HHS: You have a stellar list of guests on your album, out of all of the people who was most unique in their approach to recording?
CHOPS: I’d say probably Raekwon was the most unique, he’s one of the bigger names but he was real open to experimenting, trying different shit, and was cool about input or thoughts I might have. For some of the album, due to budget constraints and stuff, I didn’t get as much one-on-one time as I would have liked in the creative process. But with Rae it was pretty much constructing it from ground zero. I like doing it like that because then what you end up with is really a collaboration or interactive joint. Plus you get to build and whatnot, and get the sense of who you’re working with. To me that’s key because then you know what fits the artist. Like for instance, you can go get a suit from any store, put it on, and it might be ok for like birthdays and bar mitzvahs and stuff. But you go to a tailor for a suit, and they will hook you the fuck up. That’s what I do best. My shits tailor-made.
HHS: How does an underground production staple like yourself that has yet to have a major label hit get the hottest artist/producer in the game right now (Kanye West) spit something for his album?
CHOPS: What happened with that was Kanye had linked up with Big E, at my label, to talk some business. And while they were hanging out at the studio, E had been playing a CD of my beats. And Kanye was diggin it and got the urge to jump in the booth. Which to me was crazy because his beats are bonkers, he’s one of my favorites. To get that kind of respect from somebody I got so much respect for and who’s achieved so much meant a lot to me. He’s somebody I look to for inspiration, he’s real creative but at the same time got a good handle on what makes for success and you gotta have that combination to really win. That’s a definite goal for me.
HHS: With this record I am already seeing you are getting your first dose of getting on major mixtapes. How did that happen?
CHOPS: Well, back when we were coming out with my group’s first record (Mountain Brothers), I met these two dudes who were at a college radio station, and they helped out a lot with promoting our record, helping it get airplay and whatnot. We didn’t know shit about any of that kind of stuff, so we were pretty much grateful for that. So anyway one of them, Mike Baxter, is now my manager and the other one is DJ Lt. Dan who’s like burning up the mixtape scene now. So they’ve been like family since way back, and now it’s about to be everybody’s time.
HHS: Is your approach different when you are working an Indy artist like say a Bahamadia, than it is when you are working with somebody like a Snoop or somebody that sells allot more records and is on a major?
CHOPS: I’m just starting to get bigger stuff but my approach is basically the same for every project I take on: Put the artist in the best light I can. Make that suit fit how it should. Give them something to work with, that suits their skills, their market, and plus satisfies whoever’s paying the bill, whether it be a label, a sponsor or an ad agency or whoever. A producer is supposed to be the link between art and commerce. Even with an underground record, you want to reach people and move some units, so I try and write tracks that are catchy and stick in your head. And artists know me for that. As a beatmaker I definitely work to make sure the track hits the mark, and I’ll add little touches and stuff, or have certain things drop out here and there to bring out and highlight the performance of who’s rhyming or singing or whatnot. I think I got a good knack for that since I rhyme too. But overall, mostly going off of vibe and gut has worked so far. If you’re aiming for a certain target audience, my goal is to make sure your shot murk’s that whole audience.
HHS: You have been doing alot of instrumental work as of late, is that something that you like doing more or less than working with MC’s?
CHOPS: I like making music period. It’s all fun. MC’s, singers, instrumental stuff… I feel like if you have the ability to do different things, why not go ahead and do it. Sometimes you want to write a banger, sometimes a story beat, sometimes a song about being lonely or whatever for a singer, or sometimes just music just for the sake of itself. Being able to switch it up keeps things from getting boring or routine.
HHS: When if ever can we look for a CHOPS solo record as far as an MC?
CHOPS: Getting started on that now, I been meaning to do a solo project for some time but I’d been focusing on the producer record, plus I spent the past year moving and building my new studio space. So now that the studio’s set up, it’s no excuses. I never had a chance to really focus on rhymes yet so I feel like I can surprise some people, whether they know my shit so far, or not.
HHS: As an MC would you ever work with other producers? And if so who?
CHOPS: Sure I would. That’s a good question though. There are a lot of producers that I dig, but at the same time making the beats is a big part of the fun for me. You know what would be fun is to do some shit with other producers that also rhyme. A lot of my favorite producers rhyme too. Like say Pete Rock, Lord Finesse, Large Professor, Diamond D, Jay Dee, Kanye are some of my favorites. Actually my taste though is broader than you might think. I mess with like, Dre, DJ Quik, Timbaland, all kinds of stuff. But yeah, a lot of your better producers, rhyme or sing too (laughter). That’s how they know how to make you sound good when you’re front and center.
HHS: Twista has the #1 LP in the country right now. I had heard at one time you were doing some stuff with Twista what ever happened to that material?
CHOPS: At one time I did some remix stuff for a few artists on Atlantic, which was thru a contact I had there. But dude jetted and now that stuff is not to be, as far as on the official tip. You never know if that kind of thing might pop up on like a mixtape or whatnot though. It was good training for me, like remixing bigger records you get a better sense of what makes a bigger record, a bigger record. I remix joints all the time, either as a paid gig or even just for training purposes and as demos to let motherfuckers know what I can do.
HHS: It seems that through the years on the Mountain Brothers records, all the way up to “Virtuosity” that you have allot of top notch DJs doing their thing on your records. Is that something that just happens out of habit or is it part of your formula?
CHOPS: Well, I wouldn’t say I had a formula but I got a deep respect for DJs man. Not only in the sense of cuts on a record, like with scratch hooks and intro’s and outro’s and stuff, but in the sense that they bring you to the people. Ultimately the listener makes an artist successful, but how does the listener ever even find out an artist exists? Most times it’s a DJ. A DJ works as like a taste filter for the average motherfucker. The people rely on the DJ to have taste.
HHS: What can we expect out of CHOPS for the rest of the year? And where do you see yourself in five or ten years?
CHOPS: The rest of the year you’re gonna see constant grind, basically. Expect to see my name on more credits, expect to see me networking and building the track record more. Plus musical advancement, both under and overground. Expect to see my name starting to pop up places you would have never thought before. Maybe even with stuff that’s not strictly hip-hop, like say film music or TV or ad music. I like surprising people. And basically expect that not to stop until I’m old, decrepit and in a hospital. And by then, maybe they’ll invent something where you can be like, in a coma and still make music. Best believe I’ll have whatever that shit is. Also thanks for the interview and check www.chopsmusic.com
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