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From New Jersey to the World: Rasheed Chappell is Ready for Lift-Off

todayJuly 11, 2024 5

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Pursuing your dreams is key to a fulfilling life. Becoming a rapper is a goal of many, especially as hip-hop’s influence continues to spread, and it’s no easy road. In the world of Rasheed Chappell, an underground rapper out of Passaic, N.J., his love for rap came to him in the ‘90s, from an unlikely place. He’s turned that passion into a career with eight albums since 2011, where he shares insights into his inner-city upbringing and growth as a man. His latest album, Nonstop: JFK>ATL, releases in August, with his lead single “No Play Play” coming much sooner, this Friday. Sitting down for a video chat earlier this month, Rasheed talked about his childhood, remaining committed to music over the years, his thoughts on the death of Coke Rap and more.

Coming up in Passaic, N.J., which he refers to as “Project City,” Rasheed Chappell was always surrounded by music. Getting his musical crash course from a combination of Ralph McDaniels’ Video Music Box and his parents, a teen Chappell was amazed by the sounds. Surprisingly, he was drawn to hip-hop by a formative R&B group, “New Edition; these were kids that, by the time I saw ‘em, they had to be my age,” Chappell explains. “When they started rapping on ‘Cool It Now’ I was like, ‘Ok, I can’t sing, so maybe I could do the rap part.’” From there, hometown heroes like Redman and Naughty By Nature, along with talented rappers across the water like The Lox, Canibus, and Nas, would further spur his interest. Live ciphers also reeled a young Chappell in. “My dad went to New York all the time, so it would be dudes, rapping in ciphers, that we would see, over in New York, that was more attainable than what I saw on TV,” he explains. Rapping in (and winning) a local talent show with his cousin sealed the deal; Rasheed Chappell was an emcee.

Chappell would go on to drop his first single in 2009, “Resurrection,” produced by Kenny Dope. He then dropped his debut album in 2011 with Kenny Dope, Future Before Nostalgia, before going on an unexpected 7-year album hiatus. While they toured the album for years, Kenny Dope had a lot on his plate. “Kenny had just become a father for the first time, and he had triplets, his dad passed away, and a lot of shit was going on,” Chapell shared. “I looked at [the gap] as a terrible thing, I got to work on albums with Raheem Devaughn, Dionne Farris, a bunch of stuff was happening behind the scenes. It made me a better songwriter and ultimately helped me learn how to produce.”

Kenny Dope and Rasheed Chappell reconvened in 2018 and dropped First Brick. Rasheed never took his foot off the gas, releasing rapper/producer collab projects with Buckwild, 38 Spesh, the Arcitype, and more. Through each project, Rasheed intended to offer a different side of street rap, showing what the other side of the block is like. “I think there’s a nuanced way of doing street rap,” he begins. “I never sold drugs, but my parents used drugs. So, I can give you the perspective of the child that was affected by the use of drugs.” It’s this line of thinking that led to Rasheed stating, “Coke rap is dead.”

A huge fan of Buffalo rap crew Griselda Records, Rasheed Chappell seems exhausted with their imitators. “I like to hear Griselda do Griselda; they do it already, so it’s like, an easy intro, to allow for people to just come in,” he says. “It doesn’t just sound like people are putting in the work. G Rap is the master, but he was able to give us so many different aspects of it.” After a visit to his year’s Roots Picnic, Chappell truly saw how more artistry can be added to hip-hop. “[Black] Thought comes on stage with a fuckin’ brass band, and they’re going crazy, ’cause you’re giving somebody a lyrical performance, It doesn’t have to be super-lyrical, just give me something else, ‘OK, you sold dope, what else?” With his upcoming single “No Play Play,” all about committing to your dreams, and his forthcoming album, Nonstop: JFK>ATL, Chappell wants to bring fun back to rap.

The new album, which is fully produced by beatsbyjblack, the Atlanta Hawks in-game music producer and finger drummer, details Rasheed’s 36 hours in Atlanta, where he started and finished the album. “You can smile, you can vibe to this music, you can play it at the cookout, you can have a good time again,” Chapelle says. “I want them to see my growth from the last couple of projects that I put out, I definitely want them to applaud the musicianship on this project.”

Chappell also sees himself as the “most handsome” in hip-hop and wants to always put honesty first in his music. “I’ve been giving you my truth in the music,” Rasheed shares, as the interview comes to a close. “I’m trying to live my life that way as well; there’s no line of delineation between Rasheed Chappell the man and Rasheed Chappell the artist.”

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