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Chillow Reaps What He Sows 'You're not going to throw away that CD are you?’ It’s the question that opened the first chapter of Chillow's story in hip-hop. The CD, which he saved from the garbage bin and took home, was Onyx's 'Shut Em Down'. Years later, the Belgian producer, graphic designer and former skater, flips slamming beats with a kick of soul and a slide of jazz. It’s going fast for the 26-year old. In school, Chilo Derieuw drew sketches of Artifacts, nowadays he's in the studio with El Da Sensei, recording an album for his recent series of collabo LP's entitled ‘N Chillow’. The first record of the series, ‘NY2BE’, features Queens lyricist Reap and includes guest appearances by El Da Sensei, M-Dot, Nutso, DJ Grazzhoppa and Mo. At the album’s release show, where all featured artists gave a dazzling performance, we hooked up with the Belgian beatmaker…

photo credit: Stijn Coppens

How did you connect with Reap?

Through Cuban, Nutso's manager at Poor Pocket Music. I connected with him and Nutso (aka Nutrageous, ed.) a few years ago for the 'Art Of Raw' EP I did for Earquake Records, together with Iron, D-Purpose and Eon Green. He's from NY and I've been in contact with him for some years now. One day Cuban said ‘Yo, you gotta check out my homie Reap’. So he sent me a track and I really dug it. After that, me and Reap did a demo track together and I was like 'wow, this is it’. He fits my jazzy beats -I got different beats but especially jazzy ones- he has a raspy voice, a little bit like Nas, so then I thought ‘Ok, let's go’.

So then we started working together, we sent tracks back and forth over the Internet, but I didn’t like working that way. I was not really feeling it. So I flew him over to Belgium. Which was a way cooler working process. We're in the same studio, we share the same vibes, we can talk to each other.

When did you started working together in the studio?

For the first time? Last year, in April. We hired a studio from the local music centre here in Kortrijk, and recorded for two weeks non-stop. We did a photo shoot, etc., really got it going on.

So is there a lot of stress when there's only such a short time period?

Not really, there's a lot more stress right now. But last year, no. Because really, we could focus on just one thing; recording music. Now, we’ve got a show, we have to prepare a set list, we got to record songs in the studio, you have to organize a lot, you got to look after food… They seem like small things, but when you add them all up, it's a lot of work. You got to do errands, appointments, running around from here to there. It's almost impossible to do it all by yourself. I learned my lesson though. It was a question mark for all of us so I think the next time we do this, we'll know what to do. So there will be less stress involved.

Plus there's a lot more albums coming right? First of the series is your album with Reap 'NY2BE', what’s next?

Next up there's a record with Jeffrey Jefferson. He's a singer. It's already finished, but it has yet to be mixed. It’s gonna be a soul album, but also with a few hip-hop tracks. For example, there’s a song on it with El Da Sensei. Actually it’s kinda with the same names as on the album with Reap...

So these artists are the connection between the series albums?

Definitely. No matter who features or will feature on my projects, I'm always gonna work with these people. Another recurrent thing is the cover. It’s more or less the same, except for a different colour, name and picture. The colour is changing though. Now it's yellow, next time, it's gonna be a blue cover.

Why yellow?

I don't know...I just thought it was a fresh colour. Also it's almost summer. I made some t-shirts along with the album. All in yellow. That’s just perfect for summer time, we're all smiling in our shirts...(laughs) And then when the next album drops in Winter, it's gonna be blue.. (laughs)

The first single of 'NY2BE' is 'Back In The Days'. It features Mo&Grazz...

Yeah, to me DJ Grazzhoppa is the godfather of the Belgian hip-hop scene. Grazz and me were already in touch, we already did some things together. So one day I was like ‘Yo Grazz, I have this track and it would be cool to have you and Mo on it.’ First we didn’t really know what to do with it. We was about to do something with J Mega of the True Masterz crew. But then at a certain point, I was convinced of doing a series of albums, so we went for the album with Reap, finished the track and made the video all together.

The video to 'Back In The Days' has a real New York feel. But it was made in Belgium?

Yeah, I think it was in Antwerp. Somewhere in Antwerp or Brussels. The whole video was made in a black box. With a lot of black curtains, a black floor, black walls, and even a moving pavement. It would’ve been stupid after bringing in Reap to go all the way back to NY just for the video.

Third album in the series is with El Da Sensei. You're in the midst of recording now. So El started rapping in 1985, you were born in 1985. How does it feel to be in the studio with a rap legend?

It's incredible man. Unbelievable. I really have no words for it. I remember I was doing sketches of Artifacts in school. I painted El Da Sensei's head. And all of a sudden I'm in the studio with him! I still can’t believe it. It's like I missed a few years, and suddenly woke up to the dream I had back then. All of a sudden he's there, recording with me. Now it's even more amazing than I expected, he's really killing it. Spitting verses like it's nothing, straight on for hours.

He doesn't have to prepare a lot?

Not at all. The only thing I have to do is stick a microphone to his chest. Everything he's spitting at the spot, every word, is recordable, I just have to record and put a beat under it (smiles)

There was nothing recorded before?

I e-mailed him some music files, so he could prepare, match with the vibes of the beats, search for a few themes. But really, he's writing down everything here, right on the spot. That's the best way to do it. We're in the right atmosphere. If I make a beat with a certain feeling, that feeling is more clear to him when we’re in the studio together. He knows how I feel about it, I know how he feels about it, how he wants to rap to it. We can interact, discuss certain tracks,...

So working in the studio really is the best way?

Yeah, it's important to me. I long for that. Right now, I'm actually building a studio, with the help of my father's knowledge. He teaches me how to build the walls and helps me out when he finds the time. I already knew the technical part of acoustics but to actually build is a different thing. My father knows what's up (laughs). I'm planning to fly artists over. They can sleep over there, at the studio. I'll set up some more projects, let people fly over. But first I'm gonna focus on the series. When the studio is actually build, I can go from there on. It'll be easier for me. I won't have to drag my equipment from here to there anymore. Just chill, fly people in, and work, work, work...

There’s still a lot of work after tonight?

Yeah, El is staying for another week. Tomorrow we're going to perform in Koln, Germany, then relax for a day and then the day after tomorrow we'll record, record, record,...

El Da Sensei is also known for his graffiti skills. You’ve studied graphics in school, are you also doing graffiti?

Naah, I do some graphic drawing, but I'm not a graff artist. If I would try and put my mind to it, I think I could pull something off, but I don't focus on graffiti.

You're designing your own album covers though...

Yeah, I do all my artwork. The cover for the Reap album is made by myself. The cover picture is photoshopped by Yasinne el Bouazzaoui though.

What's your favourite El Da Sensei record?

Oh damn. Nah, I couldn’t know. That's too hard. I really like everything. Perhaps I like Artifacts a little bit better. You have these two really dynamic, skilled MC's, two different, raw lyricists.

Maybe you could record something with Tame One too?

Well, actually I did a track with Tame One, but it's not finished yet. I'm definitely gonna put that out, but I don't know how and when. Maybe on my record with El Da Sensei, who knows...

So after the El Da Sensei 'N Chillow album, what’s next?

Hehe, I'm not sure yet, but I got a few things on my mind, but nothing is confirmed.

And after the 'N Chillow series?

After that there's a project with Uncle D'jack. That’ll be more blues- and jazz-oriented.

You have many musical influences...

Yeah, mainly because of my family. My father is a guitarist who played with Booster, The Chop Choy Shaggies, the Bronx, etc. He had a studio where I hung out a lot, just messing with his tracks. My uncle Hein plays bass. My uncle Dirk plays guitar and keys. My other uncle from my mother's side, Filip (RIP), was a DJ. So by experimenting with tracks and hearing their criticism, one learns a lot.

You also produced for local rapper Baadasssss, who rhymes ‘int West-Vloams’?

I think on a Belgian level Baadasssss is the shit. He flows over about everything. He got style, has no shitty attitude, he's hip-hop in heart and soul. You won't see it though, he doesn’t front like some people do. Like ‘Yo, I’m a hip-hopper’. He's really a down-to-earth person. Also his choice of beats is cool, a bit jazzy. At first I had to get used to the West-Flemish tongue. Honestly, I'm not a big fan of regional hip-hop you know. I wasn't really open for it. But when I met Baadasssss I was like ‘wow’. Besides ‘t Hof van Commerce (famous in Izegem and way beyond, ed.), I haven't heard a lot of local rap. When I heard Baadassss I immediately said we gotta do something.

Your bio says everything started with Onyx...

(laughs) I was on the train with this dude, when he was about to throw away a CD. It was Onyx's 'Shut Em Down', especially the track 'The Worst' featuring Raekwon, Mehod Man and Killa Sin. I was attracted by the cover immediately. So he gave it to me. I took it home, blazed it and fell in love with the music ever since. I started to search everything about Onyx. Played it 'vullebak'. From one thing came another.

So Sticky Fingaz can expect a call from you one day…

Man! If only! Good idea, but let me focus on one project at a time. I like to do it one step by another. After that we'll see. I'm not going to say any things, I couldn’t make happening….

Reap N Chillow 'NY2BE' in online stores June 14.

 

POSTED 06|13|2012
conducted by cpf

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