Spillage Village/Dreamville & ReignCity Presents:
J.I.D + Earthgang "Never Had Sh!t Tour"
Chaz French, Lute
2200 2nd Ave
Seattle, WA, 98121
This event is all ages
Being keenly aware of his situation has always paid dividends for J.I.D. The East Side Atlanta native went to Hampton University in Virginia on a full football scholarship. But once he started playing at the prestigious HBCU, J.I.D. realized he may too small to make his NFL dreams happen. He was disappointed, but saw an opportunity.
With Atlanta’s robust music scene as a backdrop, J.I.D. had already dabbled in making music and had gotten an overwhelmingly positive response to his first recording over Bun B’s “Pushin” back in high school. So he decided to make a mixtape. “It was crazy,” recalls J.I.D., who got his moniker from his grandma, who used to call him ‘Jittery.’ “We had hella dope songs on there and we got buzz around the campus. Kinda like what happened in high school happened again. That’s when I realized I had an idea of how to do this.”
As his campus rep grew, J.I.D. met and connected with fellow ATL transplants EarthGang at school, and started doing shows with them. When he moved back home, J.I.D. helped form the Spillage Village collective with EarthGang (who had also relocated back to Atlanta), producer Hollywood JB, Jordan Bryant and DJ DarkKnight. His Para Tu mixtape, which boasts the revered cut “Proverbs,” arrived in 2013.
Steady on the grind, J.I.D. kept recording, networking and performing. His February 2015 mixtape, DiCaprio, was inspired by the acclaim J.I.D. felt the actor was lacking. “Leo wasn’t getting any type of recognition, and I felt like I wasn’t getting acknowledged in my field either,” J.I.D. explains of the project, which showcased his burgeoning lyricism and storytelling skills. “I used different phrases and quotes from his movies in the mixtape, stuff that could get my thoughts out about being an underdog. That’s how I always felt being the youngest, but I knew one day that would change.”
The 25-year-old’s big break came organically. While on tour with EarthGang, who was opening for Dreamville artist Ab-Soul, J.I.D. met and developed a relationship – a brotherhood, really – with J. Cole, one that eventually led to J.I.D. signing to the North Carolina rapper’s imprint.
“Cole is somebody who’s been doing what I’m trying to do and he’s a big part of helping me out right now,” J.I.D. says. “I already had my music ready, but he gives opinions and critiques and helps me fine tune it because he knows where I want to go and he understands what I want to do in the music. He’ll come back and ask me, ‘What is the message you’re trying to tell?’ He’s really big on making sure I portray my story right.”
The very first day Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot of EarthGang met, their school caught on fire. On a field trip, they’d discovered they had similar tastes in music and that neither was scared to say exactly what he was thinking. As their bus turned toward campus, they saw smoke billowing and felt the hand of serendipity at work. Everything around them was burning down, leaving something new, a phoenix, in its wake—their partnership.
“We just had our own vibe,” says Doctur Dot. “We weren’t doing music just to get rich and drink a bunch of lean. Nah. We just wanna make music best we can.”
A handful of years later, that’s precisely what they’ve become known for. Marrying lean, sharp-eyed lyricism with Southern-fried soul to produce keep-em-guessing projects like their most recent, 2015’s Strays With Rabies or the much-lauded 2013 Shallow Graves for Toys, they embody the best of the new generation of music—and plenty of critics and fans alike have taken note. Noisey lavished praise on the duo, calling their work a “renewal for Atlanta, a departure from the city's familiar club sounds … Every song arrived fully formed, hitting hard and landing jokes while also delving deep into political issues, especially topics of race.” Working with fellow bout-to-blow artists like J.I.D. and established producers like J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, they’ve continued to hit curve balls musically, surprising not only their fan base, but also themselves.
“I’m always trying to push the limits of things,” says Johnny Venus.
“We tend to work with producers that wanna break some rules. They pull out their secret stuff – the reason they do that is they know we aren’t constricted to one type of sound, one type of rhythm or attitude. We contain multitudes,” continues Dot.
It wasn’t always that way. As they were coming up in Atlanta, the guys found it difficult not only to find producers that wanted to work with them, but also mentors, surprising in a city with such a rich rap history. “In the beginning, we didn’t have nobody that wanted to work with us, so we worked by ourselves and made the most of it,” says Dot. “We didn’t have anybody else who thought we should be doing it.” That all changed with 2011’s Mad Men project. With their nimble wordplay and ability to color outside the line, comparisons to another local group—Outkast—cropped up, and EarthGang quickly became a name to know. They were branded a clever indie hip-hop act, and for a big part of their career, they were, as Dot puts it, “surfing the indie ocean and doing real good.” But as the years have passed, that label has become constricting.
Now, they find themselves stretching beyond the “indie hip-hop” brand, ready to reach a wider audience with sharp-slick lyrics that cut through the hazy blur of ratchet rap and an avid interest in never settling or resting on their laurels. “A lot of people in the industry get caught up in: ‘This is what I do.’ With us, it’s like, ‘This is what I could do? Shit, I’m gonna try doing that.’ As long as it keeps being fun, we gonna keep doing it,” Venus says.
Fittingly, there’s no one genre that can hold EarthGang. “I describe the sound how you describe freedom. There are twelve notes on the keyboard and I love every single one of them with all my heat. That's my sound,” Venus says.
“We’re making the transition and recognizing our response as artists. I don’t mean we gotta save every kid in every hood, but when you represent something to somebody, the best you think you can do is accept responsibility for what you have to do. Freedom,” Dot echoes. “We gonna take ‘em to another world.”
"Everybody and anybody willing to listen – the World," rapper Chaz French states when asked who he speaks to through his music.
The name Chaz is defined as a man in the Germanic language and is a role he learned the meaning of early in life. Born in the Nation's Capital and raised in Maryland, those who know Chaz best would describe him as a survivor, having lived through a near-death car accident and homelessness. He credits these experiences, along with many other extreme growing pains, to his continued perseverance as a performing artist in the music industry. His work is also inspired by the life of his daughter, the support of both his mother and brother, fellow hip hop artist, (Eddie Vanz), and the camaraderie of his team known as The Gallery Family. Despite the struggles, Chaz French developed a level of individualistic creativity that has helped him to stand out amongst other artists in the DMV hip hop scene that is always conveyed through his music and style. Listeners will hear transparent, unapologetic lyrics that
"The early twenty-something is never not working on his craft"
paint a vivid picture of pride, love, fun, and pain; messages similar to those shared by his artistic inspirations, Jean-Mi- chel Basquiat and Kanye West.
The early twenty-something is never not working on his craft - be it recording in a studio, writing while on daddy duty, or promoting his music to the masses. Touring and Grammy aspirations matched with million-dollar dreams underline Chaz French's endeavors, with recent perfor- mances at noteworthy music events such as SXSW in Austin, TX, opening for Waka Flocka at the historic Howard Theatre, and Broccoli City Festival in Washington, DC. With the help of 368 Music Group (CCCLXVII), a colorful past, and sharp focus on the future, Chaz French plans to leave a mark that impacts not only the music industry but the world!