By the time Chancellor Warhol left the BMI Stage at Lollapalooza 2012, the crowd was in frenzy. Releasing two albums and a mixtape in three years — Japanese Lunchbox: A Love Story, The Silver Factory, and Playlist for Edie (available for free download here) — his music has been a mixture of hip hop, indie rock and club-bangers. Spitting his rhymes fast or slow, this up-and-coming artist defies labels. And as he tells Gozamos, that’s exactly how he likes it.
Why the name “Chancellor Warhol”? I know you admire Warhol’s work and outside-the-box approach, so how does Warhol’s influence emerge in your music?
It’s actually a play on words. Chancellor is usually like the “overseer” or “dictator,” and Warhol is automatically synonymous with art. Put those two together, and I am a dictator of my own art. Hence the name “Chancellor Warhol.”
I know how irritating a question it might be for some artists, but how do you categorize your music? I’ve seen your work described as “electro hip hop,” “rock club,” and you yourself say some people label you “alternative”? How do you describe your music — its purpose, its influences, its audience?
It’s hip hop at the end of the day. Tribe Called Quest sampled jazz, but at the end of the day it was hip hop. Is what I do traditional hip hop? No, but it speaks to me and my fans. It’s a little more alternative/indie like art. People always want to label you to feel at ease, but I like that question — it means I’m doing something different.
Hip hop seems to be moving in drastically separate directions, especially with the recent success of openly-gay artists like LE1F and Zebra Katz. What are your views on the current conditions in hip hop and its future prospects? Do you, for instance, think hip hop is ready for openly-gay rappers? Maybe you can add why you decided to name the next album Paris Is Burning.
Wait, Zebra Katz is gay? I didn’t know that, but to each their own. What a person does on their own time is up to them. I’m a straight/heterosexual male, first and foremost, and hip hop has been very homophobic in the past, but I honestly think that we can thank the mix of high fashion and art with artists like Kanye, Andre 3000, Theophilus London, etc. Fashion is predominantly run by gays, and hip hop is all about dressing the best. Also, Swizz Beatz is all into Keith Haring art, who was openly gay. And everybody knows about Warhol, but this did not take away or have anything to do with the legacy they built.
You can be purple with three eyes for all I care, but if what you put out into the world is amazing, unique and timeless, people will always remember that. Basically, what I’m saying is you can cut your art form, knowledge and creative boundaries so short by being simple-minded and judgmental because of a persons race, sexuality, or gender.
That’s funny you mention [Paris is Burning]. My meaning of Paris Is Burning is totally different and actually has nothing to do with the film. It has to do with the sudden infatuation with Parisian culture, and how hot it’s become again. And we all know when everybody jumps onto something, it gets burned to the ground.
You’re a proud Nashvillian and Tennessean. For most fans of hip hop, the only thing known about Tennessee is Three 6 Mafia, who you’re seemingly nothing like. What can you tell our readers about your hometown and your home state that would give them a better sense of where you’re coming from as an artist?
[laughs] What? We have way more amazing artists than that. Yes, Three 6 is probably the most well-known rap group, but we were just in GQ! Our time is now. [laughs] I mean from Kings of Leon, Paramore to Justin Timberlake, Tina Turner — we have a voice that’s finally being heard. Yeah, and that Elvis guy. Nashville in particular is a hotspot right now. Jack White lives there, Ryan Tedder of One Republic lives there, and hell, the homie Nas frequents Nashville all the time. It’s a great state and Nashville as a city can hang with the best of them.
How did you like performing at Lollapalooza last month? What are your impressions of Chicago and its music scene?
Lolla was amazing. That’s an experience you don’t take lightly. Chicago has an incredible music scene, especially hip hop. Of course, ‘Ye and Lupe Fiasco and all the new school cats like Rockie Fresh and King Louie. I’m all about the Chi. I’ve been a Bulls fan since I was yay high.
Where can fans catch you in the next couple months, and what can listeners expect from Paris Is Burning?
I will be back in LA for Filter’s Culture Collide, and just on the road in general. You will be seeing a lot more of me soon. Just [expect] continuous progression within my art and the message I’m trying to convey. This will be my best project to date.