Chops: Both Sides of the Brain

Chops has played all positions within Hip-Hop and its geography. From an MC and producer in the underground group, The Mountain Brothers, he went on to producing for Dave Ghetto, Bahamadia, and Raekwon, before creating remix albums that focused primarily on markets in Atlanta and Houston with artists like Bun-B, Mike Jones, and others. Chops’ 2005 mixtape “It’s Going Down”, which was hosted by Paul Wall, was just named Mixtape of the Year at the Southern Entertainment Awards. Whatever he’s done, where ever he’s done it, Chops seems to have succeeded.

But as Paul Wall and Chamillionaire take notice, Chops is still out for more. With tracks like “My Lowrider” featuring The Game and Ice Cube, new conquests appear to be on the horizon. Having recently returned to rhyming on the score to the film, Dark, Chops prepares his next album, The Endgame. Things seem to have come full circle as the name and rep grew bigger. Chops talks to AllHipHop.com about the technique behind his grind, the intricacies in his writing, and the distinction of mixtapes in Houston versus Philly. If you’re stuck in the bedroom, take a listen…

AllHipHop.com: Now you, Louis Logic, and some other prominent dudes were all at Penn State University in the early 90’s. People might not associate State College, Pennsylvania with Hip-Hop, but can you reflect on that time and community there?

Chops: It’s kind of a weird way to start off an interview [laughs], but it brought a lot of people from different places together to one spot – not even on a musical level, but on a people level.

AllHipHop.com: You’re originally from Texas?

Chops: I grew up in Texas mainly. My folks moved around a lot. I grew up all over.

AllHipHop.com: Most people would associate you with Philly, is that where you still lay your hat?

Chops: Yup. I’m still here, and I’ve been in this area the last ten [or so] years.

AllHipHop.com: Two years ago, critics really recognized Kanye West for his sensibility to produce for Jay-Z one minute, and Mos Def the next. You too, have worked with Mountain Brothers one second, and Kurupt the next. Can you describe, as a producer, one constant in your sound?

Chops: I’m glad you bring this up ’cause nobody’s gotten into this, but one thing is – I had all different kinds of tracks [early in my career]. The whole time though, I would have tracks that people would say, “Wow, that sounds like a West Coast track, I don’t know if I can do that.” I’ve always had a variety of stuff. Because of the people I was f**kin’ with at the time, that’s what people saw of me.

AllHipHop.com: So how hard was it to move beyond what you were doing and get that recognition in the South or West?

Chops: One thing that helped some was bein’ able to get out there more and physically go meet people. Or, just like keeping getting out there so people will [check for you more]. The other side of that is management – hookin’ up with the kind of people who can [expand your reach].

AllHipHop.com: Was it surprising that you when you were working with a Dave Ghetto or Bahamadia, that a Raekwon or Kurupt would be checkin’ for it?

Chops: I’m not sure if something like that – if those are good examples. But I do think that people listen to more kinds of s**t than you realize. Also, that’s the business aspect of it too. I think those were more separate maneuvers that happened to come together.

AllHipHop.com: Your more recent mixtapes are really using Houston artists. Do you think your following in Houston has any idea that you released two LP’s as a Mountain Brother?

Chops: I think it depends. It might be because I grew up in a bunch of places. But somebody from one place is gonna f**k with the kind of music from there in generally, moreso than somewhere else. But there’s definitely people that do – and I appreciate this – people that just kinda f**k with me in general.

AllHipHop.com: A lot of these remixes start out, unofficial…

Chops: Right.

AllHipHop.com: Had 9th Wonder not unofficially remixed Nas, he probably would not have placed “Threat” on The Black Album. Tell me about your approach, and the benefits of this?

Chops: I do this to get the name out. This shows people that I can do a whole project of stuff. Also, it’s a chance to stretch out and show people that I do f**k with other styles of music, and I’m good at what I do. It’s a good way to slang beats too. Sometimes people will hear a track and say, “I don’t know what I can do with it.” But if you put some s**t on it that’s crackin’, then they know how the s**t fits. It fills in the blanks for people.

AllHipHop.com: Well, it started unofficially, but you’re actually working with Paul Wall now. Tell me about that…

Chops: We had met quite some time ago. My manager had known him previously, and they’re pretty tight, actually. I just kept playin’ him tracks and stuff, while workin’ on the mixtapes. One thing that’s good for me is when people hear the s**t I’m doin’, they tend to know I’m pretty serious at what I’m doing. Fortunately, that came across.

AllHipHop.com: How is the South treating mixtapes differently than say… in Philly?

Chops: One thing is – and this is for sure – down South, in general, you can be an underground rapper, and make a living doin’ it. You can build a fanbase and a career going, and people will support you. But for some reason, it’s less so on the East Coast. Maybe it’s [CD] dubbing? [laughs] I still get my stuff off on the East Coast for sure as things are getting better and better.

AllHipHop.com: Right, you featured one artists Lil’ Weavah, who is unsigned, and I know is a star in Atlanta. These remixes also probably reach radio…

Chops: Yeah. Definitely. It’s goin’ good. We’re getting airplay with a decent number of joints.

AllHipHop.com: Shifting gears, your MC game returned on the Dark soundtrack. I love this track, “Motherf**ker”. In that song you say, “Nice guy, that got tired of finishin’ last.” How’s that apply to your career?

Chops: Without gettin’ real deep into it, I’ve been doin’ this for a minute, as you know. Some s**t works out, some s**t doesn’t. You partner up or link with different people who sometimes look out, sometimes don’t, sometimes they’re serious, sometimes they’re not. I’ve had a few deals – independent and major. I’ve gotten to the point where it’s not worth waitin’ on somebody. I’m not waitin’ around for nobody. I’m a get it done type of dude.

AllHipHop.com: You have another line I love, that I’ve felt, “Interns workin’ on rich kids that was never under nothin’.” At every label, every studio, every radio station, there’s an intern gettin’ it. Why’d you stand up for the unsung?

Chops: [laughs] One thing worth mentioning is that [the Dark] soundtrack was a particular opportunity for me. I’ve been away from the so-called Mountain Brothers type of music for a minute. That really has not been my focus. D.A. Bollock [the Director] needed music for the movie. He wanted that type of vibe to fit the film. It gave me a chance to revisit that stuff and update it. Mainly, it was me applying what I felt fit the mold of the film. So in that song, I’m talkin’ about the underground. I f**ked with a lot of labels, and seen a lot. A lot of times, to be making underground music, you’re either one of two kinds of people: You’re either broke, or you’re rich, but not from music. The ones that are in it for the cause, they get the bricks to carry on their back. The ones that are straight already, as far as finances, they gotta lay some cash out, but they don’t have to get their hands dirty.

AllHipHop.com: Even El-P went at the Rawkus Records founders for that. A lot of today’s underground labels are funded by sons and daughters of yesterday’s moguls…

Chops: Right, and I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with it, because it does produce good music – if the people know what they’re doing. You need more than money to make s**t crack. There’s a lot of dudes I know that are underground and [dope], and nobody will ever know about them. There’s dudes working nine-to-five’s that can rhyme their ass off. Most likely, they’ll stay working nine-to-five’s.

AllHipHop.com: You mentioned the Mountain Brothers. Self had a great following. Then Triple Crown kind of fizzled. Was that a catalyst to the group breaking up?

Chops: I don’t think so. The best way to say that is – the fellas always had other s**t that they were doin’. That’s to mean employment and other things, period. They had other talents and abilities. I just had this. I’m only built for music. That’s what I do. [laughs]

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