NEW ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: CHAZ FRENCH
Universal Music Group • 2019
Hip-hop is a marathon, not a sprint for Chaz French. Far from an overnight success, his perseverance marks a true love for the art. Born in D.C., hip-hop was initially the rapper’s secret pleasure. “When I grew up, my mom was a pastor so I was listening to a lot of gospel music,” the 27-year-old remembers. He listened to Kirk Franklin, Hezekiah Walker and Fred Hammond. He sang in choir and played drums at church–secular music was strictly forbidden–aside from his grandmother strangely gifting him Usher’s 8701. “I don’t know why she bought me that album. That is so random.”He wrote his first rhyme when he was punished at 8 years old and wasn’t allowed to go outside and play. “I wrote a diss song to my parents about how mad they made me. It felt like a release,” he laughs. “Music is still a release to this day; it’s how I express myself.”
Rap soon became Chaz’s singular focus, much to his family’s chagrin. “They were against it. It would be discouraging but it made me want it even more.” Chaz’s biological dad was incarcerated and he locked horns with his stepfather. When his mom gave him an ultimatum to get it together or leave, he dipped. The teen dropped out of high school–he did get his GED–and couch surfed through Texas for four years. Times were lean. “I wasn’t doing anything with my life but rapping. I didn’t have a care in the world. All I cared about was music. I thought that’s how I was gonna make it.”
I wasn’t doing anything with my life but rapping. I didn’t have a care in the world. All I cared about was music. I thought that’s how I was gonna make it.
Ultimately, it was clear that shit wasn’t working out. In 2011, his girlfriend at the time told him to return home. “I moved back and got it together,” Chaz says, noting the decision as pivotal. He was now a father and the pressure began to mount to make music stick. Back in D.C., he began to collaborate with local talent like GoldLink and Wale and both would appear on his debut mixtape, 2014’s Happy Belated. A love letter to the grind, the tape generated buzz locally and on blogs, setting him up for indie drops like 2015’s “What Ya Say” (feat. Saba). In 2017, he inked a deal with Capitol Records and released True Colors, featuring collaborators including Casey Veggies, Shy Glizzy and BJ The Chicago Kid. “I was in a weird space in that time. I was figuring out who I was, trying to become the best I could be. There was a lot of conflict.” That turmoil is reflected on “Pops,” his 2017 message for his once-estranged father. “That was a tough record for me to make. It was intense. Me and him were on and off.”
After a two year-hiatus, Chaz French is back with a renewed sense of self. “I used to get caught up in everybody else’s path. Now I’m focused on me.” On his forthcoming album, Whatever Makes You Happy, he wants to show his dexterity–beyond being serious and cerebral.
I used to get caught up in everybody else’s path. Now I’m focused on me.The first single, “Handful” (feat. Rich The Kid and prod by Yung Lan), may surprise some with its trap soul leaning. “‘Handful’ is me showing a fun side of who I really am. It’s just a super fun record,” he explains. Chaz wants “some fun” before he gets into deeper, more serious fare. “I think people fall in love with my records that are heartfelt. But if you’re around me, I’m not serious all the time!” He’s in a good space now and wants to translate that into his music. “I’ve been just making music that makes me happy,” he says. “I’m doing it for the right reasons now. I’m not tryingto prove a point to anybody but myself. If people like it, I love it.”