Interviews

Published on May 18th, 2019 | by Jerry Doby

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Exclusive: Chanel West Coast is Cool as They Come

Rapper, Singer and Television personality (MTV’s Ridiculousness) Chanel West Coast broke out in 2012 when she signed to Lil Wayne and Young Money and dropped her ode to iconic fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld entitled “Karl.” That seemed to set the tone for the dynamo as her body of work continues to highlight what she calls the “beauty shot” in her visuals along with a blend of soul touching timbre in her singing and total cleverness in her rap style. She’s that perfect blend of all that makes for a super creative including taking the director’s seat and delivering cinematic visuals as in her directorial debut this year for her “The Middle” music video which also showcased her vocal prowess.

One of the more fun artists in the mix right now Chanel West Coast has rocked with heavy hitters from both the West to the East such as YG and French Montana delivering equal parts lyrical missile and musicality. It’s something very few can deliver with such panache and sets those who can, well apart from the pack. Her most recent drop “Sharon Stoned” featuring iconic rapper Red Man and actor Michael Rappaport solidified for me that this is one of our superstars in the making and that hip hop is in good hands LOL.

We caught up with Chanel in betwixt her various duties with MTV, prepping for her new album due out in July and a myriad of other daily grind activities so instead of me droning on and on about how magnificent she and her music are let’s just delve into the convo!

So, you’re one of the most prolific artists out there right now repping the West Coast, but you have rocked with everybody from West to the East. I mean, YG from Compton and French Montana from the East Coast. From the outside looking in, man why don’t you tell us about the artist, Chanel West Coast? We all have our opinions, but we want to hear it from you.

Chanel: Well, really the best way to describe myself is I mean, I’ve been an artist since I was a little girl. Music is my passion. That’s my life, and I’ve been performing since I was a little kid in dance class, hip-hop dance, choir, orchestra. Basically, I was just always a performing kid and when I was a teenager I decided I wanted to make music my career and I started rapping and working in the studio. Then, in my teenage years, that’s when MySpace came out and I made a MySpace music page and from my MySpace music page, that’s where I had actually met Rob Dyrdek and got discovered to be on TV, so that’s where that journey started.

But, a lot of people don’t know that I was an artist first and foremost. My whole life basically. That’s what led me to being on TV. Pretty much, yeah. I love hip-hop, it’s what I’ve done since I was a little girl. It started with hip-hop dancing and my dad is a hip-hop DJ also, so it was just a very natural thing for me to get into.

It’s like in your blood. There’s nothing you can do about it. You had to do it.

Chanel: Literally, in my blood. If you knew my dad’s side of the family, my dad’s side of the family, they’re all very musical and creative people. My dad does music, he’s a DJ, he’s an artist. My uncle’s also a singer and plays the flute and he’s an artist as well. My grandpa’s an actor and my stepmom’s an actress. That whole side of the family is just super creative, so I definitely got it in my blood from my dad’s side. But, it was also a big thing with mom being the one who really pushed me into performing and getting into hip-hop dance as a little girl and all that stuff. Yeah, it was in my blood, but definitely, I have to say, my mom… I don’t think it came in my blood as much from my mom’s side, but it was the hustling that came from my mom’s side. My mom really instilled that hustle in me.

You’ve got a crazy schedule, talking about the hustle. I mean between filming for MTV, appearing on Love and Hip-Hop, Hollywood, making your directorial debut with the video you just dropped in February, The Middle?

Chanel: Yeah.

How do you keep it all together?

Chanel: You know, every day I feel like I’m going crazy. I’m not going to lie, but I just tackle one task at a time. Right now, I’m working on my album. We’ve got to shoot some single covers, we’ve got to start planning another video shoot, which I’m going to do all of this stuff today. We’re going to set up the photo shoots for the single covers and we’re going to start planning the next video shoot for my next single, and every day you’ve just got to tackle every little thing that you can with the time that you have available. Like, today I’m not filming so I’m going to completely focus on handling and scheduling everything that has to do with the album and my shooting my covers and that stuff.

Then, tomorrow I film Ridiculousness and I’ve got to focus on that. Then, the next day I film Ridiculousness and I’ve got to focus on that, and then the next day after that I’m in the studio back to recording stuff for my album. So, every day you just got to … I think in this business you have to spend a certain amount of time every day focusing on your craft and your passion. I think that even if it’s a day off, even if it’s a vacation, somewhere on that day off or on that vacation, you got to still fit in some time to focus on your craft and your career because that’s the only way to become successful.

Right. I mean, that goes back to the grind you were saying, the hustle you got from your mom.

Chanel: Yeah.

On average, what is your day like? Sixteen hours? Eighteen hours?

Chanel: It depends. My days are crazy. I don’t sleep a lot naturally. I’m like the type of person… I’m just always awake. I have a lot of energy, so I tend to be up late and still get up early somehow. So, yeah. I don’t sleep a lot. I’m not a nap person either. I hate taking naps because I feel like sometimes I’ll take a nap and then if it goes too long, I’ll get mad at myself because I missed a good chunk of the day. So, I hate taking naps too. Let’s just say I sleep less than the regular person.

So, talk to us about the new joint. Look, I love Sharon Stoned. I had that thing on repeat far beyond the 4/20 friendly date that it dropped. I can’t get enough of it. Working with Red Man and Michael Rappaport. Then, I watched Behind the Slate. That was an insane shoot, but it was so cinematic. What was the drive behind that and how did you come up with that concept?

Chanel: Basically, when we made the song, it kind of hit me on the day that I made the song in the studio. I was like, ‘yo’. That is always a thing with me when I make songs, I tend to already be thinking about the music video as I’m making that song. I just think very visually with everything, but when I made Sharon Stoned, I literally said: “We’ve got to do a scene redoing Basic Instinct or a scene redoing something from Casino in this video to pay homage to Sharon Stone.” Very similar to how I pay homage to Karl Lagerfeld in the Karl music video I did. I wanted it to be that same vibe where it was you know, I’m dressing up like Sharon and we’re paying homage to her classic, iconic scenes. So, I had that idea from the beginning when I made the song. Basically, let’s just say the video was a year in the making. It took a lot to bring it together but with the right people and the right team, they were basically able to bring my vision to life and that’s the vision I had from day one. I was like, “We’ve got to redo some classic, iconic Sharon Stone movie scenes, you know?”

I heard somewhere in the grapevine that the video caught her attention and at one point we were expecting to maybe see a cameo from her, but that didn’t happen. But, you pulled it off. I couldn’t tell the difference from a distance. I was like, “Oh, snap!” She really transformed. I mean, that was a major cool.

Chanel: Yeah, she was … there was a moment in time where she was going to be in the video possibly. But, let’s just say that everything ended up happening the way it was supposed to. I think that the video … it would have been an even longer process I think if we ended up having Sharon in it. There would have been more people to please and make sure everybody’s happy and I think that’s why it worked out was how it was supposed to be and it was obviously amazing working with Michael Rappaport and Red Man and I think they brought such a great comedic factor to the video and they brought that old school feel to it too. They’re both OG’s in the game. Michael Rappaport’s been acting forever in classic, iconic movies like True Romance. Red Man’s, you know, Red Man and he’s an iconic rapper and has iconic roles in weed-friendly movies like How High. So, it was the perfect team to come together for this video, I feel like.

What is the biggest pressure you put yourself under when you’re coming up with a visual piece like that?

Chanel: The biggest pressure I think is … it’s a fine line … whenever you’re shooting cinematic movie style things, you’ve got to make sure you’re still getting the right beauty shots and the right performance shots because sometimes people get into the mode of shooting it like a movie, but then we’re like, “Hold on. We didn’t focus enough on the performance shots and the beauty of it.” Then, you have the other music videos where it’s all about the performance of the dance scene and that’s all about the beauty, but then there’s not really any storyline. So, it’s really with me a struggle of making sure that you have not just the performance and beauty aspect, but also the storyline and the cinematic part and bringing it together.

It’s a hard thing because they’re two very separate worlds. The movie world and the music video world are two separate things. So, a lot of the times you have a music video that looks like a movie, but those are usually not the ones that also incorporate the dance scene and the performance. They’re usually more like a movie. For me, I always want to make sure that even though I’m making a very cinematic video, we still want to keep it a performance piece. We still want to keep it about the music.

Speaking of music, and combining this … how do we want to call it? Theatrical acumen. You made your directorial debut with The Middle video. So, all those things, not only being in it and showing off your vocal prowess, which by the way you have this amazing true voice. Talk to us about The Middle video and making your directorial debut. I presume that those considerations that you just mentioned all went into making this video as well.

Chanel: Yes, very much so. I mean really, I worked with my boy Pat Clark on two other videos before that he directed and respectfully, obviously Pat has a ton of amazing ideas and he did a great job directing. I did also come up with a lot of ideas on those past two videos myself and I and Pat have a great friendship and relationship, working relationship. So, I told him, I said, “Pat, I want you to shoot this next video for me, but I really want to take the lead on directing this one. I got a lot of great ideas.” And, I said, “I just really want it to be 100% my image this time.” I know he’s going to shoot it amazingly and edit it amazingly and so he was so down to do it. He was like, “Of course. Let’s do it. Let’s let you take the lead directing.”

It was great working with somebody who really trusted me and respected my vision and brought it to life. Everything I told him and what I told him I wanted for the video, he was able to accomplish and make happen. So, it was great to work with somebody that brought my vision to life.

Not to be cliché, but is it really difficult for an artist, much less a female artist, but for an artist to get the ‘filmmakers’, video directors with some renown to take the artist’s vision seriously and let them really get involved?

Chanel: Yes. Well, I’ve only had that problem once or twice, I will say. I will say … I won’t say when or where that happened. I only had that problem once or twice where I felt they were not really respecting my vision and my opinions, but for the most part, I’ve been really lucky to work with a lot of great directors who really respect my visions and opinions.

I’m a really creative person. I come up with a lot of visual ideas and I think that a lot of the directors I’ve worked with see that. I think they love it. They’re like, “Okay, this is a much easier video for me to do because the artist knows exactly what she wants.”

A lot of the times, these artists and not to disrespect any artist, but a lot of these artists do not come up with anything that has to do with their music videos. A lot of these artists are with big record labels who are like, “Okay, let’s bring in this big expensive team and this is what your music video is going to be.”

Sometimes, the artists don’t even have a say so and they just show up to the shoot and they shoot whatever the video is planned to be. I’m not that type of artist. Whatever my music video is, mostly came from my mind and usually the director I picked is somebody to just really bring my vision to life. Obviously, I respect the director’s visions and want to hear their ideas too and I’ve used other directors ideas and visions and may have incorporated a lot of their creativity into my video as well, but for the most part, every video I’ve done has somewhat come from my mind and I’ve been very lucky to be respected enough to have the directors go with what I want to do.

What’s the most fun right now being Chanel West Coast? You’ve got your crazy schedule, but you’ve got this amazing series of projects back to back, bam, bam, bam that you’re hitting with. What’s the most fun about being Chanel West Coast right now?

Chanel: I think the most fun part about being Chanel West Coast is the fact that people think all I do is party. So, when I do go out and party I tend to get offered a lot of free drinks. That is not all I do, though. It’s funny because I’m a private person, so when I’m at home and I’m focused on me and on those days where it’s just all about working out and going to the studio and a lot of those days I don’t really post on social media. You don’t see me on my daily grind on social media. You’ll see me post at my gigs or I’ll post on set at Ridiculousness, but for the most part, when I’m at home in that type of environment or doing the type of work that doesn’t involve me having hair and makeup, I’m not posting about it.

So, I tend to post at my gigs a lot where I’m out at the club doing hosting gigs or performing and there’s always a lot of drinks involved. I think people see on my social media that I’m partying a lot and they think that’s all I do. When really, I’m working way, way, way more than partying. I do have a little bit of a party girl persona, so that is a fun part for me when I go out. Everybody thinks that all I want to do is party, because they’re like, “Hey, you want a drink? Here’s a drink.” I’m like, “Well, shoot I guess I’m never going to have to pay for a drink ever again because people think that I’m a party girl. They all just want to offer me free drinks.”

If they got to see the behind the scenes, the way you explained your day, they would maybe not offer you so many drinks.

Chanel: Oh, my God! Exactly! That’s why I’m like I need my own reality show so people can really see. The reason why I’m not posting when I’m so… when I’m so on my grind, there isn’t time to post. It’s like whenever you … all the work that goes into before you get to the show, people don’t see that. They just see me when I’m at the show or at the hosting gig. But, they don’t see the dance rehearsals and the preparation with the stylists and the going to the studio to touch up a couple of parts on the song. They don’t see all the preparation that goes into it beforehand. They see when you’re finally there the day of the gig and you’re performing and then taking the shots with the friends and lighting up the blunt. I’m going to celebrate the day of the show because I worked my ass off up until that day of the show.

Right. Hey. Might as well.

Chanel: So, people need to know. I’m on my grind 24/7.

It’s okay to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Chanel: Exactly.

So, let’s talk about MTV’s Ridiculousness. I hadn’t really been familiar with it, then, I sat down and binge watched a bit. That seems to be such a fun show. That was like a mini-vacation for me. First of all, how do you guys get these freaking videos if nobody can submit?

Chanel: Okay. So, that’s what’s funny. I feel like once Ridiculousness started, these type of videos just started coming out more. It’s almost as if people were like, “Let’s make a stupid video and try to get it on Ridiculousness.”

Because it’s so funny how it’s an overwhelming amount of these types of videos online. That’s where YouTube became YouTube. YouTube became YouTube from that type of content and being the first platform where you can basically post a home video and just put it up. They kind of … before it was America’s Funniest Home Videos. America’s Funniest Home Videos they would have to find people’s home videos, but because of YouTube and the internet, it’s just so much out there now that’s why we don’t want people to submit because it’s like we don’t need you to submit there’s plenty of footage online that we’re going to find.

There’s a team of people that work on the show and they find the videos and God bless those people because they must work really hard and have to do a lot of research to find these funny gems. But, yeah we have a whole team of people that find the videos and we’ve actually aired a few clips, video clips that have been on numerous times and episodes and I remember sometimes, but we’ve had so many episodes sometimes I won’t remember and I’ll laugh extra hard and then Sterling or Rob will be like, “You know we’ve had that clip before, right?”

So, it’s gotten to a point where there are so many clips like that online that we’re kind of even I think confused.

You don’t say a whole lot in the episodes that I’ve seen, you sit there and laugh, you have some comments and stuff. But, what has been the wildest clip that you remember from the million or so that you’ve seen that made you go, “Ewww!” That you cringe. “Did they live? Oh, my God!”

Chanel: Honestly, there are so many of those types of videos it’s hard to point one out or something. It’s funny that you mentioned that I barely talk or whatever. It’s very hard. Being on a show like Ridiculousness, especially when they have guests, it’s kind of hard to interject because you don’t want to cut off the guests when they’re talking or you don’t want to talk more than the guests. I’m not trying to stunt on them and shine more than them.

So, that’s kind of also our role as the co-host is to know when to shut up and let the guest talk or to let Rob talk or to know when to shut up and just let the clip ride out. So, that’s also part of the job is to know when to shut up also. Because if you’re talking over certain clips they’re not going to be as funny. You’re going to take away from the clip or whatever. So, it’s like a real balance of knowing when to speak and not to speak to give the clips the extra funniness that they need.

Sometimes, when we talk about the clip, it makes them funnier, or sometimes when I just laugh at the clip, it makes it funnier. But, sometimes you can’t talk and you’ve got to just let the clip play to hear what’s playing in the clip. It’s like a real struggle to figure out when to talk, but in my real life, I’m a very talkative, funny person which is how I believe I got the job in the first place. I’m happy for the moments where I get to speak up and show my personality.

You definitely have a personality.

Chanel: Thanks.

It shows in your music. If you had to pick one song from your body of work. As I said, you’ve been doing this for over a decade, what joint would you pick as an introduction to a first-time listener for Chanel West Coast?

Chanel: Oh, man. That’s a tough one.

I’ve got to have one tough question.

Chanel: That’s a really tough question because obviously I’ve made a lot of songs and I’ve got a few of my favorites. Man. That’s such a tough question. I would say my song, “Greatest Hit,” is one of my favorite songs I’ve ever made. I think if you were to listen to my music for the first time it’s a good first song to hear. It’s … the beat is crazy. I’m a bit like singing melodic on the hook., but then rapping my ass off on the verses. For me, it also reminds me of when I signed with Young Money because I recorded the song in Miami at hit Factory, basically when I signed with Lil Wayne right after I had met him, we took a week there to just record songs and that was one of the songs that I recorded out there. So, it really for me, reminds me of that period of my life. I think it’s a fire song. We’ve used it for a lot of my recap videos. It’s got a real fun vibe to it, so I don’t know. I think that’s a song that I would recommend listening to first for a first time Chanel West Coast listener.

You mentioned you’ve got a new album coming out and I know that everybody’s careful about how much they talk about new projects or whatever. But, talk to us about the impending project and what we can expect from Chanel.

Chanel: On my new project, you can definitely expect a lot more singing and a lot more serious subject matter. I definitely think I got my party girl persona from my songs. I’ve got a song called Alcoholic. I’ve got all these songs talking about money and turning up in the club and everybody knows that side of me, but I really just wanted to talk about more serious subjects and talk about things that I think needed to be brought to light and there’s going to be a lot more serious subject matter, songs that I think are going to wake people up a little bit. It’s going to be a more serious and I guess, sultry side of Chanel West Coast.

Do you find that you like singing more than rapping or is it kind of equal right now?

Chanel: It’s kind of equal. It’s always been equal. For me, the reason I started rapping was because I didn’t know how to write singing songs. I just … my brain didn’t know where to begin. I always wrote poetry since I was a little girl, so rapping was a real easy natural thing for me. I was like, “Okay, it’s a poem over a beat. That’s not rocket science.”

I could write poetry all day, every day. That’s easy for me. So, that’s how I got into it because I knew I wanted to do music, but I didn’t really know how to write a singing song. I just started writing raps and started rapping and throughout working with all these producers and different artists and stuff, everybody was just like, “Well, can you sing?” I was like, “yeah, I can sing. I just need a little help telling me what to sing. I’m not as good at writing the singing stuff.”

Over time, I started working with songwriters on more of my singing stuff and now I’m at a point where I’m writing a lot of my singing stuff. I worked with a couple of co-writers, but for the most part, it’s all my concept, it’s all my ideas. I just need help with the melodies.

I love singing. If I’m in the studio alone by myself it’s not as easy for me to write a singing song as it is to write a rap song, so for me rapping is so much more natural and easy to do. But, I love singing. I wish I could have a little help from some record label peeps coming in and getting some songwriters like how Rihanna has. It’s like, you go to the studio and everybody’s got a song written for Rihanna ready. Everybody’s got a song written for this person, or that person ready. I think that if I had a couple of songwriters send me a couple more singing songs, I definitely would love to do more of that. That’s for sure.

What do you think it will take for people to take your singing more seriously? Do you think it’s this next album?

Chanel: I’ve got another new song coming out singing which is going to be one of my next singles. Well, my next single’s actually called “Old Fashioned.” That’s going to be a singy-rap track. It’s melodic. That’s more singing. After that, I’m releasing another song that’s even more singing. I’m really trying to progress with showing the people more and more of my singing voice. I think the more they catch on, I’m pretty sure songwriters are going to start hitting me up. Like, “Hey, I got this track. You want to try this?”

We definitely need more singing from you. I loved it. I’m loving it. You got these nuances and your use of timbre and intonation when you do just cut loose and sing … Ah! Chills!

Chanel: Thank you. I really appreciate that. My mom’s told me she even thinks that I sing like an old school singer because it’s funny when I sing newer songs, it’s not really my vibe, but if I sing some Aretha Franklin or Janis Joplin, that’s when I’m in my pocket. I’m definitely trying to put a little bit more of the soulfulness that I put in “The Middle” on my album as well.

I’m looking forward to the album. Is there anything that you wanted to cover that I may have neglected? I want to make sure to get it all. I want all the juice out the meat.

Chanel: Whenever I’m talking about music I’m happy. But, yeah you covered everything. I already kind of mentioned it, but the real thing that I want to get across to people that I think does bug me a little is that people do look at me like I’m this party girl who drinks a lot and they don’t take me seriously. Maybe because of some instances they’ve seen on TMZ as well.

It’s just so crazy how you can have two minutes of your life go on TMZ that everybody judges you forever and my whole entire life aside from these two embarrassing minutes is really a hard working talented person. I do just want people to know yeah, you might see me party a little bit on social media or maybe you’ve seen a couple of things on TMZ, but that’s such a small part of who I am. That’s really what I want people to know, that the party girl persona is really 15% of Chanel West Coast.

Do we have a timeline for the new album?

Chanel: Yes. The new album, we’re trying to drop it in July. I don’t want to give it all away, I’m not going to give away the vibe of my album, but let’s just say that I will be talking a little bit about some politics and about some matters that I feel need to come out around Independence Day. I’m trying to get my album out around the Fourth of July. Let’s just say that.

Connect with Channel West Coast

Website: http://www.iamchanelwestcoast.com

IG: @ChanelWestCoast

Twitter: @ChanelWestCoast

 


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About the Author

Editor-in-Chief of The Hype Magazine, GRAMMY Member and internationally published arts & entertainment journalist. Member of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture as well as the United States Press Corps.



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