Meet Milwaukee rapper Wave Chapelle.
The 20-year-old emcee is the latest signee to Memphis rapper Yo Gotti’s CMG label, and he’s bringing a new wave. Getting inspiration from his hometown soccer team the Milwaukee Wave and his favorite comedian Dave Chappelle, the moniker Wave Chapelle came quite easily to the rapper, who was born Radontae Ashford II.
Although he grew up in the streets, Wave never let the streets define him or consume his life. Luckily for him, he saw writing as a way out and utilized his love for penmanship to escape the clutches of Milwaukee’s underground.
After heading to Memphis for college, the new music wave Wave was pushing through the streets of “The Blues City” got him noticed by one of Memphis’ most famous rappers – Yo Gotti.
Wave Chapelle stopped by GlobalGrind to chat about his recent signing to CMG, garnering local fame in Memphis, meeting Yo Gotti, growing up in Milwaukee, and of course, his forthcoming project Only The Beginning.
Check out our exclusive interview below.
GlobalGrind: What was it like growing up in Milwaukee?
Wave Chapelle: It’s rough, but I grew up on the North Side, which is more the hood area. In high school I stayed kickin’ it on the East Side where it’s more diverse and there’s more stuff to do, like boutiques and open art, a mini Soho you could say, I guess. That’s how I got to be different. A lot of people stay too boxed in the hood.
You have a track titled “Killwaukee,” tell me about the violence in Milwaukee.
Milwaukee is crazy as far as violence, it’s pretty much just like Chicago. Of course Chicago gets talked about more because it’s a bigger place like, it’s literally right in front of Milwaukee, so they don’t get to see what’s going on in Milwaukee. It doesn’t get talked about on a big scale like CNN. But it’s the same type of violence, like n*ggas shooting each other back and forth over the dumbest stuff.
Guns are definitely an issue in Milwaukee, it’s crazy. I actually did a performance at a ‘put the guns down’ rally like three years in a row, I partnered with the team to try and stop the violence.
Rico Love is from Milwaukee too.
Yeah, it’s funny, he spoke at my school so many times. It was my freshman year and I ran up to him and told him I do music, and it’s funny now it’s coming back around. He was cool.
Have you seen him since?
No, I haven’t, but that’s going to be cool when I see him again.
So Wave Chapelle is obviously a play on Dave Chappelle, is your last name really Chappelle?
Yeah, but there’s more to my name, that’s part of it. The fact that the soccer team in Milwaukee is called the Milwaukee Waves. There’s a concept behind the whole wave thing. The concept is the music is the wave as well, because it’s not boxed into one category. I can do the “Chi-Raq” freestyle about what I talked about and then I can turn around and do a soul food and Hennessy R&B track – people say it’s Wale-esque, but I say it’s neither here nor there. It’s just more than one thing and like a wave, it can go in any direction. And Chappelle…he’s my favorite comedian. I was literally watching Dave Chappelle season 2 DVD everyday after school all semester straight. I changed my Twitter handle to @WaveChapelle for a week and everyone said it’s dope and it turned into my rap name.
When did you start rapping?
I started rapping in middle school, like 6th grade.
Who were you listening to at that time?
Definitely Jay Z. I bumped to everyone my mom listened to. In 6th grade I believe Kanye’s first album was hot. My mom grabbed College Dropout when it just came out and I’m listening to it in the car as she drove me to school. I remember coming out of the car I stole the CD and was in my room listening to it for a whole few months and I decided then I was going to be a rapper. His stories were just… My favorite song was “Last Call.” That’s what really inspired me to rap. I was always into writing not just raps, but like creative writing too, then once I started hearing his story about how he became a rapper I started feeling that it’s possible for the everyday person to do something like that.
How did you link up with Yo Gotti?
It was after I moved to Memphis for college. My mom and my dad were egging me on to go to school and I said, ‘there’s no reason for me not to go to school.’ So I was like, ‘OK, I can do both.’ I went to Le-Moyne Owen, which is an HBCU. I went there for one semester, and as I was going there I was still working on my music. I put out a mixtape called It’ll All Make Sense Soon that was hosted by DJ Rock Steady. Once we put that out I was going out to all the other colleges in the area doing groundwork, passing CDs around Memphis. I didn’t realize how big the CD got in Memphis; I’m still thinking the CD is on a local level.
A day before the semester was supposed to start, I’m super frustrated. I went to this chicken spot called Chins and Gotti followed me on Twitter out of nowhere. I look at the notification like, this not really Gotti. I kept it to myself. I put my phone back down and started eating. My phone vibrated again and I saw his number in my DM it said ‘hit my number little homie.’ I started screaming. Everybody’s looking at me like, ‘what’s going on?’ He said, ‘whatever you’re doing in my city it’s big. I can’t stop hearing it.’ Then he told me that everywhere he went somebody was telling him about Wave Chapelle and he wanted to see what’s up with my music. From there we linked and been rocking ever since then.
What major were you studying?
Journalism. I’m just into writing. I wrote for the school newspaper.
What was the last book you read?
Decoded from Jay Z. That was dope how he broke down all his lyrics while telling his story. Then this book called The 48 Laws Of Power.
How was your childhood?
I grew up with my mom. My dad did music back when I was little and he was doing his thing back in the day in Milwaukee. I ended up staying with my mom when he moved Memphis. I wasn’t ever homeless or anything, my mom really grinded hard to make sure I was straight. I did get into the street life on my own. No gang banging or anything. I was just around the street being a teenager; I was trying to hustle on my own. All the experiences made me who I am today. I can still go back to north Milwaukee and get love back home.
So what’s next for you?
I’m working on my next project Only The Beginning, dropping in late August. I’m currently on the “Drive In Theater” tour with Curren$y, so that’s been dope.
How did you meet Curren$y?
It’s crazy because whenever Curren$y was in town, we used to film all his stuff for him on blogs, so to be on tour with him is really crazy. He’s a good dude and he gives me pointers. I watch his shows all the time. I’ve learned a lot.
For more information on Wave Chapelle, click here.