Rasheed Chappell: Mentors, Craftsmanship & Defining Moments

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Photo by Tre Lodzinski

Recently we had the pleasure of connecting with Passaic, NJ native Rasheed Chappell to discuss adolescence, things that keep him grounded, and his forthcoming project Brick & Mortar. I had the pleasure of meeting Rasheed Chappell at an album release event we curated in NYC back in early 2011. That year, he also released the classic album Future Before Nostalgia which was entirely produced by Kenny Dope. After listening to the album, it was obvious why Kenny Dope would choose Rasheed to recite his poetry over Kenny’s production. The smooth yet unique voice, cadence, delivery, flow, poetic ability to pin words together while telling a story are a few reasons why this artist is one of my personal favorites as well. Check out the Q&A we did with Project City’s Rasheed Chappell the Benevolent below. Also, if you have not heard Future Before Nostalgia yet, stream it below and if you like what you hear make sure to support it with purchase of the vinyl via KAY-DEE Records.

For those who might not yet be familiar with your music yet, can you inform the people of your name and where you are from?

My name is Rasheed Chappell and l am from Passaic NJ, Project City 07055.

Being a man who can paint a picture with words, what was growing up in Project City like and how has it influenced your art?

I learned a lot, if you listen to my music i give glimpses of the lessons l learned not only there but throughout Passaic. My art is influenced by what i’ve read, heard, saw, experienced & how to juxtapose against the backdrop of my upbringing.

Can you recall the defining moment when you knew you wanted channel those lessons through art? Do you remember the exact age you were?

I think it was just a progression, from fan to student to artist. I knew early on that l would be an artist that would use his surroundings as canvass though. It’s therapeutic in a way to share my life through song.

Who was your favorite author growing up? What was your favorite book and were there any parallels between the main character of the book and yourself?

I went through a Donald Goines phase, l identified with a lot of his characters. Most of the things we’re taught to covet comes at the expense of freedom, sanity & souls in some cases. Read quite a lot, Message to the Blackman, Autobiography of Malcolm X, The Isis Papers all these books & others allowed me think of the world & my place in it on a deeper level.

Often, artists tell you how to feel when listening to their music and often the canvas is left with no room for thought or feel. I genuinely appreciate when an artist has the ability for it to be inclusive and evoke something without telling you directly where to go. When listening to your music, it feels more like a conversation rather than being dictated too.

Coming up in an era filled with a lot of bravado in music and society as a whole, where emotions, transparency, and vulnerability are often masked and often looked down upon. Did you find it difficult to be open and honest when writing and recording your music?

Thanks for the compliment, much appreciated. Honestly part of me wants to be a boastful or bravado rapper but l think there’s more to me as a person that i need to expose in my music. I am a fan of the culture so all of the styles of rap are needed to tell our story collectively so l don’t look down or raise up any kind of rap over another.

Lord Finesse told me one day that music either talks to or talks for a group of people and if you’re really good you do both at the same time. Conversation & narrative is just part of my make up, l enjoy a good story with a beginning middle & end & that’s what l try to do with my music.

What is one philosophy by which you live by? How has helped you navigate on your journey?

Life is a verb…do something!! Because sitting & hoping & wishing & praying will NOT get you to your goals only work will.

Favorite 3 Albums so far of 2017 ?

Tristate x Oh No – 3 Dimensional Presprciptions
Milano Constantine x DJ Skizz – The Way We Were
Your Old Droog – Pack

2017 had had some DOPE music so far.

Do you have anyone in the music industry you would consider a mentor? If so, what is the best advice you have received and how did you apply it to your craft?

Been blessed to be around some very established & respected people and l have learned from all of them. O.C. is someone l speak to regularly and build with, Lord Finesse is my BROTHER & has given me tons of advice. In fact the whole D.I.T.C. cree had shown me love. Raheem DeVaughn is easily my biggest inspiration musically, his approach to music is unlike anything I have seen from any artist of any genre. Being around him is always a lesson on musicianship. A few peers that l bounce ideas & converse with as well, Blacastan is a good voice of reason for me, Meyhem Lauren as well is a real genuine dude. If l had to choose one person it would be Kenny, he pushes me to be the best ME as an artist that l can be. Our relationship is very much big brother little brother but mutual respect. It’s never him using his years of experience to dictate how we move. My thoughts and input is always welcomed and particularly with this album he took my ideas & just brought them to life

What keeps you grounded? What are the 3 most important things in your life?

My wife is easily the most “real” person I know. Even when I don’t want to she forces me to look objectively at myself. My children, my wife, my love for the culture & music itself. Honestly have no idea what or who I’d be without these things.

Do you have any weakness or specific areas of your craft you would like to improve on?

Wouldn’t say a weakness but l am always looking to improve aspect of my craft. I love the art of it, always have, l take it very seriously & treat each line as a piece of my legacy.

Is there a specific artist you would like to work with that might surprise people? Who would that artist be and what is the reason for wanting to work with them?

I would love to work with Fantasia, her voice to me is amazing. Her voice moves me, so much depth & soul. A fan of Linkin Park l think with their content & infusion of Hip Hop elements we’d chef up something nice. There are a ton of artist whose work l respect. Tom Misch from the UK too, very dope producer & artist.

Are there any special guests appearances on your upcoming project “Brick & Mortar” ?

Yes. A few familiar guests like DJ Scratch & Raheem DeVaughn but the rest i’ll keep under wraps.

Your last album, Future Before Nostalgia was great project. A very well balanced piece of art that displayed your ability to more than compliment production from a legend in Kenny Dope. Is there anything you would have done different?

Nothing at all, i’ve been asked this a few times. Musically and artistically l feel we did exactly what we set out to do and that was to create a well rounded album that showcased our chemistry and our vision. Many feel the album didn’t get as much press as other LP’s that year but everything we accomplished was grass roots and on the strength of the music and for that i’m proud.

Whether it be sonically or conceptually, was there a specific vision you and Kenny Dope had before going in and recording it? Are there any specific goals you are trying to accomplish with this project?

We work with concepts & feel when it comes to an album. We bounce ideas on what it is l want the album to be about & KD then starts to construct sounds to fit our conversations. As we begin the recording process we evaluate each song and where, how or if it fits the concept of the album. With this album the goal is to share my story with the world, on Future Before Nostalgia you got to see the artist but on Brick & Mortar you meet the man.

Do you ever worry about any inadvertent consequences from goals you are trying to accomplish?

My only concern is making the best music I can.

I believe this is a great time for music and also in better place in regards to lyricists being received compared to 5 years ago when Future Before Nostalgia was released. Are there any plans in the near future of releasing music from Brick & Mortar, tours being planned, or any specific details people should be aware of in the future?

Music will be released soon, there are plans and different ideas we are exploring as to how to distribute the music. We plan on using non-traditional platforms to get the music out to the people.

Vinyl sales have drastically increased over the past few years, will Brick & Mortar be available for purchase on vinyl? What are the different formats people will be able to purchase the project?

Vinyl sales were good to us on Future Before Nostalgia. Kenny’s background in the record business always brings us to vinyl, so Brick & Mortar will be released on vinyl & digital.

I am really looking forward to the release of Brick & Mortar, do you have a favorite track on the project? What is the title and what it about the song makes it your favorite?

As of right now, l love them all and can’t wait to share them with the world. Each song is a mood, moment it time so to me they evoke different emotions. D.R.E.A.M., Street Corner, Trickle Down Economics, there’s a few that really jump out. My Plea, Project City. These songs are all different tempos & feels but all are pieces of the Brick & Mortar image i’m putting together.

If you could collaborate with any other artist on a project, line for line; which artist gives you biggest challenge and makes you bring your best every line?

I can’t pick just ONE artist, I’m inspired by so many & respect so many people’s pen game. Nas, Rakim, Black Thought, Common, Damian Marley, Xiomara, Evidence, AZ, Fantasia, Raheem DeVaughn, O.C., Planet Asia, Jay Electronica…man so many…too many to name. All of these artists and many others I listen to make me want to step my pen game up & keep my blade sharp.

New Jersey is a state very rich music culture with legends like Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, Redman, George Clinton , Bon Jovi, Whitney Houston, Frankie Valli, Naughty By Nature and The Misfits to name a few. What is the legacy for Rasheed Chappell and what are the footprints you want to leave behind when your name is mentioned 20 years from now?

I am proud of the music history of NJ and proud to be a part of it. I hope IF or when my name is mentioned they say I was true to the craft. That l was sincere in my approach & dedicated to pushing myself to be the best emcee I could be. I hope people walk away feeling as those they have seen the world through my eyes in three minute and thirty second increments.

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