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Melody, Molly, Manhood: A Chris Webby Interview (Part III)

[Exclusive] Hip-hop star Chris Webby and TGNR’s Paul K. DiCostanzo sat down for an in-depth, three hour interview; Webby opens up about some of the most rewarding aspects of his celebrated music career.

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Following much technological ado, TGNR is pleased to present part three of the exclusive interview with hip-hop star Chris Webby. In part three, Webby discusses everything from the deep connection he enjoys with his fans, to his thoughts on the most recent Star Wars film, and more… If you have not yet read part one, or part two, please click the provided links before proceeding.

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TGNR PKD: Now in your case you came up with a certain brand of music, something people expect from you. Moving forward as you get older, artistically – what are you going to come to expect from yourself? What are things musically you want to accomplish going forward? What are concepts you want to tackle, that you feel you need to tackle in order to grow?

CW: I mean musically, I want to keep raising the bar on a production level, on an all around music level. I don’t want to stay stuck to the constraints of hip-hop. I think I’ve already done a good job kind of breaking from that mold and trying new things recently.

Topic wise the way I see it, every time something bad happens to me I look at it as something positive. Because no one wants to hear from a super happy rapper. They want to hear someone whose going through stuff. That goes well beyond rappers; that’s just musicians in general.  Do you really want to hear from someone who’s wholeheartedly content with their life? I don’t.

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TGNR PKD:  That’s not why the audience is there.

CW: Exactly. So every time something gets me down, every time something goes wrong, I look at it as material to write about.

TGNR PKD: Now interestingly enough as far as you’re concerned, Christian Webster and Chris Webby are two sides of the same coin; they’re the same but they’re different. They have similarities. Though like I was talking about the other day, the interesting thing about a persona/costume/disguise is that it’s always a self-portrait.

What question or questions would Christian Webster ask Chris Webby?

CW: Interesting. What questions they’d ask each other? That’s kind of difficult.

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I see both good and bad things about both. I think Chris Webby can be a little over the top in his braggadocios approach to making music. I think sometimes when I’m in my “Webby” mode that’s when you let the ego get a little out of hand sometimes, and I do say certain things. But it’s music you know? And there’s nothing wrong with being confident and saying certain things, joking around, and having a sense of humor.

I would say Chris Webby has much more of a sense of humor than Christian Webster, not that they both don’t have one. I have a sense of humor as a person, sense a humor about myself, a sense of humor about most things. But when I’m being wacky and just talking shit – you know having more of a a reckless approach to the things that I say – that’s Chris Webby.

Christian Webster is far more introspective. Christian Webster is borderline depressed sometimes. Christian Webster is the one you’re hearing when you hear those songs when you’re like ‘wow he didn’t have to tell us all that stuff about himself, but he just did.’

Christian Webster is very honest. So is Chris Webby, he just takes his creative freedoms at times and maybe over-emphasizes the truth. Maybe he says he bangs a few more chicks than he actually does, or takes more drugs than he actually does. It’s just all around more of a character.

I would say Chris Webby is the ghost of who I once was, and still am. But Chris Webby is more of a reminder of who I used to be when I was far crazier than I am today. I would say personality-wise I’m more Christian Webster all the time now than I use to be.

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Back then it was probably a little more the other way.

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TGNR PKD: Are you outgrowing Webby?

CW: It’s possible. I don’t want to say I’m outgrowing him because I think he’s going to grow, too.

TGNR PKD: How so?

CW: I think when it comes to the rappin’ rapping, you know the technical, the little crazy, the loose cannon, the left field stuff, we’re always going to have to go to Webby for that. Just like Eminem always has to go to Slim-Shady for something.  I don’t think there is as much of a difference in character as there is between Marshall Mathers and Slim Shady. Don’t get me wrong, Slim Shady was a completely new character. Like we said, Christian Webster and Chris Webby are…

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TGNR PKD: … two sides of the same coin.

CW: Exactly. I think if anything they will continue to merge further and further together until I don’t even know who the fuck I am anymore.

(Laughter)

TGNR PKD: Now the interesting thing about your music is that your fans really do connect in a very heartfelt fashion. What’s a situation in person that you’ll always remember of somebody who approached you and told you something that based on your music it somehow helped them through their life?  What’s something someone approached you with and said, “Thank you. I went through this…,” and it just blew you away?

CW: I’ve had a solid handful of kids say that my music prevented them from committing suicide. So that’s pretty intense. That’s when you realize the importance of that kind of music. That’s when you realize that when I’m being wholeheartedly honest and talking about my own problems which sometimes I almost want to steer away from.

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I think in my head “do i really want to tell people this?”; do I want to put myself out there like that?  But that’s when you realize you do because there are other people going through stuff and they need that. Because they’re not rappers themselves, they can’t get it out the same way, they need someone else to say it. They need to connect to it. And I think at the end of the day that’s what we’re here for, that’s what musicians are here for.

So if you’re not making music that is genuinely helping people, you’re doing it all for personal gain, and of course this is something… it’s a job everyone does for personal reasons. If you don’t gain from it it’s not a job, it’s a hobby and you can’t support yourself from it.

But there is a greater good that I want to see myself really become more and more a part of. I want to help people with my music. I want to get rich so I can start doing positive things with my money. Like I said money is not something I really care about that much. If I had a billion dollars do you think I’d sit on a billion dollars and buy myself a million cars? No. I’d buy a huge patch of rain forest and preserve it. Maybe do some other stuff to help the ocean, and the problems that the coral reefs are going through.

I don’t know exactly what I’d do with it, but I know I’m not one of those people who just wants to sit on all my money. I’d rather do something positive with it. But right now I don’t have enough to do that. I have to keep my engine going. I have to keep putting this money back into things.

TGNR PKD: Let’s talk about one time somebody grabbed you from the arm and said “I’m still here because of you.” Tell me about a moment you remember very specifically, something that is very vivid for you.

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CW: I remember one kid… It’s the song “Fragile Lives,” that’s what I’ve had a lot of kids say. That is the song that helped them the most, that’s one of my most popular songs, and popular in a way that’s different than “La la la” or some of the other popular songs of mine that are just songs people just like to listen to loud in their car.

These are the songs that mean something. Its a song about dealing with my personal loss of a friend, and I remember a kid telling me that they had lost what I believe it was their cousin, and they were very close with them. At that point they felt like giving up; they had fallen deep into drugs and hearing that song allowed them to kind of come to terms with loss, and be able to move on. That’s kind of…it’s not easy to do, it’s not easy to do.

Losing people is tough and something that we all have to deal with at a certain time. But that song has helped people deal with that because I was very candid talking about my friend Nick who passed away. And he was a very very close friend of mine.

To hear kids say that, you know, it’s powerful; it’s almost more powerful than I can process in that moment. A lot of times it’s after a show at a meet and greet, and I’m all sweaty, tired, and you know I have been drinking Jamison. You get some information like that dropped on you, and you’re just like it’s almost surreal trying to digest the fact that you’ve like literally saved someone’s life.

TGNR PKD:  Let’s play a little hit and run here. Are you familiar with the term, “thousand yard stare?”

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CW: No, not really.

TGNR PKD: It usually has to do with PTSD, but it has other applications.  Its a moment in which someone in the comfort and peace of their own thoughts can relive an event. They’re fixated off on the horizon and they’re just ensconced in their own thoughts.

What’s a moment in your career that is so vivid that if you were left alone in a room you could relive it in your mind almost to the point where its tangible?

CW: Hmmm…  So they’re usually bad things?

TGNR PKD: Not always. They can be positive. Usually they’re bad, but in this case something that was really meaningful in your career. Something that you can relive in your own mind. It has to be very vivid; a very moving experience. You’re somebody who takes a great deal of retreat in the comfort of their own mind.

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CW: I do or else…I really need to go back in my thoughts and really mentally relive some of this because like I said it’s such a blur. It never stops. There’s never a time to back and be like ‘oh yeah, yeah you remember that time?’ Its just always full steam ahead.

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TGNR PKD: If that’s the case is there going to come a point in time in which you’re going to stop and actually appreciate it all at an age in which it can be appreciated?

CW: Yeah! I would’ve like for that time to have happend already. Where I can just really take a breath and be like “wow.’ I want to go to some exquisite destination and be able to just sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labor. But I don’t feel comfortable doing that yet.  I think I’d love to write a book one day. Definitely would like to write a book one day. I’ve done some wild shit.

TGNR PKD: Are we talking about an autobiographical memoir? Or are we talking about fiction?

CW: Autobiographical, but not like a chapter by chapter. I’m thinking short stories because that tends to be how my brain works. It’s ADD. I can’t piece it all together, but I can tell you some memories.

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TGNR PKD: Any short stories of importance?

CW: Almost like, “I hope they serve beer in hell” except I’m not that much of an ass hole.

(Laughter)

TGNR PKD: Actually it sounds like President George W. Bush’s presidential memoirs. Did you ever read Decision Points?

CW: No.

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TGNR PKD: It’s composed of a series of important stories having to do with critical moments in his presidency. It was based on how Ulysses S. Grant wrote his famous presidential memoirs.

TGNR PKD: Speaking in regards to those who are close to you, if you could pick one person to share a fox hole with you, who would it be?

CW: My tour manager Bill.

TGNR PKD: Why?

CW: Reliable, loyal, knows how to fix a bad situation. He’s like the “tour dad” overall out there on the road. He gets everybody from point A to point B. Consistent. Drives us everywhere.

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TGNR PKD: Would you describe him as indispensable?

CW: Yes at this point.

TGNR PKD: When its the middle of the night and you’re hungry, what do you snack on?

CW: Well, every single night since I was a kid I have Oreos and milk.  I started at two Oreos and milk, then I went to three, when I got a little older and now I’m at about five. Always, every night. Every night. You want to talk about not having an addictive personality, I don’t know. Maybe I do.

TGNR PKD:  I would call that more somebody who is very regimented.  Someone who is very routine oriented.

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CW: Yes, I am very routine oriented.  Almost too much for this line of work. But it’s almost like I go out on the road and it’s all to the wind. There’s no routine. But when I’m back it’s almost like I’m a hermit. I just stay in and do my gym, my yoga… my fucking Oreos!

TGNR PKD: Do the Oreos follow you on the road?

CW: The Oreos follow me on the road only if I have access to milk and double-stuffed Oreos. I won’t even get the double-stuffed Oreos from the truck stop because they have them in a different package, and judging by the taste they’re made at a different factory.

It’s up to par. So strictly double-stuffed. Strictly with a glass of milk. I’d rather go without than do it without the proper supplies.

TGNR PKD: Best part of being on the road?

CW: Best part of being on the road is the fans for sure. It’s just amazing to meet all these people and get to hang out and see them again. Like there are some fans who have been to like twelve shows of mine at this point. It’s insane. And the interactions with them remind you exactly what you’re doing right.

Whenever you get down on yourself, there have been times when I’m like borderline depressed. This is a very emotionally charged business. It’s very taxing on you mentally.  So there are times where I feel like I’m just not…I haven’t put anything out in a long time; I’m losing momentum. Then you go back out on the road and you see these kids and my music is everything to them.

I’m their favorite artist, and they have my lyrics tattooed on them, and they know all the words of the show. There’s a lot of these kids. I may not have the biggest fan base in the world, but my fan base is very dedicated. That just reminds you why youre here and it’s amazing.

I hang out as much as I can and say “What’s up?” to everybody. Granted if things all go according to plan and it gets to the point where I can’t do that anymore, that will be sad. But I mean at the end of the day everyone’s got their meet and greet more or less in the US at this point. I’ve been a lot of places a lot of times, and if it gets to the point where we’re selling out stadiums I’d think they’d be happy.

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TGNR PKD: What’s the hardest part of being on the road?

CW: I mean it’s exhausting. Exhausting. Wake-up and drive. Especially when there’s long drives it’s just very physically and mentally exhausting. And you know you just got to wake up, travel, sound-check, shower, eat, do that whole thing and then do it again, and perform every night. All while putting on the best show you possibly can every single night. Sometimes that’s harder to do; sometimes you don’t feel like doing that.

TGNR PKD: What are the cities that you look forward to on the road?

CW: I love Minneapolis.

TGNR PKD: Why?

CW: The crowd is unbelievable. They just love music out there.

CW: They really support music, and they’ve been supporting me since early on. That whole region: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, that region in particular stands out. Upstate New York, Pennsylvania.

TGNR PKD: What cities in Pennsylvania?

CW: Lancaster. I’ve had a lot of shows at the Chameleon Club out there. Just did it on 4/20. Every time is awesome. There’s a good amount in Pittsburgh, it’s always great.

CW: And you know it’s to the point now where a lot of time I’ll go hit the same venues and we’ll pack it out. It’s just cool, you know. And the fans buy the merchandise. They support me in whatever way they can.

I mean I’ve given a lot of music away for free. So it’s really cool that they understand giving back is important to keep my stuff going. I will continue to supply them with music but I need their support, or I really won’t be able to do that.

TGNR PKD: What is your most challenging crowd on the road?

CW: Um, most challenging crowds? Probably the LA’s, the New York City’s, places where there is a lot of concerts and being out there is nothing new.

TGNR PKD: And they’re expecting a lot of you?

CW: They’re expecting a lot and they just have seen so much. They’re like, ‘Yeah this is cool.’ But they’re not quick to put their hands up and get involved.

Like the LA’s, the New York City’s… New York City is probably one of the toughest crowds in the country. Luckily for me, I’m so close to there that I have a pretty solid New York City base, and I’ve had some amazing New York City shows. But I would say the places most frequently traveled by musicians are usually the tougher crowds.

TGNR PKD: Changing gears again: What did you think of the new Star Wars movie?

CW: I liked it…I’d like to see the next one.

I kind of felt like they kind of rehashed, “A New Hope” prettily heavily. It was a lot similarities which I get but eh….I didn’t love it. But I liked it because I’m a huge Star Wars fan, so anything Star Wars I can get into.

TGNR PKD: Who do you think Rey is?

CW: I don’t know!

TGNR PKD: Have you seen “@EmoKyloRen” on Twitter? He always spouting stuff like, “You haven’t really heard the Imperial March unless you’ve heard it on the original vinyl.”

CW: [Laughter] That’s awesome.

TGNR PKD: Or “@VeryLonelyLuke”? It’s really amazing!

CW: Yeah I use to subscribe to Star Wars Insider magazine. I’m a big fan. My knowledge of Star Wars is vast! This new movie I only saw once…

TGNR PKD: So who is she?

CW: I don’t know man! But I feel like… when she starts using the Force like that, when she’s tied up with the Storm Trooper… It took Luke serious training sessions with Yoda to even begin to understand the capabilities of the Force.  She’s just like, ‘Oh I think I have the Force and now I’m going to start using it like I’m Luke Skywalker or something.’

I don’t even know!

TGNR PKD: Do you think Luke had a little indiscretion outside the Jedi code?

CW: Maybe – in making this girl.  I’m guessing it’s gotta be something like that.

TGNR PKD: I don’t know who else it could be? There’s one big difference between the two of them: She had to be completely self-sufficient. He had his Uncle and Aunt.

CW: That’s true.

TGNR PKD: But someone was looking over her, I just don’t know who it was!

CW: Yeah that’s right. I dunno man!  The whole Han Solo is Obi-Wan Kenobi in the movie, the old guy dies and it’s like a really dramatic thing, and further demonizes the bad guy.

TGNR PKD: What are your thoughts on Kylo Ren?

CW: I mean I think he’s cool but I wanted more bad guys, though. Like the bad guys are always the coolest in the movies. Like the Darth Maul’s to the fucking Jabbas and Boba Fett’s.

I usually like the bad guys.. General Grievous… Even in the three prequals the one thing they did do that was cool was have some cool villains in it and shit. It just Kylo Ren and a bunch of Storm Troopers which was cool, but I want some more Sith.

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TGNR PKD: You’re a history buff. In terms of music history, they say in general everybody gets one sentence. “FDR lead the US through the Depress and the war,” or “the Wright Brother’s were the first in mechanical human flight.”

In your case, what do you think your one sentence should be when all is said and done? I know its not easy as a 27 year old, but I’m challenging you to project and introspect.

CW: Whether you like it or not he left a legacy independently, and created a fan base that remained loyal to him throughout the highest highs and the lowest lows of his career. All  while doing it all exactly the way he wanted to and disregarding the standard for what and how it should be done.

TGNR PKD: When all is said and done is that what it will be?

CW: I would like to hope so. I would say more or less that’s the path we’re on right now, but who knows? That sentence may become a lot more illustrious, but for time the being I’m pretty sure I can pull that off and continue to.

TGNR PKD: Do you believe you will ever truly feel satisfied with your legacy? Or will there always be that drive pushing you you further?

CW: It seems that is one thing that never really goes away. Everyone who retires comes back. If you do this for a living, this is how you live, this is how you vent until you get things off of your chest, I don’t think anyone ever really quits making music. No one who is really a true artist ever quits making music.

TGNR PKD: Its well known that your great Hip-Hop hero is Eminem. If you had Eminem one-on-one, what would you want to tell him about the effect his life and work had on your own, and why?

CW: He came out at a time when I was very young and impressionable, and just recently getting into hip hip. If he didn’t exist to the level he did, and if he wasn’t Eminem, its very possible there would be a Chris Webby. Because he allowed – lets be honest – white people to think it was possible that you could be an alpha dog in this game lyrically, and you could get respect if you were good enough. He instilled that in me too.

He wasn’t just big because he was white and that was shocking. He was big because he was an incredible lyricists, and his first three projects in particular are all classic albums that allowed me to find my own style through listening to.

Now he’s not the only artist that I have taken a page out of to write my own.

TGNR PKD: There is a reason I am asking about Eminem, because many people have drawn strong parallels between you two. That is an incredible connection to be made, and at the same time an exceptional burden of expectation to achieve.

CW: I think at this point I’ve shown there are a lot of differences. There are certain songs that I have, even on this mix tape, where  you go ‘wow, you really channeled your inner Eminem on this track.’ That is totally cool because any artist that comes out now, you never want to be a copy-cat. You never want to be a guy who sounds like someone else. But there is nothing wrong with taking various pages out of others peoples books and creating your own style.

I have taken a page out of Ludacris’ book when it comes to sense of humor. I have taken a page out of Tech N9ne’s book, Eminem’s as I have mentioned. When it comes to a lot of these artists, you take enough pages out of enough peoples books, throw them all in a pot. As he said, “you take some Big and some Pac, and you mix them up in a pot. Sprinkle in a little Big L on top, and what the fuck you got?” Speaking about himself, of course.

I really think that is how a true artist is made. Eric Clapton grew up listening to various Blues artists. Nobody is the first of anything anymore. We are too far down the trail of history, nothing is whole-heatedly original anymore. I think certain individual songs can be, but I don’t think any artist can be completely unlike anything that has come before. I would say that it may be impossible at this point. I may be wrong.

TGNR PKD: When you think about great original leaps forward in music, one cannot help but invoke The Beatles and the quantum leap in sound between Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s, you know this as well as anyone.

While they had certain influences of their own in the process, they really did set an original course. Could you ever see yourself attempting a jump of that magnitude?

CW: Yes. I think I need to really switch it up.

TGNR PKD: And you believe you really are in this mix tape?

CW: Absolutely, yeah. Though I never want to divert so drastically that I leave people behind either. It will be more gradual I would image, but I am already beginning to tinker with new styles and approaches to things I hadn’t before. I think its important to take people along on that journey with me.

TGNR PKD: Speaking of journey, you’re back in Connecticut after an extended period on the west coast in Southern California. How do you feel about the experience of having lived there? Granted New York and LA are two major coastal cities, but they’re a continent and a culture apart.

CW: I would say that any experience I’ve had adds to my story, and they’re all different. Touring is something that is totally different because you always wake up in a new city, perform, and head back out again. Its important to go to other places for an extended period of time. I don’t think I am a west coaster at the end of the day, I am just an east coast guy.

TGNR PKD: How so?

CW: I think there is a lot of fake out there. A lot of vanity, a lot of people jumping on what’s cool right now. A lot of following and not enough leading. But don’t get me wrong there are definitely leaders out there, but there are a lot of followers out there. Right now a lot of Hip-Hop artists are out there, and you see carbon-copies of many artists.

TGNR PKD: Do you see yourself as a leader?

CW: I think so, because I’ve chosen to kind of stick to myself. There were times earlier on I wanted to be accepted by these other groups, these other artists. And for whatever reason I wasn’t accepted into the cool table at the Hip-Hop luncheon. So I went and set-up my own table and I’ve invited other people to that table, and we are doing just fine. I am doing just fine. I don’t need anybody else, I will do my own thing. In my business model I will emulate more of a Tech N9ne if I have to, and do what I need to do. People will take it seriously – if they don’t already – when the time comes.

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TGNR PKD: What do you feel is the most important and effective quality of your leadership?

CW: I just wholehearted do what I want to do, and what I think it cool, and what I think is good. Not what other people think. A lot of people are trying to make music being emulating something that is going on right now. I am doing the exact opposite. The music I make is so different than what is “popular” on the radio, and if I were a follower I would be making that too. But I would rather just make the music that I make because I am trying to leave a legacy, not cash out quick.

TGNR PKD: What’s the best part of being back on the East Coast?

CW: The three hour time difference is nice. I wake up late to begin with, and waking up out in Cali was just a disaster. Waking up at 6 in the morning to take business calls.

Y’know man, its just home. It’s good to home.

TGNR PKD: Say you’re talking to a young Webby fan, one that you may have influenced in the way Eminem influenced you, what about your life and work would you want them to know?

CW: Just touching on that real quick, its really interesting to see these kids look to me in the way that I looked to Eminem. Eminem was the guy for my generation. Though he’s at a point where he doesn’t have the ability to influence younger kids the way that I do now being closer to their age. It’s interesting that some kids look to me in that sense like I did to him, its wild. Also I didn’t just look up to him and highlight only one individual. But don’t get me wrong, Eminem is a huge influence and my favorite Hip-Hop artist for sure. But while there were others that I loved, he was incredible for sure.

What would I tell these kids? What I do tell them is that when I hear them say, ‘I wanna be just like you,’ I say that you probably don’t want to be juuust like me. Or if you do want to be like me now, you probably want to skip some steps in between that got me here. You don’t want to emulate everything I did.

Some of the things I’ve rapped about I feel like I need to go back and kind of have to correct. I spoke about drugs very highly. A lot of kids did drugs, perhaps even some because I mentioned them. That’s not something I want on my conscience. I responsibly did drugs, but there is no way to know if somebody else would. People really take music and they run with it, but at the same time its entertainment. So I am going to say what I am going to say, and people are going to have to remove some of the realism from it. Some of it is really just entertainment at the end of the day.

I say some things because I am being wholeheartedly serious sometimes, and I say certain things because I am fucking around sometimes. People need to know at the end of the day its all just music.

TGNR PKD: When you’re on your own relaxing in the peace of your own mind, where do you find your escape?

CW: Video games absolutely, and I have been doing Hot Yoga. Its been Vinyasa usually. I love it, it actually keeps my body feeling a lot better. I am getting a little bit older, not geriatric or anything, but my back hurts a lot more than it used to. Especially when I am spending a lot of time in studios and stuff like that. I have mild scoliosis, so its important to keep the body intact, and my back locks up sometimes so I need to be getting a lot of activity.

I go to the gym a lot. So I would say that the gym, yoga, and video games combined. That’s really what I am doing when I am not making music or something having to do with musical career.

TGNR PKD: You’re very politically vocal and active. As an American, what do you want to do with your art to create a better future?

CW: I think its important to speak out against a lot of the corruption and the all around terrible things happening. Both behind and in front of closed doors at this point. A lot of this stuff is public knowledge, but I feel like people don’t care as much as they should. I feel like its my job to at least do my best to make them care.

Its really important because one of the things about being a rapper is you help all kinds of people get through stuff in their own lives, and that’s great, but I think the most important thing is using that voice for the greater good of the bigger picture. Helping people on an individual basis is great, but there is a lot of stuff going on out there, and there are only so many people with a microphone in their hand that can reach thousands of people at the click of a button.

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TGNR PKD: And you feel a sense of that responsibility?

CW: I do feel a sense of that responsibility. I think at the very least its my job to get people asking questions.

TGNR PKD: In your own life, do you see a point in time where you will go from being Chris Webby to a Chris Webby who has a family, has a life outside of their work? A growth that can only be personal.

CW: I would love for that to be the case, but I don’t see it being possible for the immediate future. Unfortunately in this line of work its hard to pull off no matter how you cut it. I could be more mature and more mentally prepared for something like that, but I am still going to have to go on tour. I am still going to have to disappear for extented amounts of time.

Its tough man, talking about kids, having to be gone for large amounts of time. I just got a puppy, and I am already realizing I am going to have to leave for tours and stuff like that, unless I were to bring him.

TGNR PKD: But do you feel that part of you exists?

CW: I’d like to think so, but I guess I won’t know until I get there. Right now I still have a lot of focusing on what I need to do to get there. If I had a kid right now, it would completely derail everything I have going on. Its not in the best interest of the big picture to settle down too much.

To have a girl who genuinely cares, and there is something mutual? That’s great. We’ll see. There are people in my life that I hold very close to me, girl included. At the same time the reality of it is that I chose to do this, I am getting to do something that not many people get to do.

I am actually making my dream a reality. It is amazing and its fun. But it does have its downsides, and some of those are not being to experience some of the things living a normal life entails. I have to live with that because that’s just what it is. I made this choice, I don’t regret, but we are too far down the rabbit hole to turn around now.

TGNR PKD: Thank you for joining me tonight.

CW: Anytime man!

Write to Paul K. DiCostanzo at pdicostanzo@tgnreview.com

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Paul K. DiCostanzo is the Managing Editor for TGNR. He is a noted public speaker, an emerging historian of the Second World War, a vocal advocate for Crohn’s Disease/Ulcerative Colitis, and highly regarded interviewer. Prior to TGNR, Paul has a background in American National Security and American Foreign Policy. He has served as the Managing Editor for TGNR since March 2015.

CadreCinematique

Mourning Filmstruck

The death of Filmstruck is the latest symptom of our rapidly devolving film culture: This is a look at what we’ve lost, and what lies ahead.

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Image Credit: Filmstruck

The demise of Filmstruck is a major loss to the world of cinema. If you were to log on to film Twittertm – that specialist ghetto of cinephiles (“or what you’d call film buffs” as Matthew remarks early in the late Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers) you would realize that many of us are in mourning for a rapidly depleting film culture.

Across the country, most Americans do not have access to an art house theater, and it’s even less likely that they would have access to a repertory theater. Those in New York City can pick their poison between the Metrograph and Film Forum and Village Quad Cinema. Heck they’ve even got the NiteHawk in Williamsburg. Those in LA have the New Beverly. Most of us, however, are just plain out of luck.

Two years ago Filmstruck seemed like the solution. A collaboration between Warner Brothers and the Criterion Collection, Filmstruck was a hand-curated outfit that seemed like film school on a Roku. From Rohmer to Ozu, Sembene to Akerman – world cinema was at your fingertips. You want to spend 83 minutes with Alma from Persona? Sure can. You could check in with Guido Anselmi or Sam Spade or Mabel Longhetti or any of several versions of Orpheus by just pressing a button…and now it’s gone.

A Half Remembered Dream Factory

Claudia Cardinale in Frederico Fellini's 8 1/2Francinex/Cineriz

Claudia Cardinale in Frederico Fellini’s 8 1/2

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Every day we seem to forget more of our history. Hollywood is no exception. Often they seem to be leading the way. Hollywood has always been America’s dream factory, and there are some real talented and nice people out there – people who care desperately about movies.

Yet, because of the vagaries of corporate America, and the rush to the all-mighty dollar that capitalism surely compels, Hollywood has become a system that is ruled by puffed-up Harvard MBA’s in slick two-button suits looking for ten percent profit on the next remake.

Now, I don’t really have anything against these people, it’s just that many of them don’t really know or give a lick about the classic days of the industry, the history of world cinema, or even current world cinema beyond their own distribution pacts. They only worry whether their new one hundred million dollar piece of content is going to be allowed to play in China, and whether it will allay some its substantial budget with international pre-sales.

In turn, we have the creation of these monster conglomerates through very big mergers such as Disney buying Fox, or in our case AT&T buying Time Warner, which has led directly to AT&T shutting down Filmstruck.

See, they want to invest only in core businesses that will generate substantial return. This makes complete sense from a business perspective. Except, in the olden days of Hollywood the guys that ran the place, like Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg, saw the picture business as more than just a profit machine. They understood they were creating a product that was intangible – a motion picture, not a widget.

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Ingmar Bergmans 'Persona' | Cadre Cinematique

Sure, they were interested in making money, they damn well weren’t commies, but at the same time they were making something near Art and they were passionate about it.

Cinema Homogenized

Lillian Gish in D.W. Griffith's Broken BlossomsD. W. Griffith

Lillian Gish in D.W. Griffith’s Broken Blossoms

There was a time when it felt like cinema could change the world. In his review of The Dreamers (to circle back), Roger Ebert reminisces that back in ’68, Chicagoans were lined up on the sidewalk in the rain to see Godard’s Weekend. Imagine that now? Wouldn’t happen.

AT&T closed Filmstruck because they believed it was niche. Great cinema like Casablanca and King Kong, The Seven Samurai and Weekend, which all those people lined up for all those years ago, is now just niche content.

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What’s the use of going to a movie theater if movies are just content no different from a YouTube video? Hollywood has forgotten its heroes. Cinema seems to have forgotten what cinema is all about – stories that move us or elucidate the world around us – or even sometimes elucidate feelings or emotions so deep-seated they would never stir without that silver-screen mirror.

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Agnes Varda's HappinessAgnès Varda

Agnes Varda’s Happiness

The last three movies I watched on Filmstruck were the creepy Japanese ghost story Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan (1959), the vibrantly alive magical realist bossa nova-driven romance Black Orpheus (1959), and Mikio Naruse’s masterful Floating Clouds (1955). Maybe my feeling towards Filmstruck and cinema itself is like Naruse’s lovers’ warmer brighter past in French Indochina – a deeply romantic paradise to which we can never return.

I certainly hope that’s not the case. I hope the future of cinema and the future of repertory streaming services spreads out before us like a mighty bounty.

To ensure this, we all have do our part. Watch movies. Buy movies.  All movies.  Become cine-literate in everything. Especially the classics.

(Article Continues Below...)

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Preservation in the Post-Filmstruck Era

Lourdes de Oliveira in Marcel Camus' Black OrpheusDispat Films/Gemma/Tupan Filmes

Lourdes de Oliveira in Marcel Camus’ Black Orpheus

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What’s next? The terrific physical media company The Criterion Collection is starting their own streaming channel. Will it succeed? Only if enough of us are interested in preserving our globe’s sometimes shared, sometimes divergent cultural heritage.

Mikio Naruse's Autumn Has Already StartedMikio Naruse

Mikio Naruse’s Autumn Has Already Started

Films are doorways into past and future worlds. These stories have shaped us, and allowed a plethora of fascinating cultures to share their preoccupations, hopes, and fears with other, sometimes very different people, in every far-flung nook and cranny of this astonishing world.  These dreams, stories, and feelings are too important to be allowed to just fade away.

Please preserve them.

Write to David B. Sporn at dsporn@tgnreview.com

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Entertainment & Arts

The Man in the High Castle Universe: How the Axis Won WW2

Exactly what the hell went so wrong to create the High Castle dystopia? Second World War historian Paul K. DiCostanzo examines the possibilities.

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With the interminable wait for season three of Amazon Prime’s portrayal of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle concluding on October 5th, we pose the singular question underlying the series thus far: How could the Axis powers have defeated the United States and its Allies in The Man in the High Castle Universe? The following interpretation is one possible “universe” of Man in the High Castle. One in which we explore the biggest question for most viewers: How the Axis won WW2, or more specifically, “How did the US lose World War II?”

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As the show straddles the genres of Alternate History and Science Fiction, the world of High Castle is based on counter-factual history. That being said, the scenario below is projected from historical events that could explain the tragic collapse of the Allies and ultimate rise of the Axis powers.

The Man in the High Castle Universe: What went wrong?

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(A stark contrast in the two above maps that mark the conclusion of the historical and fictional WW2)

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For an American living in the 21st Century, the victory in the Second World War is even more fundamental to their worldview than even the American Revolution of 1776. It is, after all, the founding story of the modern United States and the rest of the world as we know it.


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The concept of the Allies losing to the satanic enemy of Nazi Germany and its Axis collaborators hits home in primordial fashion. It is a concept so deeply disturbing that the dystopia such a defeat would create is generally unthinkable. Yet in the High Castle universe, that is exactly what happened. So, what exactly went wrong in the High Castle timeline?

How the Axis won WW2: The Man in the High Castle Universe Historical Contradiction

In the High Castle universe, many well known events of the Second World War have outcomes clearly contrary to the viewer’s universe. In both the series and the classic novel, details are scarce as to exactly how the Axis managed victory over the Allies.


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The Complete Guide to The Man in the High Castle Season 3 - Premiering 10/5


Putting aside the little information divulged by the show so far – including Nazi Germany’s clear development of the first strategic nuclear weapon – what happened to the Allied nations that allowed this disaster to occur? While there are several distinct possibilities, one must start with the life of one Sir Winston Spencer Churchill.

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10 Things Star Trek: Discovery Season 2 Must Do to Avoid Epic Failure

Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery is the swing season for the series. These are several directives to ensure this newest season gets it just right.

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Over the past two months new information about the greater Star Trek franchise have hit fans at warp speed. Between the announcement of a new series featuring Patrick Stewart and the contractual standstill leading perhaps to the fourth film in the Kelvin timeline’s demise – there has been no lack of blockbluster headlines. However, the project which will shortly eclipse all the rest is the upcoming sophomore season of Star Trek: Discovery with viewers paying particular attention to where the showrunners wish to take the series. Not to be left out, the following are ten guidelines – directives as it were – to ensure Star Trek: Discovery season 2 will not fall on its face. We begin with the introduction of a new-familiar face: Mr. Spock.

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1. A Tale of Two Spock’s: The Delicate Introduction of Ethan Peck in Discovery Season 2

Star Trek: Discovery season 2 Ethan Peck and Zachary QuintoWikicommons

The two Spock’s: Ethan Peck & Zachary Quinto

I fully concede the pragmatic reality of the entertainment industry, and that Zachery Quinto was very unlikely to assume the role of the prime universe Spock in Star Trek: Discovery season 2 – but I cannot help stopping and thinking, “What the crap?”

With the announcement that Ethan Peck will play Spock in Star Trek: Discovery season 2, there are now two actors, in the prime of their career, portraying effectively the same character at the same time: Quinto on the big screen and Peck on my iPhone. Lets all be honest with ourselves, that’s really friggin’ weird.

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Though Alex Kurtzman and the current Star Trek braintrust were nothing less than effusive in praise for the talented Peck, there are greater factors at play by having more than one Spock.


“We searched for months for an actor who would, like them, bring his own interpretation to the role. An actor who would, like them, effortlessly embody Spock’s greatest qualities, beyond obvious logic: empathy, intuition, compassion, confusion and yearning. Ethan Peck walked into the room inhabiting all of these qualities, aware of his daunting responsibility to Leonard, Zack and the fans, and ready to confront the challenge in the service of protecting and expanding on Spock’s legacy. In that spirit, we’re thrilled to welcome him to the family.” – Alex Kurtzman, Star Trek: Discovery Executive Producer


The Reality of Dueling Spock’s

To be fair there has been a Spock duo before, however those were very different circumstances. It was clear for those who have eyes to see that it was a passing of the torch. The beloved Leonard Nimoy, in the best of Star Trek tradition, played the role of a venerated character sanctifying the newest Trek foray with his saintly presence. What Trek fans are dealing with now, whether they yet realize it or not, is a competition that is at best irksome.

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10 Things Star Trek: Discovery Must Do to Avoid Epic Failure

Depending on their performance, as well as their dictated place in the narratives they inherit, one of them will ultimately be accepted as THE Spock while the other will be relegated to “Other Spock,” a second class citizen in Trek canon. Not only will this be unfair to the actors who portray him, it is a profound disservice to the character himself to assume this baggage.

The best one can hope for under these circumstances is that Peck will knock this role in Star Trek: Discovery season 2 out of the park. In the end that is always what will matter most and that each “Spock” can be appreciated in there respective spheres.

Speaking of troublesome duplicates…

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Amazon Releases “The Man in the High Castle” Season 3 Date; New Trailer at SDCC

Fans of Amazon’s “The Man in the High Castle” see light at the end of their tunnel, as the two year wait for season 3 is coming to a confirmed end.

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Screen shot from The Man in the High Castle newest trailer from SDCC

San Diego, CA – This weekend at San Diego Comic Con (SDCC), after a seemingly interminable wait, fans of Amazon’s hit series The Man in the High Castle finally have the answer to their biggest question: when is the show coming back? To the audience’s delight, Amazon confirmed that season three will premiere on October 5th, 2018.

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To further whet their fans’ appetites, the series’ showrunners also released a new trailer for the upcoming season during their panel at SDCC. 

SDCC 2018 & The Longer than Expected Road to High Castle Season 3

Season two of the show debuted in December 2016, after which there had very few indicators of when season three would see the light of day.

In February of 2017 Amazon Prime renewed High Castle for its third season, and filming began in late June of last year.

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Additionally first reported by Deadline, Amazon publicly released their order to renew the series for its fourth season as well. No date for its release has yet been revealed.

At this weekend’s San Diego Comic Con, The Man in the High Castle announced not only the answer to the most burning question – thats is, when season 3 will debut –  but also shared its first substantive trailer regarding season three since October 2017.

Though only a minute in length, the powerful sneak peak will further stoke the flames for the show’s ravenous fans.

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New High Castle Trailer: Further Exploration into Science Fiction, and a Mobilizing Resistance

This newest trailer for High Castle season three covers an exceptional amount of ground and leaves the audience with little question as to what the newest installment will focus upon.

The clip depicts further collaboration between Juliana Crain and Hawthorne Abendsen – the so-called “Man in the High Castle.”

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Specifically, they are working to combat the Greater German Reich’s experimental weapon which allows them by means of technology to traverse the series’ multiverse; all courtesy of Nazi R&D. This marks the shows most forward foray into The Man in the High Castle‘s science-fiction origin up to this point.

Moreover, it depicts a revitalization of the American resistance against the respective occupying Axis powers Germany and Imperial Japan. 

The Man in the High Castle is one of Amazon Prime’s most watched series, based on Philip K. Dick’s novel of the same title published in 1962.

The series is set in the United States, in a fictional 1962 in which the Axis won WWII – and occupying a defeated US.

To enjoy the sneak peek, click at the top to watch the newest trailer for High Castle season 3!

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The Man in the High Castle is exclusively available for streaming on Amazon Prime

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Solo: A Star Wars Story REVIEW

In this newest incarnation of Disney-era Star Wars films, Solo: A Star Wars Story adds to the questionable new legacy.

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Solo: A Star Wars Story
Image Credit: Disney/LucasFilm

Solo: A Star Wars Story is out, and since its release the film has proven to be as polarizing as other Disney-era LucasFilm installments for the franchise.

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For Star Wars fans of every generation, the back story of the series favorite smuggler and scoundrel has possessed a certain mystery. Within the scope of the live-action film adaptation of the iconic saga, the audience has only been given minor snippets of Han’s past.

Solo: A Star Wars Story – The Down Low

Solo: A Star Wars Story begins to shed light on his epic brotherhood with Chewbacca, the genesis of the Millennium Falcon, and his early exploits with one Lando Calrissian. With so much on the line presenting his personal history front and center, could it possibly live up to the hype?

Also by popular demand, some have inquired how I think about and analyze movies when I review them. For those interested, these are my insights into how my reviews are created.

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As with every adaptation of Star Wars, no one fan is ever lacking an opinion regarding every detail – major or minor alike. What did you think of Solo: A Star Wars Story? What did you love? What would you have changed? Would you have made the movie at all? Is Disney/Lucas Film saturating the market with four feature films in the last three years? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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