Chuuwee bridges the old and new on his latest mixtape

Words by Andrew Bell

As far as rap goes there are two schools: the old and the new. There is still a dedicated cross section of die-hard boom bappers who will forever hold their Kangols over their hearts and pledge allegiance to the four elements while the new school swags out. In a sea of rappers who are either one or the other, Sacramento’s Chuuwee finds his balance centered directly in the middle of the two. His latest release, Wildstyle, a ‘90s tribute album, is a voyage back to the future as the fresh-faced lyricist takes fans on a brand new trip down memory lane. 

Wildstyle is refreshing when you consider the fact Chuuwee is only 22. This isn’t another old rapper on some “glory days” hype. This is an unrequited love affair with the music and culture of a generation. It’s sort of how Led Zeppelin went back and borrowed from great blues players. The obvious influences of everyone from Wu-Tang, Black Sheep, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, 3X Crazy and Nas come across purely as tribute throughout Wildstyle as Chuuwee manages to pay homage to his influences without doing any cheap impersonations or getting tritely nostalgic. 

Although it is 20 tracks of all original production (and we’re just talking about side A), Wildstyle still had to be considered a mixtape due to label restrictions regarding sample clearance, thus bumping it into the category of mixtapes, making it free for listeners and placing even more pressure on the upcoming release of his first official album, 3rd Coastin

In March of 2012 Chuuwee inked a deal with indie label Amalgam Digital who also represents powerhouse group Slaughterhouse and up-and-comer Curren$y who have both been making waves with their latest releases. With his first album, 3rd Coastin, stylistically falling smack dab in the middle of trap and boom bap, we caught up with Chuuwee to talk about the old school, the new school, “taking it back” and the birth of boom trap. 

You just opened for T.I. What was that like? Any good T.I. Stories?
It was incredible. It was me, T.I. and Big Country King for FSU’s Homecoming. It was epic. The only good T.I. story I have is that he stayed in his tour bus the whole time, so when they showed me his dressing room I took the Sun Chips out of it. Everyone confirmed he wasn’t going to eat them so I snatched them bad boys up.

What are the best and worst parts of life on the road?
The best parts of being on the road are that exactly. Being on your way to somewhere you haven’t been before to perform. Being around label mates. Actually having label mates. Just being able to even travel at all solely off the fact you make music is a very good feeling. The worst parts are being cramped in whatever vehicle you’re in for long ass periods of time but the good outweighs the bad.

Folks are saying you’ve made it. Do you feel like you’ve made it?
I feel like I’m definitely in shoes other people can’t tie up, but I don’t think I’ve overall made it.
I still have a lot of work to do and I’m not satisfied with where I’m at. You’ve made it when you don’t have to hustle on the side even though elsewhere people think you’re a baller. I still don’t have a car.

How did rocking shows in Sacramento prepare you for life on the road?
It honestly got me in the “No one gives a fuck who you are, just do your thing and get off stage” mentality. A lot of cats in Sac think because half of their high school friends are “yes” men that they’re killing the game. You have to remember there are cities and towns that have never heard of you before regardless of what you think you did or done.

Do you feel like you get more love or hate out here in your hometown?
I definitely get more hate here… And don’t get me wrong it’s turning around. People show way more support now than they did before whether it’s genuine or not, but the point is that it is turning around. See, here in Sac doing well for yourself makes you a target. If someone feels like they did you a favor then they’re definitely going to ask for something in return whether you even needed their help in the first place. Then when you refuse to buy in or when you’re not loaning your connections to someone it’s an issue. Then they don’t want to support you anymore. As far as the fans, it’s just really hard to grasp a Sacramentan’s attention. It’s always been that way. Sac doesn’t really support much of anything I’ve come to find. 

What’s more fun to write/record/perform, trap or boom bap?
It’s all fun. It’s my craft. I take pride in being able to do both, and all styles of music. It’s not really about what’s more fun to me, it’s more so when people understand and accept both styles in one sitting. That’s what makes it fun because it’s like, “Yo! He can spit some hip-hop shit and he can still make a point on some fun party shit.” I feel like I’ve mastered the art of songwriting.  

What’s the difference between Wildstyle and every other rapper “takin’ it back?”
Wildstyle was the ‘90s era. No question about it. It sounds exactly like 1990 to ‘96, and if it didn’t, please let me know, but the project is my authentic attempt at ‘90s music. A lot of people feel like rapping over a 90’s style beat or saying that you’re reminiscent of the ‘90s makes your music such, but it doesn’t. I spent 5 years studying and trying my hardest to find production that sounded like my favorite classic songs revamped for my day and age. Anyone can call a chicken a duck, but if it doesn’t swim it’s not a duck.

When can we expect the B-side to Wildstyle?
The B-side is dropping around December. It’s partially completed. It’s just that ever-so wonderful feature game I have to play.

Has the release of Wildstyle been everything you thought it would be after five years?
It isn’t what I thought it would be only because I don’t set expectations. I set general goals or achievements to reach and then try to reach them. There is definitely an improvement in the amount of fans, the support, the [number of] downloads and the overall acceptance of my sound and style but I still need more. I’m capable of way more.

Is 3rd Coastin more trap or boom bap?
3rd Coastin is “Boom Trap,” which is actually a style of music I created with the homie Swoots out of Wisconsin. It focuses on teaching you something while using that more popular sound of southern hip-hop and beats that people love today. It’s a message through the bullshit we love to support and endorse.

Wildstyle (side A), released Oct. 9, 2012 is now available for download at Stay tuned for side B, due out in December. See Chuuwee perform live at Undwrld Fest 2 at Sol Collective (2574 21st Street, Sacramento) on Nov. 9 with Abstract Ninjaa, Keno, J.Good, Konkwest and others. The show starts at 8 p.m. and costs $10.