Chinx Drugz is running on empty right now. The rapper’s been up for hours after an all-night recording session at Diddy’s Daddy’s House Recording Studio in Midtown, which at one point included French Montana, Travis Scott, Harry Fraud and strangely, a hookah-puffing Macklemore.
Being in the thick of it is nothing new for Chinx. The Far Rockaway native has always found himself inside hip-hop’s nucleus since the start of his career. He became affiliated with French Montana and the Coke Boyz through a shared network of mentors: Chinx came up under local legend Stack Bundles as French did with Max B. While Chinx was incarcerated upstate at Mid-State Correctional Facility, Stack was killed by gunshot in 2007. Chinx is still haunted by it, but music has been his catharsis, fueling him to continue the legacy of his fallen friend.
After a prolific mixtape career, which includes the popular Cocaine Riot series and 2012’s infectious “I’m A Coke Boy,” Chinx is evolving into the next chapter of his career. He’s dropped “Drugz” from his nom de guerre to increase his viability beyond street rap and has a new EP called I’ll Take It From Here.
Still a little delirious from lack of sleep, Chinx invited us into the studio for perhaps his most personal interview.
Being a rapper from New York City always comes with the added pressure to uphold the sanctity of so-called “real, NYC hip-hop”. How are you feeling?
I don’t feel any pressure at all, to tell you the truth.
Maybe it’s the sleep deprivation talking, but you’re incredibly relaxed on the eve of your EP release. Does anything stress you out?
I ain’t get no sleep, so maybe that’s it. I try not to let people see that I get stressed out. You can have a bad day and the energy you give off can push a good situation for away without you knowing it. I just try and be quiet. I’ve always been like that. I’m not a hard person to get along with. That’s how I make my relationships with everybody in the game. I’ve been in this studio about, fucking 30 times, and I never said anything.
How will that demeanor play out in a genre filled with braggadocio?
I don’t care about that shit. This is definitely a competitive sport. I got what it takes to compete, so I’m straight. I don’t gotta compete the way you want me to compete. I’m chill. I’m straight. My bills is paid.
I always think that quiet people are hiding something. Got any secrets?
We all hiding secrets. I’m not gonna tell you!
Fair enough. Your new single “Feelings” with French Montana is remarkably depressing. Where did this come from?
You asked me if I ever get stressed out? That song wasn’t just some shit I did to the beat because I thought it sounded cool. I really felt like that when I made that song. Honestly, I was going through some shit with music. I felt like there was a lot of things that wasn’t going in my favor and it was like eating me up. Then I snapped out of it like, what you kill you eat. I’m complaining to myself, like who gives a fuck how I’m feeling? It was a lot of personal shit. It’s not everybody’s turn at the same time.
You’ve been patient, pursuing music for over 10 years. Was there ever a time you wanted to throw in the towel?
Of course. I just stopped hustling last year. I would come back from fucking Europe, wherever, and go back to the projects and sit on the bench and answer my phone and get my money. That was last year. That’s why if you look at the “Feelings” video, French drops me off in the projects. Some little kid is worried about a “million-dollar rapper” and he doesn’t realize I live in the same projects. That’s real life. I don’t live in the projects now but for a while, that was the situation.
What kept you motivated in dire times?
I always knew I was well equipped to compete with anyone else doing this shit. I believe in me. If you can hustle one thing, you can hustle the next.
I recently interviewed Troy Ave and he drew the analogy between selling drugs in NYC and the music industry.
Definitely. You have to. When you’re selling drugs, in order to get to the “sale,” when this person is putting money in your hands and you’re giving them a product, it’s things you gotta go through. You gotta watch for the police. You gotta watch for the niggas trying to rob you. You gotta watch for the bitch in the window that’s working with the police. There’s so much shit. Same thing with music. You can’t get to the bag without dealing with the haters, the cum drinkers, the fucking devils. You gotta maneuver your way through the same shit to get to the prize. I honestly, think it’s easier to go to the NBA than be a successful rapper.
Why not just get a nice 9-to-5 job and live a simple life then?
At one point, it was like that. That’s not what I want for myself. I like nice things. I like pretty girls. I like for my kids to have nice things. You can’t do that in America now with no fucking 9-to-5. You’re gonna have to do something illegal on the side. I sleep good at night. At one point, I didn’t. That had nothing to do with music. That was the streets. I don’t deal with the same demons I had a few years ago. Everything is pretty much level.
What kind of demons are we talking?
When you out in the streets doing fucked up shit, fucked up shit comes back to you. Like it’s fucked up to sell drugs to your neighbor’s mother. Like when you really think about it the shit– I’m not knocking those that don’t see that–but that’s the type of shit I was doing. I didn’t look at it like I was doing anything wrong to that lady. Her kids would be in the hallway and I’m doing that shit. That shit don’t balance out. For what? So I can get some sneakers and an outfit? Flash some money in front of some hoes? That kid is gonna remember his Moms was a crackhead. If you really think about it, it’s karma.
Was selling drugs to your neighbor’s mom the tipping point for you to leave hustling?
No, because I was doing that 100 miles per hour. Who gave a fuck? I didn’t care about nobody else’s. The turning point for me was when I got locked up for this shit and a couple of other things. Then I lost my best friend [Stack Bundles] while I was incarcerated. People don’t know what freedom is. Freedom is real. Jail is for suckers.
Where were you mentally after jail?
I did my whole bid. A little over four years. I didn’t want to do music no more. My homeboy [Stack] passed away when I was there. When I got home in 2008, the response that he had in the streets, he was like our 2Pac, our B.I.G. He was always one of my favorite rappers, so I just couldn’t let that shit die. All that work he put in. If you go back into Stack’s music, he made a lot of references towards me in his music and shouted me out. It’s almost like when I came out of jail, I had a fanbase just off of that. It was weird. They wanted me to follow in his footsteps. I could never fill Stack’s shoes. I can definitely carry the torch for him.
Did Stack ever give you any advice before he passed?
Nah. I wouldn’t say he ever gave me advice. The closest thing to that is we had an argument. We were both were still on the ground level working it. We needed a studio at the time and like, we didn’t have the money to do so. I had an idea like, “Listen we can go take this from him and rob him” and he was like, “No, bro. We’re not doing that.” I’m looking at him like, “We need this. This is for us.” I had an argument with him like, if you want something out here you gotta take it and he’s like, “Nah. I don’t want it that way.” That shit stuck with me forever.
You sound like you believe in karma. Ever worry about the past coming back to you?
Nah. I don’t ever worry. I have nothing crazy in my closet. I sleep well. We all sinners. We were born sinners at the end of the day. I’m straight. I’m just a young nigga from New York City, trying to get money and feed my family. Leave some type of legacy so people close to me can be like “Yo. That was a good dude.”
How does your family view your newfound success?
It’s still kind of new for them. For the past couple of years, I’ve been telling them, “I’m on tour with Drake and shit” and my Grandmom doesn’t fucking know who Drake is. She’s just like, “You on tour? Boy shut up! What you doing?” People call and tell her, “I just seen Lionel on TV” and she’ll call like, “Uh, your mother just told me you’re on TV. Why is she lying?” She knows now. She calls me more often. I definitely try to keep in contact with my Grandmom. She was like my Mom for a while ’cause my Moms was on drugs and shit like that. So my Grandmother raised me.
I didn’t know you grew up in a house with an addicted parent. Did that fuck with your head when you became a dealer?
Coming from where I’m from, that shit is like so normal. It’s nothing to be ashamed of because your whole fucking class is like that. It took me awhile, to get grown, to realize where we live (Edgemere Projects, Far Rockaway) is really fucked up. Like really fucked up. That doesn’t mean you can’t overcome but the shit that’s against you is just so much higher. The average male in my family has been to jail. My father, my uncles, me, my brother, my cousin and none of us are fucked up individuals at the end of the day. We did what the environment just had for us. It’s fucked up, man. That’s why when the money comes in the way I want it, you gotta do something to [give] back to the community. You have to. That’s why you get it, right? To give back.