Act Like U Know: Vinny Cha$e


While his name bares a striking resemblance to the A-list film star from HBO's Entourage, Harlem rapper Vinny Cha$e is far from an actor. Albeit he got his start in the game behind the camera lens, directing music videos and shooting hip-hop documentaries for the likes of Juelz Santana, Dipset, Kid Cudi among others —mostly notably Hell Rell's infamous “I looked like I dropped an album already...stupid" video—the Harlem rapper is ready to trade in the visual equipments for the mic and a spot on those annual top (or hottest) rising MCs list. "It's a day where [everyone] is going so hard to put motherf-ckers on covers, Jimmy Kimmel Live and all this but when they come out [they do] 3,900 first week— I'm not about that life," he quips to XXL while talking about the state of the rap game and its crop of new artists.

Coming out of the city that's given rise to famous Uptown cats like Doug E. Fresh, Ma$e, The Diplomats as well as rising acts in the A$AP Mob, Azealia Banks, etc. the fashion-forward MC is poised to be next in line to make a lasting impression on the game. Swagged out in a grey fitted Balmain tee, pair of Nike Air Yeezy 2s and with a steel Rolex Oyster Perpertual Datejust watch in tow—not to mention the array of gold chains dangling around his neck—Vinny sits down with XXL and talks growing up in Harlem, working with The Diplomats, performing at S.O.B.s, The Plaza 2 and more. Swag...Ralph Bristout (@XXLRalph)


Growing Up On 155th and St. Nick Place in Harlem


Growing up there was a lot of dudes I looked up to. Dudes like Juelz for example, he was one of the first dudes in the neighborhood that I saw did anything on the real level, as far as legally. There's a lot of big people from my area— and plus on my block there was a spot called Branson. If anybody knows Branson, every rapper and their mother used to come up there and see Branson. He had the candy store with everybody's picture in it so, I used to used to always see all types of people coming through.

I seen Busta come through, Ma$e, all types of people. My strip was always a inspirational strip. Everybody came up there so just watching that growing up, I always wanted to do that kind of bigness. I wanted to have the big Benz like this dude, I wanted to move around like this--just seeing how it's done for real, I wanted to do it for real. I didn't want to be out here stunting like I'm doing it. Because these dudes is really getting it.

Favorite Rapper Growing Up

Favorite Rapper

My favorite rapper growing up was Biggie. He still is to this day. Niggas aint really giving me much choice. I hope that in my life, I could produce or be involved on something that's well put together like Life After Death. People don't even think like that these days, there's just substanceless music out there. Its like, "Alright the beat is turnt up, just say 'Turn Upp' a few times and you good." It's just substance-less.

Origin Of Name

Origin Of Name

That's not my government name. I just felt like that was the dopest thing that I could do [Laughs]. What's better than taking a [famous mainstream character's] name and make it into a rapper's name. I'm not the first artist to ever do it. The best artist ever, Biggie Smalls did it too. So, niggas can't knock the hustle.

Starting Off As A Videographer For Juelz Santana

Starting Off As A Videographer For Juelz Santana

Yeah I was doing that for a few years, like 06 to 08 or something like that. Me and my homey Steve, we at the crib on 155th and we had got kicked out 'cause we turned it into a studio [Laughs], he was the only one I knew with the resources to be able to accomadate and thank God he did. Gave me a shot to go through the game and see it from a different perspective but, that was way, way before I was rhyming.

I actually learned it off my homey Kid Art back when we was kids. When we was doing videos and documentaries about skating in New York. He taught me a lot of shit back then. Then I took it into the rap world and did it like that.

Everybody was mad at me [when] I put out that footage where Cam was like, "Yeah, Dipset is Over." I can't front, I dropped a lot of footage that made waves [Laughs].

Craziest Experience

Craziest Experience

Something I'm about to put out from a while back. This is the reason I can't go to Six Flags no more, the whole crew-Juelz, everybody-was out there and you know how when you moving in a big group, the park security is always on you. It was like 20, 30 of us and it got into some kind of altercation with some dude cameras was broken, ended up funny [and now] we got the whole shit on tape. Shout out to my man Un Kasa, he was going ham [Laughs]. I'm about to let out shit like that. This was before I was rhyming period.

Growing Up Not Listening to Rap

Growing Up Not Listening to Rap

I mean I could but it had to be censored. My mother didn't like me in the crib, listening and shit. I remember the first song I heard with curses was Biggie on "Fucking You Tonight." That [record] fucked my head up. I didn't even know you could use 'Fuck' in that context [Laughs]. I'm in the crib blasting that shit and my mother came home [and] twisted my ass [Laughs].



I thought that shit was impossible. I didn't think it was something I could sit down and develop.

I thought I was going to be a director or some shit like that. I was doing film, I was traveling on film, I was getting money off of film so, I thought that's what I was going to be. But just the influence from my friends was like, Yo man you look like a rapper you should rap." So I'm like damn, maybe I should. I took his adivce, Cartier, and here we are today [Laughs].

It was really like the success of people like Lil and like certain new artists like Wiz (Khalifa)-who's on the cover of XXL right now, just seeing the kind of impact they were having and knowing that we're the same age group, they made it seem possible. Especially Lil B, this dude came to the town and it was almost like Hov was in S.O.B.s [judging by the reaction from the crowd]. I was like, What the f-ck? I want in. There's way too much money out here,

Mom's Feelings About Him Rapping

Mom's Feelings About Him Rapping

She's always been behind me with everything I did. She always did support me. So when she heard I was doing it, I didn't tell her until I knew I was really doing it. I came to her when it was at a tangible point. She's really proud of us and the whole team because she knew us all since we were kids.

Cheer$ Club


Members: Cha$e, Kid Art, Cartier

Just us three: me, Kid Art and Cartier. We all keep everything in-house. We film our own shit, make our own beats. There's a lot of artists out there that's like extended family but as far as the core unit, we the ones that's really it. It's growing, not saying that there's no room for more but, for right now we're the shareholders [Laughs]

We was at the drawing board for a minute. The name came from the homey Cartier and Kid. We were really sitting down, really trying to ponder something that could stick to the pop culture generation and what's more than 'Cheer$'? It gives off a good emotion. Everytime you say cheers, usually something good is happening. So we wanted to take that vibration and spirit and use that as a spearhead for the label. Everytime you hear glasses [clink], you can't help but think us. And its still the beginning.

I feel like nobody put in as much work as us. So I feel like we could definitely have an impact and that's what we did. We put in mad work, built a real team. Not only corporately but like friendship wise and family wise so, it's pretty much a dope unit. The corporation is huge.




That shit was one of the most epic things I ever experienced. S.O.B.s is a big New York spot and it's pouring rain, I didn't think it was going to be crazy like that. But, when we pulled up the line was around the block. I remember that bugging me out like, Wow we really doing something worth doing [Laughs]. My homey SpaceGhostPurrp was there, we did the show together and it was big for the city that night.

Use of the '$'

Use of the '$'

That was just my own engineering. Like yo I got to have money involved in every aspect. We the type of dudes that, we keeping it. We not out here selling merchandise for the next man to get his money. It's all our money. All that shit.

Also paying homage too. Ma$e was my favorite artist at one time. You couldn't tell me nothing bad about Ma$e, Harlem World with the blue cover?! That shit changed my life man. I had to go hard to get that CD cause it was like Parental Advisory and shit, my mother didn't want me to listen to anything with curses [Laughs].

Linking With Soulja Boy


That's my young homey right there. He hit me up on Twitter last year. I was watching one of his videos and thought yo, Let me hit this dude up. I'm like, Yo what's up homey Cheer$. He was like, "Yo I fuck with you dawg, I'm coming to the city." And from there we linked up and it was just history from then on.



I mean I’ve always been into that before I even had any kinds of money to kind of do anything. Or always trying to make it work with whatever I have. I remember the first time I even wore jeans that were fitted, people looked at me like I was crazy. I wore some fitted jeans with some high tops and Diesels. It’s so crazy nowadays you see that as a standard. Now they’re asking me where I got it from so it’s like, Aight.

I don’t knock nobody’s fashion and nothing like that, I just try to inspire dudes that’s coming up to just do what they want, make what they want because we live in a world where you could do it yourself. Like, you ain’t got to depend on nobody. You don’t need no middleman. You can get a lot and get in touch with the people you need to get your shit across the world. Just keep designing and keep it going.

In fact, as soon as we get a lot of this smoothed over as far as the music and the release into the Golden Army there’s going to be a lot of new things coming up besides music. There’s going to bed a lot of lifestyle stuff going on especially in the City. We’re about to start doing these “CHEER$” parties all over Manhattan. It’ll be real, real exclusive and real, real tight. We got a collabo coming out with +FRESH.i.AM+.

We got a lot of other collaborations. I have my own cut and sew thing. I’m not just here kicking it with designers just ’cause the label thinks that’s a good look for me. Like we’re doing everything our self, we really know these people.

Releasing The Golden Army

Releasing The Golden Army And Future Projects

We’re dropping it early November. We were going to do it October 1st but we just really wanted to give the fans, and the new people that are now listening for new music, an opportunity to enjoy something quality. I didn’t want to just go out there and slap some songs together.

We went into the studio and we got everything sonically correct as far as the mix and some new stuff we added to there that’s really going to shake it up. At first it was our own production so, now we added some new producers; some known, some not to really turn it up there so that it could really be something lasting.

Once it’s out, it’s there forever and if it’s going to be there forever, we got to make sure we put something out that’s classic and beautiful. Right now, there’s this joint on there called “Ball Major” and it’s exactly what it sound like and is probably one of my favorite records. There’s another record called “Drive” that’s really, really next level.

There’s about sixteen records lined up and the way we going for it is a skip less project, meaning that you can play the mixtape [straight through]. It’s going to be a dope joint for New York, period.

The Plaza 2

Screen shot 2012-10-02 at 7.01.51 PM

I’m about to the put out the long awaited Plaza 2. It’s going to be so fucking legendary but, that’s just the warm up. I know a lot of people wanted that so, I’ve been making that all this time because I really want to deliver that for these people. There’s definitely going to be a Plaza 2. That’s probably going to be in 2013.