A versatile hip-hop duo's twisting career path rises to new hits and a packed touring schedule
By Kathy Iandoli
Special to MSN Music
Chiddy Bang (©Jay Brooks)
Chiddy Bang's career has been marked with many false starts on the road to superstardom. While hip- hop readily embraced the duo comprised of rapper Chiddy and producer Xaphoon Jones, there's been a slow build to the top.
Their debut album, "Breakfast," dropped this year following a series of EPs and mixtapes that earlier solidified Chiddy Bang's place in music. That collective output displays an ability to weave through genres, a skill to which they attribute their success. As the two prep a summer tour, we sat down with Xaphoon Jones to discuss their varied audiences, funny tour riders and how Chiddy's Guinness world record for the longest freestyle proved a point of contention.
MSN Music: What have the past few months been like for you and Chiddy?
Xaphoon Jones: The past few months have just been playing a lot of shows and promoting an album. We never had a proper, major-label, studio album release, so we're still kind of getting used to what that means and promoting it and different singles. We all care about different singles different amounts, and I've gotten attached to different songs than [Chiddy], so the last few months have been practicing the album and getting to play it live for the first time, which is the most fun.
You released mixtapes and then EPs. What was it like going in to this process of putting this "debut album" together when you had like six projects already in your catalogue?
Yeah! It was weird. Initially when we got signed, the label was just hoping that we put out "Opposite of Adults" on the first album, then throw in some other quick, filler tracks and call it an album. We wanted to have it be a complete try -- we wanted to do all the tracks ourselves. We had to move some things around and compromise and really understand what it means. It's a very different process. This time around, there are sample clearances, radio people who are processing our singles and all kinds of stuff. So this is us dipping one toe in the water like, "Ooh, what's this do? OK!"
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You first surfaced a few years ago, yet it seems like with every new project, you're gaining either a new audience or a new subgenre with which you're identified. Do you feel like you're constantly reintroducing yourselves to people?
Yeah! That's one of the reasons I think we've been so successful. It's that every time we sit down to make a new batch of music, it has new themes and, therefore, it targets ... whether we want it to or not ... it reacts with a new group of people. Initially, Round 1, we were making songs that we wanted to make and it was reacting with people that are our peers, which were like, college kids who were into music blogs and stuff. Then, Round 2, we were traveling to the U.K. and playing for a bunch of artists over there and it was reacting with the kids over there. Now it's been interesting to play radio shows with, like, Justin Bieber and then Big Sean and delve into more of the hip-hop world and also the pop world and see how many fans we can kind of steal from them. I don't know if that's the right word, but, definitely!
Last year when Chiddy broke the Guinness world record for the longest freestyle, it was just a feather in your cap, but wasn't one of those things that you had to lean on, like viral video artists?
Well, the difference between us and people who build off viral videos ... That's their selling point. Like they promote that as them. With us, we were almost embarrassed by the whole record thing. When people bring it up in interviews, we're like, "Oh, we really have to talk about this? Our manager made us do it."
No, no, no! It's a really good point, and it's a really good question and it's true. We wrestle with that a lot because we don't feel like we do, but we have one foot in the pop world. So we have to battle to stay relevant and we have to think about that even if we don't want to while we're trying to make this album as big as we possibly can.
What's next for Chiddy Bang?
We're doing the Wiz Khalifa tour this summer, playing huge-ass arenas. Doing that in July and August. That's going to be cool because that's like Kendrick Lamar and Mac Miller and ScHoolboy Q and people that I'm a fan of. I didn't really get it until I talked to other friends of ours who are rappers who were like, "Oh, I tried to get on that tour and I couldn't!" We were asked on this tour, so it was an honor. We're doing hip-hop the first half and then probably in September we're going to do the West Coast and Canada with the band Fun. We're having a fantastic year, and really popping off. I'm really looking forward to it because it's the first time we get a tour bus, so I'm going to have my own bed for the whole summer instead of a million different hotel rooms.
What do you guys put on your tour rider?
Water, towels ... nothing really crazy. Back in the day when we would play fraternities and stuff, I used to mess with them because I hate them with every fiber of my being. I used to put, like, white Nikes size 11 and Banana Snapple, which is the hardest kind of Snapple to find. I used to put that on there because I despise them. Now that we play shows with nice people, we just want, like, hummus and healthy food and water and stuff.
Did you get your white Nikes and Banana Snapple?
I did! At a whole bunch of shows they'd be all crying like, "Yo bro, we couldn't find the Banana Snapple! We're so sorry, bro. Will you still do the show?" I'd be like, "I'll think about it," and then, "OK. Fine." Then they'll say, "We got the white Nikes!" I only got it, like, two or three times, but it was always worth it.
Kathy Iandoli has written for publications including The Source, YRB, BUST, XXL,VIBE, RIME and Vapors, and her work has appeared online at MTV, AOL and MSN Music sites. She is the former Alternatives editor of AllHipHop.com and the current music editor of HipHopDX.com.