Vinny Cha$e Discusses Building an Indie Empire, Befriending Marc Jacobs
There's no longer a stigma attached to developing a music career without major label backing in 2012; rappers are building fanbases from bedroom studios and promoting them via Twitter, and it's working.
Harlem's Vinny Cha$e and the Cheers Club are a prime example of indie success. The recent release of Cha$e's new project, Golden Army, should solidify his standing as one of the next to watch, but according to Cha$e, it goes much farther than a dope track or two. With production from the crew's in-house team and the infallible Audio Dope, Cha$e and his crew hope to encourage a new lifestyle, celebrating the intersection of dreams, hard work and success.
The BoomBox spoke with Vinny Cha$e recently about the importance of autonomy, loyalty and maintaining the Harlem sound.
What was the mind set going into the production of 'Golden Army'?
Vinny Cha$e: When we went into it we really wanted to make something that was really New York and not sounding like anywhere else, you know what I mean? Because we just felt like everything that came out of here recently was more of like, it was Harlem but more like a Down South kinda Harlem [hybrid], and we just wanted to do something that was real original, to set us apart from everything else going on in this New Harlem here.
You said "New Harlem"?
That's a phrase you've coined...
It's definitely something that I've coined. When I say New Harlem I mean like, this new generation of people like us. If you come uptown now, you see luxury buildings, you see money up here now. It's not the same Harlem as five years ago. There aren't devastated areas like there used to be and you know? It's a town on the rise and I feel like we represent that.
You took your name from the main character of the HBO show "Entourage," right? What was the significance of that?
I mean really it was because I came from an entourage. I just felt like, what better name? Like, I could take a white person's name and flip it into a cool black person's name, you know what I mean? I came up under the Dipset camp. I was with Juelz [Santana] filming his stuff for a few years, going on tour, going around the United States and stuff like that. But when I decided to do my own thing and take a stab at the game, I figured what's a better name than that?
What was the craziest experience that Cheers Club has had while putting the project together?
There've been a lot of things going on behind the scenes. There are a lot of emotionally taxing experiences because you make something and try and put it out exactly how you want it to be and sometimes you might think it's the best way but sometimes when you experiment with it, you find other ways to do things. So with this project, I really felt like I grew a lot.
What do you want people to take from Golden Army?
I just want people to take a creative look at it. When they try and create or become something, this is what they listen to because it's inspirational and it shows you that in this modern America right now, where Obama's still in charge, anything's possible. That's basically what we represent and we basically just try and keep it classy, keep it nice, and keep it original and in-house especially. As you know, we do everything ourselves. We do our own beats, we do our own videos, we make our own clothes so we're just trying to grow that and inspire other people to do the same.
Watch Listen to Vinny Cha$e's "Harlem Roses" Feat. Kid Art
Why is it important that you keep your circle so involved?
It's important because we grew up together and we really know each other before music. We've tried a lot of things so if these are the people that I trust and they trust me the same, there's no better way to come into the game than with your friends that you grew up with.
We hear you have a friendship with [fashion designer] Marc Jacobs. That's pretty unprecedented.
Yeah, it is. Because before music I was in fashion and did different showrooms and shit. Streetwear, that's how I got the chance to bump into him for the first time. I try and maintain some sort of relationship with him. He's a real cool dude. I respect him a lot. He's done a lot for the LVMH brand, like Louis Vuitton and all that besides Marc Jacobs. He has the Bookmarc store which I thought was a genius move to be doing fashion design and open a bookstore. It's just a lot of things that he does that I look up to.
So the appeal to you guys is having the ability to move in any desired direction at any time...
Exactly. We do what we wanna do when we wanna do it. That's the point and we're trying to show everyone that it's possible. Like, we don't have all the things that get in your way of making the music and getting in front of these people like we need to be. So we just do our own thing. We don't let nobody tell us what to do and that's pretty much it. We stay inside of our team. Our team is ill creative-wise and corporate-wise. Our corporate team is really experienced in what they do. We just make sure everybody's happy because if everybody on the team is happy then everybody wins.
Which are your two favorite tracks from Golden Army?
One of my favorite tracks is the one I just put out with Kid Art called "Biggie and Jordans," just because it personifies our culture so much, like, what we came up with, those were the things that were important. The second one is called, "Rep That Harlem," because I feel like that's what we doing better than anybody else in the game right now, so that song has yet to come out but I promise you that's something people will be talking about later on. Those songs were produced by the good people at Audio Dope.
Listen to Vinny Cha$e's "Biggie and Jordans" Feat. Kid Art
Explain Cheers Club. Is it just the name of your circle?
Nah, it's deeper than just the name of our crew. "Cheers" is a celebration. When you hear that [phrase] usually, good things are happening, so we wanted to envelop that feeling and spread it amongst our people and people who love this music. So Cheers Club is deeper than what we just call ourselves. It's a fashion house -- we create clothes, we create everything. We design videos, we do movies, editing. It's a big movement especially here in New York -- Harlem in particular. It's bigger than just "Yo. It's Vinny Cha$e and a bunch of guys." We really do this. We really move units and we do what we say. We're not just out here just saying we do this. Like, if you know us, we really actually do the things that we talk about.
Exactly who is a part of Cheers Club?
Creative-wise, it's me, Vinny Cha$e, Cartier and Kid Art. We have a bunch of people coming up, not to be mentioned yet, but the movement itself is pretty big. The company started with just three but corporate-wise, it's grown to be something fabulous. It's just a beautiful thing.
How do you feel about the scales tipping in favor of the indie imprint these days? Pretty encouraged?
Of course, because I'm not just an artist, I'm a business owner so it's like, I love it. This is the perfect climate [in which] to become a millionaire if you want to. We started this with nothing and now we're a real company that you have to take seriously, you know? We're worth over a quarter of a million dollars and it's something that we started grassroots, so that alone should tell you that anything's possible so over the next few years, we're gonna be doing this really, really big. Shout out to everybody doing this on an independent level. Macklemore especially, just came out and he's doing big units. Nobody knew he was gonna do that but look what he did. You know what I mean? And with these labels, it's hard to do that. So that alone should tell you: just be creative, keep your team and just keep it moving.
Do you guys even want to be signed to a major label at this point?
I mean, we definitely wanted to. It's not like it hasn't been on the table but I gotta stress that I'm not just an artist, you can't just come to me with an artist deal. If anything, you'd have to talk to my company as far as distribution and things like that but I'm not just gonna throw my soul away because you're a major label. Nah, we a little smarter than that.