Thus far in his career, Pittsburgh based rapper and Taylor Gang cofounder Chevy Woods is still primarily recognized for being Wiz Khalifa’s number one hype man rather than for his own artistic merit. But anyone who’s followed Chevy knows it hasn’t been for a lack of trying. The 35 year old seemingly takes no time off, consistently putting out project after project, year after year .
While he’s cognizant of his own reputation, Chevy doesn’t let the haters get to him, preferring instead to let his music speak for himself. In between touring, parenting, and a collaborative Taylor Gang project on the horizon, he’s been meticulously perfecting his own sound, getting ready to drop his debut album later this year. Fresh off his New Jersey tour stop with Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg, we caught up with Chevy and to discuss the new album, fulfilling childhood dreams, his creative process, and the state of hip-hop in 2016.
RESPECT.: You’re currently touring with Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg. What is the tour been like so far and is it still surreal performing with a legend like Snoop?
The tour is going great first of all. Every night just getting to see Snoop and interact with him, shake hands maybe pass him a joint. Those are the things that kids dream of. People always put smoking with snoop on their bucket list so just fulfilling that and being able to hang out and pick his brain about marketing and how he goes about his business, seeing him move on a daily basis and things like that is a dream. I knew where we got our blueprint from but seeing it hands on is a totally different story.
RESPECT.: This year you’ve been busy, releasing the “48 Hunnid Project” back in August and “And the Story Goes” in February. 2015 was also a crazy year for you in terms of releasing a ton of EPs. What’s driving you to put out all this music?
I think that’s how we started. I think a lot of the music coming out now doesn’t come from the same place that is used to when these people were just starting out. There’s a lot of new sounds coming out and to each their own, everyone does that at some point but I think that catching it early is a good thing and then you just get back to what got you to the place that you are now. So I’m just doing a bunch of things that help me hone my sound and hone the songs that I want to create, the projects I want to put together. So i’m just going back and gathering things that I used to do so it makes [the process] more comfortable for me.
RESPECT.: I saw an interview with you a couple years ago where you said if you weren’t working you’d be hanging out with your family, but still only managed to see them a few weeks out of every month. Has it been easier to strike a balance between family and work since then?
Yeah, for me because the fact that my daughter is a little older, she’s a teenager so she pretty much understands what I have to do. And it’s not like I have to go home and take care of a baby. I can call home, I can facetime, and then get back to being creative. So having that balance with her understanding what I have to do to provide for us until she gets a job (laughs) makes it a lot easier for me.
RESPECT.: We’ve seen a lot of great music this past year from a huge range of artists with totally different styles, from Kanye to Joey Purp to Chance the Rapper. How do you feel about the state of hip-hop right now?
I love it. It’s a lot of different stuff. People don’t understand. If you’re a little bit older; then Jay-Z, Nas, Biggie, Tupac, that’s what you came up on. If you’re a little younger you might of come up on Future, Drake, Wiz, French Montana. And now it’s Lil Uzi, Famous Dex, Rich the Kid. Times change. So if you can stay in the game and evolve and change with the times then you’ll be good. But I think [hip-hop’s] in a good place right now because you don’t really need a genre. It’s just what you do. How do people feel about it? Are people gonna come to your shows, are they gonna buy their music? If you’re making music that they love then why would you change for the industry? Just do what you feel.
RESPECT.: With the rise of rap collectives like TDE, Good Music, and Savemoney, has rap become more collaborative rather than competitive?
Yeah so has the NBA though. It comes with the territory of growing. People want new s*** Nobody wanted to see Lebron on the heat no more, they wanted to see him come back home and get that championship. So when people say that rap isn’t competitive anymore it doesn’t bother me. Just living in it is so cool I don’t wanna worry about bulls***.
RESPECT.: Your past projects have each had a healthy dose of club bangers and more dark, introspective material. How do you find that right balance and how do you decide which route you’re going to take?
That’s a good question. I think, with me, it comes with the beat first of all, the production. A lot of my records which are so called my “big” records have been more street driven and have had more content in it. This is the first time I’m doing a real party record, I’m having fun with it. I’m playing it for everybody, at the parties, bringing girls around to dance to it. Just seeing the reactions and stuff like that. You can hear a story anywhere, like if you hear “And the Story Goes” you can take little parts and be like “oh that was me” or “My friend went through this” or “I had that problem”, but with parties it’s just like “party, party, party, party”. So it’s easier to make when you’re in that mode.
RESPECT.: Let’s talk “Looking Back”, the last song on the “48 Hunnid Project” where I personally feel like you spit some of your best verses. Do you ever feel pressure to bring your A game when you have a Wiz Khalifa guest verse?
Yeah I mean there’s certain times where if he asks me to record a record I won’t want to since I don’t have anything written. I write sometimes and sometimes I don’t. But when I’m dealing with him I always write it, I always pen it just so I can feel good about it. But sometimes when I’m making my music I might just go in there and feel how I feel. But with him I like to make sure I get the words right and everything. Like somebody asked me the other day who my dream collab would be and I was like”Yo I would wanna work with Fab because of the fact that he’s got bars and I would wanna match that”. I don’t want them to say “Oh Chevy got Fab on that record” I want them to say “Chevy and Fab killed that record”. So doing that with Wiz is fun to me.
RESPECT.: People always say that you’re living in Wiz’s shadow. Do you feel like you’ve carved out your own space yet?
Yeah for me I do. But that’s going to stick forever. I don’t know, I don’t understand why people do that because he’s shown me a lot of things and I’ve shown him a lot of things. He showed me a lot of music and I showed him a lot of stuff before music. So they’re always going to say that but he’ll always tell you he’s learned s*** from me. So for him to say it, what they say doesn’t matter. And when I’m paying attention to negative things like that I’m having fun with it, it’s just funny. I play it off, it doesn’t bother me since we know what’s up.
RESPECT.: You and Wiz have also been teasing a collaborative Taylor Gang album, and y’all just dropped the first single Isaac Hayes. What can we expect from that project?
It’s crazy. Man, we’ve been listening to it during the whole tour and every record is something big. It’s big music and everyone has great bars and people have great singles. We have some collaborative songs that are just awesome. It’s big music and honestly I haven’t heard of any collective that puts out a project that they know they’re going to tour off of. I know we’re going to tour off this mixtape, it’s a fact. People aren’t just going to want to hear this music, they’re going to want to see it.
RESPECT.: So just to be clear, we have you on record saying that the album is done?
It’s not finished, it’s in the listening process. We have all the songs we want; it’s a matter of going back and getting it mixed and rearranging verses and things of that nature.
RESPECT.: What’s the creative process like when you’re working with the rest of the taylor gang?
We bounce ideas off each other but that’s where the real competition comes out. So when you talk about “collaboration versus competition” the most competition for us comes in the studio when we’re together. We’re not competing with anyone else, we’re just making us better. That’s what we’re worried about. So in the studio there’s so much going on, everyone has so many ideas but it’s so easy to tie one idea down and work from one to the other. Since we’re family no one’s worried about not being on a song or order of verses. We’re not worried about anything like that.
RESPECT.: A$AP Rocky recently fell into some controversy regarding his remarks about the BLM movement. Do you think it’s the responsibility of African Americans with a platform to speak out against the systemic injustice and what’s going on in the news?
To a certain extent, but I don’t want to tell anybody what to do. If I have an opinion it’s just an opinion, I have people close to me that I might talk to in a different way about it but that doesn’t mean I’m finna give everyone advice on how I feel about it. It’s just certain times and places to say certain things, you have to be conscious about what you’re saying and when you’re saying it because a lot of people get hurt and things like that.
RESPECT.: You’ve been in the game for over a decade but still have yet to release an album. Why the wait?
It’s been a long time, but it’s the right time now. I think everything I’ve done till now has prepared me for this, so it’s not like I missed out on anything. I’m still making music, and going on tour, traveling the world. I don’t think not putting an album out has stopped anything but dropping an album makes everything bigger. So now people are like “oh s*** I’ve been waiting on this”. I’ve been trying to perfect the best work I can put out.
RESPECT.: What can people expect from this album and how is it going to be different from your past work?
The music is way bigger, the process is different. Me going to Atlanta for a month just to catch vibes, go to the club, to get in the studio and work with different artists. I’ve been coming here and going to LA and doing stuff like that. It changed everything. For a mixtape, I would just be in Pittsburgh and I could go to the studio every other day and finish the mixtape in a week. For this, I’ve been plotting on this for so long that when I got the chance to do it I was recording the music and I found myself up on the screen telling the engineer “move this, take this out”. And I never did that with a mixtape so this is a different process and I’m in a different mind frame.
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