, they’ve been out there.
I think definitely I would like to keep raising the power. I never want to feel like I’m standing still. I also really want to start songwriting for popstars. I think Sia has done an amazing job with that. She makes songs where you can tell she wrote it. She puts her stamp on it without having her voice on it. That’s someone that I would like to follow and become a songwriter for big pop acts.
Do you get more encouraged by people not fucking with what you do or with people telling you ‘you’re awesome, keep going?’
I’m really bad with compliments. I don’t know how to take them—they kind of just fall by the wayside. But if someone insults me I hold onto it. Sometimes I’ll internalize it but other times I’ll be like ‘fuck you.’ More negative things push me than positive just because I don’t want to let cloud what I’m doing. I don’t want to think ‘everything’s great, everything’s awesome’ and then all of a sudden, end up not doing anything for a year.
Have you ever seen Whiplash? When the guy says there’s no two worse words than ‘Good Job?’
Yeah, it’s true. You don’t want to give yourself too many pats on the back. I could give myself more, but I don’t give myself any. I’m really weary of that. I see people fall into that and it doesn’t wear well. It doesn’t look good.
Do you think some people get too consumed with their social media following and forget to actually do anything?
Yeah, we live in a world, especially here, where that stuff dictates a lot and to say that it doesn’t is to be bitter. It has a real impact but at the same time you can’t let it deter you from why you’re doing what you’re doing– which is to do something genuine and connect with people through your art and to do something that touches your soul. I think if you can do that I feel like everything else will come. If you filter through all the bullshit, good music and authenticity and being genuinely passionate will always be stronger than anything else.
If you had to shadow somebody for a day who would you choose?
Kim, oh my god.
Kimye or just Kim?
Honestly, I would just be down to follow Kim. I know there would obviously be interaction with Kanye, so I’d get to see that, but what is her day like? It would probably be a lot of just watching her get her makeup done.
If you had the ability to never eat again or never sleep again, what would you choose?
Oh, never sleep again. I love food so much. I’d be awake for so much more eating.
Would you rather always have to be topless or pantless?
I think probably pantless just ’cause I get cold up here and I don’t want my nipples to poke out.
If somebody gave you a million dollars and you had 48 hours to spend it, what would you do?
Maybe I’d just buy a bunch of little puppies…and buy a giant thing for them to inhabit and play with them. It’s an investment. Oh, and then I would hire someone to take care of them and pick up all their shit. [laughs]
What’s the last book you read?
Inherent Vice. It was really good but really weird. The writing style is very jazzy almost, like the rhythm is off beat. I also read Kim Gordon’s book. It reminded me of the Patti Smith book a lot just because they’re just so rooted in NY history and music history. They were just here being young and reckless, and that type of stuff just makes me reflect on where I’m at right now. It’s a lot less gritty and cool and it will never be that way again, and that type of book makes me think about that. But I know when I’m that age I’ll look back on this and think ‘wow we were a part of our own renaissance.’
What was the first song you heard this morning?
Actually this morning I was rehearsing, so the first song I heard was Switch Hitta.
What does the last text you sent say?
‘Got you on a little coin too.’
Chapman shot exclusively for Milk Made by Miyako Bellizi
Download Progress Report here