At Home with Chase B, Travis Scott's DJ and the Heartbeat of Cactus Jack Records
At Home with Chase B, Travis Scott's DJ and the Heartbeat of Cactus Jack Records
- Words Chicquelo Smith
- Date August 15, 2018
With roots in Houston, Philadelphia and New York, it should come as no surprise that Chase B, Travis Scott's DJ and the heartbeat of Cactus Jack Records, has been able to set the tone wherever he’s asked to. Over the course of his conversation with Grailed it seems as though Chase has been grooming himself from the beginning to master the art of crowd control. This is a guy not only providing the soundtrack for some of hip-hop's newest acts, but looking good in the process.
From Cactus Jack forming like Voltron to bring new ideas into the world, to his earliest influences and aspirations, we cover a lot of ground in our chat leading up the the wildly successful release of Travis Scott's Astroworld. Read the interview below, get an inside look at Chase's NYC digs and then shop some select pieces from his personal collection of Supreme, Readymade and more.
To kick things off tell us who you are and where you’re from.
I was born in Houston, Texas. I moved to Philly when I was four or five or some shit—like, really young. I stayed there for a couple years and I moved back to Houston when I was, like 10. All my family's from out East—Jersey, Connecticut, New York, all that. So every summer when I was in middle school and high school, I would come up to NY all summer. My grandmother would just take me to the city, go to Harlem and just see [things]. I would get a lot of clothes from Harlem and bring them back to Houston and be like, "Oh, y'all aint got this yet?" It was cool to have both a country mentality but also an East Coast kind of vibe.
So, how did you get into your industry?
I started DJing at Howard University when I was there. I think I was a junior. When I got there I wanted to be on the radio. I was just running around hosting everything. I was trying to be a radio personality. Really, my goal was to just go back to Houston and be the radio guy—the Big Boy or the Funk Flex of Houston. That's really what I saw my ceiling at, I didn't think it really got any bigger than that. So, when I was at Howard, I used to end up in clubs before I was 21, just being the MC on the mic next to the DJ. I would shout out people's birthdays, all that type of shit. Standing next to the DJ, I started to realize I can do both if I really tried. I can kinda figure this out. So, my grandmother helped me buy some CDJs in 2011, and I just got addicted to it. Little by little, I started DJing more than MCing. I would do host sets without saying a word. Suddenly, I knew this is what I was actually passionate about.
I ended up dropping out of school for a ton of reasons. I ended up in my grandma's old apartment in East New Jersey, and I just kind of thugged it out from there. I would get gigs for like $50, maybe twice a month or something like that. But in the meantime, I took a lot of time to really just learn the origins of DJing. I was watching Wild Style, that's when I really got into the big '80s DJs, and when I really learned about the craft. It's crazy how just doing the research on your craft makes you just technically better at it; just reading about DJing made me better at DJing.
So, that's really all I had to do. I had more than enough time to just sit there in that apartment by myself. I just did all the research, practiced and little by little it just kind of came together.
You mention Wild Style. Who were the other influences of early Chase B?
There's like two distinct parts that molded myself as an entity and my own brand. With DJing itself, I feel like Kid Capri and Jazzy Jeff were who I really looked up to the most. Kid Capri because he was so amazing on the mic; when I really got technical with DJing and wanted to learn how to scratch and everything, I used to listen to Jazzy Jeff's Do-Over mixes over and over again. I would hear him chirp and I was like, "I gotta figure out how to make that noise." Nobody taught me how to do it, I would just hear it on SoundCloud or whatever, and I would just practice with my hands.
In terms of culture, it was Bobbito and Clark Kent more than anything. With the mix of sneakers, fashion and sports, everything was just so polished. Even their longevity. That's why I even still have “OG” in my name now. It was never because I thought it was a cool nickname or anything. It was more about staying power—that one day I would be one myself. That's where it came from, having a lasting brand that withstands the tests of time.
You mention Bobbito, who has been able to transcend DJing. His brand is so strong that he now has the platform to make basketball documentaries. He did a voiceover for NBA Street. Is that something that you would like to do? Expand your brand beyond DJing?
Yeah man, because, honestly—and I'm just so into video games—it just would be a dream come true to do something like that. Now I probably play ball like three, four times a week. I feel like the platform is there, everything's kind of meeting at the right time, so yeah. Obviously, that'd be a huge goal. Just off of principal, or just full circle. Hearing Bobbito on NBA Street Volume 2—this was before I was even thinking I could be a DJ in any capacity—and realizing that he had that grasp on the culture, that type of influence. Realizing Sony thought enough of Bobbito to include him in such an influential basketball game. So, it just meant a lot to see that he really was important. It wasn't just the streets calling Bobbito cool, it was the world.
As a DJ, your responsibility is to set the tone for superstars like Travis at stadiums, cultural hubs and nightclubs. What's your approach to something like that?
Really, the biggest thing to me is observation. The hardest part is realizing that there's so many people in one room that have nothing to do one another, but there's this one common interest, which is music, or fashion or whatever. You just have to take a step back, take yourself out of the situation and be like, "If I was watching myself right now, what would I want myself to do?" At the same time, when you're with somebody like Travis, you can't compromise their brand for the sake of the audience. You have to meet in the middle, make everybody feel comfortable and entertain everybody at the same time.
I feel like you can take that same approach when it comes to fashion as well, because each moment requires something different. Right now you are wearing the Don C OG All-Star shorts, but you also have a Cactus Plant Flea Market hat on. Playing that game of understanding both worlds of athletic and high-end streetwear. Is that approach the same way when it comes to dressing for an occasion?
I kinda dress the same for every single thing. I haven't worn a suit in I don't know how long. I just keep it real comfortable and stick to what I know. With Cactus and Human Made and everything, it's like... Pharrell just had such a huge influence on everybody across fashion. Just the fact that he's in music and does fashion just makes me even more gravitated towards it. Because it's like, that's what I wanna do at the end of the day: intertwine music and fashion. If there's somebody in music that has a brand like that, I'm gonna support that more than anything else.
Really for the last two years, I've kind of made a point to really just support who I actually have some type of connection or relationship with, like with Don C. He's been such a good mentor to me, a big brother in a sense. With the shorts—you know obviously it ties in with basketball—but I'm just going to go ahead and support him. Same with Cynthia and Cactus Plant, or even with Easy’s brand, Infinite Archives. Obviously I'm gonna support that, but at the end of the day it’s just a good brand, It's something that I would wear. I'm really just making it a point to OD on what I actually know and just stick to that.
From my time of knowing you, you have always been into sneakers. Collecting OG [Nike] SBs, or the Nike Air Jordan with a “Nike Air” on the back—prior to them doing the re-releases. The first time I came to drop something off it was those “Linen” Air Force 1s we were both lusting after. What are some highlights from your time collecting?
Honestly, the other day when I found those Mocha 3s.
Oh my God.
That was a huge thing. I have been looking for those forever. Being sneakerhead or whatever, it was really difficult. In high school, my parents weren't rushing to fucking Footlocker to buy me Js every Saturday. In college, you just can’t afford it. I used to work at the movies, and if I made $350 on my check, I would go and get a pair of Js. It was some shit like that, but I always had the interest in sneaker culture. Now, just running around being able to find certain shoes, it's just a lot more accessible. It's really just fun to be able to double back and get the things you missed out on during those golden years, like 2001-2006.
I feel like right now you guys are creating a new energy when it comes to sneakers—you and the Cactus Jack family. It's almost an incubator now. What is that dynamic like, when you guys all join forces? It’s like Voltron. Bloody [Osiris]'s doing the styling, you're providing the tunes, Travis is rocking the crowd, Ray is capturing it all. Sheck is like the Pippen to Michael Jordan.
Man, it's fire. Everyone really has their own unique role in this whole shit. Like you said, literally nobody's doing the same thing as somebody else. I remember it was actually on the "Rodeo" tour with [Young] Thug where this all started. I remember me, Easy, and Trav were on the bus and Trav had just bought some Black Cement 4s or some shit like that. We all just looked at each other like, "Yo." We were about to go in. Around that time—like 2013-14—it was really just about whatever shoe was new. Nike would do a collab with somebody, you go get it, you wear those for a couple weeks and then you'll go back to whatever the fuck you was wearing before that. I remember, on that tour is where we made it a point, like, "Nah, I'm about to go back and really get everything that niggas wanted." Like Taxi 12s, the white and green 14s; my whole high school basketball team, the Hightower Hurricanes, played in the white and green 14s. Shit like that. Not just the shit that you wear when you were trying to be fresh or whatever, but really just going back and getting everything that we missed out on. With the Cactus Jack 4s coming out, that's the end result. We really put time and dedication just going to all these Flight Clubs, Rifs, and Grailed. Just trying to find everything that really meant something; not just buying shit for the sake of buying it. Like [buying] those Mocha 3s—that's like a milestone in my career.
Now this year, incorporating Ray, Bloody and Sheck all happened so fast. I remember last year around this time, we had a show in Syracuse that was our first show on the "Bird's Eye View" tour. That was the first day I met Ray. I saw this nigga outfit and I'm like, "Yo, this nigga is... he's out of bounds. Who the fuck is this nigga?"
He didn't say a word to anybody. He was like the young nigga with the crazy hair, and we just all kind of looked at him like, "Ray's mad weird." Two weeks later, Ray and I are, like, best friends just because the interest is there. Ray’s not a generation below, but he represents a younger demographic. Even though the appearance might be different, we're all interested in the same thing. Ray will go and buy some Yeezy 1s and have the craziest outfit we ever saw. There's so much respect in that. With Bloody wearing 17s and shit like that, with the baggy Evisu’s... it's all there, it's just presented differently.
From an artist's perspective, we were a little more mature. We like our shit fitted, but we will take these little, subtle fashion risks. But with Ray, Bloody and Sheck, they're going for it; that's so fire to me. To see it and appreciate it, and not be some old nigga that's just like, "These niggas is wearing fucking studded belts, that shit wack." It's like, "Nah. That shit is fire." I'm not gonna do it, 'cause that's not what I'm supposed to do, but like Bloody, that's the real fashion dude.
I would never say I'm a fashion guy, because I'm not. I'm not at fashion week, sitting front row. I just like to look nice. I buy what I think is good, I buy what I think is cool and I just kinda put it together. If people like it, people like it. But I leave the real fashion shit to the real fashion niggas.
To kids looking to you for guidance, what would you want to say to them?
Really, the biggest thing to me is just actually knowing about whatever craft you're trying to get into, actually doing the research. Not everything is on Instagram. You can't sit there and be like, "Chase did this last week, so I'ma go and do that"-
That’s the end product.
Yeah, that's the end product. This is seven, eight years down the line. You need to know what Roc Raida and Jam Master Jay were doing—and that's just from a DJ perspective. Really just actually having that knowledge of whatever your craft is will go further than anything else. You don't want people to just sit there on Instagram and take these influences in and then go from there. You really want everybody to know the deep delves of whatever their craft is, just the history of it, and make their own brand from there.
I feel like kids really need to realize that and just put that work in and realize how much history can teach you, but at the same time focus on creating your own brand of a craft.
Finally, what are you hunting for right now?
I need the “What The?” Dunks. I need those bad. I think that would be just a good shoe for the end of summer. You know, I've been really big on home decor. Even two weeks ago, this place looked totally different. That desk literally just got here like 20 minutes before y'all got here. Skateboard decks and shit, I been looking for a Damien Hirst, all that type of shit. I haven't really been buying too many clothes. I been really just going in on some HGTV shit, like this poster. That's all I been on. Really just, I wanna walk in and be like, "This is my little creation."
Photography by Christopher Fenimore.
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