Achieving success hasn’t been an easy feat for DMV native Chaz French, but with unrelenting determination, the 24-year-old realized that achieving ultimate success takes a considerable amount of time.
Chaz landed on our radar when he released his debut mixtape Happy Belated, which featured industry favorite GoldLink, in early 2015. The “Remember” emcee quickly followed up with a stripped, candid project titled These Things Take Time just a few months later.
Just weeks after releasing his new mixtape, we caught up with the “No Shade” rapper to discuss growing up in the D.C. area, homelessness, hanging out with legendary producer Rick Rubin, and taking on the music industry one record at a time.
Get to know Chaz French below.
Tell me the concept behind recording These Things Take Time.
Well, I was just so overwhelmed by the response I got from the first project I was like, ‘Man, this second project I want to make specifically for my fans.’ The majority of songs people were fucking with based off Happy Belated I wanted to make a full project based off that. From content to beat structure, to the intro to the outro.
How many songs did you ultimately record?
We recorded like 50-60 songs and that doesn’t include the random songs I did. It was a lot.
As an artist, how tough is it narrowing down the songs that make the final cut?
Picking the songs is harder than making the songs. That’s the toughest part. I mean, some songs you listen to more than others, and sometimes you don’t realize how good that song is because you’re so attached to it. It’s timing too. It’s not like you can’t put out those songs at another time.
So tell me where it all began.
I grew up in the DMV area. I spent a lot of time in D.C., but then we moved to Temple Hills, Maryland when my mom got married. I never liked school, so my parents moved me to my aunt for two months in Chicago – well, like Champagne, Illinois. When I got back, my stepdad found a job in Texas and I lived there for five years, but eventually moved back to D.C.
What was it about school that you hated so much?
I knew the career I chose I didn’t need school, and plus at the time, I didn’t like authority. I wasn’t into it at all, but now I wish I would’ve went to school and went to college. I mean, I guess I can still go to college, but…(laughs).
So you knew as a kid that you wanted to rap?
Yeah, I started writing little raps and I did a talent show in 9th grade and everybody started going H.A.M., mainly the girls. Life started happening and I started going through shit, real shit, so I just started putting it into the music.
Did you ever play around with being in a go-go band in D.C.?
No. My mom never let me go to go-gos. I never got to experience the go-go. My upbringing was different from the average person in D.C. Everybody from D.C. has a different story, but we can all relate to it.
When did you begin taking music seriously?
In 9th grade, that was my defining moment and just going through stuff and being homeless. When I came back to D.C., I had so much to talk about. That’s when I started being overly honest in my music and not caring what people think of me.
How did you end up homeless in Texas?
It was kind of by choice, being stubborn and prideful. My mom had moved back to D.C. and my parents divorced and I didn’t want to live with him or come back to D.C. either. I would stay with a friend from time to time, and then you know, you’d get put out. There were nights I would sleep in cars or just not sleep at all. It was a lot of moving around and being unstable. Not knowing where you’re going to sleep or eat next. My mom was like, ‘Chaz, come home.’ But I didn’t want to come home cause I’m like, ‘Ma, you don’t support what I do and you’re going to make me get a regular job.’ I was just being really irresponsible, but it worked in my favor.
Did that all change when your daughter was born?
I was dealing with someone at the time. It just got bad to the point I didn’t even have a phone. I didn’t have shit to offer anybody, not even myself. The girl I was dealing with told me that I just needed to go home. It was emotionally and physically wearing me down. I came home in 2012 and I moved to Richmond. My friend was working out there and helped me get a job. I started working at Kroger and my mom helped me get an apartment and that’s when I met my daughter’s mom and had a daughter a year later.
What kind of pressure did that put on you?
Oh my god. It taught me a lot. There was a lot of pressure in the beginning, but it got easier because at the time, me and her mom were still together. It’s easier when you’re with your child’s mom. It was a lot, though. We’re two new parents that didn’t know what we were doing and we were basically kids too. It helped me become a better artist and a better person. Kids will teach you a lot about yourself. Like how far you’re willing to go to help your children. You learn what really matters and how to take risks. It worked out perfect though. I love being a parent.
So what’s it like hanging out with Rick Rubin?
The shit was so tight. His vibe is crazy. It’s really hard to explain. The grass was green as fuck. The water was blue as fuck. The magic moment is when Rick walks out the back door and his beard is blowing in the wind. It’s kind of like a movie (laughs). It was surreal. Not many people can say they went to Rick Rubin’s house. That was a crucial moment for me. People would call me like, ‘Bro what are you doing?’ and I’d be like, ‘Uh, nothing, just leaving Rick Rubin’s house.’
Describe your conversation with Rick Rubin.
It was regular stuff. He wanted to know what’s next. He wanted to hear new music, my story, and what we’re doing right now.
You’re super cool with Anderson .Paak , Phil Ade, and GoldLink, what’s your relationship with them?
We’re family. We can never make music with each other again. Our relationships aren’t based on the music. It’s just real. If we make a song together, we make a song together. But we talk literally like everyday. They check on my kids, I ask about their family. Me, GoldLink, and Phil met each other at the same point in our careers and we’ve been watching each other grow. It’s the best part of our friendship; we be like, ‘Damn, I remember when we didn’t have nothing.’ It’s dope building with cool people like them.
What’s your biggest gripe with the music industry?
I guess the politics. I don’t like them. I’ll just leave it at that. It comes with the territory, but it helps when you have people who actually care about you around you.
PHOTO CREDIT: The Chamber Group