With the passing of Chris Kelly in 2013, the surviving member of Kris Kross, Chris Smith, aka Daddy Mack, is trying to pick up the pieces. Releasing his first project since Mac Daddy's untimely death, Smith spoke on moving forward and the immense grief caused by Kelly's death.

While many thought that Smith would have thrown in the towel after such a tragic event, the rapper has found the strength to move forward. Speaking on his new project, losing Chris Kelly and more, find out what Daddy Mack's been up to after all these years. —Miranda Johnson


XXL: Tell me about your new comeback project.
Chris Smith:  I’m working on a new album. I released a few videos just to sample some of the material I’m working on and I also released a single for iTunes just to give sort of another sample. That song is called “Now.” Then [I have] "PYSP," which is more of a rock-influenced song.

So it seems that you're including more than just rap on the project.
Yeah, it’s gonna have hip-hop and also what I call hip-rock, which is sort of like a merge between the two. It’s going to have a lot of guitars and I’m playing most of the guitars on the songs. So I’ll be showcasing that too. I have yet to decide how I’m going to package it. I’m leaning more towards breaking them up and having two separate CDs. One CD for just all the hip-hop and another CD for the hip-rock. That’s just how much material I have. I want to give the best look for each individual sound. I don’t want to take away from either of them so that’s kind of the sound of the album. The songs are mainly about life and love, if I could sum it up in two words. That’s the whole gist of what I’m talking about. My life experiences. Just things that I’ve experienced in life up to now. It dabbles in love, in a playful way. I try not to get too serious in love but you can’t help but get serious about love sometimes.

How is it working on the project without Mac Daddy?
It’s like very hour I’m thinking about Chris and I know that he would want me to continue doing what we love and what he loved. This was our passion since we were eleven years old, so we found the love for music at a very early age. I know he would just want me to continue on the path that we started. It will never be the same. Ever since that day my life has never been the same. The world is different for me. You start looking at things really differently. You kind of put everything in perspective. You just hold onto the memories, though; that’s what kind of keeps me going in the studio. I just hold onto the memories that we had even before we started. We met in the first grade so we pretty much knew each other our whole lives so those memories are kind of what keep me going. So when I’m in the studio starting on a new song or whatever, I’m always thinking about Chris.

What was your initial reaction to Chris’ passing?
You just kind of freeze. For me to just look back and think about it, I just froze. I probably froze and the whole world just kind of went silent. I really don’t remember anything too much from that moment that I first got the news. I don’t remember a whole lot after that, 'cause your mind just goes. I just locked myself away and I didn’t want to be around anybody. I tried to absorb it the best I could. I never lost anybody that close to me in my life. Somebody that everyday of your life, we were brothers.


Are you working with Jermaine Dupri on the new project?
Well you know, I bounce ideas off of JD. If I have a new song, I’ll play him the new song. On that level. We’ll just kick it and I’ll play it in the studio. He’ll give me his thoughts but right now he’s kind of just stepping back and letting me do my thing. That’s kind of where we’re at now.

What are you trying to get across with the project?
It’s almost like two separate projects. I have a hip-hop sound and the hip-hop project is like, I try to keep it fresh. I’m playing a lot of instruments on the project. My instrument is the guitar, I play all the guitars like bass, acoustic, electric so it has a lot of guitars on it and the drums are definitely prevalent and heavy. That’s kind of the sound I’m talking about. And the topics that I’m talking about are a number of things. It’s about life and love. The hip-rock project kind of mirrors that as far as the topics. It’s just more rock influenced.

You’ve been in the game many years. What’s one thing that you took away from being in the game so long?
I guess one thing that I’ve taken away is you can be successful but that doesn’t make you all that great or whatever. What kind of makes you great is when you give back, when you help somebody else get a good look, the next aspiring artist or musician. Just try to help somebody get to where you are. That’s what I’ve kind of always taken away and always try to do. I always try to give somebody else a good look and help the next one out because that’s what it’s all about.


What would you say is the biggest change in the industry within the last 20 years?
Well record labels back then they took a large part, a large part of our project was their responsibility or you gave it to them and you made them responsible as far as the marketing. But now, an independent artist can take that responsibility and have the same influence that those majors had with the Internet and all the tools that you have at your fingertips. You can actually be your own major to a certain extent. The only thing you’re missing is that physical distribution. An independent artist can’t do that now but really you don’t need that physical distribution because everybody now downloads their own music and you can make your own videos. The artist controls more, the responsibility is more in your lap now. You have to be in control of your artistry.

Are you still based in Atlanta? How do you feel about some of the new guys like Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug? The current Atlanta sound?
Any time you see a new artist coming up it’s a good thing. I’m always trying to give them a good look. If somebody wants me to hear their music, I'll tell them what I think or what direction they should go. As far as the sound, it's not really new to me. It’s new to the world, it’s almost like it’s universal now. When we came up in the '90s, New York had their sound, the South had their sound, the West Coast had their sound which they still do today but now they like the South sound and they hear it a lot. It’s not just so compartmentalized like it used to be. It’s universal now. So as far as the sound, it’s nothing new. It’s funny 'cause if you go back to some of the underground South artist in the '90s, you can almost put them on the radio now. They were almost before their time. The South, the sound is just more popular now. We’ve always been known for our 808s, and to me that’s our sound. That’s the sound that we’re know for in the South, that’s our roots.