‘I feel like Black Jesus’: An interview with Chae Hawk
blog by Ben Kirst • March 05, 2012 @ 6:59am
When you listen to Chae Hawk’s smoothly-produced blend of hip-pop and consider his habit of rubbing shoulders with nationally acclaimed talent (Joel Madden, Forever The Sickest Kids and The White Tie Affair, among others), it’s easy to just assume that the Buffalo artist’s time is going to come. Certainly if there is a place in the music world for lightweights like The Ready Set or Breathe Carolina, someone with the charisma, determination and radio-ready hooks of Chae Hawk can shoulder his way in, too. Right?
Well, that is the hope. In the meantime, Hawk continues his work on labors of love—his burgeoning label / brand Team Radio, his soon-to-be released album, Dance Party for the Heavy-Hearted, his relationship with local rappers Grabbitz and Nameless, and the rumored opening of a sandwich shop in Allentown, among others—because, as everyone in Buffalo knows, good stuff doesn’t happen just because you want it to, or just because it should.
Hawk stopped by Buffalo.com a couple weeks ago and talked about his career, his motivation, his networking skills and his dedication to success. Here is some of what he had to say.
On optimism in the face of adversity:
When people tell me I can’t do something, I’m going to try to do it just to prove you wrong and make you feel like an idiot. Whether it’s the scenario of me going to high school and there are teachers who are just putting certain individuals down—it’s a funny story, I went to Cleve-Hill, and I didn’t take my senior picture, so it’s kind of like a myth that I even went to that school—but now, there are kids who go to my school who are rocking my t-shirts and my brands in front of the teachers who told me I wasn’t going to be shit. And I just think that in itself is just progress.
But for me, man, optimism is just something that is within my family and my team. It’s just us against the world. We don’t do it for the city—we do it for us. We just happen to be from this unit of society.
Even in my new album—Dance Party for the Heavy-Hearted, which will be released this year—it pretty much sums up everything. My whole outlook, how I look at the place that I call home. And it’s a very unique relationship. (The album is) something I feel will shed a light on the world in a certain way, because it shows how you have to look in the mirror, and be like “Yo man, this is really happening and something has to change.” I feel like I’m taking that responsibility on myself first.
On the making of Dance Party for the Heavy-Hearted:
It was a process. I’ve been trying to find the sound for a long time. I’ve been screaming out the name for maybe four or five years…
I’ve been making music since I was a sprout, you know, but that’s what gave me my independence. That’s what led me to sit down with certain labels, or certain independent labels, and exactly know my value. I knew I had a little more to offer and contribute and that’s what led me to the position of power where I’m at right now.
And the album is very, very unique. One of the producers, Scott Down, he’s a young man who’s a man who actually taught me when I was a kid, who actually gave me the time—I was a student who really followed the rules and looked up to him. He actually mentioned (about) my last album, “Man, you’re the only (local) kid with West Coast production.” And being an East Coast kid, you know, and I’m out on the West Coast doing certain things, I’ve had the opportunity of working with certain unique individuals.
Dance Party for the Heavy-Hearted is more of a collective effort—it’s the grounded, solid love I have for the relationships and the people that I really believe in. It’s pretty much my resume of all the talent that I believe in and who don’t have a voice. I’m going to show what it’s like when all of our power is together, like that Captain Planet shit…(Team Radio) makes great music, and our personalities are inside of every sound, so it’s going to work because it is what it is.
On building relationships:
I guess one thing I used to say when I was young was “I don’t understand.” You know, I just never had fear to ask a question, which I get it from my mother, but I kind of get a lot of being assertive from my father. It’s just what’s in the pot—brew some special shit up.
But one (track) that I was very proud of on Dance Party for the Heavy-Hearted was two years in the making. I actually did one verse last year, and I finally finished it up just a couple months ago, but it combines the energy of Keith Buckley from Every Time I Die and John Salemi from Snapcase, so its a very unique record. It’s just something I have pride in, from the relationships I have made for myself.
I mean, come on—I had Lance Diamond, Keith Buckley and John Salemi in one room. That’s my job, that’s what I represent in this business. I think people like Keith, people like John, having met them and their believing in me a certain way, and just continuing a beautiful relationship with communication and understanding because they have peaked at level where they can look at me and know exactly where I’m at, and understand my ambition to try and get to where they’re at, I appreciate that they take the time to fuel me a little bit. I think that’s awesome, because it says a lot for someone to see the value in what you’re doing. That’s something I take a lot of pride in. You know, everyone wants to be on the boat, but no one wants to help build that shit.
On ignoring self-doubt:
That voice is a liar. I’ve seen it. My faith and the things that I believe in, it’s just—I stomp that fear right out. I have a destination, man, I know where I want to be, and I see it clear. Nothing gets in the way of that. So it’s just more about the things I am doing for my team, people like young Grabbitz, who just turned 19, and Nameless, and my team, all the things I am doing with these guys—I feel like Black Jesus, man, because I went through all this pain and strife and bullshit so that my guys don’t have to go through it that way. I can show you a better way, because that was my sacrifice.
See photos from Chae Hawk’s show at The Vault (700 Main St., Buffalo) on March 3, 2012.
Chae Hawk is on Facebook.