interview CHINO XL (PART 1) (January 2009) | Interview By: Jonathan Hay

   Many will agree that Chino XL is one of the greatest lyricists of all time – and here we are, on the verge of his most anticipated album yet, The Secret. So, needless to say, it is truly an honor for me to bring this exclusive Chino XL interview to our Dubcnn community.

As we get inside the mind of the person known to the world as Chino XL, we discover that there is more to this conversation than the average interview jargon – no, this has developed into something much more historical, like a written documentary that both new and old school hip hop followers will respect.

This is part one of a three-part saga, brought to you exclusively through Dubcnn. So follow the leader…

As ever, you can read this exclusive interview below and we urge you to leave feedback on our forums or email them to haywire@dubcnn.com.

Interview was done in January 2009

Questions Asked By: Jonathan Hay
Dubcnn Exclusive – Chino XL
A Dubcnn Exclusive
By Jonathan Hay
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Dubcnn: First of all, what is going on right now in the extra large world of Chino XL?

I am gearing up to release my album, The Secret.

Dubcnn: Well, ironically, it’s not much of a secret among diehard fans, as everyone is eagerly awaiting this new album. Anyway, does the album have any parallel or inspiration from the mega popular book, The Secret?

It has more meaning than that… The album is more along the lines of the idea of synchronicity and the idea of the laws of attraction.

Dubcnn: So the album is finished and ready for the world to hear...

Yes sir!

Dubcnn: I talk to so many people within the hip-hop community and, you know, people always have their top favorite emcee debates…so many people list you as one of their top favorite emcees of all time. The respect you have for your mic skills is unprecedented.

I appreciate that and believe me when I tell you, I don’t know how the other people who are on those lists or who are revered in those kinds of ways feel about it, but to me, it’s overwhelming. It’s like, how has some kid in South Africa been exposed to my work like that and put me in his top five emcee he’s ever heard in his lifetime -- or all the way in Australia? In many ways, I still think of myself as that same kid from Jersey who just wanted to get on.

Dubcnn: Speaking of Jersey, you are from East Orange, correct?

Yes sir!

Dubcnn: Did you ever run around with the Naughty by Nature crew?

We were actually rivals in high school… They were called The New Style back then and they were the crew to beat. Not to disrespect anybody or anything, but my rhyming and technique was way more advanced than a lot of people had heard, so it wasn’t hard for me to do what I had to do lyrically. As far as the whole performance thing goes, they had all kinds of like suits and dancers and I just went out there and tore ass out the frame. That was my thing, but they paved the ways, in many ways for the Jersey movement. Treach and I have done movies together and we are cool as hell now. But it’s great to be part of that Jersey scene initially. You had so many great artists from within a five-block radius.

Dubcnn: So did you ever battle Treach back then?

We battled during Summer School… and I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination.

Dubcnn: *Laughing* I’d like to have witnessed that battle. Anyway, Lauryn Hill she’s also from Jersey…

She’s from South Orange, which is basically like the Maplewood area. Her affiliation with East Orange is through Nasty Nell, which is known to the world as Wyclef. They used to be a group called, Rappin in Many Languages. It was Wyclef, Lauryn and then Sam who was the dancer – who is better known as Prakazrel [Pras] joined the group and that’s how you got the whole Fugees thing. Wyclef has always been extremely talented.

Dubcnn: I have an old-school hip-hop head friend of mine from New York named Greyson [also a DVD Producer] and all we do is talk about hip-hop…and sometimes our hip-hop talks can get very argumentative, you know how it is with those hip-hop history discussions…

Trust me, I know and when it gets going and [then] next thing you know, it’s three hours later and you’re immersed in this whole hip-hop thing and you’re talking about ‘remember this’ and ‘remember that’ and you can just smell where you were when you heard the song “Broken Language” for the first time. Hip-hop is such a passionate thing for me and it’s such the love of my life that sometimes I’m hesitant to even get into it.

Dubcnn: Yeah, I feel that. Anyway, Greyson always says that Eminem stole his whole style of rhyming and persona from you and you were Em’s biggest lyrical inspiration. Have you heard that before?

I’ve heard that from some people… and me and Proof were pretty close and I know that in that area in Detroit they had their battle culture going on over there. Here to Save You All [Chino XL’s debut album] was veered as a very, very heavy lyrical album and Jay-Z told me himself when I worked with him that he was influenced by that, but anyway, I was listened to a lot in that [Detroit] area and I probably helped influence their sound. The uncanny thing is that Em and I probably have a lot of the same influences like [Kool] G Rap and so forth. And also numerologically speaking, he is a eight and I am a eight -- but he’s had problems with his kid’s mother and he has problems with his [own] mother and those are the kinds of things that you can’t fake and he didn’t get his life circumstances from me and he couldn’t have emulated that. Let’s just say that Eminem and I have traveled along the same rhythm a lot.

Dubcnn: Eminem is crazy nice and, in my opinion, he is one of the best that ever did it.

For sure.

Dubcnn: You obviously have the respect and the critical acclaim; but do you want to also get in the bracket as one of the best-selling emcees and have some of that mainstream or financial success?

I mean, I wouldn’t kick it out of the bed *laughs*, but the compromises you have to make to get into people’s living room… and sometimes it can be too much of a curveball, if you can’t find the exact way to do it on your own merit. Luckily, I have people who have respect for me, I stay in constant communication with the people who follow me, and I let them know that I am going to try some new and different things, so the people ride with me…

There is a certain longevity that an artist like me -- and I don’t want to say ‘artist like me’ per se because I do have a unique thing that no one else has -- the way my genres are so crossed, the way some people say I’m on a legendary thing, but I’m really younger than Rakim and all of those dudes. Another thing, I’m in the class bracket with Canibus and Rass [Kass] and some of the greats like that. I intermingle with people like Bun-B and I always stay very relevant. I’m a Latino artist also, and I’m an East-Coast human being, but a West-Coast artist, so I got all of these different things that I speak for. I represent so many different things. (Long Pause) If I had to make 15 million dollars off of this business in my lifetime, I would definitely be more happy spreading it out the way that I have been doing, instead of just getting it all in one shot and end up being a laughing stock, or not being able to look myself in the face because I became a cheap commercial for myself. I’m happy with what I have done so far and I’m still able to respect myself.

Dubcnn: Interesting…

Keep in mind, my first single [“Kreep”] that broke me to the world was a remake to a Radiohead song, and it was all over MTV and BET, so I’ve always experimented a little bit.

Dubcnn: Radiohead is such an impressive group, period.

It was such a blessing when I remade that “Kreep” record and they cleared my interpolation of their song in two days… The quote from the lead singer [Thom Yorke] was ‘Chino made my song better than I made it.’

Dubcnn: That’s crazy!

Jonathan, it’s just amazing to me and sometimes I just get choked up about it that you really do have this labor of love and you send it to the world and, in some kind of way, that vibration goes to the people that it is supposed to and somehow they find it. Some kind of invisible, weird morph thing travels through the universe and the people who can’t see it, can’t see it and then boom it hits the target. It hits the little kid who is just like you and feels misplaced, it hits the person who is being abused by their stepfather and they need to find something to hold on to. It hits the people who think that lyrics don’t matter, it hits the Latino emcee trying to get out their neighborhood…it inspires the target some kid of way, without a whole bunch of radio or video play or even without retail and it just find it’s mark and when it does that, it doesn’t do nothing but make me stronger…

Dubcnn: That’s deep and very inspiring, Chino, you have a legacy and a mark that will go further than any amount of money will go.

I really appreciate that. I go in and out of these phases where I’m not sure about what I am going to do next and you look for a sign, or an omen or something… I remember one time I was watching something on the History Channel about the Thrilla in Manila – the [Muhammad] Ali and [Joe] Frazier fight -- and they weren’t talking about how much money Ali made, or what kind of car he drove, or what his homies were thinking, they talked about the fight, that moment in time, and what it meant. It kind of chipped away at certain illusions that I had about what it is that we are really doing. This literature or this vibration can hit a global village for the next person to catch, or for another person to relate to. It is really about the achievement or accomplishment a lot more than the commerce on certain levels. I just always stay true to myself.

Dubcnn: With you being a Latino emcee with heavy ties in the game, did you ever get the honor to work with Big Pun?

Back in the day, Fat Joe’s manager was helping me with so much stuff from organizing my tour, to merchandising endorsements and so forth. There were a lot of places down South that Pun and Joe would open up for me when they were bringing Pun up. I know Pun had crazy admiration and love and respect for what I do. People who worked with Pun used to tell me that he would bring my music to the studio everyday to listen and study it. However, me actually doing a song with him…no, but I do have a project that everybody is about to hear with him.

Dubcnn: Really?

Yeah, and it is vocals [from Big Pun] that no one has ever heard. It gives people chills because it sounds like he is still alive. So I can’t say before he was in heaven, but we are collabing now. I’m telling you, when you hear it, you will get chills because it sounds like he wrote to the beat when he was alive, way better than I could.

Dubcnn: When will people be able to hear that?

It’s on The Secret.

To Be Continued… Stay tuned as we dive in deep to all things Chino XL in the next segments of this special three-part interview.



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