Das Detroiter Urgestein Wes Chill blickt zurück und hat einiges mitzuteilen: über die Anfangsjahre der lokalen Rapszene, sein 1994 veröffentlichtes Album “Smooth But Deadly”, die schönen und schäbigen Seiten des Rapbusiness im Allgemeinen und seine Freundschaften zu Kid Rock und Proof im Besonderen.
Wes, thanks for taking the time to do this little interview. How’s it going?
I’m doing fine Ben and thanks for the interview. I’m honored, also shot out to everyone in Germany!
The 80’s and 90’s were a wonderful time for Detroit Hip-Hop. It was around the same time that Detroit Techno and House music were exploding on the scene as well. But artists like Prince Vince, Detroit’s Most Wanted, Awesome Dre, Jack Frost, Awol and B-Def were some of my favorites in Hip-Hop. These dudes had a certain star quality to them that demanded attention which I think a lot of new artist today lack. We came from an era that to be a “star” you had to stand out from the people in the audience. *laughs* Now artists look like they just rolled out of bed to perform. No fashion sense, stage presence, charisma or quality material. Truthfully, a lot of the flamboyance in Hip-Hop today can be directly attributed to early Detroit pioneers. People from around the world would emulate our style. Remember this was a time many Detroit drug dealers lived in opulence and were funding many recording projects. This is where the whole concept of “Smooth But Deadly” derives from. Some of the flashiest dudes with a penchant for violence. Unfortunately, that is why Detroit artists still have a hard time breaking into the industry today. We still have that “crazy” stigma attached to our name and city.
Most people will know you from your feature on “Rollin’ On The Island”. How did the hook up with Kid Rock come about?
Me and Kid Rock go back to like 1986. We met through a mutual friend and were inseperable for years. At the time he had equipment and was mainly a DJ. Later he would engineer and produce some of my early material along with my then DJ, J-Ski. What’s crazy is that I would catch a bus halfway to his house in the suburbs and he would pick me up midpoint. I guess his parents were scared of inner city black kids to a degree, cause they wouldn’t allow him to drive to Detroit to get me. *laughs* Still his mother was the best, I would spend the night at his house sometimes and wake up to record with him, this was before his “Grit Sandwiches For Breakfast” album. He also served as my DJ for a short period of time. Right before his deal with Atlantic Records came through he called me and was like, “Hey man, I got this song I want you to get on.” That song was “Rollin’ On The Island” which also featured my man Prince Vince who I had known prior to meeting Kid. I’m also the voice that opens up the “History Of Rock” CD. The reason is because that’s how far back we go. You can say, I gave him his first “hood pass” in Detroit. *laughs*
Do you still keep in touch with him today?
I haven’t talked to Kid in years due to some falling out but I still got love for him. It’s just sometimes he can be a narcissist and control freak. He knows that I would’ve done anything to support his career before superstardom but he doesn’t seem to like to return the favor. I don’t believe in kissing ass, so it is what it is. I just hope he realizes who his real friends are someday. We still have mutual friends, so who knows… maybe one day we will work together again.
The first time I came across your name was on Jack Frost’s album “Based Onna True Story” which came out in 1992. Is it true that you were a member of his crew B.A.N.M.E.?
Yeah, me and Jack Frost have been working together for a while doing things, but I never was a member of B.A.N.M.E. As a matter of fact I was his earliest mentor. I even took him to record his first demo at Kid Rock’s house. What happened was he got a deal with Ichiban Records and put me on the song “4 Lil Niggaz” – so later I returned the favor and put him on my song “Me and My Niggaz.”
Tell me how it went down when you recorded his album…
Fun times at the studio, we would have impromptu freestyle battles all the time. No holds barred just vibing off of each other. This is where dudes like Proof of D12 learned that battle skill from. Bottom line, me and Jack were untouched on the freestyle tip at the time. I also did a lot of background voices on Jack’s project like the opening of “Land That Never Gave A Damn,” etc. We would get wasted and have a ball man. Mike E. Clark of I.C.P fame served as our early engineer/producer on a lot of those cuts. Yet he was more technical and didn’t have that urban feel to his production. As a matter of fact he learned alot from us and Jack Frost is the one who first started calling Mike Clark “The Funky Honkey”. Me and Jack were on the same label, C&C/Ichiban Records and my album was to come out after but the label dissolved. This left me The Original Mac-10 and B-Def as free agents, so that’s why Jack was released worldwide and I had to rebuild.
How come that your own album “Smooth But Deadly” was only released on cassette?
The reason my album “Smooth But Deadly” was only released regionally is because of C&C becoming defunct. That meant I had to do it all with my homie for life M-1. He saw the potential and came aboard financially because he believed in my talent. We were working on distribution when we did our first test pressing, but our major distributor fell apart. That’s why we only had the initial small pressing of tapes. We knew it was too difficult to do consignment on such a large scale so that left us dead in the water. So, we decided to stop the manufacturing of any CDs or tapes. Also this was a transitional period where cassette tapes were the predominant format but CDs were gaining more popularity. Still what’s amazing is that I’m hearing of people that have the original copies all the way from Germany to Japan. Incredible for a regional release, so I guess it must be a classic *laughs*
Who stood behind your label Nuff Style Records?
My man M-1 was my backer at the time. He is also my friend for life. That dude is such a real person, because our friendship transcends music. He would give you his last dollar if he believes in you whether you succeed or fail. It was just hard because I was handling most of the business while still trying to be the best artist I could be. For those that don’t know, it is very difficult to juggle being an executive and an artist at the same time.
What’s your favorite song from the album?
My favorite song off of my album would be “Wordz of Disaster”. The rawness of what I was spitting because at my core I’m an emcee. I also love “Me and My Niggaz”, simply a timeless classic in my opinion.
Could you drop a short comment on the rappers that were featured on “Me And My Niggaz”? Dog N Yard, Gangsta T, Proof and Frost… how did you come to know each one of them?
I met Dog In Yard through Jack Frost and he was a fan of ours. He wanted to try his hand at rhyming so I gave him that opportunity. I loved his personality and thought he would make a good fit to start off the song. Gangsta T was a childhood friend that is truly a gangster in every sense of the word. Some of my Hip-Hop friends at the time didn’t understand why someone who wasn’t one of the best rappers could be on this cut, but fuck them. T is my dog! In real life google Thelmon Stuckey III and see what you find *laughs* No joke, the realest of the real. Shot out to Gangsta T and “Free T. Stuckey!” As for Jack Frost, he was on there cause it was only right, plus he still is one of the coldest to do it. As far as Proof that was his first official release. I remember Proof used to watch me rehearse for shows and he even said that I was the reason that he wanted to rap, real talk. You can say because of that I indirectly influenced Eminem because of Proof. I met Proof when he was still a kid basically, I still have unreleased songs with Proof. R.I.P Big Proof, who was one of the funniest dudes I’ve ever known. I remember when we were performing “Me And My Niggaz” at a Kid Rock show and before we went on Proof saw a stick with some ants on it, grabbed it and started sniffing the ants up his nose. Crazy ass dude! *laughs* I miss him a lot man.
What comes to your mind when you hear these names today?
When I hear those names today I have so many fond memories. That was one of the best times of my life. Seeing the evolution of Detroit Hip-Hop from a little seedling. I miss those days because it wasn’t all political as it is now, right before Proof died I went out on The Anger Management tour with him and we talked about how we our all connected on the same string. Some people forget that we all are tied to each other in one way or another but some act like they did it all by themselves. But the reality is, many pioneers paved the way and made it easier for alot of these artist. Many think the “Hip-Hop Shop” owned by Maurice Malone was the foundation but we preceeded that by at least a decade or more.
What happened after the release of “Smooth But Deadly”?
After “Smooth But Deadly”, I took a break from releasing anything. I just got turned off from the industry as a whole. I mean I saw that it wasn’t even about the talent anymore, it was about who liked who and how much money you could make. I still recorded because I’m a passionate artist, but I have tons of records that I felt wouldn’t get the proper attention releasing them locally. It also got to a point where everybody became rappers overnight. I mean I don’t knock your hustle, but damn! Everybody can’t be famous, it’s like more rappers than fans now. Then I realized the people who love my music is all that matters. So I have come back to regain my rank as one of the top M.C’s in the game.
Do you feel like you get the respect from the artists but not the record executives?
Listen, I’m a legend amongst artists in my city, no matter what my current status is in the game. People know that I was doing this long before the financial gain became the pinnacle of success. People like Kool Herc, Caz and Bambaataa are New York’s founders but in Detroit that would be me, Esham, Jack Frost, A.W.O.L, B-Def, Prince Vince, Smiley, Awesome Dre, Champtown and Merciless Amir to name a few. Remember, we were the earliest influences of everyone here period. There were no major labels in our city since Motown Records, which was the last true label in Detroit doing it big. Now as far as executives knowing what’s great, it’s mostly political. Truth is that when Eminem asked Proof to find artists to form the group D12 he took the concept from me and Jack. Around the time of Jack’s album we talked about doing a group called “The Skitzos” which was each member having an alter ego. Thus, Eminem/Slim Sady, Proof/Derty Harry etc. I have pictures of Proof on my promo tour where he was our protégé, learning the ropes and tricks of the trade. We even made a pact that when one of us got on, we would never turn our back on the other. Yet, he didn’t keep up his end of the bargain. I don’t know if it was fear of competition or control issues, but Jack Frost can testify to this fact. This meant that people like Paul, Em and Shady Records wouldn’t hear our new material and possibly sign us. Also Kid Rock at the height of his success sold 10 million records off “Devil Without A Cause.” He could’ve walked anyone in the door and helped get them a deal, but did he? Hell no! That’s some political bullshit because you’re repping Detroit but not pulling anyone up. But before his fame he worked with a lot of Detroit artist, so he must’ve felt we were talented. So why no features now?
What are you up to nowadays? You already told me that you’re back in the studio with Frost…
I’m still recording and have enough unreleased material to drop five albums today. I also have a situation with a major on the table but only time will tell what happens with that. I also plan on re-releasing “Smooth But Deadly” with bonus cuts in all formats from CD to digital this time around.
So, what will be the next release we have to look our for?
My next major release will only come out if it’s done through the proper channels, but I will drop a mix cd this summer just to give fans a taste for free of what’s to come. I’ll keep you posted. Believe me, I’m still on fire and haven’t missed a beat. I also still religiously listen to what I’m up against on the radio and underground circuits and let me just say… I’m not really that impressed. *laughs*
Is there anything I forgot to ask about?
I hope that covers it all. Oh yeah, on a last note: If anyone has been looking for me on those social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, you’re out of luck for now. *laughs* I believe in artists having an aura of mystique and prefer my privacy, unless I’m promoting something at the time. I also have changed my recording name from “Wes Chill” to “Chill Gate$”, so understand that both names are synonymous with all my future recordings.