Exclusive: Cool Kids member Chuck Inglish details channeling his various influences into his debut solo album and why attention to detail matters so much.
If Chuck Inglish doesn’t sound like your average rapper, it’s because he’s not. By his own admission, he’s technically not a rapper or an emcee.
“I rap, but I’m not really a Rap artist,” Chuck explained, during an exclusive interview with HipHopDX. “What I’m bringing to the table is music; I just rap on top of that shit. But I’m also making the music I’m rapping to. I’m designing things in a way to attract your ear, and then you’ll be like, ‘Damn. That motherfucker’s rapping to it.’”
True to his word, the Cool Kids member wore his influences on his sleeve during the creation of his debut solo album, Convertibles. Chuck easily name checked Prince’s “When Doves Cry,” Michael Jackson’s Thriller and enlisted the aid of Incubus member Mike Einziger. It’s those iconic influences and that attention to detail that manifested themselves when a younger version of Chuck was cuffing his jeans or aligning his pads at football practice. These days, Chuck still sweats the small stuff, whether he’s going in on a 25-minute drum solo or working on improving his piano skills and music theory. Just don’t ask him to bring that Zipcar back on time.
The Importance Of Car Culture In Chuck Inglish’s Music
HipHopDX: There’s clearly a common thread between the titles Droptops and Convertibles—not to mention the amount of car lyrics on the album. What got you into cars?
Chuck Inglish: Being born in Detroit, Michigan. It’s the “Motor City.” You come home from the hospital in a car; apparently I came home from the hospital in a Cutlass. Actually, I don’t know what kind of car it was. The first couple things I’ve ever seen had the Chevy logo on them. My parents, my grandfather and my uncles all worked for General Motors.
Music and cars go together like peanut butter and jelly, because most of the time you’re listening to your favorite songs in a car. You’re not really trying to roll down the window and pump the new shit while you’re in a Saturn. You want it to match. So when people were listening to new shit coming up on my block, they had rims on it, ground effects or fender work done to it. They had speakers on the outside of the door and shit. To me, that made a song become way more electric. When you’re listening to “Nuthin’ But A G Thang” coming down the block in a [Pontiac] Grand Prix and that shit has ground effects…the wheels are like three, four or five inches outside, the song is automatically cooler.
To me, I don’t envision anyone just playing my shit from their laptop saying, “Yeah, that’s that shit.” That’s not how I see it. In my mind, when you get in your car that you’re taking the cover off of, the first thing you put in is my shit. So the car influence is because that’s the environment I enjoy listening to music in the most.
DX: How much of the music being car-friendly goes into the music as you’re producing?
Chuck Inglish: Oh, everything. I still EQ it so if you were to listen to it on computer speakers, it still has a thump. But you shouldn’t. And if you are, then you’re not really a fan. You’re just a spectator, and that’s cool. But don’t comment as if you know what the album sounds like as if you listened to it. You can’t listen to shit on computer speakers. There’s a lot of people with a lot of opinions who want to make comments, but you ain’t listen to a record.
I didn’t listen to Pusha T’s shit until I heard it in the car. I listened on computer speakers for months…let me not say months. It was at least two weeks before I heard it in the car, and I made no judgments until I heard it in the car. Once I heard it in the car, I said, “Damn, this shit is goin’!” There’s too much of a difference. It’s like Yeezus. If you hear that on computer speakers, it’s nothing. But when you play that bitch in the car? That shit is a whole ‘nother ballgame; it’s a fuckin’ dirty-ass album. So I don’t want to be listened to on computer speakers. They haven’t G’d computer speakers out enough for me to do that.
I make it for cars, people that still got stereos in their room and I make it for the live show a lot too. When you’re at a show, I don’t want people just standing there getting lost. There’s always sounds around them hitting them from the floor and all over.
DX: Do you have anything special in the garage right now?
Chuck Inglish: I don’t have a garage right now. I sold my car when I went to school in Chicago. I didn’t need a car. I was being all green and shit for a while, so I joined Zipcar. I was trying to save money and shit, but I was BS-ing at Zipcar. They took my shit away. I would drive to somebody’s house, go to a party, and then leave the party to go with a girl to her house. Then I’d leave her house and go back to the crib like I didn’t have a car. So Zipcar would send me an e-mail like, “Hey bro, do you have our car?” Then it would be like, “Damn, I gotta go over there and get that bitch!” After about the third time, they just said, “Sorry, we have to let you go.”
Chuck Inglish Explains Work With Mountain Dew & Cartoon Network
DX: That’s crazy.
Chuck Inglish: I like to buy shit when I can buy a ton of them. Right now, I’ve been putting my money back into this record. I did a deal that favors me winning in the end, so I just invested my money back in myself. I’m gonna ride clean as soon as this bitch is out, so [laughs]…
DX: As a member of The Cool Kids, you collaborated with Mountain Dew, 2K Sports and other brands. How much will that continue into your solo career.
Chuck Inglish: Whatever makes sense. Those things made sense. Collaborations are only collaborations when both parties are equal and have things to contribute. That’s how it works for me. I don’t walk around looking, and it’s not open like, “Come work with me.”
I have a song that is on Workaholics this season—the Action Bronson song [“Gametime”]. That’s a collaboration to me, because I love that show. Those dudes are cool as fuck to me, so anything they would want from me is a good representation on both ends. It could be a song on a car commercial. But if it’s a car that I don’t drive then it’s not really a good idea. If it’s not really a car company I support, then it’s not a good idea. If it’s somebody that I like, and they step up and say, “Yo, we would like to partner with you,” then it’s a better situation for us both. That way, you’re not representing something just for a check.
DX: Do you have any collaborations lined up?
Chuck Inglish: Not yet. This album is as much of a baby as it can possibly be. This is groundwork and reinventing your own direction as much as possible. Anything that comes will be coming in the next couple months, and we’ll deal with it from there.
I wasn’t even open to it yet. It was like, “Why pick your direction if you don’t even know it?” I wanted to figure it out as I go, and that way it’s more customizable. I can pick the best situation that pops up instead of agreeing to something. I’m playing it safe.
Chuck Inglish Describes His Attention To Detail
DX: Earlier you mentioned the different levels of EQ-ing and even making you’re your cuffs matched when you were in school. Where do you get your attention to detail?
Chuck Inglish: Fuck…I don’t know, man. My mother said I’ve been like that since I was little. I guess it just runs in the DNA. I was always like that about haircuts, and I guess I was just neat.
One thing my mom used to say when I was in grade school was, “If you put your name on it, then it’s yours.” That’s with all things people see. If your handwriting is off and your answer is wrong, the presentation of the paper matters. If you turn in an A paper with chicken grease on it, then you’re just a chicken grease havin’ ass nigga. You’re not neat, so it don’t matter. That’s the perception you give off, like, “Yeah, you’ll do the work, but you don’t care what it looks like when you turn it in.” That always stuck with me.
Even in football practice, I still looked like it was game time. During game time, my pads would be neat, and I’d tie my shoes and be taped up. All that shit used to matter, because that’s what I knew would make me feel better about playing. When I played basketball, if I had shorts that didn’t fit, there was no way I was hoopin’ that well that game. I knew that if I didn’t look fresh—call me crazy—but I knew that I wasn’t going to play the best game. I knew that if you saw me cross you real cold and hit a jumper, but my shoes were wack, everyone in the stands would be like, “Damn! But that nigga’s shoes was wack.” I’m not trying to give anybody the opportunity to give me any buts. They’re not gonna be like, “Damn, Chuck’s shit was dope, but that nigga can’t do this.” They can’t say that to me.
I go to sleep fresh. Just in case there’s a fire and I have to run out, I don’t want niggas to be like, “Damn. What the hell did he have on?” Call me crazy.
Chuck Inglish Says, “Fan Reaction Is Not How I Live.”
DX: How did Droptops lead up to your album?
Chuck Inglish: It was a short album that made sense to what Convertibles was gonna end up sounding like. That lightweight gave you what it could have been. It could have gone in either one of those directions, and now Convertibles is like a full-on super version of Droptops.
DX: How did the fans react?
Chuck Inglish: I went on a European tour after it. I think they understand where I’m going. From “For The Love” with Asher Roth to “Keith Sweat,” and what I was saying, there’s still a small community of people that understand what I’m talking about. I didn’t expect the fans I have to run and tell their friends and put everybody on it. But they’re still trying to hold on to this shit like, “Man, that Droptops shit is ours. We listen to that. We’re not really trying to step up in every other place and know that everybody else is still listening to it.” People hold on to my shit like that, and that’s a cool place to be at right now. I knew what that was. It was for people to say, “Hey, remember when he put Droptops out? That shit was fresh.” It didn’t turn into this major, big single, but people heard it. There’s people that have heard it, even though the blogs might not say it’s “the one” at the end of the year. That’s on them.
A lot of that shit you read, they’re just making sure they don’t say some shit to make everybody hit their comment box and say, “Fuck y’all. That wasn’t the top one.” They’re just being politically correct half of the time. If they surveyed the scene as much as they should, there was a lot of shit that was poppin’ last year. There was a lot more.
But fan reaction has never been how I live. As of right now, if someone rolled up to me and said, “Damn, Droptops was poppin’,” I’m happy about it. If someone says, “Man, I wish there was some shit like this on there,” I’m like, “Word.” But I don’t give a fuck. I really don’t, because I make that shit for me to listen to. I represent with the art I left for this world. If you don’t do what the fuck I do, then I don’t care what you think about it, bro. You don’t do what I do. You didn’t take music lessons. You don’t know shit about music theory. You don’t know what the fuck I’m doing; you just listen. So just listen. That’s kind of how I go about it. I respect your opinion, but I don’t really give a fuck. I mean that in the most polite way possible.
That’s how not to go crazy, man. When you start giving in to popular opinion or what somebody with 30,000 Twitter followers says, you’re gonna shoot yourself. You’re gonna argue with your Twitter followers and have rants. That’s how to fuckin’ go crazy. These people don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. You don’t even know who they are, and they could be 12-years-old. Twelve years ago, was 2002! There’s shit that was popping back then, where you can look back and go, “Dog, you wasn’t even here for that. What the fuck do you know?”
Why Chuck Inglish Bet His Financial Life On “Convertibles”
DX: You mentioned music theory. Are you well-versed in music theory and all that?
Chuck Inglish: I wrote drum music. I can read guitar tabs, and I know a lot of chord progressions. I read a lot about certain theories of music. My goal is to get some money saved up so I can chill, take all these lessons and re-study all that shit. No one would expect me to, and that little added bit can change the whole course of everything. I’ll never be good enough, and I’m always down to learn more to improve my craft.
DX: A lot of rappers don’t know that stuff…
Chuck Inglish: Rap doesn’t require it. I rap, but I’m not really a Rap artist. What I’m bringing to the table is music; I just rap on top of that shit. But I’m also making the music I’m rapping to. I’m designing things in a way to attract your ear, and then you’ll be like, “Damn. That motherfucker’s rapping to it.”
DX: So how does Convertibles differ from the EP?
Chuck Inglish: I made the EP in like a couple months. I made the album in three years. That’s the difference. I gave [Droptops] away for free. I’m betting my whole house and all my financial life on this album. There’s passion, stress, going crazy and living life in several different parts of my twenties on this album. Droptops was some fresh shit for the summer, but there’s really no live instrumentation on there. I played a little electric guitar on “Dangerous.” With Convertibles, damn near that whole album is live instrumentation. There are moments like, “Damn, what would Prince do here? What would Parliament [Funkadelic] do here?”
Working with Mike Einziger from Incubus on the album…there’s differences because I made them that way. One is a movie, and one is a short film. Once cost a million dollars total, and one has a budget where we don’t even know how much we fuckin’ spent.
I made Droptops to kind of preview what the album could sound like, but they aren’t the same. Droptops was for Memorial Day 2013, but [Convertibles] is for the rest of your life. That’s a big ass difference.
How Mikey Rocks Talked Chuck Inglish Into A Solo Album
DX: What inspired you to go solo?
Chuck Inglish: Mikey [Rocks] actually told me to. It was a point of standing on my own and having my own content that wasn’t just relying on producing for other people. Financially, this isn’t the best era to be a producer in. If this was the 1990s, I’d be out of this motherfucker [laughs]. We’d be having a whole different conversation.
You have to understand that and not do what was done before. You can’t just produce for other people, and I also don’t think anybody can rap to my shit like I can. If I sit with my shit long enough, I’m probably gonna rap to it way fresher than anybody else can. So with that motivation, I’m like, “Fuck it.” That’s the genre right now, and some of the best artists are making their own music—like Kanye, J. Cole or Childish Gambino. They’re hybrid artists. They may have been working with producers to produce on their own, but they are the album producers. Look at Pharrell’s album [G I R L]. All of that shit is all a genre now, and I’m one of the nicest doing that shit. I gotta do it.
I had to make people see that I’m not trying to dance around that shit. Who is the nicest? I’ll fuck with that title, because at the end of the day, I just started. And that was light work. I’m down to learn more, and I’m down to absorb as much as I have to and make sure kids know when I drop shit, you don’t ever have to worry about a dud. My next album will smack every other album I do out of the way. This is better than Cool Kids shit, until we do the next Cool Kids album. That will be better than all the other Cool Kids shit you’ve ever heard. I’m not trying to put out something that’s not better than my last shit. I’m not trying to let that shit just exist as is. I’m in complete competition with myself. It’s like, “I fuck with that, but you could go harder.” If you don’t have that in you, then you’re in the wrong profession.
DX: Of all the artists you’ve worked with, who inspires you the most?
Chuck Inglish: Travis Barker. He’s the best drummer in the whole wide world in my opinion, but nobody practices more than him. If you don’t know what he’s doing, he’s probably practicing. That was the most inspiring shit ever, ‘cause people can say he could take a day off, but in his bunk on tour, if he has down time he’s got a drum pad with him. If he’s got idle time, he’s got a drum pad with him. He could be watching his kids, and he’s got a drum pad with him—even though he’s the best drummer in terms of perception and critical acclaim. I still haven’t seen anybody practice their shit more than him…even athletes.
Once I saw that shit, there’s really no excuse for anything. To get where you wanna to be, there’s no other way around it than the way he did it. Some of the people I know who make the best beats are the same way. Don Cannon makes beats all day…like 77,000 beats. If you go over Hit-Boy’s house, that nigga makes between 12 and 14 beats a day. Every single beat he has is coming better. There’s really no other way around getting to where you wanna be other than doing what you do.
I’ll sit and make a beat for seven straight hours now. If I want to make a mad, complicated progression, I’ll play the piano and record for like 25 minutes. Then I’ll go through, chop the shit I want, play that back and then play over it so it’s perfect. Then I’ll take that out and play over that so it sounds even more perfect. Then it sounds like I played it the whole time. If I’m playing drums, I’ll mic them and do one thing for 20 minutes straight so it sounds like I’m playing through the whole song. There’s really no looping, sequencing and flying in shit with me. That attention to detail is the only way to make it stand out from the rest of the shit. My shit isn’t like everyone else’s…I don’t want it like everyone else’s, so I do things to it to make sure I’m always interested in it.
Photo from the Chuck Inglish listening party at Red Bull Studios Los Angeles, courtesy of Red bull Content Pool.