It doesn’t get realer than this.
From working with Timbaland to feeling liberated as an artist, Shawn Chrystopher shares his honest opinion on family, music and (everything really) for Eric Fobair’s new column, Local Tourist: High Grade Street Culture.
Tell me a little about yourself. Like where you’re from and where you’re at now?
Shawn Chrystopher. From Inglewood, California. Born and raised. I’m just getting back in L.A. right now finishing the mix on my next few projects.
You’ve been all over the U.S. and still come back to L.A., what makes your hometown so special to you?
I’ve always had a love / hate relationship with L.A. Everybody probably has one with their hometown, but L.A. is a little worse because not only are you competing with the people who were born here, you’re up against the people who moved here in search of the same thing you trying to get. I’m blessed to be [in] a space now where I can travel somewhere else for a little while and write my music stress-free. No one asking me to do this or that. But once the music is finished and it’s time to live like a normal person, L.A. the only place I know.
I’m sure you can detail the changes in L.A. since you were young. What’s changed, what neighborhoods have changed (better / worse)? How have the people changed, stayed the same?
I think things have gotten a little better. It’s still small wars between neighborhoods that take lives, but that’s in every city. I think L.A. is more money-motivated than it has ever been, and that in return has people coming together as partners with a common goal of just making some money to feed your family. All the unnecessary shit is being cut out more and more as time goes on. So, that’s dope. Some of the roads are still fucked up out here and the Lakers fucking up, but other than that everything’s good out here.
I recently saw that you’ve posted pictures of your journal on social media, and I wondered if it had any connection to your creative process. What comes first for you: Pen or booth?
I like to write with a pen or pencil. There’s no better feeling that actually writing something down and being able to scratch it out, or underline bars you want to stand out. But I like to take my time with verses. Especially, ones for my album. I might take 2, 3 weeks to finish a verse and a month for a song. I go back to it like 50 times. I got songs that I’ve mixed over 20 different times over a few months. I hear something different every time I listen to my songs.
Who are some of your musical influences, and when did you know this was the career path you wanted to take?
I don’t know really. I’ve always wanted this for as long as I can remember. It wasn’t about the money or anything. I just felt I had a story. I was great at telling stories even as a kid, and rap changed my life. 2pac, Kris Kross, Bone Thugs: These dudes raised me. I was raised by a single mother, so I would just sit in my room and listen to Rap all day and night. I knew I would rap. It was just a matter of: When will I get that shot to be on a main stage?
How did your family and friends react to your music at first?
My family didn’t really fuck with it. No one in my family likes music like that. So it was odd, I guess for them.
Many artists grind for years before making their mark on the main stage. Can you tell me about some of your earlier disappointments and failure, and how do you feel you’ve grown?
You just learn not to dwell on them and move on. Whatever is going to happen was written long before you even decided to go down your path. So the ups and downs are all already there waiting for you to catch them. Don’t spend too much time celebrating the highs, or dwelling on the lows.
Is there any truth to the old saying that having “patience is a virtue”?
Something people are either born with [it] or have to learn throughout life. But [having patience] is necessary.
I’m loving your two new tracks “What’s The Move” and “LAlien”. “What’s The Move” has a sound that reminds me of the L.A. party scene. How did you come up with the concept behind those tracks?
Those are just some freestyles I put together while I was recording my albums. When you’re in a writing zone you gotta just keep the rhymes coming or you’ll lose it. So even if beats weren’t finished, I just found some instrumentals and kept spitting.
What inspired you to develop your web series “Soapbox”?
Soapbox is a weekly web series where I’ll answer a question asked by one of my fans on either my Instagram or Twitter. My whole thing has always been about being direct with the fans and to not hide behind a machine, label or even a magazine. So if there are questions people want to know, I’ll answer them.
I’ve noticed during live shows and even in some of your Twitter posts that you have what appears to be your own personal flag. What’s the concept behind it and what does it mean to you?
It’s called The Shawn Chrystopher Flag. The black stands for hard work and determination, the red stands for passion, and the green represents profit. All three are necessary to stay alive in this game. Don’t let anyone tell you that all you need is money to get hot without passion and determination. On the other hand, don’t let anyone tell you can make it happen with all passion and hard work with no money. The flag keeps everything realistic.
What’s next for Shawn Chrystopher?
I’m dropping 3 EPs this year. The first is “Summerlove” which is dropping on August 12. The three EPs are connected and tell a story, so there will be cliffhangers at the end of the first two EPs which will be resolved in the last one.