The Chapter - conducted by Bill "Low Key" Heinzelman
The Chapter: Against All Odds
When ?uestlove endorses your music, life is good. The Chapter, consisting of producer 3sixty and emcee Verbal E, first appeared on the Okayplayer compilation album True Notes Vol. 1 last year. The duo received the spot after ?uestlove, the backbone of the legendary Roots crew, fell in love with their music. The Chapter is the first notable Hip Hop act to emerge from Las Vegas, and just like The Roots, they incorporate live instruments into their music. Their debut album Us Vs. Them, definitely mirrors an old school Roots vibe. MVRemix decided to find out what all the buzz is about and got the story of the crew's rise to fame from 3sixty and Verbal themselves.
MVRemix: How did The Chapter form?
3sixty: We were both attending the University of Nevada Las Vegas in the Mid 90's and used to see each other around campus. During the off-season from Football, I used to perform around campus at different talent shows and Verb was always at the shows. One day he was like “I like the stuff I’m hearing from you man, I got some rhymes I want you to hear.” So he kicked them to me and I was really amazed at his content. We remained solo artists for about two years, with me supplying beats to him off and on and then we decided to take sometime off to better ourselves. I learned how to DJ, and studied the art and craft of beat making and Verb got nicer putting the pen to the paper. We didn’t aspire to be the best emcee, or the best producer, but we wanted to make our contribution. So we decided to call ourselves, The Chapter, because we wanted to be a chapter in the vast book of hip hop music.
MVRemix: You are both from Chicago, but eventually moved out to Las Vegas. Why the move?
Verb: We both came to Vegas to go to UNLV. 3Sixty got a football scholarship and I just came out here because it sounded like I could have a hell of a lot more fun in Vegas. Besides it was either Vegas or U of I and I wanted to see and experience something new.
MVRemix: It is odd that you are the first group to really come out of Las Vegas. Why do you think Las Vegas has not produced more Hip Hop acts, or is overlooked?
3sixty: It’s sort of odd seeing as how this is the entertainment capital of the world, but being here and seeing how things work makes it very clear. Although it is a transient town, it’s not an “open” town. Meaning that the power’s that be, which are the Casinos, are not going to let anything eff up their money. And they feel Hip Hop, especially after the Tupac murder, will scare away the tourist. So there are not a lot of venues that will foster Hip Hop events for local talent and not a lot of people willing to take a chance on backing local talent. A lot of underground talent is left to practice in the bedroom, with little or no development from the community.
MVRemix: How did you start to make a name for yourself locally? Was it tough coming out of Las Vegas?
Verb: It was and continues to be very tough, because we have to constantly fight the stereotype of what the naked city is. We started as Emcee / DJ duo slangin’ tapes and doing shows whenever possible, until the powers that be closed down our main hip hop venue in an effort to “clean up” downtown. So at that time you couldn’t get a show unless you had a band which is code for “white rock”. To make a long story short, we produced a 5-piece band and once the venues saw the guitars and drums they assumed rock. They didn’t find out we played straight up hip hop until the show started and even then they were still caught off guard by the instruments. We then went on a 3-year tear through the city breaking boundaries and completely wrecking stage. Hence the legend of The Chapter is born!
MVRemix: How did you hook up with ?uestlove? What is your relationship with him and Okayplayer.com like?
3sixty: ?uest selected us for the Okay Player True Notes Volume 1.compilation from the contest that OKP had on the internet last May. The story he told on OKP was that he fought to get us selected as one of the two groups on the album (along with Nicolay and Supastition), because of the originality in the music, not because we played instruments. We physically met him down in Hollywood to do a spot on the tour and we spoke on how to further this opportunity we had. About two months after that, he came down to Las Vegas and we spoke to him after he did an in store at HipHopSite.com and he laid down the blue print for us to get the material out. Since then he’s been like our resident “Obi Wan Kenobi,” not showing his face, but making sure we’re not sleeping on his advice. We are currently a part of the OKP web community and they have been great.
MVRemix: For those who have never heard your music, how would you describe your sound or style?
3sixty: With all the ways that Groups who play “Live Hip Hop” music have expressed themselves, we felt that it was still a lot of territory uncovered in doing live hip hop. We wanted to stay edgy and rough, without being rigid and single minded. We love the sounds of our heroes; Poor Righteous Teachers, Showbiz and AG, Gang Starr, The Roots, Mos Def, Common, Kayne, etc., but we wanted to make our voices different—both lyrically and musically. We use the laws of Hip Hop as the guide and we use the lyrics and the music to find the freedom in those laws to come up with our style.
MVRemix: Let's move onto your debut album Us Vs. Them. What was the mindset going into this album?
Verb: The mindset was very simple - “We all we got”. Over a short period of time we saw band members come and go and others deliberately try to hold us back. When the dust settled it was just 3Sixty and me. Sound familiar? Just as we had to break ground and make it possible for other hip hop acts to play in these hotels and house of blues and in other local establishments, we now have to break ground for a whole city to be respected in the world of hip hop. We wanted to make an album that would showcase 3Sixty’s amazing talent to play multiple instruments but not lose its “hip hop” feel. We wanted to give the neon jungle something to grasp on to as we let the world know that we’re here.
MVRemix: Verbal, what types of concepts, issues, and topics are you dealing with on the album?
Verb: I write very honestly about our social conditions as black people, my relationships with women and my daughters, the teachings passed down from my moms and pops and the similarities of life in Las Vegas and Chicago. You got pain, love and anger. You know the story; you just haven’t heard it from me. I’m a conceptual song writer so most of my songs paint pictures or tell short stories and then there’s always that “I’m rhyming just because I can say some cold shit” song too.
MVRemix: 3Sixty - take us through the creative process of how you make your beats?
3Sixty: Well, I believe that having the advantage of seeing so many styles of Hip Hop, like from the live funk/electronic era, to the beat machine era, to the sample era, to the live band era provides me with the freedom to create the sound I want. I’m a big movie buff, so I like to think of titles and then give that title a soundtrack. Sometimes I do a track based on moods, if I’m blue, or reflective, that’s what the sound is or fired up. But I love coming up with the total picture. I’m not sure if I will ever be a cat who bangs out single after single. I like to draw the whole look, complete with peaks and valleys, triumphs and failures; just like life. Also, and most importantly I try to lay the best canvas for Verb to draw a picture on.
MVRemix: What is the chemistry like between you two in the studio? Is there a usual formula of how you two come together to create your material?
3Sixty: We like to develop whole ideas, or at least that’s what we have the knack for. I come up with a track and name it and I will call Verb and say this track is called “Supremacy”. Then he will take it and write the perfect rhyme to it. Or, he will have some lyrics that he thought of and spit them to me and I try to find the best clothing for the body. Sometimes, I will make a track, for an instrumental, or something, and he plasters lyrics all over it! So we have a couple of different methods we can rely on. We would really like to be able to quit these jobs and stay in the same room and create together all day!
MVRemix: Do you have a main goal you are looking to accomplish with this album?
Verb: Ultimately we want to be respected amongst our peers as musicians, writers and performers, and place Vegas in a different light, but maybe even more than that we want to give back to the people that which was given to us by Artists like Curtis Mayfield, Quincy Jones, James Brown, Chuck D, KRS-One, The Roots and Common. I know it sounds way out, but with this album, we have the opportunity to begin to create our legacy for the benefit of our children. Now chew on that for a minute!!
MVRemix: When fans finish listening to your album, what do you want them coming away with?
Verb: We want the people to be able to feel the emotion in our music and use it to create change or just get through the day. We want anyone listening to this album to come away feeling like they just got through kickin’ it with they people; just laughing, building, getting pissed and having fun.
MVRemix: What else do you have going on in the future?
3Sixty: Awthentix Music is giving us great freedom to delve into different projects, so if I can get any instrumentals past Verb, I will put out an instrumental album called” The 17 Floor War.” It’s a theme album about life in inner city Chicago that works like a soundtrack to the lives of people in the ghetto. We have an EP in the works for a follow up to US vs. Them and our singers Sincere Brown and Scene (Nikki Murray and Camilia Watts - who are featured on the album), will put out a project that we will executive produce and contribute too. And we would love to work more with more of our peers too in the way we worked with Nicolay of Foreign Exchange and EDOT from Uncle Howie records.
MVRemix: Any last words, shout outs, or plugs?
The Chapter: Peace out to the crew, our live band mates Gusto and Henry Handsome, and all our fam in Chicago and Las Vegas. Thanks to Bronx and Ali at Pronto Entertainment and Tyler at 4th Down Productions. Thanks guys, we really appreciate it!
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"With all the ways that Groups who play “Live Hip Hop” music have expressed themselves, we felt that it was still a lot of territory uncovered in doing live hip hop. We wanted to stay edgy and rough, without being rigid and single minded."