Vinny Cha$e And Smoke DZA Talk New York Hip-Hop, J. Cole Vs. Kanye And Smoking Fans’ Weed
With all of New York riding the crest of a wave of new hip-hop talent, Harlem is right there alongside Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx leading the way. Smoke DZA and Vinny Cha$e have broken out of the upper part of Manhattan in the last few years, leading the way alongside A$AP Rocky and the rest of the A$AP Mob for the neighborhood that spawned legends from Dipset to Mase to Big L. The two have each dropped videos in the past week—Vinny's "Hustle" feat. fellow New Yorker Kid Art, and DZA as the featured artist on Wiz Khalifa's "Old Chanel," in which DZA brought Wiz up to a chicken spot up in Harlem to film the video. Ahead of the duo's show tonight at the Studio at Webster Hall in Manhattan, Vinny and DZA swung by the XXL office to talk Harlem hip-hop, New York rappers, and their wild live shows.—Dan Rys (@danrys)
On Performing Live...
XXL: What can we expect from the show tonight?
Smoke DZA: A lot of weed smoke. I'm tryna get out here and do that now [Laughs].
Vinny Cha$e: A lot of weed smoke, a lot of fashion, a lot of chicks, there's gonna be drinks, there's gonna be some good ass times, there's gonna be Smoke DZA turnin' it up, there's gonna be V-Cha$e with the ski masks and whatever else we might bring out, it's gonna be a whole Harlem event, and it's just gonna be dope, man. Especially [DZA]'s shows, he's got all the theatrics and shit, who knows what he might do this time.
DZA: Who knows, I might walk through the crowd on some Hulk Hogan shit.
Cha$e: [DZA]'s shit inspired a lot of mine. I remember the first time I went to one of his shows, like, two years ago, they came out with the motherfuckin' Presidential masks.
DZA: The Bush masks.
Cha$e: Yeah, man, and I remember that shit just had such a big impact, I was like, "Wow, that's how you're supposed to do a show." 'Cause you know, a lot of people just stand there and just point at you, "Put your hands up!" After the second or third song, nobody really likes to get pointed at. [We're] just trying to involve people.
What's the inspiration behind some of those more theatrical things on stage?
DZA: I mean, from being on the road, I learned about showmanship. I got to tour with Juicy J, Method Man, Big K.R.I.T., Curren$y—all my niggas got big shows. So following them, you gotta have a big show, you gotta be a showman. You gotta put out for the people, cause they're not there just to see you rap. They're there to stare at you, they're there to see the shit you talk about on Twitter, and they're there to see if you a star.
Cha$e: Yeah they wanna experience the whole experience.
DZA: They want the Kush God experience. They wanna be passed some weed, they want me to tell them, "Aw man! That shit stink! Smoke this!" They want that. [Both laugh] I love my fans, but some fan weed be like, ehhh, you can save that for your personal. [Laughs]
Cha$e: Yeah, you can't take all fan weed. They got good intentions though.
DZA: They got great intentions. I love my fans. But you gotta smoke good weed. I love the fans that smoke great weed, that pass me an abundance of it.
Cha$e: Give 'em weed and water, they'll love you tomorrow.
What's the most ridiculous thing you've gotten passed on stage?
DZA: Wasn't anything too stupid, they don't really pass me wack shit. I've gotten a lot of cool shit, like they'll pass me rugbys, weed. Weed is equivalent to money, and they paid to get up in that motherfucker. Nigga passed me some wrestling toys the other day, and I really appreciated that, some old school wrestling toys, man that shit was dope.
Cha$e: Like the old, WWF?
DZA: WWF! Hansbro.
Cha$e: Man, classic toy shit.
DZA: I still got those, I collect 'em.
Cha$e: Big kids, man. [Both laugh]
On New Hip-Hop, In New York And Beyond
How do you guys feel about the state of New York hip-hop in general right now?
Cha$e: I think it's on the rise, man, there's a bunch of dope artists that are coming out of New York, not only that are doing numbers but that are really putting out dope work. Smoke of course, Joey Bada$$, myself, Kid Art. Ferg and them and the whole A$AP Mob. I think there's a pretty good movement of New York artists. My homie Action Bronson. I fuck with him, too. There's a lot of New York shit. French [Montana], that's another one, that's my nigga. I fuck with French, no matter what people be trying to tell you guys.
Who are some of your favorite artists in the scene?
DZA: That I like to collab with? I got like three off the top—Big K.R.I.T. is one of them, Wiz, Curren$y.
Cha$e: Yeah, Curren$y is dope, too.
DZA: I like J. Cole's shit a lot, that shit inspired me. Ab-Soul as well.
Cha$e: I try to listen to everything, not just rap, because the rap pool is small if you look at just quality. A person like me, when I'm looking for videos to entertain myself, I don't like seeing the same shit, you know what I mean? I don't want to see the same type of video or the same type of shit over and over, so I just look for different sources of inspiration, from MGMT, Daft Punk, to Jay-Z, not the new Kanye, but the old Kanye stuff. That's the type of shit I look for for inspiration: people who just make art in general, not just rap. Creative motherfuckers, designers, people that make shit that is striking to your eyes. I like shit like that. That's all I do in my videos. My videos will never contain something "regular" or "cliché." If I do do something cliché I'm gonna point it out and say, "Look how cliché that is."
There's been a ton of hip-hop releases lately.
Cha$e: Yeah, I like the J. Cole shit too.
DZA: It's the hottest shit out.
Cha$e: He actually put in some work, you know what I mean? He liked his listeners enough to put in some cover art. [Kanye]'s dope, I like his shit. It is what it is. Nobody can see his work and say he's not talented, that's impossible to say. If you were to say that, you're blind. I just think that between J. Cole and Kanye West and the albums that just came out, I like J. Cole's work now more than Kanye's work now. If you was talkin' about last albums, I wouldn't have said that. Kanye has definitely made some of the best music in rap, but today, as far as those two albums, I would say that J. Cole definitely has a little bit more substance on that one.
DZA: J. Cole's shit is hot—I don't even wanna rant on [Kanye]. J. Cole's hot.
Cha$e: [Cole] surprised me, man, that shit was like, shockingly hot. I mean I knew it was gonna be hot, but it was above the bar I thought it was going to be, which is always a dope surprise.
Outside of those albums, what have been your favorite releases this year?
DZA: I don't know, I didn't put out nothing. [Laughs] I got some shit coming soon though, the RFC tape coming.
Cha$e: I got some shit with [DZA] coming too, actually. I got some stuff I'm putting together on my new mixtape King's Landing that's going to be really really really serious. That's pretty much what I'm doing before I get ready for my album, just getting my musical and visual shit before I dive all the way into that.
DZA: The RFC tape is coming out—well, it'll be out by the time this surfaces, Ralphie's Forgotten Children. Dream Zone Achieved, that's my next shit, I know y'all been waiting on that. It's gonna be real harsh.
Cha$e: Yeah, music like that matters, 'cause there's not too much quality shit, there's like 5-10 quality [things] out there. So when people like DZA or myself or Curren$y comes out with something it's gonna be dope, you know what I'm saying?
On Performing In New York Vs. Out On The Road
What does it mean to you guys to perform in New York?
Cha$e: I love performing at home, there's nothing like doing a dope show and going back to your crib. [Laughs] The support that New Yorkers give you is amazing, because if they don't fuck with you, they'll tell you, you know what I mean? They'll be like, "Get the fuck out of here." That's why New York is so dope.
DZA: I like to perform at home because I like to try out all my tricks that I learned on the road. I bring that back home and I try that on my hometown. And you gain new fans—New York is a big place, niggas gain new fans every day. So I love performing at home. Get to bring your family out, they get to see you.
Cha$e: For some reason I always be nervous performing at home though. When I go out of town I be straight, but at home it's like, "Man, I can't let my city down." It's like, "I gotta do this." But as soon as I get on stage, it's like a release.
What are some favorite other cities?
DZA: I like L.A., California in general. Chicago. Shit, I love Australia. I love out there, that place is amazing, New Zealand. International fans, they give it to you, that shit is ridiculous. That was my first encore out there, they called me back like "One more song!" [Laughs]
Cha$e: L.A. just has the illest weed, beautiful women, the weather, there's a lot of pluses. I can't stay there for too long though, after I stay there for like a week I have to get back to the city. It's like everybody's mad chill. You know how niggas be buggin' in traffic [in New York]? Out there, they just be like, "Yeah, you go..." [Both laugh] Here it's not like that. Everybody's really aggressive here. But it's dope to go to L.A., and Miami's like that, too. I don't like Miami too much, 'cause all the buildings are mad short, I like tall buildings, landscape like that. Miami is still a dope place though.