Call it another Harlem Renaissance. The New York area has been inundated with a crop of new young, hungry talent. Despite incessant comparison to a certain other Harlem rapper, Vinny Cha$e is a fuckin’ problem all by himself.
The 25 year-old, whose name bears resemblance to the Entourage character, started out as a videographer for the likes of Juelz Santana and others. After getting a taste of the life, he decided to make a go of it in the rap game and has quickly emerged as one of the standouts. After a string of mixtapes, most recently Golden Army, Vinny Cha$e is showing no signs of slowing down in 2013 with both a sequel to his Plaza mixtape, and his own debut album scheduled.
Now, the Cheer$ Club member talks to us about staying true to his New York roots, the lazy comparisons he receives and how he’s comfortable staying independent in the game.
Golden Army is out, it’s been well received. Talk about the recording process.
The recording process was definitely unique to me because usually I’m recording in my home studio with Kid Art, my producer, and Cartier, my manager and also producer. But we went into a bigger studio to record this and we got a lot of outside production from Audio Dope. I’m used to just using Kid Art beats.
As far as the reception of it, it’s more than I could ask for. It’s being received more properly than all my [previous] audio efforts combined.
What was it, like 50,000 downloads in just a few days?
Yeah, man. And, honestly, it’s more than I could ask for for a brand new artist like myself. I haven’t been in this game for too long and to have a reaction like that is really hot.
Your rhymes are rooted in Harlem but you also talk about high-end stuff. Would you say you’re more influenced by Harlem or Manhattan in general?
I’m from Harlem, which means I’ll always some type of influence in my body from Harlem, but I think I’m more overall influence by Manhattan. Because it’s not like I just like Harlem, I’m downtown on the usual.
SoHo pretty much birthed your interest in art, right?
Yeah, I used to live on Bleeker [street]. I lived there for like three years so I was definitely in the mix of it before it was popular.
You lived right next to Juelz Santana as a kid and did a lot of video work with him. Talk a little about growing up with him and that environment.
I really didn’t get to see much of him except for going to school because I was too young to ride the train by myself so he would make sure I would get off at the right stop. Then I went to high school and I stopped seeing him and the next time I saw this motherfucker he was on TV. So when I got up with him again in the hood, it was dope to catch back up and see how far he came with film and with music.
You were actually the one who put out the footage of Cam’ron saying Dipset was a wrap, right?
Yeah, man. That was for a little company I made called Maybach TV. I put it to rest [because] Rick Ross came out with [his] Maybach movement and it ended up being so big that it looked like I was biting. But, yeah I definitely put that out [laughs].
I’m sure you were at least a little bit of a Dipset fan. How crazy was it to film that and hear that it’s over?
I was more than a fan, I was part of it. I lived with Juelz. I was deep in the movement, [but] I kind of felt where [Cam’ron] was coming from at that point.
What’s some footage you dropped back then where you knew, “Man, this is gonna make waves.”
Some of the footage that dropped that was pretty crazy was Max B when he was like, “Yo, fuck Prodigy.” Remember that? I put out a lot of stuff controversial-wise as far as Max B goes. There’s a lot of footage that never came out that could still make waves that I plan on putting out.
Any more music video directing lined up?
Yeah, I’m about to do something with Kid Art. We’re working on his project right now, so naturally I’m gonna shoot all his videos. As far as Juelz, I got something with him coming up. I got him on a single that’s about to drop.
On Juelz’s single or on your single?
That’s dope. Listen, every blog comment I see about you links you to A$AP Rocky, but you guys are nothing alike musically. How frustrating do those comparisons get?
Yeah, that shit is really fucking annoying. Because it’s obviously coming from people who don’t listen to your music. There’s no way you can listen to Survival of the Swag or [Rocky’s] last project and say that we sound the same. They just say that because we’re both from Harlem and we both got some type of attention to fashion. But if you look at Harlem, everybody got attention to fashion. The funny shit is, the way they paint it, they try to make it seem like me and this man got a beef or some shit. It’s mad funny.
People always want the young guys to have a problem with each other because it’s more exciting.
The funny thing is they compare me to all types of people. They always compare you to somebody. Always. I can’t think of one artist that came out that hasn’t been compared to somebody else.
Yeah, mad lazy. There’s no way you could listen to Golden Army and think me and [A$AP Rocky] are alike.
You’ve said your music is true New York. A lot of complaints people have about New York rap over the past few years is that it doesn’t sound like it’s from there. What is true New York rap to you?
True New York rap is taking from the elements that are around you. Taking elements from Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the whole East Coast in general. Even if you’re on a South beat, not rap in a certain type of flow because that’s what’s popular. East Coast in general is just speaking about the shit you know and [being] original. You don’t gotta sound like what’s popping.
You’re obviously heavy into fashion and you’re working with Dope Couture. What are your plans for your own designs?
I got a collab coming up with Fresh.i.Am. They make the Fukk hats you been seeing all around on myself, Trinidad James, people like that. I got a Cheer$ hat coming up with them. We have our line on FortuneTaste.com which is about to open up next week.
Is it true you snowboard?
Yeah, I do, man. I got a Burton. I ride regular.
Where did that come from? When did you learn how to snowboard?
I learned how to snowboard when I got kicked out of high school. My mom took me up to the Poconos, and if you about there they got lots of mountains and shit like that. I learned up there.
Wayne brought skateboarding to hip-hop. So is rappers snowboarding the next wave?
I doubt it because niggas like to do shit that’s easy [laughs]. Snowboard is not as easy as it looks. I can’t picture niggas getting into that. And niggas can’t snowboard in the hood. You gotta ride up north for that shit.
So far pretty much everything you’ve done has been in-house with Kid Art and Cartier. How important is it for you to keep continuity in your projects?
Important is not the word. What I’m doing is impossible without Kid Art and Cartier. They’re the ones who influenced me to do it in the first place. We all started from nothing. [Kid Art] didn’t know how to make beats, I didn’t know how to rap, [Cartier] didn’t know how to manage. We’re the only people we trust in this crazy game. We stick together. We’ve been in situations with labels where they try to split us up and get me to different managers and things like that but we just don’t trust that. We just do what works. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
I know you’ve been hesitant to sign with a label. Is that because they try to fuck with what you’ve set up?
Not only that, but if you’ve noticed, we’ve taken a pretty independent approach with what we’ve done. We’ve gone outside and gotten outside investors so we have the freedom to do what we want. That was a big thing for us. In the future, what we’ll be doing is a partnership but I can’t see myself signing straight up to a label. In this day and age, you really don’t need that. If you’re smart enough to have a good team around you that’s fully creative and you have the money and resources to run a company by yourself I don’t see why you shouldn’t.
How’s your debut coming along?
I’m looking at the fourth quarter of next year. I kind of like this fourth quarter shit. I think it’s smart to be able to build up a good following. We’re not in a big rush. We just wanna do things the right way.