Hurricane Chris Interview

Originally published at Noisey

In the late 2000s, Shreveport, Louisiana rapper Hurricane Chris scored the platinum hit “A Bay Bay,” a shoe deal with Fila and the best selling ringtone in the country. At the time “A Bay Bay” producer Mr. Collipark was the king of “snap music,” a critically derided subgenre accused of watering hip-hop down into rhymed jingles from artists known to quickly fade away. A millionaire before 18, Chris followed his successful single with minor ones including “Halle Berry (She's Fine),” but his second album, 2009’s Unleashed, failed to chart. In 2010, Chris left Sony’s Polo Grounds imprint (now home to the likes of A$AP Rocky) and retreated from music. Many assumed his career rightfully fizzled out. He silently endured insults. Novelty rapper. Talentless. Has-been. But that’s not the whole story.

Chris’s teenage success was dramatic, sudden, and dangerous. Now 27 years old, he concedes without getting into specifics that he suddenly found himself doing things he’d promised he never would. He struggled to navigate the music business and spent months on the road with limited adult guidance. His days were spent blowing money and pushing away at his moral compass. What the public doesn’t know is that Chris retreated from music on his own terms. Hurricane gave birth to a son and wanted to prioritize family.

After three years off, Chris is returning to music on his own terms. In 2014, he released “Ratchet” with fellow Louisianian Boosie Badazz and dropped the gratifying Hurricane Season mixtape last year. With a clear head and full creative control of his sound, he spoke about the reality of sudden fame as one of rap’s first viral artists.

You were one of the first stars to go viral on the internet. Did you have an understanding of the web at the time?

Hurricane Chris: I had zero understanding of the importance of the internet. When they were trying to make me do Myspace, I was like, “What the fuck? Get out of my face with this shit. I don’t want to do this shit.” I told him to let my media guy do it, and the media guy did it, and I didn’t even really fuck with Myspace. That’s why you realize Soulja Boy took off on the internet, he got it, he understood it. He was the young kid that understood the internet. All of the ideas that I was lazy on, he was like, “Hell yeah, I want to do all of that.” He was the young energetic kid that was like “hell yeah, let’s do it.” They used to just hold the camera in his face all day and he didn’t mind doing that stuff.

I was the type of cat, where I just wanted to make music and I didn’t want you to hold a camera in my face all day long, while I was eating my plate of food. I was the one that was most likely to tell you, “OK, get the camera off, time out.” The people who don’t give a damn, they benefit a lot, but I made a lot of money off of the internet because I had one of the biggest songs in the country. I was doing a million ringtones like nothing every time I dropped something.

Looking back, how do you feel about Mr. Collipark and Polo Grounds Music? Do you have any hard feelings?

Hell nah, they gave me the biggest opportunity that I could have ever asked for. Shit, they put me in front of millions and millions of people, man. Those people could have given someone else that opportunity, but they chose to give it to me, and I was able to make good of that opportunity. I never would hold no grudge towards either of them, like I’m cool with Collipark. He live in Atlanta, like we’ll hang out at the club and drink Patron or whatever, and Brian Leech, Polo Grounds, he got a legal situation he’s going through, but I talked to him before he went in. We cool, man, everybody cool.

As a kid, do you feel like you appreciated the fame and the success?

I think it happened so fast that I didn’t even get a chance to realise what was going on. They picked me up from Shreveport, Louisiana, and nobody knew who I was. Within a month of being on the tour bus, I’m stopping at hotel rooms, and my video is on TV every time we look at a TV. Or every time we turn on the radio, I’m on the radio. Before you know it, I’m bigger than life, biggest ringtone in the country, number one single in the country, my own shoe, and this is all at 17, so it’s like damn. Every time I look at my bank account, there’s another half a million in it. It was a lot for a youngster.

Were you getting financial advice from someone older or just spending like crazy?

I spent money like crazy. I didn’t get a lot of financial advice and leadership. I found out the hard way. I blew money, then I found out it was smart to go back and start investing. After running through $300,000 - $400,000 in a month, I started realizing that I had to find something to do to invest my money instead of just spending it, and that’s when I did a chicken-and-waffles called 51/50. I did two of those. They’re not around anymore. I started investing in real estate at the same time. I did that, and I had two halfway houses, like for rehabilitating people who were coming home from jail.

Why did you buy halfway houses?

It was really something I wanted to do to help the community and be able to help people that was going through their situation, because I had a father who did jail time. He came home, and our focus was to get him back on his feet and up and running. So that really made want to help people coming home, because it’s real hard, when you’re coming home with a criminal history, to get back productive and into society. You can’t get a job, and people look down on you.

I’ve read that people can recognize you and Boosie in Louisiana because you’re one of the few in the area that drive nice cars.

Yeah, that’s one of my addictions. I like cars. I’ve had a Lamborghini, Maserati, Bentley, Range Rovers, Escalades, Mercedes, anything you can name, man. I’ve had a lot of whips. Old schools, ‘72 Impala drop-tops. Man, everything. I like toys.

How old were you when you bought your first Lamborghini?

I was like 17, 18 years old, and I had a Gallardo. The insurance was so high on it, I ended up getting rid of it.

That must have been one of your biggest purchases at the time.

I brought my mama a half-million dollar house, so that was a big purchase. That was the first thing I did as soon as I got a check.

That must have been a special moment for you, paying her back for everything she’d done.

Yeah, because she’s the reason I got to where I am. She invested a lot of time and money into me, so I had to show her my appreciation. Without her focusing on me and realizing that I had the potential to be something, who is to say that I would be who I am today. A lot of kids had potential, but their parents didn’t focus on them and lead them the right way so it went down the drain. I’m thankful I had parents that kept their foot in my ass, like a lot of parents need to do today.

You mentioned in “T and Yella” that life wasn’t the same with your father locked up. How is he doing now?

He good. He got out and he’s well. We’ve been spending a lot of time together lately so that’s something I can take as a blessing. He got out and he ain’t never go back.

What was the most surreal moment at the height of your fame?

I would say the BET Awards because we brought our whole city with us. What you saw in the [“A Bay Bay”] video, we took that to the BET Awards. We took everything you saw on my videos to the stage. To be able to put the people that I saw in my city, just living their day-to-day life, being a regular person, to be able to put those people on a 106 & Park BET stage… I just loaded a bus of people from my city and said, “We going to the BET Awards!” And they looking at me like, “Yeah right, yeah we goin’ on BET...” I’m like, “Nah, I’m taking everybody. I’m loading a bus, and we going. We represent for the city.” And just to see the people get up on the stage and lose their minds, they didn’t know what [was going on]. It was a big celebration!

After someone becomes wealthy, they encounter a whole different set of problems.

I’m a firm believer of that. I tell people all the time that you never see people commit suicide because they’re not worth 20 million dollars. “Oh I’m not worth 20 million, I’m finna kill myself.” You never see people do that, because they’ve never had that money to miss, but you always see people commit suicide when they lose 20 million dollars or a 100 million dollars. That’s when people go and jump off bridges and kill themselves. There’s a flipside to every coin.

Was there a specific moment that made you step away from rap?

It was a lot. I got in the game so young, I was still a kid. I was put in a grown man’s position as a child and given grown man responsibilities. A lot of people had a lot of money invested into me so I couldn’t be the kid that I wanted to be. I had to sacrifice some of my childhood, and that was something that weighed on me heavily. I also just started doing things that I didn’t want to do, I was doing things that I had to do. That kind of made me not happy with my current situation. Then I had the record labels with all of the different politics going on and people disappointing me as far as showing me sides of the game. Once they showed it to me, it was way different than I thought it would be.

Which sides of the game?

A lot of people just saying they have your best interests and not having your best interests. You know, I never saw a person pretend to be your friend and pretend to care about your well being. I never saw a person do that in the way that these cats in the industry do it. I had people that made me feel like they were there to be family, and they wanted to be a part of my life forever, when they were just there to get a quick dollar. When I realised things like that, it kind of made me not think about the money or the fame. It kind of just made me want to tell those people “kiss my ass,” and me telling those people “kiss my ass” lead to certain situations deteriorating.

I just decided I’m going to back up from the table because now I’m doing things I said I’d never do, as far as bending for the industry and now also I’ve got another side of the story, where I’m going out blowing money and doing all kinds of ridiculous stuff. I felt like it was time for me to sit down and gather myself also. Not just speaking on the music, but speaking of me gathering myself as a person and just taking some time off to myself. Then I ended up having a little boy also.

How long did you work on Hurricane Season?

I actually didn’t work on it with putting a project together in mind. It kind of was just put together from a lot of songs that I got recorded. We had like 50 songs in my email, in my Dropbox, and my manager said “You know what? Let’s throw some out there just to see how people feel about you and how they react.” So we picked 19 songs and called it Hurricane Season and decided to throw it out, and we got a crazy response.

Listening to Hurricane Season, there’s no “A Bay Bay” type of songs on here. It sounds like more of the music you want to make.

Yeah, yeah, because when I signed with my first record label they kind of muffled out the music that I’m making right now. The music that you get on Hurricane Season, I was making this kind of music. They just chose not to put it out. They just chose to put out “A Bay Bay” and “Hand Clap,” “Drop and Give Me 50,” and “Halle Berry.” It just was the situation that I ended up in, they was looking to put out a different type of music than I wanted to put out. I was a victim of the circumstance.

A lot of people figured you couldn’t rap, but on your mixtapes, you’re actually a good MC.

I think what people need to realize is that a lot of artists that you hear on the radio, the music that you hear, that’s not the music that they would put out if they [could] choose what music represents them. They would choose different songs than what you hear on the radio, so it’s like the record label has an idea of what they want to do and the artist has an idea of what he wants to do. You’ve got to kind of balance that out.