“I’m the dope. Nah, for real,” announces Chilly Chills on the title track of his project Dope. Within a few minutes of being in the presence of the Atlanta native, it becomes clear Chills fully embraces those words musically, personally, and spiritually.
That description is not mere self-aggrandizing hyperbole. The stimulant metaphor serves as an example of the message Chills promotes through his artistic brand. A message that conveys the power of overcoming struggle, yearning for knowledge, exhibiting patience, and presenting a burning passion to paint a picture bigger than himself. It all comes together under his “sophisticated ignorance” lifestyle.
“I’m from the heart of the city. I’m not in a gang. I don’t sell dope. Everybody else wants to do that in order to be a rapper. I’m from the most criminalistic place in Atlanta, yet I come with a positive spirit,” Chills tells AllHipHop.com. “I’m not shunning those people. I’m bringing those people with me to kick it with the people who aren’t on that. It’s a bridge between the gap.”
Chills is a product of the Mechanicsville neighborhood located adjacent to the Turner Field baseball park. At the age of 9, his family moved from Chicago to the Atlanta locale made famous in the film ATL starring Tip “T.I.” Harris and Lauren London. Mechanicsville has also gained a reputation for its violent crime statistics and illegal narcotics economy.
While most people tend to avoid revealing the drug history of their loved ones, Chills puts his family’s past out in the open. His lyrics even include mentioning his father was a crack cocaine smoker. The vulnerability in his raps is one of the ways Chills uses entertainment as a vessel to spread the importance of sincerity and insight to his listeners.
“I’m tricking the mainstream market into knowledge. I’m tricking my people into going back to values,” explains Chills. “Not saying we lost them. We just don’t flex them. We’ll flex that Lamborghini. Ain’t nothing wrong with flexing that Lamborghini, but let the folks know you got off MARTA before you got in that motherf*cker.”
Part of Chills’ willingness to express honesty through art is an extension of his early beginnings as a poet. He developed his poetry skills at Southside High School, and there are still clips on YouTube of the young rhymer performing his spoken word pieces.
The conversion to Hip Hop music in 2012 was the result of Chills’ getting tired of waiting for the rap game to change. So he began to record his own songs and took on the role of being a tastemaker for the sounds he had been looking for in others.
“Though we got a lot of rappers, people are just rappers. They don’t even know themselves,” Chills states. “The acronym for rap - R.A.P. - is rhythm and poetry. I started doing poetry. All I needed was rhythm.”
It is not surprising Chills eventually took the emcee route. His parents were known to listen to top stars of the culture such as 2Pac, DMX, and Jay Z. In addition, Chills viewed Atlanta underground rappers Hitman Sammy Sam and Big Gee as influential prototypes on how to grind to success.
Cuts from the Chilly Chills collections Poppin In Here and Dope are Southern-based Hip Hop at their core, but the Georgia boy also looked to legends of Soul/R&B to inspire his live presentation. A Chills show usually does not take place without seeing the spitter maneuvering around a microphone stand on stage.
“I was influenced by Michael Jackson and James Brown. I was influenced by The O’Jays, people who used mic stands back in the day to do Doo-Wop dances. It’s a very pivotal part of my performance,” relays Chills.
Not only do icons of yesteryear inspire Chills, but superstars of today have proudly cosigned the rising ATLien as well. His well received appearance at the Birthday Bash 20 concert in June led to him hanging out with Grammy-winning acts Kanye West and OutKast. Andre 3000 and Big Boi were even blessed to hear Chills recite his “Little Things That Amount To Much” poem in a Waffle House parking lot.
“It makes me appreciative of that whole experience. It really confirms things that perhaps people in the city won’t confirm,” says Chills about meeting Kanye and Kast. “We’re living in a crab in the bucket mentality in this city of mine right now. So something new, something that has great potential but is foreign to what’s going on, is not being accepted in the city of Atlanta to an extent.”
He continues, “That confirmation from a legend just lets all the people who thought they were big shots know not to be mistaken with this kid. I’m the dope.”
Chills’ grievance with the lack of support from his hometown is not a stand alone objection. Earlier this year, he dropped a freestyle called “Pay Style” where it was made clear The Ville representative's style is not free.
“‘Paystyle’ is really me being frustrated. That was to let people know, ‘Yeah, I’m a poet. I do it from the heart. But my style ain’t free,” Chills declares. “I don’t mind presenting you this awesomeness, but be compensational. Love is about being reciprocal. So if we’re going to talk about love, it’s got to go both ways.”
Up until this point, Chills has built his movement as an independent artist, and he enjoys the ability to dictate the complete direction of his career. Connecting with a major label is not out of the question. He’s just not pressed about forcing any partnerships at the moment. Also, Chills established on his Dope track “Purpose” that selling his soul is not an option.
“You have these instinctual sounds in your head when something ain’t right. Perhaps that’s a divine message. Those things we call a ‘conscience.’ Perhaps those things God or the divine power communicates to us, ‘That ain’t what you want,’” says Chills. “I ain’t selling my soul. Like I said, love goes two ways. To the labels, it’s just telling them I demand respect. No disrespect to what you represent as a label or an executive. But as an artist who I feel means so much to a generation, I will not have a lesser opinion of myself do to your opinion.”
Chills’ self-confidence acts as a shield against his doubters as well as a symbol to his supporters. The child of Mechanicsville, Atlanta is fully aware of his capability to impact young minds.
Question him about his capacity to touch other people’s lives, and Chills showcases his understanding of how the youth study music to discover a way to escape their hardships and carry their soul to its intended destination. The next great move will be to push future musicians to advance his covert mission of introducing higher level thinking to the unaware.
“If we could get some dope, positive lyrics over some the hottest beats from the hottest beat makers, I think subconsciously the world would change,” advocates Chilly Chills. “As soon as that Dirty Sprite [by Future] dropped, everybody was on the lean. Sh*t, I sip lean, but I spit poems to the kids at Slater Elementary or speak at Alabama State too. It’s a balance of sophisticated ignorance.”
Read other installments of AllHipHop’s #ATLRiseUp series here.
Purchase Chilly Chills’ Dope on iTunes.