TWIB Meets is back with the heat as we sit with Rasheed Chappell who just recently dropped a full-length LP First Brick in collaboration with DJ/Producer Kenny Dope. He shares with us some insightful things about his upbringing, his journey in the music business and much more.
For the benefit of anyone who’s been living in an underground bunker for the past several years…who on earth are you?
I am Rasheed Chappell, son of Willette Chappell and Andrew Ward. Native of Passaic NJ and representative of Project City. Oh and I’m an emcee.
How did you get started in music, and what drives you to continue?
My music started as a fan, and it’s my love of the music that drives me. I also feel as if I haven’t reached my full potential yet. My earliest memories are of my mom playing her vinyl and her reading the lyrics to me. The affected me profoundly. I hope my music does the same to others some day.
Do you remember the first recording/song you ever made?
I still have everything I’ve ever written so my first rhyme is in there, I still remember part of it. My first recording was done and my homie Darius’ house, Karaoke style over instrumentals with his little sister Kimmy singing the hook.
If a movie about your life in music was to be made, what interesting/strange moments and stories would you share to make the movie cool?
My entire life has been a mix of strange and cool. I believe in the power of thought followed by action, so if you can conceive it, you can achieve it. I remember being being at work once and was handed a CD of an R&B artist I had never heard before. I skimmed through the CD and one song REALLY stood out to me. Fast forward three years from that date, and I was in the studio with that singer and the person that produced the track. The singer was Raheeem DeVaughn and the producer was Kenny Dope. The song that really stood out was “You” and it was produced by Kenny Dope & Terry Hunter.
Are there any other interesting facts about you that hardly anyone else knows?
That I authored a book entitled, My Soul Exposed. My first show I opened up for Doug E. Fresh and Miss Jones. I worked with Kool and the Gang. I really don’t know what else to say. I put a lot of me in the music.
What is the greatest thing about working in the music industry? And what would you change if you had the opportunity?
That I have the opportunity to share my music with so many people, and have the chance to be heard. I love this climate of instant feedback, you don’t have to wait a week for a review, the fans give it up minute by minute. If I could change anything, I’d like to see that music could have a longer lifespan before people were demanding more music. Art takes time to create and should be digested the same way. Sometimes we as fans miss the beauty because we want the next, we miss the entire now.
Looking back, what have been the most important moments in your life so far?
Musically, being shown love from the OG’s that I grew up on. From Lord Finesse to O.C., The Hiero crew, DJ Clark Kent, DJ Jazzy Jeff…I mean so many. Opening for Rakim, doing a tour run with La Coka Nostra, opening for Jedi Mind Tricks, being played on HOT 97 by Peter Rosenberg.
What have been the biggest highlights?
Being able to do this. I take nothing for granted so being on stage at Central Park Summer Stage in front of five to six thousand people was crazy! Then going overseas and having people that don’t even speak english recite your rhymes is surreal.
What has been your biggest challenge…and how did you overcome it?
Probably my upbringing, the environment. Both my parents were victims of the crack epidemic of the ‘80s, so I was forced to grow up fast. I think music became my escape, listening to and creating it. I got to channel all my rage, fear, anger and all my emotions into song. To be honest, I haven’t overcome it. I still struggle with it.
Who are your heroes? Why do they rock your world?
I don’t have many, I find things people do heroic but I don’t put that title on people. I can separate act from the person. I respect people that chase their dreams despite being told they’re crazy or that it won’t work. And I respect those that have tried and failed. Those that say fuck it and just do it. Those are my heroes.
Who have been the coolest, most memorable people you’ve met along the way, and how did they make an impact on your life?
I’ll name four: Horace Hill—his pop and my pops were friends before we were born. He has been a constant in my life from day one and has always been the same, stand up, honest and solid. Corey Cooper—I met this brother when I was 12 and he became the big brother that I always wish I had. Damon Nelson—the first time I rapped in public people literally fell out in laughter and he stood up and said “nah he got it,” from that day he’s been my A&R. And lastly my younger big brother, Joseph Jackson—his cousin and I came up together and Sef was always a fly on the wall until one day he decided to spread his wings and questioned me about some music. We’ve been ride or die ever since. The common theme is that they’re are all genuine folk and I love them for seeing me before the world did.
When you’re sitting on the porch age 97 what would you like to look back on and smile having achieved?
Shit, that I achieved 97!! That I achieved a life where those I love know I made sacrifices for them not selfishly. I hope I achieve a life that if I make it to 97, I’m surrounded by people that love me.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
Definitely rocking with Lord Finesse. He has been a supporter, turned big brother from day one of linking with Kenny. I had a show at this little spot in the city called The Grisly Pear, and Finesse popped in and rocked with me. Unannounced and unplanned. I wish all my cousins and uncles that played his shit in the crib could have been there to see it.
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
Meeting Nas when I was in High School and rapping for him. That was wild. We were at a spot called The Rink and it must have been Teen Night or something because it felt like my entire school was there. I remember the crowd around us as I rapped and he told me “keep writing”—I did and now l’m here.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
Oh man that’s a tough one. King, X, Ali, Tubman, Spike Lee, Ellen, Oprah, Serena, Nas, Rakim, George Lucas so many. I’d serve Banana King on Broadway of course!
What are the greatest songs, albums, books, movies, TV shows, websites you’ve ever come across?
• Songs: Way too many to name, my mother’s entire vinyl collection!
• Books: The Radical Leap, The Isis Papers, The Browder Files
• Movies: Star Wars (the original three), The first 2 Godfather movies, The Princess Bride
• TV: Forged In Fire, Ancient Aliens, The Cosby Show, It’s A Different World, Chopped
• Websites: I don’t frequent too many other than sneaker sites…
Name 5 songs (yours excluded) that we would expect to find on your iPod or Music Player
• Nas – “N.Y. State of Mind”
• Rakim – “Paid in Full”
• Mobb Deep – “Shook Ones”
• Black Moon – “Got Ya Open”
• O.C. – “Time’s Up”
• Nirvana – “In Bloom”
• Snoh Aalegra – “Feels”
• Kelly Rowland – “Motivation”
• Christopher Cross – “Sailing”
• Hall & Oates – “Maneater”
What special-hero type skills are you blessed with?
None, unfortunately, I need that plant from Wakanda that the Black Panther ate.
Where can everyone reading this interview keep up with your adventures?
Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Cashapp, Venmo [laughs]…you know the usual.
Any final thoughts?
Thank you for taking the time to do this interview and thank you to my team DJ Eclipse, Kat McBride, Wil Swink, Steve Royster, foundationDIGITAL FILMS, Sugahill, Ives, Project City stand up! Be sure to go ahead and support the First Brick LP☛ HERE
• “Street Corner Shit (feat. O.C.).”
• “Shorty Rock”
Read our previous interviews here.