Photo: John Stephens

Straight out of Cali, Shawn Chrystopher is speeding in his own lane and making a big impact on the road of Hip Hop.  Stirring up a buzz with his debut mixtape, “A City with No Seasons,” Shawn Chrys sat down with EliteDC to discuss his journey and his next move as a rising rap star.

Ria: Where are you from?

Shawn Chrystopher: I’m from a little town called Inglewood, California.

Ria: What label are you signed to?

I’m not, not at all!

Ria: What label do you want to be signed to?

Whoever writes the biggest check [laughs]!

Ria: [laughs] Good answer! How long have you been writing and rapping?

Ah, man!  Since probably about 12.

Ria: So, at what point did you say, “I want to be a rap artist!” or was it ever that point?

Yea! I think the first time I was ever on stage during an assembly in middle school I was like, ‘Yo, this is really dope!’  The first song I ever performed was “Mo Money, Mo Problems.”  I did all three verses.  That was pretty dope.  So I was just like I want to do this forever!

Ria: How did you get started?  How did you get into the business? What’s the story?

Me and my friends used to just like rap for fun.  MySpace came about and we had crazy like dumb songs, like funny songs on there. Then I was just like man!  I would be in class and all I could think about was writing songs.  Then, I actually met a guy name Tom Sturges, he was actually the head of Twism [Shaquille O’Neal’s label] and he became Senior VP over at Universal and he is like my mentor.  So, I would always do like hella shit with him and I would always have him listen to my music.  He got me started.  There is this one party that I did called, “No One Knows You” like 2 ½ years ago and I was like man I really want to do this.  So I just started to learn more about it.  I started doing the production end of it, producing, and really started to take it serious.  When people started to like it I was like, “Okay I have something!”

Ria: How did you land a deal with LRG? AMP Energy?  You’re like “Rookie of the Year! [laughs]”

Yea! [laughs] I’ve always said, even from the beginning, I’ve always wanted to have my brand, to be like…crisp.  Even if I wasn’t doing anything big, like little shows, I gotta make sure my outfit is like the shit!  When you make sure everything is to a “T” people want to….co-exist with your brand. If I was just like, ‘Oh I’m just going to wear hoodies, back packs, and dress real grimy,’ then no other corporation is going to be like, “Yo, I want to be linked with this dude!”  I’d made sure everything was to a “T,” whatever I was wearing, whatever shoes I had on.  With LRG, I got a message on MySpace and they said, “Yo we like your stuff and we want you to come in.” 

Ria: Did you think it was real? I mean it’s like a MySpace message!

[Laughs] Yea, at first I didn’t!  They left a number and I called and was like, “Yo, hello?  This is Shawn Chrys.”  They [LRG] said, “Oh yea we play your stuff in the office all the time!”  I went to Orange County and met with them.  I signed the wall, I was like ‘Dude, whoa! Wait, who am I?’  The next thing I know, everything happened so fast, I’m in this full photo shoot. A few months later I’m in XXL and Complex.  From there I got a deal with Guinness and then with AMP Energy.

Ria: How did that come about?

Just through networking, being at the right place at the right time, in Los Angeles, and them being familiar with my music.

Ria: As a major upcoming rapper, who has this huge following, whose footsteps would you want to follow?

Wow!  That’s a good question.  I could say Tupac but I don’t want to die! [Laughs] I mean its crazy, Tupac died at 25 and I’ll be 25 next year.  Dude, I don’t want to die [Laughs]! No, thank you!  But it’s crazy to know that Tupac wrote some of the songs he wrote when he was 20 years old, like “Dear Mama” at 21.  That’s crazy! That’s insane!  But, I don’t want to follow in anyone’s footsteps, I kind of like want to do my own thing.  Its real cliché to say I want to take the road less traveled, but I think that I’m my own artist.

“… if you are the only person to believe in what you believe in that doesn’t mean you should stop…”

Ria: What or who made you fall in love with Hip Hop? Was it Tupac?

Yea, I want to say Tupac—wait you know what!?  Kris- Kross.

Ria: Really? That’s the first time I’ve ever heard that! Why?

I was just a kid who watched TV a lot because I had a single mom and everything.  Then I seen these kids man.  They had so much attitude and I was just like, ‘I WANNA BE THEM DUDES!’  They had the cross colored jeans on! I walked around with my walkman and tape player and listened to Kris Kross all the time and I was like ‘Yea I want to be them!’ That made me want to be like, “Yo, I want to do that.” 

Ria: What kind of artist do you categorize yourself as a rap artist?

It’s kind of hard because some of my music has the consciousness of Midwest, but the beats of real down South so, I kind of like try to mix everything together.  It’s like music from the west coast and once you hear it you’re like, “Oh that’s a west coast artist.”

Ria: I don’t think you’re hardly a west coast rapper.

Yea! Exactly.  A lot of people never think that I’m from California because the music that I do and that’s perfect that’s what I want!  I think in Hip Hop, the first thing from our mouths is where we’re from.  No one knows where Coldplay is from, where John Mayer is from, or where Radiohead is from, they just like the music.  But with Hip Hop its like, “Yo, he’s from there, he’s from this, he’s from that!” It’s like why is this genre always so territorial? So I want to encompass everything because I didn’t just listen to west coast music.

Ria: Describe yourself in one word.

Different.

Ria: That was easy!

You want another one? Extreme.

Ria: OK, give me another one?

Uh…can I do a hyphen? High-Energy [laughs]!

Ria: OK, too much [laughs! ] “A City with No Season’s”…where did the album name come from? Why was it a big success? 

The album name came from how I describe Los Angeles. I think in every other city I’ve gone to, out here, NY, and even in Atlanta and places down south, they experience seasons; summer, spring, fall, winter, it changes.  In LA its 70[degrees] all year!

Ria: What should we expect from your sophomore album “You and Only You”?

Man! Ah….a lot!

Ria: December 7th right?

Yea.  The title actually came from a friend of mine.  Me and him were having a conversation and I was going through a lot at the time, you know, did I want to keep going in music or whatever.  And he said, “Would you believe in your dream if not else believed in it but you?” And I was like yea. He said, “Well that means you’re meant to do what you trying to do.” So, with “You and Only You” I want people to know that if you are the only person to believe in what you believe in that doesn’t mean you should stop, that means you should continue going on.  My mom always told me, “No one 100% believes in your dream until its reality. You just keep going and you’ll change them into believers soon enough. 

Ria: Who are you working with on this album?

I’m working with my good friend Cameron Wallace, he’s a producer also.  I’m doing some production, he’s doing a lot of the production as well, and I got GLC on the record. I really didn’t want to weigh too heavy on the features because I wanted to showcase what I can do.

Ria: So, besides this tour is there anything that’s looking up after the album drop in December?

Yea! You know.  Some stuff…yea [laughs]!

Ria: OK, cool! Is there anything else EliteDC and the entire DMV should know?

I really like it out here.  You guys [DC] really stand behind your artists.  When we was at [Howard] homecoming I was like, ‘Dude, no matter what happens, Wale will always have a show; and that’s dope!’   Like Los Angeles isn’t like that…at all.  LA is like a city for the actors, actresses, rappers and producers; everyone else is trying to be on so they not going to help you get on because they want your spot.  Kinda like a crab in the bucket thing, but here it’s like once you got somebody it’s like who am I!  Wale could get dropped- I hope he doesn’t- dropped today and he’ll still have a show here for years to come.  I think that’s really dope that you guys have that here, it’s not like that anywhere else.  I hope you guys never lose that.

Ria: Appreciate you rocking with EliteDC Magazine.  We look forward to hearing and seeing more of you.

For more on Shawn Chrystopher, check out his website, HonourRoleStudent.com, or follow him on Twitter @ShawnChrys. “You and Only You” EP drops December 7th exclusively on iTunes.