We talked to Chris Crack about why 2020 was his most successful year, his recording style, and getting co-signed by Madlib.
Earlier in the year, Chris Crack had a minor run-in with the Chicago police.
“We were walking to the store or some shit. And the police were, like, riding through the alley, shining their light at us,” Chris Crack, blunt dangling from his mouth, said over a Zoom conversation in mid-December. “And I was like, ‘Bro, them niggas is some bitches.’”
He later went to the studio and titled a track he was working on “All Cops Are Bitches.” “I think I might have saw ACAB on something. It might have been lingering in my mind,” Chris said. “Who knows? But I saw that, and I was like, ‘all cops are bitches.’”
The song, the opening track off of Washed Rappers Ain’t Legends, isn’t a loud “fuck you” to the police or a gripping personal narrative about living in a police state. The track is Crack getting bars like “The games came to an end you gotta fight Bowser” off.
This is the gift of Chris Crack, the funniest, most spontaneous, productive, and consistent rapper working in contemporary hip-hop. He’s doesn’t make “statement” music. The songs he makes are what’s on his mind at the time. He thinks eight seconds at a time, with the best idea he’s ever had being his current one. (Chris records raps in such an extemporaneous manner he often forgets individual songs he’s done.) With Chris Crack, songs rarely touch two minutes; most contain loops of soul and R&B cuts from the ’70s and ’80s; his lyrics are are a stream of consciousness; and the titles of his songs are random jokes, tracks with titles like “Fap with the Good Lotion,” “Face Sitting with Frank Ocean,” and “Chipped My Tooth Eating Pussy.”
Chris has been rapping for years, coming up with other underground Chicago MCs like MC Tree and Vic Spencer. And, working primarily with producers Cutta and Blckwndr, he has put out 16 albums over the last three years. But the five albums he put out in 2020 — White People Love Algorithms, Cute Boys (The Rise of Lil Delicious), Good Cops Don’t Exist, the aforementioned Washed Rappers Ain’t Legends, and Haters Forget They were Fans First — have been some of the most acclaimed work of his career. Chris has noticed the attention, calling 2020 his “biggest, best year in streaming.”
Part of the reason why there are more eyeballs is that, with the success of the Griselda camp, Freddie Gibbs, and Mach-Hommy, underground, wordplay-driven hip-hop is having a moment. But no one in that scene raps like Chris. His music is pretty low stakes. Unlike other underground MCs, he doesn’t record like he’s trying to make the next Life After Death. He raps like he’s recording shit for the homies. That levity mixed with his wordplay, his gift for melody, and his love for old-school grooves and loops mean Chris is the closest we got to this era’s Max B.
Chris Crack, who is 32, grew up in West Chicago. In past interviews, he’s talked about some of the trouble he got into as a kid. About his childhood, he told Passion of the Weiss: “I mean, we was playing basketball and regular kid’s shit. Football, all that shit, breaking windows, ding dong ditch, all the way up to gang activity, drug sales, and all types of wild shit.” But he was mum when we asked about his upbringing, saying “I been seeing a lot of rappers get indicted lately, so I’m going to be cool… but you know.”
But the important thing to know about his childhood — alongside the fact he grew up in West Chicago the son of a mother who was a math teacher — is he came up snapping. Chris and his friends would spend hours just joking on each other, at times savagely.
“[Growing up] we used to have hour-long roasting sessions, bro,” Chris said. “Like four or five hours, like daily. At least five times a week. “
That foundation explains why Chris does what he does so well. In some ways, Chris Crack’s career has been just one long roast session.
With the year wrapping up, we talked to Chris Crack about why 2020 was his most successful year, his recording style, the music he grew up listening to, and how he felt seeing that Madlib co-sign.
As told to Dimas Sanfiorenzo
On what a Chris Crack recording session is like.
Man, it’s me and Cutta. We do all that shit. You know, just me and him. We just lock in and we like to just fuck around, man. Everything’s too serious in life, you know what I’m saying? We just like to fuck around and have fun. Fun is the most important thing about making music. Even if it’s sad, you should have fun making it.
On not knowing his songs.
I don’t know any of my songs. I write too many and record too many to know them. I just know the ones that I’m going to need to perform. You know, I got my bunch. I probably got like, 40 songs that I perform and shit. And I know the old songs. But, other than that, I don’t know no songs. People ask me all the time, “Man, what’s that song you said da, da, da, da, da in?” And I’m like, “Bro, I am the worst person at that.” You’re better off Googling the lyrics or some shit.
On how he’s handled the pandemic.
I was quarantining before the quarantine, you know what I mean? I was always to myself — dolo, recording. Just studio, home, studio, home. So this ain’t nothing new to me. It’s actually kind of fun because when I go out, [there’s] nobody out. I can just travel around, fuck around, do whatever I want. I ain’t got to worry about crowds and being all around people and shit.
On coming up with song titles.
Whatever is the first thing that comes to my mind when I listen to the song. Like, when the song’s done — I’m like yeah, this song’s done, cool. Then it’s time to name it. The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear the song, just boom.
I just like shit to be free. For you, it’s a funny song title, right? But for me, it’s going to remind me of the time, what I was wearing that day, how I was feeling. You know what I mean? What I was thinking. Was I in a good mood? Was I in a bad mood? It’s like a key for me.
On if there are any politics in albums like Good Cops Don’t Exist.
Oh, no. My shit is not really anything. Like, I’m not going to put it in any box, any of my projects. I don’t want them at all in any boxes or any ceilings. It just is what it is. Because you interpret it different than somebody else. So for you, it might be a political project. For somebody else, it might be to work out to.
On being a funny person.
I wouldn’t say that I’m funny, because then I’d feel like that’s kind of being conceited. But a lot of people tell me that I’m funny. I wanted to be a comedian when I was a kid, so that’s where the funny aspect of my music comes from.
[Growing up] we used to have hour-long roasting sessions, bro, like four or five hours, like daily. At least five times a week. That’s what made me so witty with the wordplay? Witty with the word play — that’s a song title. It made me fast with the comebacks and shit like that. Because man, we used to talk about each other for hours and hours and hours.
[There] was this dude I grew up with named Bo Bo. He would get on motherfuckers there, and he just wouldn’t stop. And he made people cry. But there was this one joke that always used to get him so mad, he would want to fight. I believe I started the joke. But other people would throw it at him, and he would want to fight. He would want to go get his gun. He would want to go do all kinds of stuff. And it’s like, “Damn, bro, but you talk about everybody and their mama, bro.” But yeah, I mean you know how kids be, man. They want to [dish] it out, but they can’t take that shit.
On the rappers he loved growing up.
I was really fucking with Missy [Elliott] was super hard. I was fucking with Timbaland really hard. I was fucking with Master P and Lil Wayne, man. Them was the rappers I fucked with. Them was the rappers I literally looked up to.
It’s sad as fuck to see Lil Wayne selling his fucking masters for $100 million dollars. Like, I don’t give a fuck if it was $1 billion dollars. His masters is worth way more. His masters ain’t worth nothing, because the motherfuckers is priceless. They could have given him a $1 billion dollars, and I’d have been like, “No, bro, what the fuck?” Lil Wayne sold hundreds of millions of records, and they’re only going to give him $100 million dollars? Like, what the fuck? Hell no. But me, if they wanted to give me $100 million dollars for my catalog… they can have two of them motherfuckers, bro.
You know what I’m going to do with that shit? No, we’re talking about Lil Wayne. He’s going to spend that fucking $100 million dollars in two to three, four years. And then what you got? I hope not neither because if you know how I feel about Lil Wayne, then you would know I’m not shading him. But I just know the game, and it’s like, damn bro, you tweaked. What the fuck were you thinking?
On loving R&B.
I grew up on R&B shit. Rap was all around me. But I’ve always been a little different. So, it was like always around. So I would like to do something a little different, listen to R&B.
I used to love Monica. I used to love Brandy. I used to love Whitney [Houston.] I used to love fucking Total, XSCAP3. You know, all of that shit. I was fucking around, you know what I’m saying? I was definitely fucking around. I loved R&B. And Jodeci my favorite group of all time — for the record.
On rappers who overthink.
You can tell, bro. It’s annoying. You’re not even having fun, bro. You’re just, you’re doing this, you’re like a slave, just being whipped, and you’re just working because you feel like, “Oh, I got to, I got to make another song.” It’s like, “no bro, that shit’s trash, dude.” You can see when they’re trying too hard. You can see when they’re not trying enough. You can see when they’re annoyed. You can tell when somebody got a cold. I can hear that shit.
Them artists that be talking about they be in the studio, “Oh, I’m in the studio… ” You all don’t even do as much music as me. And I don’t even be in there every single day all the time.
On listening to his own music.
I be feeling like I’m being conceited when I listen to my own music. I hate when you get in the car with a rapper, and he just playing his own shit the whole fucking time. Just going like he didn’t make this shit. It’s like, “bro, can we get something else, my nigga? Like, what up?” I’ve never done that ever in my life because I hate when other people do that shit, so I’m not going to be that guy.
New MED and Guilty Simpson album on the way…
Jackson Brothers coming soon….
Thinking about an album with @chriscrackndc. What do you guys think?
— Madlib (@madlib) March 21, 2019
On being shouted out by Madlib.
I didn’t grow up on Madlib. I found out about him later and shit. And he’s super cool. And for him to have noticed me… My phone melted that day when he mentioned me. G, my phone melted. I couldn’t even use that motherfucker ’till the next day.
“Might delete later.” Just keep that in mind. I can’t really say nothing. “Might delete later.” That’s real soon. Like, no bullshit, real soon.
On classic albums.
I don’t believe in classics. I said this on Twitter, I don’t even like when people call my shit classic. I don’t believe it can be classic when it come out. I believe it’s got to stand the test of time. Because if you know anything about music, you know it’s here and gone real fast.
I don’t believe anything of this decade is a classic, to be real. We’ll take “Bad and Boujee” for a perfect example, right? “Bad and Boujee” was the hottest song. I loved the fucking song. I’m sure you loved it. Every fucking one from toddlers to fucking elderly people loved that song. It was the greatest song in the world. Now we’re like, three years down the line. Maybe four, I don’t know. That song ain’t timeless. And it’s only been four years.
On planning out albums.
My homie just recently said that I should do a concept album. He’s like, I’ve already put out good music already. Like, why don’t I try something kind of tunnel vision-like, you know what I mean? A straight story or a concept. I don’t know. My mind ain’t like that. I might try that shit, man. But I might get indicted. I ain’t going to lie to you, G. I can’t tell the stories that I want to tell in a record.