As hip-hop plows forward burrowing into history, more and more rappers are frozen in time or completely forgotten. Rap lyricist extraordinaire Chino XL isnt about to be one of them. The rapper is readying Poison Pen, his next album slated for a fourth quarter release. But, in the interim period between albums Chino has turned to acting as a new career.
The rapper has been in a number of films like Playa's Ball, Vatos. Barrio Wars, Osirus and the now infamous Crime Partners, which is a subject of a federal investigation against Murder Inc. Now Chi makes his major feature film debut in the Rob Reiner flick "Alex and Emma" a movie that hits theaters June 20. AllHipHop.com talked to the budding thespian and got the lowdown on his movie career and whats hip-hop got to do with it.
AllHipHop.com: So what's up Chi, how have you been?
Chino XL: I've been good man, maintaining, knocking these movies out
AllHipHop: Word. So what's up with the whole Hollywood thing man?
CXL: People have started calling me to do all types of movies. So I did one,
I did another, and I did another and was like, "You know what Chi? This aint
that hard at all." So at that point I went and got a new manager, and
agent and began doing my thing. I'm working on a few films now with one
hitting called "Alex and Emma" directed by Rob Reiner and a couple straight to video flicks.
AllHipHop: So what do movie producers and agents think about your other career
CXL: Well the thing is, I don't use my rapping gig to get acting jobs.
Most people in the movie industry initially have no idea about the music
thing, and when they find out I do rhyme, they are pleasantly surprised.
Not to disrespect, but to most movie industry cats, rappers don't translate
well over the screen. I think the reason being is that we are so
accustomed to writing our own words, that when it comes time to act out
somebody else's words written for you, it becomes hard. I've learned so
much in so little time about technique and I have become quite effective at
adlibbing when I do my scenes.
AllHipHop: So is acting going to be your new permanent hustle?
CXL: Well it started out as a hustle, just something to pay my bills. But
it has turned into something I can't really control. I cant just stop
acting for 4 months to go make an album, because based on my work thus far,
my name is on breakdowns and there are people constantly calling my agent
showing interest. It's real man.
AllHipHop: So what are some of the differences between the movie industry and
the music industry?
CXL: Man to be honest, movie money is so good. The people treat you treat
you better, respect your ideas, the whole nine. Its so different having
everything secure with the jobs you take in acting. When setting up a show
in rap, it's like what state am I gonna be in, what town, who's the
promoter, is he gonna pay me, etc, etc. With acting I have an agent who
negotiates my money, and everything is set in stone with money in my pocket
before I even step on a set. There are just not as many games being played
either. Like right now we could call Robert Deniro's agent, leave a
message and he will call us right back. Not saying he gonna give you what
you want, but he will show the decency and call you right back just like
you was Al Pachino's agent or something. People seem to be much more
AllHipHop: So is acting hard for you, are you getting a grasp of it?
CXL: It's pretty easy for me. Because I have such a vast archive of rhymes
in my head, there is no situation I will be in in a movie that I haven't
thought of in a lyric. I don't play any parts that don't reflect my music
in some way. At first it was difficult because like with rhyming, Im
extremely confident in my abilities because I work very hard on my craft.
When I step in a cipher, ni**as best rhymes wont save them cause they know
what Im about. But with the acting I felt like I was disrespecting the art
form cause I couldn't really rip it ya know? But with time it is something
I have become much better at. Like now, I wont let an actor sh*t on me in
a scene. I have too many verbals for me to back down. There is no fear
and no line a writer can write that can shake me. Unless Kool G Rap wrote
a script, there is nothing I could be shook by. Acting is really fun
AllHipHop: So what's' cracking with Chino XL, the lyricist?
CXL: Oh, I got Poison Pen coming real soon. And man let me tell you,
straight up, I can't believe some of the stuff that Ive been writing. Dog
Im serious, it has been absolutely phenomenal. Im not tying to gas ni**as,
or pat my own back, but yall just wait. I have a whole new control and
method of madness when it comes to the lyrics. You'll see very soon.
AllHipHop: So just because your acting, I take it your still going hard with
your rhyming career right?
CXL: Listen dog, I could never stop rhyming. I would have loved to sell 10
million records on my own without bending over backwards for industry cats
but I just had to fall back for a sec had to use the movie thing as a
platform for another creative outlet But when it comes to my rhymes, I
refuse to do it any other way than I do it. Whenever I write something I
feel is not me, I just literally feel like throwing up. Id rather do
horrible numbers, and have only 15 cats come up to me anticipating my new
album, than look at one nigga who knows how I get down, and see a look in
his eye that I let him down. I will not bend.
AllHipHop: So is it your hope that your movie career will shed more light on
your music career?
CXL: No doubt. Hopefully this will give my music more exposure. But
again, if I can do my music my way and sell only 50,000 units but get my
real money from movies, I'll be happy. I could never stop rhyming cause I
haven't even reached my peak. To be honest with you, I can't even write a
wack rhyme. I try but I cant.
AllHipHop: So being away for a minute, what's your view on the state of the
CXL: Man sometimes, I feel like I could break down and cry over what the
game has become but I wont because maybe it's the natural evolution of how
things should be. I try to
tell myself that a lot of these younger cats didn't have the same
influences we had. If great writers like Mark Twain, Shakespeare, and,
Edgar Allen Poe all came out at the same time, you couldn't possibly expect
the very next generation to be great writers like that. For me at least,
I think the god's of my era, the Rakim's, the G- Rap's and the Kane's
raised the bar so fu**in high , that I expect more outta emcees. But it's
probably too hard for new cats to train in their craft and master the
English language because it so simple now to sell millions of records by
simply rhyming "bee" with "me" or "thug " with "slug."
AllHipHop: So what if anything can be done to bring it
back full circle where Mc's such as yourself get the same amount of respect
as a multi platinum accessible artist gets for what he does?
CXL: Dog I don't know. You take emcees such as myself Canibus,
Rass Kass, Monch, and several others that do it the way we do. Now
we could never be the G-Raps, Kanes , KRS-Ones and Rakims of this era
because they are the blueprint. We are there understudies. I think people that do it
the way I do, ultimately have to take it and do something different. They
have to become writers, get into movies, theatre or some other outlet. Im
not talking about walking away from rhyming, but start to respect their art
form as literature and exploit it as such.
AllHipHop: Are record labels part of the problem you think?
CXL: Labels don't want to take chances because they don't see dollar
signs there. I could sell just as many records exclusively on
AllHipHop.com as I could in retail because the type of ni**as that wanna
hear me come to sites like yours. And it's really sad because you may have
an ill artist who don't have a street hustle or side hustle, and no family
to support them starting out, so they have to resort to giving their
material to some hack label that does nothing with the music. They don't
manufacture enough copies, or promote him and the music belongs to the
label, so he doesn't have the legal right to start a website and sell it on
his own and in the end, he's screwed
AllHipHop: Yeah, the game seems so flawed that some of the legends you
mentioned prior don't get the proper amount of respect these days because
they are looked at as just old school cats that had their run.
CXL: And that really disgusts me. How can you not treat those niggas with
the utmost respect? G-rap gave birth to cats like Pun, Nas, and myself. We
are his sons and he puts up with us (laughs). Kane and Krs One are gods and
Rakim, he is the father of compound, complex rhyming. How can you not show
love? And what's really sad is that there are people out there who think
Nelly won that battle with KRS just because he is way more visible. But I
guess I cant be too mad because the way the game is has trained people to
think a different way. Not me though, them dudes are the greatest.
AllHipHop: Ok Chino, are there any last words before we let you go?
CXL: Look out for the new album Poison Pen dropping real
soon. Peace to AllHipHop.com for the continued support, and all my fans.