Exclusive: Chris Webby explains dropping seven mixtapes & one EP independently & why he says, "I'd be nothing without fans."
By 2013, you’d assume the white, suburban rapper trope was finally dead, right? Macklemore has people thrifting, while getting the same love from the likes of ScHoolboy Q and housewives at Whole Foods. Mac Miller has relocated to Los Angeles, befriending locals and making some of the best drugged-out music ever. And a certain bottle blonde from Detroit is poised to dominate the fourth quarter. But, take away those isolated examples, and how do you really feel when an emcee with a distinct lack of pigment pops up via YouTube, iTunes or your favorite blog?
“Yeah I’m from where I’m from, but I represent it,” says Chris Webby. Arguably, only a 1989 version of Tom Hanks has done more to make “The Burbs” en vogue. “I say that shit off the bat. I’m not trying to be something I’m not, but that doesn’t make me any less authentic than anyone else. I can spit, and I’ve been rapping for 15 years now. This is all I do. I eat, sleep and breathe this shit. You got to give this shit a chance, man…I’m just going to force them.”
Just to add another layer to the story, the Connecticut-bred rapper is one of the millions currently being prescribed attention-deficit drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin. Over the course of a phone interview, you don’t get the stereotypical lack of focus that comes with A.D.H.D./A.D.D., but rather someone who has found a tailored, non-traditional approach to everything in life—including launching a Rap career.
If people can get over the perceptions that come with being a white rapper from the suburbs of Connecticut, that part about how Webby’s going to “force them” should get a lot easier. In August, the budding emcee cemented a partnership with Entertainment One for his HomeGrown Music imprint. Here, Chris Webby discusses his new “allowance” the perception of being from the suburbs and why he’s excited about Hip Hop’s current direction.
Chris Webby Details His Homegrown Music Partnership
HipHopDX: I imagine things are pretty busy for you right now.
Chris Webby: Yeah, man…shit’s crazy trying to balance everything, keep the A.D.D. at bay and get everything done. But shit is good. Busy is good in this industry, that’s for damn sure.
DX: So the biggest thing going on right now is that your Homegrown imprint is going into a partnership with eOne. What is that allowing you guys to do that you weren’t already doing independently?
Chris Webby: Thus far, we were independent to the fullest extent of the word. For seven mixtapes and an EP, we were literally coming out of pocket for expenses with me and my manager Dana doing everything. We had assistance here and there, but the financial burden was difficult. It’s a blessing that we had the fan base to do it. That allows you to go on tours, and you make your money there, plus there’s merchandise, etcetera, etcetera. But now we have funding to really do some of the stuff that it’s just tough to do.
A lot of people don’t understand how expensive this fucking job is. Going out on the road, feeding everybody, getting hotel rooms, the gas, vehicles and shooting music videos—all that stuff ain’t cheap. It all adds up. I’m the type of dude where I don’t really care about money. Money’s not really important to me, in essence. But doing this makes you realize you need the money if you’re going to invest back into yourself. That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing. I’ve invested a lot of money back into it. I don’t spend a lot of money. I got a car. I got a nice Camaro, put some nice black rims on it, but that’s about it. Other than that, I’m totally cool just doing some ill shit with this career, and it’s just nice having more of an allowance basically.
DX: I remember reading some earlier interviews, and you talked about per diems, the buses and just how much overhead is involved in being an artist. What’s that like…
Chris Webby: It’s crazy. Signed artists don’t necessarily have to think about a lot of that sometimes, because the label just kind of handles it. As some 22, 23 and 24-year-old kids, we had to just kind of figure out how all this shit works, and we had to pay for it.
Why Chris Webby Says, “It’s Time To Mature As An Artist.”
DX: You’re just seven, eight projects deep with an established group of fans that you cater to. But there’s new people coming in everyday. How do you balance that and keep it fresh?
Chris Webby: Well it’s definitely a task, because at the same time I have these fans who have been with me for so many years, and I have to cater to them of course. But still changing and evolving as a person, you just… As an artist, you want to make different music as you get older.
You become a different person, have new life experiences, you just rap about different stuff and your style evolves as you go. It’s important to cater to those original fans, but at the same time you can’t put yourself in a box. Like there’s people who want fucking Wu-Tang to come out and do “C.R.E.A.M.” 16 times on every album, every time. You just got to understand that artists evolve; artists grow. And a good fan, an understanding fan evolves with the artist without prematurely throwing out the word “sellout” or something like that.
I think that term is bullshit. Obviously, you see plenty artists who do literally sell out, but it’s such an overused and misunderstood word. I feel like they just view change as selling out sometimes without really understanding. Selling out, in essence, is really when you allow like the corporate aspect of everything to change what you do, and you do it for a buck. Like I said, I just want to sell music. Some of these fans like the style that I came up with. It’s very cypher oriented, very punchline heavy, and that’s been my kind of thing. But I’m not going to come out and spit fucking 50 bars with no chorus on every track. I’ve done that. I’ve shown I can do that, and now its time to make some music. I wanna really make some dope shit. Of course, the bars are still going to be there, but it’s time to evolve and mature as an artist. I’m still going to cater to those fans, like I said, and I’ll throw out some free verses here and there. But its an evolution—Darwin predicted it.
DX: I hear you talk about the show and prove aspect a lot, and just looking at previous interviews race factors into that a little bit. But after you hold down tracks with Method Man, Joel Ortiz and Freeway, what do you have left to prove if anything?
Chris Webby: Well that’s another thing too. At this point, I feel less like I have to go out there and just prove that I can rap every fucking time I get on a track. Whether people want to acknowledge it or not, I’ve been here for a minute. I’ve been here before a lot of these other white kids who have hopped on the radar, and I’m still here, which shows a testament to the fact that clearly it’s not bullshit. Artists who can rap are the ones that stick around. Since 09’—coming out being a white kid from Connecticut—it was super important that I really proved myself. And that was really even before the Chris Webby shit was taking off. Back in the cyphers in high school and college, I was the white kid from the suburbs of Connecticut. It was very important that I couldn’t be the second best in the cypher; I had to be the best—end of story. So that’s been a huge part of my career, and I think it’s been dope, because it definitely pushes you to be the best you can be when you really feel like you have to show off your talent. But at this point, I’ve accomplished and achieved a lot, so I’m not going to hit people over the head, like, “Yo, yo, yo, I can rap. I can rap!” Dude, I’m here. You either fuck with it, or you don’t fuck with it.
Chris Webby Addresses Stereotypes Of Suburban Rappers
DX: Just kind of hopping around a bit, the single “Crashing Down” is great in terms of showing the other side of what some of your music represents. You don’t see rappers talking about paying their parents back or admitting that they wanted to quit. What went into the song?
Chris Webby: Wow…yeah, that’s an older joint. With certain songs you go out there, and you’re just rapping. But from an artist standpoint, you also write songs that are really therapeutic, and you have to get that shit off your chest. In terms of paying my parents back for bail money, fucking college loans and shit, that’s just important to me, man. My parents held me down, and they supported me through all of this bullshit. Straight up, without their support, there’s no way I would have been able to be where I am today without them. People have all sorts of assumptions and shit, like, “Yes, I’m from the suburbs of Connecticut, but that doesn’t mean I’m a rich kid who has this like infinite safety net of money behind me.” I’m a middle class kid. My mom was a math teacher at public school, and my dad is a guitar player—so he did weddings and stuff—and he does guitar lessons now. But it’s not like I got some super rich grandparents. I don’t have some crazy family members funding my career, so they had the support and love to hold me down whenever I would fuck up. If it came to it, it’s not like we had no money, so they would hold me down if I needed it. I did go to private school too, so a lot of people think, “Oh this motherfucker is paying for private school, and he’s paying for Hofstra.” I’m a smart kid. I had scholarships, and there’s no way I would’ve been able to do that shit without it. I had academic scholarships, so I guess I’m actually pretty smart and shit.
DX: I think some of your music lends itself to people in school that just want to party, but it seems the structured thing wasn’t really for you. What is the connection between Chris Webby and school or education if there is one?
Chris Webby: The way my brain works—in terms of English, writing and reading—those have always been my strengths. I would say I’m very good at a lot of that shit. You work with your strengths. What I did is, I sold weed to my math teacher, and he let me slide. He gave me a C-plus. So you find ways, and that’s all politics and figuring out how you’re going to make it. When you’re on scholarship, you got to figure the shit out, make sure you do what you do and get it done.
But I’m a huge supporter of education, and I think I’m a mix of a lot of things. I’m a party animal to an extent—a pretty big extent, especially back in the day, man. Pretty much all I learned in college was how to do drugs better, but at the same time I was there. I had to keep a 3.0 grade point average at Hofstra for as long as I was there, and I did. So I think school is really important, and I think I’m the rapper that I am today because I fucking paid attention in English class and I read all the books. I fucking read To Kill a Mockingbird, The Odyssey, The Great Gatsby, and I actually enjoyed that shit. I still read to this day all the time. So I think it’s really important, but at the same time, college isn’t for everybody. You don’t need college if you paid attention throughout your initial schooling—kindergarten through high school. Not everybody needs college. You learn what you learn in school, you focus on what you’re good at, and you just got to be fucking ambitious in life. That’s all there is to it.
I see a lot of motherfuckers with wasted intelligence and wasted talent. They’re just not ambitious, and you see those motherfuckers in school, and they’re just there. I’m a fucking huge marijuana supporter, but I see some motherfuckers, and it’s just like, “You are so fucking smart, man! But you’re sitting here skipping class to smoke weed and fucking blowing your parents money.” If you want to go out there and get it in life, you got to fucking work, and school is a great way to give you that structure. Another thing that really gave me that discipline and structure is wrestling. I did wrestling back in high school, which gets you disciplined as a motherfucker. At the same time I’m out here popping pills, going crazy and drinking ‘til I fucking pass out on someone’s floor. I’m like all about like, you work hard you fucking play hard.
Chris Webby Weighs In On A.D.D., Censorship & Environmentalism
DX: I think there’s just a whole generation of kids out here on Ritalin and Adderall, and they’re kind of misunderstood and misdiagnosed. How much do you feel like the example of somebody who made it out by not going by this textbook example of what you’re told?
Chris Webby: Yes! You don’t have to do what you’re told, [because] society tries to tell us to do one thing. Where I’m from, society did not say, “Yo, go be a rapper.” That’s for fucking sure, but that’s what I wanted to do. And I was like, “How can I make this work? What do I have to put in to make this happen?” I’ve been working, and being a rapper is a job that never really ends. You’re doing something job related every motherfucking day. You don’t have specific hours, but you’re working. So I’ve been like working since motherfucking sixth grade if you really think about it, because all of the writing and all that shit fucking adds up.
But like you said, I’m a super A.D.D. kid too, so you know I understand the whole generation of kids with A.D.D. And I think that it has a lot to do with the shit that they started putting in our food and shit like that. Once the big corporations… Our parent’s generation was really the first one to get all this processed, fucking preservatives and all this shit. Now we’re all coming out a couple cents short upstairs—you know what I mean? It is what it is, but I have really bad A.D.D., and I’ve just learned to function and live with it.
I take Adderall, and I wish I didn’t have to, but it’s what I have to do if I’m going to be a productive member of society. I don’t take a lot of Adderall. I take 10 milligrams and I’m good, but I hate that shit. I know some motherfuckers that get cracked out on 40 milligrams, and I’m like, “Yo, what are you doing?” I take Ambien to sleep a lot, and it sucks ‘cause that’s that whole philosophy behind Western medicine. They don’t cure nothing, they just get you… The drug companies are the biggest hustlers in the world, and we’re in a generation where pretty much everyone’s got something that requires them to take something else.
DX: Right. You address it on the song, “Whatever I Like.” We’re in this era where some rappers are scared to talk about those things. What do you think as far as being in this era of coming out with official apology statements and getting censored? Does that deter you?
Chris Webby: First of all, there is just so much fucked up shit going on in the world, and once you really… I started really learning about a lot of that a couple years ago, and once you go down that rabbit hole, there’s just no fucking end to it. There is just so much fucked up shit going on that it is mind blowing. I address it occasionally in songs, but sometimes people aren’t trying to hear that shit. There is so much shit going on that sometimes, they just want to hear some party shit, so they can not think about it all the other shit. But I think it’s important that everybody fucking knows about it ‘cause if everybody knows about it, then that gives you an opportunity for change. But it’s like motherfuckers don’t even care anymore. They just become complacent with the fact that everything is fucked up, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
I’m a huge environmentalist—like people don’t really know that about me. But that’s my one thing I’m super over the top with. It’s to the point where I’m keeping everybody’s bottles on the tour bus, so I can get them to a recycling bin at some point. You got to care about something man.
DX: Are we going to see Chris Webby on the biodiesel bus one day?
Chris Webby: Yeah, I would love to. I mean, I’m hypocritical; I got a motherfucking Camaro, but I try to do my part, and it’s a lot going on with all that shit. Personally, I think that’s going to be the ultimate downfall of us as a species—our complete disregard for the planet we live on. It’s not our generation, but we’re going to start seeing a lot of it in our generation, in my opinion. But what was the original question, I got all off, talking about the environment?
DX: I think I was just talking about “Whatever I Like” and how we’re in an age of where rappers get censored. I was going to mention Rick Ross specifically.
Chris Webby: Oh yeah, and how people have to make apologies and shit. Listen to Eminem. Fuck that, bro. You fucking talk about what you want with no apologies, bro. He said it best in the song, “No Apologies.” You say what you say, and if you say it on the record, you better fucking stand by what you say. If you won’t stand by it… If people put you on the stand later, and they’re like, “Is this really what you’re thinking?” You got to make sure you really feel that way.
It’s bullshit sometimes, because this music is entertainment. Motherfuckers get all pissy about this shit, and everybody’s getting all fucking soft. Deal with it. And everybody’s apologizing like with the whole Rick Ross situation where he did the thing about the Molly in the drink or whatever. I did a joke about it on my single “Down Right.” I said, “I’d put some MDMA in your mom’s martini, and she ain’t even know it.”
I understand, and then you could bring endorsements into it, and that’s a whole world that I’m not as familiar with being a mixtape rapper on the come up. So you’re talking big corporate money, but I’m just not with corporate motherfuckers. To come all the way back to the money thing, I’d rather be putting out a good product that I stand by and saying what the fuck I want. If I lose a fucking endorsement over it, well themight I’m crazy. That’s when managers are like, “Woah woah. I don’t know, man…” And I’m just like, “Dude, fuck it.” And that’s why I’m stupid sometimes.
Chris Webby On The Importance Of Fan Interaction
DX: I feel like a big part of your success comes from interacting with fans and being super personable, since we’re in this era where anybody can rip or download your project if they want. How much effort do you put into connecting with fans on a one- on-one basis?
Chris Webby: Dude, a lot. I think it’s really important. As you get bigger, it gets harder, but when you’re on the come up, that shit is so fucking important. There are so many artists motherfuckers could be listening to. Why are they going to choose you over them? They’ve got to really fuck with you, and yeah, they’re going to like your music. But they got to fuck with you and want to support you if they’re going to go on iTunes and buy an album, because they could just go somewhere else and get it for free. So they really have to be invested in you, and they’re not going to be invested with you if you don’t give a fuck about them. I genuinely give a shit about the people who are going to be supporting me and have been supporting me. I’d be nothing without them. We wouldn’t be having this interview right now. I’d be a fucking kid sitting in his room like some pissed off rapper, scribbling things in my notebook. Without them, you’re nothing, so it’s very important.
I stay after all my shows, and I hang out with the fans as much as possible. I try to stay interactive on Twitter and Facebook. It’s super fucking important man, and with these social networks, it’s given us the opportunity that we never had before. I hopped on and really started coming up late in the social network wave. I remember MySpace was the shit. When I got my MySpace redone by a graphic designer back in the day, I was so pumped. If you had an official MySpace, you were the man. That really set the trend for me as far as interacting with people and answering their messages on that.
And it gets harder, because people have these crazy expectations of you. I’m not checking Twitter 24/7, and they’re like, “You never retweet me.” Dude, I have a fucking personal life too, but when I’m on the clock, and when I’m at shows and shit, man… I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed out on getting pussy, because a girl’s been waiting around, and I’m taking pictures with everybody. She’s like, “Fuck this,” and it just is what it is. I have my priorities, and fans come first.
But at the same flip of the coin—when I’m out in public, hanging out with friends, or with my family—as a fan, people need to people their personal space. If I’m at the gym in the middle of a set, don’t come up and ask for a picture. At the show, that’s when I’m in Chris Webby mode, so fans need to understand the difference and understand that we do have personal lives too.
DX: So it’s gotten to that point already?
Chris Webby: Yeah. I mean yeah for sure dude. and in like Connecticut and shit like you know, which is great and its cool man and like when you’re in that mood, but like some people don’t understand we have moods just like everybody else. Sometimes I’m just not trying to deal with that, I’m hung over, I’m trying to get a bacon, egg and cheese, I’m not really trying to… and I will take a picture with you. I will take a picture with you, but at the same time I’m not going to be like, ‘Yeah man, aw thanks for supporting’ like I’m in a bad mood, but you also have to realize that may be the only time that person sees you in person and now for the rest of his life, every time Chris Webby gets brought up, he’s going to bring up that instance. Is he going to have something good or bad to say?
Hopes For “MMLP2” & How Eminem Influenced Chris Webby
DX: That’s real. The last question—not so much related to your project—but I know you’re a big Eminem fan. What are you looking for when this Marshall Mathers LP 2 drops?
Chris Webby: Dude, I couldn’t be more excited that he’s coming back on the scene! I’m fucking pumped. It’s crazy how my rollout is overlapping with his, but that’s my favorite rapper. I cannot wait to hear some new shit. For him to make the Marshall Mathers LP 2, I think he knows as well as everyone else that shit better be dope, because that is his critically acclaimed, best album. I would agree with that too, but my personal favorite is The Slim Shady LP. There was just something about that, the way that album affected my life at the time as a young kid will always be probably my number two favorite album next to [Dr. Dre’s] 2001. That’s my favorite all time, and of course, Eminem had some legendary appearances on there.
But I’m fucking excited just for Hip Hop, man. There’s some good things that are happening for Hip Hop. I think Macklemore is really good for Hip Hop. He shows the capabilities of an independent artist, and his shit’s good. I get pissed off, and I defend Macklemore—I’ve never met the dude—but I’ll defend him in a minute when motherfuckers are like he’s Pop for this. He makes good music! Pop music and mainstream music has a bad connotation, but just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’s bad. Just because most of the popular Hip Hop right now does suck, it doesn’t mean that’s just because it’s popular it’s bad.
I think Hip Hop took a lot of back steps in the past decade to an extent, and it’s good to see that’s there’s still some good shit happening. There’s still some raw, organic shit. Hip Hop went mad fucking corporate, went mad fucking corporate where motherfuckers are working for their deals with the companies for endorsements.
They’re more concerned with their endorsements than the rawness of the record and shit like that. That’s not what Hip Hop was about when it started, that’s for damn sure. And I wasn’t even there when it started. I’m going to be 25 next month, so you know what I mean. I wasn’t even there, but I obviously know my history. When I was young, dope shit was on the radio like Busta Rhymes, DMX, Eminem, Dre, Snoop, Xzibit. Even the Hip Hop that was on the radio was dope. I fucking used to love Cash Money, Dipset, and I fucked with all that shit. But now, the shit that’s on the radio just doesn’t do the same thing for me. Of course, I’m a different age and now I’m in the game, so I have to receive everything differently. But man, it used to be ill. I think we can get it there again. People just got to want to hear good shit and, they got to not put up with the bullshit.
DX: I think having that independent leverage is a big part of it.
Chris Webby: Absolutely. Absolutely, because now we can kind of do what we want and we can actually win.
Chris Webby’s HomeGrown EP is available for pre-order via iTunes.