Chuck Strangers' first mainstream appearance as a Pro Era rapper almost never happened. Although the producer/rapper had already been spitting for years before he met Capital STEEZ and Joey Bada$$, the folks on the Pro Era team weren't necessarily all onboard with Strangers the MC.

"I almost didn't even make it on 'FromdaTomb$,'" Chuck revealed during a recent visit to XXL's Manhattan office, saying his first verse for the 2012 track was met with eye rolling rather than encouragement. "Then I spit another verse and everyone was like, 'Oh shit, let's use this one.'"

Strangers had his verse, which belonged to Joey's acclaimed maiden project 1999, and soon, he'd become a well-respected producer. In subsequent years, he regularly popped up with verses on Pro Era's compilation projects. But it wasn't until 2018, nearly six years later, that he'd unleash a rap project of his own.

Consumers Park (released March 16) is an almost-entirely Strangers-produced effort filled with the rapper's signature throwback aesthetic and plenty of blunt honesty about coming of age in New York City. By his own account, it's a snapshot of his early 20s.

In a convo with XXL, the Brooklyn-bred Strangers explains "Style Wars," his reasoning for finally dropping an album, his producer-rapper inspirations and the state of Pro Era's long-awaited compilation project.

XXL: Why did you decide to drop your album when you did?

Chuck Strangers: Oh man. I didn't decide; God decided. Not even to be on some weird shit like that. But it's true. I would've never dropped it. [Laughs] It was just God deciding like, "Alright, time's up." It was like, "Nigga it's been four years." [Laughs]. "What you doing nigga?"

Up until this point, you've been more known as a producer.

The reason it kinda ended up like that is like, I always thought I was a great rapper and then I met Joey and STEEZ and I realized that I wasn't really that good. So I was like, "Oh shit, alright." So you get in the game however you can. I can't rap as good as these guys, but I got beats [Laughs]. So, fuck it, they can use my beats. Then I would just always have song ideas that I wanted to do and I just realized I had to get better at rapping. I had to come with my own style or voice. I listened to my raps like, "Hmm, this isn't cutting it." So, I moved to L.A. and started focusing on just my work.

Did Pro Era know how seriously you were taking your album?

No. I don't think a lot of people [knew about Consumers Park]. 'Cause the kinda dude I am, I don't go around being like, "Bro, when you hear my project bro...!" I'm not that dude. I'm on some like... just showing. I'm not gonna talk it up. I'd rather just somebody else say that and just work on it on my own time. If it comes out, it comes out.

It might be impossible, but try your best: Describe Consumers Park in a few words.

My early 20s.

What qualities of that time period are reflected in the album?

All of them [Laughs]. On "Fresh," I'm 21 and on "Style Wars," I'm 24. [Laughs]. I'm 21 with no court dates, but then on "Style Wars" I'm 24 years old. And I still want them to be on the same body of work because it was a time.

How did "Style Wars" come together?

Originally "Style Wars" was gonna be an instrumental—I was gonna have instrumentals on the album. None of the ideas stayed instrumentals. It was gonna be like an interlude. But one day, I was going through a lot of bullshit mixing the album. I was in an Uber ride and I just wrote the first verse to "Style Wars." And then I recorded it and I was like, "Oh, this sounds dope." Well, it's two verses, but it sounds like one really long-ass verse. I wrote the second half of the verse and I loved it. I was playing it for all the Pros and they were like, "Ohh, this is crazy." I was like, "I'ma put Joey on this one." 'Cause he was still asking me what song I wanted him on. At first he didn't really see himself on the song. Then, like a month later, he sent me his vocals on the song, and I was like, "Oh shit, this is looking fly."

Who had the better verse: You or Joey?

Oh, me. Only 'cause, "My flow is as pure as your daughter on her way to kindergarten." Like, to me, I was just—it was my life. You could say him, I don't know, whatever. I didn't mean that in any way. But like, I felt like I was expressing—you can hear it in my voice. I was going through some shit. Just the conflict.

Which specific conflicts were you going through when you were making that song?

We all want to be rich. We all wanna make bread, we all wanna be icy like Migos, we all wanna pull up in some foreign shit. But I wanna still do the music I like to do. And that's a conflict bro [laughs]. 'Cause if you look at all the dudes who are winning right now, not a lot of them are making music that sounds like mine. So it was really on my brain, like, "Damn, am I doing the right thing? Am I shooting myself in the foot right now? Am I being stubborn?" To be honest, I don't even know.

Going forward, do you plan on being more of a rapper than producer?

That's a good question. Life is phases, man. So like, to me, it's not like that. Like, "Oh, I'm gonna rap more than I'm gonna produce." To me, I always make beats. So, I'm always gonna be just chilling, making beats. And I'm probably always gonna be writing and shit. So I plan to definitely take my rapping to the forefront and work on that more, but I'm always gonna be making beats. I wanna get into producing whole albums.

Are there any producer-rappers that inspire you with their come-up?

Tons, man. New dudes? You talking 'bout young dudes or...

You can do the whole spectrum, if you want.

Man, fuckin' everybody. Diamond D, fuckin' Q-Tip, fuckin' Large Professor, Kanye West, fuckin'—goddamn, everybody. RZA! He's like—super high up on the list, too. I'm looking at what all of those dudes are doing and implementing some of what they do into what I do. 'Cause that's what doing music is—to me, anyway. Figuring out your style and what you like is just an incorporation of a bunch of shit. Wouldn't be no Kanye West without Midnight Marauders.

Joey said a Pro Era album was in the works. Is that still happening, and are we going to hear even more rapping from you on the project?

I'm definitely doing lot of rapping on it. We still working on it—and I got beats on there, too.

Is there a time frame for the project to be released?

I can't even say.

How many songs have you guys made?

At least 50 to 60.

Who are some artists you want to work with throughout the rest of the year?

Raekwon. I wanna work with Blood Orange. Sonder—I'd love to do some shit with them.

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