Hungry for New Music? Just “Chew On It!”
While most rappers get their start on the hard streets, trading weed for beats, Chewi and Oren had a slightly different beginning. It was all in a passing mention from fellow student-rapper, The ‘U’, in Oren’s West Halls dorm room.
“Chewi’s a pretty quiet kid,” joked Oren, a student-producer. “We’re really just met and we’re still trying to get to know each other.”
Hanging out with the two, you’d never expect that their friendship is still blooming. Their “stoner business,” as the musical collaboration has become called by some, has become a streamline process that produces some amazing results.
“Chewi will come in with an idea or I’ll throw down a beat and within a few hours we got a song,” said Oren. What drives their success is an incurable case of “being on the same page.” With similar values, ideas and taste in music, writing songs is less of a chore and something that just flows out of some ethereal muse.
And whatever they’re doing, it’s working. In just under 3 months, the hip hop duo cooked up a 16-track mix tape titled, “Chew On It.” Since its release it has had over 100 downloads, 1,000 plays on ReverbNation, and its share of spins at local venues.
With all of the success, I decided to sit down with Oren and Chewi and find out exactly what makes “Chew On It” so damn tasty.
Onward State: Why do you think “Chew On It” has been so well received?
Oren: Chewi can fill the spectrum. I feel like we’ve done a lot of everything. With Chewi’s consistent flow he can jump around through genres. With his consistent vibe, we create a common ground from genres that are so broad. I mean you can’t just compare his stuff to Nicki Minaj or something. There’s a little bit of everything.
Chewi: I think that all of the different sounds on the mixtape is a sign that we’re still trying to find our sound with each other. We’re bouncing around and trying a little bit of everything, but through that I keep it true to myself. No matter what style of music we’re doing, we bring something very similar.
OS: Oren, you said that it’s easier working with Chewi than other people, can you explain that?
Oren: With Chewi it is a very different environment than other musicians I work with. There are limitations with some other artists, but he’s always down to break those limitations. We make everything from scratch, so it leaves a lot of room for perfection. And our music is very much perfected. For being such a young collaboration, we do things very structured and very professionally.
OS: How exactly do you make your songs?
Chewi: Choruses just come to me randomly as I’m walking in between class or whatever. I just sing a tune in my head and think “Hey, that’s kind of catchy. I can see kids singing along with that.” And then I take that to Oren and he lays down the music from my ideas. But I never write a verse before I get the track. Once I get the beats, the verses just come to me. I try and stick with a certain topic but that relies heavily on both the chorus and the beat.
OS: What about the drug references in your music?
Oren: We have at least 5 smoking songs but smoking just introduces the issues that will carry through the rest of the songs. It’s a lot more than just stoner music. And I love how Chewi drops the lines about what his mom and dad might think because I worry about that too.
Chewi: Well, you have to go about it in a certain way. And it’s not about right and wrong. There is a giant grey area. And a lot of times when you’re trying to express yourself, you’re putting yourself on blast. It’s about being yourself and however people take it. That’s just how it is.
OS: Well, what are the other issues you talk about?
Chewi: I talk about where I’m at and my experiences thus far. Everything about me is in my music. I feel like you can know me to a considerable extent by listening to my music. There’s weed, there’s partying and there’s race which is a big part of my life. Because being a black kid from the ‘burbs is a contradiction in our society. Everyone just assumes I’m from the city. But I’m not. My music is my journey through all of that and what I see from my perspectives as being something different. And I feel like that voice is very under represented but there’s a lot of people who can agree with it. It’s not just about being a black kid form the ‘burbs it’s about being against the grain, I guess. Not everyone is a carbon copy of what an American is.
Oren: Yeah, I see that. And if people listen through his stuff and say “oh, another Kid Cudi” then they’ve failed to read into it, they didn’t see between the lines. They didn’t actually listen to Chewi. Weed carries it, but there’s so much to take from it. It’s actually a unique experience. There are a lot of people who can relate to it. It’s the hustles that the kids from the suburbs experience. It’s the kids who have parents that don’t always understand. They’re common hustles, but they’re still in existence. It’s not as tremendous as kids dying but it’s still a struggle that’s out there. It’s not tackling the big issues, it’s more of his personal experience and how it relates directly to him.
Chewi: In all of this I try and make sure it doesn’t come out as a sob story or like a “wah, look at me.” Because no one wants to hear a kid with money complaining. I’m privileged and I’m thankful for that. But it’s not just about that it’s about being real and the truth that I see. Because whether you want to believe it or not, there’s a lot of fucked up things in this country when it comes to race. It’s in how we educate people about it. They tell kids it was all bad until the ’60s and then we had MLK and the Civil Rights Movement and then it’s over. But it’s not done. There is still a lot of tension between all races.
OS: How do you think going to Penn State affects your path to becoming a respected artist?
Oren: Here it’s great because you have your friends and that’s really where it starts. Friends are fans and fans are friends. You need to plant that seed in your groups and hopefully it grows from there. But here, some people just don’t care about music. That’s actually part of our mission as artists, we want to retool the music scene at Penn State. And this year it has grown a lot and I’m happy for that.
Chewi: I agree, there are a lot more people that will promote you and get you plays but at the same time Penn State is not a cultural hub. Not being from New York City or some place like that there are a lot more people that will just go with the mainstream. And that’s a problem when you’re just struggling to get your name out there. Branching out musically is just something that people aren’t willing to do here and it sucks.
OS: What are you studying at Penn State and does that affect your music?
Chewi: Double major in Sociology and Psychology. Fourth semester standing. I have no clue what I will do with it. I just enjoy the field. I’m just in my dream world of getting the knowledge. I learn here and then work some of that into my music. But really I’m just enjoying my time. I guess I’ll start worrying about everything next year. I’m just trying to be a kid as long as I can. A bearded kid. But I think my connection with race is what drives me through the Sociology major. I’m in school for my parents. I’d love to drop and and just play shows but I’ve done enough things to my parents. I’ll get the degree for them but at the same time I’m learning a lot. And with Sociology it was a perfect fit for me because I want to understand to the best of my ability why we are who we are and how we got to where we are.