You know how those bougie, steal-your-borough-and-inject-their-hipsterdom-into-it folks are about their wine? Or coffee, or whatever? That’s kinda how I am about my Hip Hop. They’ll tell you where it came from, the year, the type of soil or what have you. Yeah, I can go on and on like that about the music I’ve collected over time. I’ve been a serious consumer of Hip Hop for many years – since before the Leaders of the New School were considered old school. I’ve see a lot come and go. Hipsters and pretentious folk have Wine Enthusiast magazines and I had The Source. That publication totally dictated the exchange of commerce between me and every available music supplier in my area from the moment I discovered it until the magazine turned wack, and was more of an urban Sears catalogue. But I digress.
At one point in their good years, they ran an ad for new artists on Jive Records and one of those groups was Fu-Schnickens. Everything pointed to a purchase. Same label as Tribe and KRS, an apparent fast rap style (which I was really into at the time), and a dancehall reggae style (essential). Bait set.
The album, F.U. Don’t Take It Personal dropped and I purchased it right away. I vividly recall listening to it during little league baseball season. I played every position except catcher and the night before my first game pitching I remember listening to the Fu-Schnickens cassette and trying to take the anxiety off the upcoming game. That’s my most vivid memory with that album. Come game day I would recite the lyrics to my favorite songs from the project in my mind from my spot on the pitchers mound, that helped to quell the jitters. Now, if you know that album or the group, you’re aware of how fast and intricate Chip Fu’s lyrics are. Well, that’s what I was reciting.
I’ve kept up with Chip Fu’s career since then and dude’s skills have aged well with time. He always added a Caribbean reggae flavor to his delivery but with the invention of his alter ego, Jungle Rock Jr., he’s really stepped up his game in that department. I hope you’ve been following along as well. If not, don’t worry, I caught up with the man with the fastest raps with meaning and talked a bit about food, music, appreciation, art, time and healing. You can check out some of his catalogue as you go through the interview, as well. And for the auditory learners, you can check out a snippet of our conversation below.
What is the relationship between food and creating music?
I think that when you look at normal [music] production it kinda walks the same line as food production because it’s moreso about putting together certain things that you may not even think can work. Such as different types of ingredients just to get a particular sound or a particular taste. So, everything goes hand in hand when it come to the creation of food and creating music.
Are there any kind of specific dietary guidelines that you tend to follow? Anything in particular that you’re trying to gravitate towards or stay away from?
I’m doing as much protein as possible. I’m not trying to do any starches because I believe starches slow you down and they turn into sugar also. So I try my best to eat as much green vegetables and as much protein as possible on a daily basis.
Is that a recent thing or have you been on that for awhile?
As you get older you tend to wanna switch up to make sure your body functions in the way in which it should. I noticed growing up, the more starches I took it didn’t bother so much but as I got older things started slowing down and I started putting on more weight. So I believe that the more protein I put into my body, it will to help burn off [the extra] weight.
How important is it for us to be more aware and conscious of what we’re consuming?
I mean, health is wealth. Period. You gotta be conscious of what you put on your skin, what you put in your body and what you put into your body. The older you are, you tend to look at things totally different. You tend to wanna stay as healthy as possible. [Within] Hip Hop we have [older] artists that are touring or haven’t gone out in awhile and they need to make sure that their performances are memorable. Hence, the fact that they have to keep their weight to a minimum and start eating the right things.
In what ways do you try to focus on heath, wealth and knowledge of self?
I read everything I eat. Anything I’m about to eat, before I eat it, I read about it. I make sure it’s good for me. I’m not the dude that’s watching every calorie, but things that are high in sodiums and salts. I make sure that I get the proper protein intake on a daily basis. Make sure I eat 5 small meals. Exercising – running is a must. I make sure that I run for an hour and a half every morning.
Do you think artists have an obligation to help listeners be more mindful of those things? And if so, what do you do about that?
I think it depends on the artist. For instance, Dead Prez is all about health and eating and being focused on your body. And then there are are certain artists that are just focused on the music side. Period. But I think, as artists, once we have that platform we should talk about anything under the sun that could affect people. Period. Both negative and positive. I do believe that since we have the voice and platform, we should teach the kids coming up about healthy eating and what could possibly happen if they don’t have good food intake.
I mean, health is wealth. Period. You gotta be conscious of what you put on your skin, what you put in your body and what you put into your body.
Yeah, I know you’re running an education program. In what ways are you using education? What is it that you’re teaching?
The name of the program is MAATH which is [an acronym] Music Appreciation Art Time and Healing. It was created to give kids the platform to use their voice, for one. Kids nowadays feel that, as the adults or elders, we don’t listen. And to actually tap into the creative side that these kids have – there’s been a lot of closing of music schools and classes in the high schools. We’re trying to show them the correlation between music and their normal studies. MAATH teaches that. We do Finding Your Voice, beat construction, we teach them videography, photography, how to use Pro Tools, GarageBand…everything that it would take for a kid that’s interested in the music industry – step-by-step we teach them the ins-and-outs and intricacies of the industry. We teach them how to do the majority of the things for themselves. Down to distribution and reading contracts. But not only that. Under the MAATH umbrella we have cooking classes, fitness classes, mentoring classes, tons of classes. We role out these workshops in the high schools. Right now I’m in two high schools in Brooklyn, NY. We’re basically using the MAATH as curriculum throughout the year. But we also targeted housing and a few YMCA’s in the area just to let them know what we’re capable of doing. And testimonies have been incredible. We’ve actually changed lives and gotten kids interested to the point where they believe more in themselves. We created a platform for them to use their voice and voice their opinions on certain things. Not everybody’s gonna wanna be an artist. There might be some people that want to be writers, there might be some people that want to be managers or just want to learn how to make tee shirts for themselves but all those things we do teach. It’s music based to an extent – to get the attention. There are many dimensions to the music industry. Once we get their interest and we find out what they’re really interested in, we take action at that point.
Is this something that you created?
I created it from the ground up, spearheaded it, and I went to housing [projects] first to see if I could teach the kids in housing. Because the same kids that are in housing are in high schools. So how could we affect or engage these kids if they’re not on school grounds? Once they leave the school grounds, where are they next? They’re at home. So I figured if I opened up the workshops in housing I could affect them where they would most need that attention and information, where they live. Kids in housing tend to take to the streets, [often] grow up without a dad and tend to do the things that kids of that age do without any guidance. I believe activating the workshops in housing gives them something to do and something more to look forward to on a daily basis. If you don’t have a dad, who’s going to help you get yourself prepared for when it’s time for an interview, when it comes time to shake a person’s hand and look them eye-to-eye? There are certain things that a young man is supposed to know. Males need to get all their information from a male’s perspective. That’s why we built the workshops where it’s a mentoring program too. We help kids when it comes to etiquette too because it’s cool to have tattoos but there comes a time when you have to put away the toys and start looking at life different. If you have guidance from an elder it makes things easier because they can see themselves in the person that’s mentoring them.
A lot of times we talk to boys and young men and it’s common to hear things like ‘man up’ but they don’t always know what that really means.
A lot of them don’t get it because the first thing that they think when we say “man up” is moreso to toughen up. As men we have to understand that being tough doesn’t really make you a man because you could have men that cry and show emotions and they’re the ones that actually lead the world. The biggest problem for men nowadays is we don’t have an outlet. And these kids don’t have an outlet and they think that the only way to actually survive is by being tough. Yes, you should be able to survive in your surroundings and protect yourself but you also have to understand that you have to be open for anything that comes. At some particular point in time you have to shed that toughness and understand that “man up” means just to deal with your responsibilities as a human being. Period. When it comes to your surroundings and in your household. I had my dad in the household and there were a lot of kids in the neighborhood who didn’t have fathers and they’d come and sit on the porch and talk to my dad. My dad basically became the father to the neighborhood. From watching that I understood that I was blessed. I wanted to do something for kids when I got older. A lot of them do need guidance and we have to create those scenarios now within workshops where kids can find somebody that can become their mentor. Or we partner them up with a company that they can possibly get a job at. But they don’t have that direction or that male figure to give them the information to make them better men.
I notice that in your social media and in your music, you’re very personal and you incorporate a lot of spirituality. Can you talk about the role that spirituality plays in everything that you’re doing?
Well, there’s a difference between spirituality and religion. I think the difference is, religion is a form of segregation. That’s my belief. I believe that on a spiritual level I’m supposed to be able to tune in and thank whatever God is around me. I think that on a spiritual level it keeps me grounded to do whatever it is that I need to do. When it comes to a daily [routine] or when it comes to teaching and I apply those same thought patterns and beliefs when it comes to my music. I think that it plays a big role because there are certain people that are spiritually grounded in the industry and they’ve been around for a long time. Because of their beliefs and their cultural beliefs, it keeps them grounded. And there’s people that just don’t believe in anything and they just deal with everything on a daily basis and sometimes they get lost because there’s nothing for them to cling on to. There’s no scriptures for them to refer back to, to keep them grounded. There’s nothing. So I think that spirituality in my life plays a big role and keeps me focused.
For me, every time I wake up I sit still for awhile and I pray for direction and guidance, for balance. And I just deal with my day as such. I think you have to be obedient to yourself first. You can be obedient to certain laws, yes, but be obedient to yourself first. Once you open up yourself to understanding that, then everything will come. There will be no hinderances. And once you understand that we are born from a limitless person, as individuals, we are limitless also. That’s the kind of guidelines that I follow. As long as I follow those guidelines, things always work out for me. I understand that it’s going to be a long road but at the end of the road I’ll be able to celebrate and rejoice so it’s cool.
You got good kitchen skills?
Yeah man, I’m kinda crazy in the kitchen. My wife says to me that whatever it is that I cook it just turns out hot. The spices that I use. But yeah, I’m pretty good in the kitchen. I use a lot of – well, in the West Indies we call it shadow benny – you guys call it cilantro. I use a lot of seasonings. Fresh seasonings like the greens and the peppers chopped up. The only dry seasonings I might use would be black pepper and garlic. I season everything not too spicy, just midrange. And I just take it from there.
I’m all about the spice. Ginger and all of that.
Man, I wake up everyday and drink ginger tea. It’s a must have.
Is there anyone that you would love to prepare a meal for? Also, is there anyone that you would want to prepare a meal for you?
I would love to prepare a meal for my father. He passed away in 96 and around those times I wasn’t cooking as much as I cook now. I think that after he passed is when I started cooking and I think that I would kind of shock him now if he actually sat down and I prepared a meal for him. I would make him rice and peas and baked chicken or I would make him curry chicken.
Who I’d like to prepare a meal for me would be Patti LaBelle because everybody in the industry is talking about her fried chicken and all this food that she makes. To actually sit down and have her prepare it and I’m sitting across the table from her eating it…it would be Patti LaBelle.
What are some things people of our generation need to be cognizant of that we’re passing down to the youth?
We have to let the youth understand that when we’re talking about the music business it’s 90% business and 10% talent. A lot of kids focus on the music aspect of it and never the business. That’s why you have artists that come out at a particular time and because they have messed up contracts and messed up representation and everything you no longer hear from them. They already got the music side down pat but when it comes to the business side, they need to get that down pat too. That’s why I focus on teaching kids how to read contracts, point percentages, what they’re supposed to receive, and what they need to turn down. If we give them these tools then we’re basically creating monsters. Good ones. None of these companies could actually take advantage of these kids.
How did you become privy to this information?
Actually reading. The first thing my A&R did when I first singed to Jive Records is she gave me a book All There Is To Know About the Music Industry. She put the book on the table and slid it across the desk and was like, “I want you to read this.” I was like, “Why? I already signed the contract?” She said, “Yeah but you need to be mindful about your contract and everyone else that’s coming up underneath you that you know, you should at least sit down and have a conversation with them and help them to be more balanced individuals when it comes to being an artist and a business man.”
What do you think should be the next natural progression for Hip Hop?
I think that everybody should stop looking at labels and just create music. I think once we started looking at labels we just turned up the volume on whatever everybody else was actually putting their energy into. I think if we stop looking at what everyone else is doing and listening to and just create, we’ll find a lane for ourselves or the soundscape of music will change. Because if we still think that trap music is what it is then it will always be around. The reason why Disco is no longer around is because people were mindful and understood that style and sounds change and the more sounds change music will morph into whatever. Everybody got to understand that Hip Hop has a big Disco side to it because all those break beats came from the Disco records. Nobody really talks about that. When it comes to the natural progression of music we have to understand that there will be changes. Either it’s going to simplify or get more electronic. Now we’re noticing with dance music it’s getting super electronic but it sounds to me like old break dance records from back in the days.
What have been the greatest impacts and the greatest losses to the culture since you’ve been active in music?
The greatest impact is for mainstream to accept Hip Hop. The worst is when they started watering it down and a lot of people started claiming Hip Hop to be theirs. When they figured that Hip Hop was something you could actually do on a computer, write 16 bars of corniness and think that that is considered Hip Hop. They have to understand that rap is just part of Hip Hop. Graffiti and breakdancing and all of that – a lot of these young kids don’t know that. They think that rap is Hip Hop. I do Hip Hop. If you do Hip Hop, let me see the graffiti work in your backyard. Let me see you put down the linoleum and let me see your backspin, your head spin. Not only that, who are the founding fathers of Hip Hop? On a cultural level they have to understand that it’s a way of being. It’s your walk, your talk, your dress, all of that. Not just your rhyme that you write. A lot of people take that for granted. Like if I sit down with Iggy now and I’m like, “Yo, so I know T.I. signed you or whatever but what was the first Hip Hop record that came out or who was the fist Hip Hop artist to actually go platinum?” She wouldn’t know these things. Tell me something. You’re part of the culture. You make the music. When I seen it go to that point. That was the lowest point for me.
I think that one thing that’s always set you apart is style. I think that’s what’s missing. It’s the style and the delivery and the uniqueness.
The hunger’s no longer there. A lot of these artists are afraid to create. So you have 10 artists that sound alike and it sounds like the same record and the same rhyme patterns and cadences. There’s no changing right now. You don’t know who is who. Everybody’s afraid to create. So it puts some of these New York rappers in somewhat of a disposition because they don’t even know what their style/sound is now. They’re moreso thinking about competing than staying true to their self. Now a lot of people feel like dumbing down is the way to go. Having a wack delivery back in the days meant you were a wack MC…I don’t know.
If I asked you what 5-10 tracks you’d put together on a mixtape for me right now what would you include?
1. Love is the Message – Mfsb
2. Microphone Fiend – Rakim
3. Me, Myself and I – De La Soul
4. Where My Homies – Ill Al Skratch
5. The Typewriter
6. A few records from this sound system in England called Saxon. Because the way they used to put their records together in the late 70’s. They were like the fist double time artists in the late 70’s.
7. Michael Jackson
8. Method Man and Redman Da Rockwilder One of the shortest records ever made. It taught me that you don’t have to be over 3 minutes and change to get your point across. I put down certain records for certain reasons.
9. Black Butterfly – Deniece Williams
Trust me. It’ll take you through several moods.
Do you have a recipe that you’d like to share?
Here’s how I make Chicken Alfredo and Pasta.
1 chicken breast
1 bottle of alfredo sauce
1 box of spaghetti
Season the chicken with garlic powder, black pepper and jerk chicken seasoning
Next, cook the chicken in a frying pan until it’s cooked thoroughly.
Then slice up the chicken and prepare. The jerk seasoning gives it an extra kick and since it’s wet seasoning it mixes well with the alfredo sauce.
Next heat up the alfredo sauce in a small pot to make extra sauce or to stretch you can add milk.
Once the sauce starts to warm up prepare the noodles.
Once the noodles and sauce are ready pour the sauce all over the chicken and let the juices marinate in the frying pan..
When the spaghetti is done pour sauce and chicken over the noodles and enjoy! (chicken will have an extra spicy kick from the jerk sauce)
Talk to me about War Paint and any other forthcoming projects that you’ve been putting energy into.
I have a lot of collab records coming out. There’s a collab record with Screechy Dan that just came out called Big Sound. I have a record with GrubSon who’s from Poland that’s out right now called Spider-Man. A record that’s coming out with the reggae artist, Snow. It’s called In the Ghetto.
I’m preparing War Paint right now and the production on there is crazy. I don’t want to give away too many secrets but I’m just making sure it’s a piece of work that people will respect. They’re definitely going to respect the creativity that went into that piece of work.
Well, I’ve definitely been appreciating the work in this man’s back catalogue. If you still need to play catch up, you should probably go download his Stop Playing mixtapes (vol 1 & 2) which can be found at chip-fu.com. And don’t forget about the two Fu-Schnicken albums that are still floating around record stores across the globe as I write this. Be sure to give Chip a follow on Twitter or whatever other social media platform that does it for you. I’m looking forward to his solo project, War Paint and you should too. Keep it locked here as I’ll be keeping you up-to-date on any news of that release. It’s not everyday that we get insight from an artist that’s worked with the Heavy D’s and Ali Shaheed’s and Pete Rock’s of the world. So, when hear it, we’d probably better listen up and see what we can take away from it. This is what I got from our conversation: It’s all about food. And music. Appreciation. Art. And time. And healing. That’s what it’s all about.