In the second installment of TGNR‘s interview with Hip-Hop artist Chris Webby: he discusses the personal changes and strides he has made in his lifestyle and career to better focus on his music, and aspirations. Webby’s newest mixtape, Webster’s Laboratory II, is available for download.
By Paul K. DiCostanzo Managing Editor
TGNR Paul K. DiCostanzo: Changing gears some, when do you know you’ve heard a number one?
Chris Webby: In this day and age you can’t call it. There’s a lot of factors beyond the musicality of a song.
TGNR PKD: I am talking on an intuitive basis, a feeling.
CW: What I hear on the radio is not the best stuff out there, especially in Hip-Hop radio. I think all music now is suffering creatively more than ever.
There are some good Hip-Hop artists, and sometimes those songs do cut through on the radio. But the majority of the time its a bunch of stuff that I personally don’t want to listen to. I don’t think it’s very musical. I don’t think its very lyrically stimulating. I don’t think there’s very much to it at all. Yet for whatever reason that seems to be what the people want.
I have always been an artist that drops more solid projects. I would rather give someone a solid body of work than put all my eggs into the basket of one song.
TGNR PKD: You almost sound like a music conceptual artist…
CW: Yeah, I would rather make a good project than a single good song.
But a lot of artists nowadays will just keep making songs searching for that number one. They will make it sound like what’s going on right now. I almost don’t even listen to what’s going on right now, I am so unplugged from new music.
I listen to a lot of Classic Rock, old Reggae, Hip-Hop from the mid to late 90’s until the mid 2000’s. That’s about it. There just isn’t much coming out there right now that I’m a huge fan of.
TGNR PKD: When do you know you’re doing your best work?
CW: Part of being an artist is believing you’re always doing your best work. It’s about hearing it from those certain people in your life that you know will give you the God’s honest truth.
TGNR PKD: Who are those people to you?
CW: I have a few friends that I have known for a very long time. Some of which really understand Hip-Hop on a deep level. They understand who I am on a deep level, and they have a broad understanding of what I should be doing.
Those people I have known for long enough that they won’t sugarcoat it, and they will tell me exactly what they think. Sometimes I agree with them, and sometimes I don’t. But I want to get their honest opinion.
If you have a bunch of yes-men around you, you might think you’re making the best music ever, and you might not be. You want someone who is going to call you out there, or you will end up putting out some shitty music.
You have to have people around you who will keep it very real. Even on a larger scale than that, it’s beyond the music. If you have nothing but yes-men around you then you can turn into a monster. They will allow you to do anything. You’ve got to have people who will keep you tied down to reality.
Now my career has managed to keep me tied down to reality. Because each time we take a step forward, I am constantly being humbled by not being the biggest rapper in the world. As much as I have accomplished, I still have my own problems. That keeps me tied into reality.
I feel like I have worked so hard and for so long, if everything did just turn around tomorrow and I became the biggest rapper in the game, I don’t think it would go to my head in the same fashion that it would for someone who had been working for a much shorter period of time.
I think those overnight artists are the one’s that let it go to their head. They think they’re God’s gift, and their fall from grace is always a lot tougher because everyone is sure to kick them on the way down.
TGNR PKD: Speaking of the people around you, you have made some moves to the Chris Webby team. Tell me about the changes you have made.
CW: I have made some changes, I have split with my long-time manager. It has allowed me to change the course of my ship on both a music and business level. I want to get back behind the helm. Its time for me to wake up and grow up, which I have been spending the last eight months really focusing on.
I was always working on music. I was touring. I was always doing my job. I always made the music. I have never missed a show. I have been on stage with laryngitis and a 103 fever. I always do my end of the work, but I feel its important to be on top of everything. I can’t just disconnect from the business side and everything else that’s going on just because I am doing all the other stuff.
Its hard, but I have to be on top of shit. I can’t be in the studio doing drugs and completely oblivious to everything else that’s going on. I realized that I’d come to a certain point in life where I had to cut certain drugs out of my life as well.
TGNR PKD: Like what?
CW: You can hear about it in the song “Chemical Romance.” I single out Molly, Coke, and Xanax.
Now none of these drugs have I had a full blown problem with. I have never had to go to rehab. I’ve never had that sort of personality.
TGNR PKD: Its well established that you’re prescribed Adderall for ADD, and you’ve taken it since you were a child. When do you feel a prescribed medication with an established therapeutic value becomes recreational and detrimental to the user?
CW: Good question, I will get to Adderall in a second.
With these one’s I don’t have a full-blown addictive personality. I have known people with a full-blown addictive personality, and I don’t have that. If I did I would not be where I am today.
TGNR PKD: You can only serve one master.
CW: Exactly. Now these are also drugs that I’ve done a lot, and I crumble under peer pressure frequently. I just like to have a good time, and it got to the point where I was relying on certain drugs to feel certain ways. I think it got to a point where I was becoming a little foggy.
Like I said none of these things sent me to rehab. But I was doing them long enough where I just wasn’t mentally on point compared to where I should be. Not on point enough to be able to run my business to full capacity. They were only distracting me and holding me back, and I think its really important for me to try and not do these drugs.
I have had my fun, and I have been doing these things for a long time. I am just a grown man now. I am 27. I can’t be partying on the same level and there is that aspect of it as well.
As the addiction thing goes: I will play around with something until I feel it begins to interfere with what I want to do with my life, rap.
Rap has always been number one. As much as I like drugs, if they’re going to interfere with number one they have to go. I kept it up for a long time, and I’m not going to say they didn’t interfere at times, but I was able to do what I had to do.
Now I want to do more and some things have to go. I’m not saying I’m going to stop smoking weed. I’m not saying I’m going to stop taking Adderall, a prescription at this point I borderline need to function. Because not only do I have ADD, I have been on it since the seventh grade.
So to cut something out that has been in your system for that length of time… I mean my brain chemistry has probably changed because of it. I honestly don’t know if it can change back. I would assume so, but I also assume that it would be a long road. But at the end of it I would still have ADD.
I have a lot of things to stay on top of. So to cut something out that helps me get this stuff done seems counter-productive. I wish I didn’t have to take it. I am not in college anymore. I don’t need to take it to study, I don’t have to take tests, do homework, and it sucks that I still have to take Adderall. You never want to feel like music has gotten to the homework level, but sometimes there are things that just need to get done.
Writing also doesn’t come as easily as it used to. I have put out 12 projects, and well over 150 songs. It’s not as easy to write a song as it was. I have said a lot, covered a lot of bases, a lot of topics. I try not to be redundant and sometimes people will say, ‘that’s just another party/weed song.’ Alright. I could do a lot of ‘just another’ songs, but I talk about my life. I don’t talk about things I don’t know.
I also need to learn to start story telling from another persons perspective as well. There are new techniques that I am going to have to learn because I can’t just keep doing the same thing.
TGNR PKD: Though back to the original question. Based on everything you have observed, where is the line between legal and therapeutic turning into recreational and damaging?
CW: I take 10 mg of Adderall a day. 20 if its a long day in the studio, or something else that requires extended attention. At 160 pounds that’s not abusing it by any means. I used to be on far more when I was in middle school and high school.
I think it becomes abuse when you start taking it for things it wasn’t prescribed for. If I was taking it to stay up and party all night, that would be abusing Adderall. If I take it when I get up in the morning so I can make calls and focus on what I need to do, that’s what the doctor prescribed it for.
I have seen a lot of people do things, and I have too. I used to have a Xanax prescription, and an Ambien prescription.
Ambien is another thing I have more or less cut out unless I really can’t sleep and really have to. Because I have always had trouble sleeping. I was always that kid whose awake and his mind is racing all night. Sometimes the mind needs to go to sleep so I can wake up and do what I need to do.
But Ambien was something I was taking almost every night, even just little bits. But then there would be sometimes where I would take it, stay up, and get a little weird. So to take it frequently for that purpose – not a good thing.
Again, just taking that to sleep every night, and to rely upon it was making me foggy. Xanax makes you foggy. Xanax is becoming almost as much an epidemic as pain killers. There are a lot of people who misunderstand Xanax and think taking it is not a big deal, but it is serious. I feel like Xanax is the little brother.
I have taken it plenty of times in my life. Will I take it again? I’m sure. Though not like I used to.
TGNR PKD: One of the biggest reason’s that compelled me to do this interview with you is the incident at Hofstra. For all intents and purposes, you have come back from a place not many people come back from.
What was it within you that allowed you to pick yourself up, and build an entirely new life? Moreover, what piece of advice would you give the young man sitting in jail at the mercy of the unknown?
CW: When I got kicked out of school and arrested, a lot of the potential options I had in life were instantly taken off the table. I knew at that point that if I didn’t make this Hip-Hop career work, I didn’t have much else going for me. I didn’t have any trade skills, and it just showed me that this was what I am supposed to do. Like I said, I always wanted to be a rapper.
I was in school for long enough. Not everyone is cut out for college, not everybody needs college. I am a big supporter of school, I think learning is very important. But there is a level in my opinion where you’ve learned enough from other people.
I continue to learn everyday, I am always reading stuff and absorbing new information. But there is a certain point where the institutional education system may no longer be for you. All I had left were a lot of math and science courses, and I was never going to apply that to anything I did. I think I had truly learned enough, and I think my being at college was probably going to do more damage than good.
It was going to run up my student debt. It would probably have lead me down a more drug induced path than the one I ended up on. But being around that atmosphere was probably not going to be a good thing for me.
In the end it gave me the one option left that I am still pursuing today. It basically shoved this in front of my face and said, ‘this is what you need to do.’ I knew it was going to be either sink or swim.
It was a certain hunger in me then, and I would love to get that back. I have been feeling it a bit lately because I am still not set. I really need to kick things into gear, and I want to get things to where they need to be. It’s come back in a sense.
But that hunger I had back then where I was back working a seven dollar an hour job. Where I was going to court, probation, and thinking I might even go to jail. There was just this sense of hunger in me after realizing that this was all I had. If I didn’t make it happen I wasn’t going to be happy.
TGNR PKD: What about the advice you would give that young man today, knowing what you do now?
CW: I would tell him there is more to it than just the rapping.
Focus on your business, pay attention to those around you, and make sure you only have people that you wholeheartedly trust doing the things that you need. Make sure you pick the right people for the right slots. Because not doing that has hindered me at times – several times – throughout the course of my life.
But I learn, I learn every time. I always knew about the music, I always knew how to rap, that was never the question. I would never have tell myself to focus more on rapping. That’s all I did. I would tell myself to focus more on the other stuff: branding, making sure you have the image together, because I was kind of all over the place at first. Which is almost what some people loved from me, ‘this kid is out of his mind!’ I am still out of my mind for sure.
But you have to be cohesive. You have to have all your stuff together. You’ve got to have your business together. Because once you start bringing in money, and if you have a disorganized system together, that’s only going to come and bite you in the ass later on.