CHINO XL (PART 1) (January 2009) | Interview By:
Many will agree that Chino XL is one of the greatest lyricists of all time –
and here we are, on the verge of his most anticipated album yet, The Secret.
So, needless to say, it is truly an honor for me to bring this exclusive
Chino XL interview to our Dubcnn community.
As we get inside the mind of the person known to the world as Chino XL, we
discover that there is more to this conversation than the average interview
jargon – no, this has developed into something much more historical, like a
written documentary that both new and old school hip hop followers will
This is part one of a three-part saga, brought to you exclusively through
Dubcnn. So follow the leader…
As ever, you can read this exclusive interview below and we urge you to leave
feedback on our forums or email them to
Interview was done in January 2009
Questions Asked By: Jonathan Hay
Dubcnn Exclusive – Chino XL
A Dubcnn Exclusive
By Jonathan Hay
I'm Coming (Produced By: DJ Khalil) (Explicit)
I'm Coming (Produced By: DJ Khalil) (Clean)
Cross Your Heart (Explicit)
Cross Your Heart (Clean)
Dubcnn: First of all, what is going on right now in the extra large
world of Chino XL?
I am gearing up to release my album, The Secret.
Dubcnn: Well, ironically, it’s not much of a secret among diehard fans,
as everyone is eagerly awaiting this new album. Anyway, does the album have
any parallel or inspiration from the mega popular book, The Secret?
It has more meaning than that… The album is more along the lines of the idea
of synchronicity and the idea of the laws of attraction.
Dubcnn: So the album is finished and ready for the world to hear...
Dubcnn: I talk to so many people within the hip-hop community and, you
know, people always have their top favorite emcee debates…so many people
list you as one of their top favorite emcees of all time. The respect you
have for your mic skills is unprecedented.
I appreciate that and believe me when I tell you, I don’t know how the other
people who are on those lists or who are revered in those kinds of ways feel
about it, but to me, it’s overwhelming. It’s like, how has some kid in South
Africa been exposed to my work like that and put me in his top five emcee
he’s ever heard in his lifetime -- or all the way in Australia? In many
ways, I still think of myself as that same kid from Jersey who just wanted
to get on.
Dubcnn: Speaking of Jersey, you are from East Orange, correct?
Dubcnn: Did you ever run around with the Naughty by Nature crew?
We were actually rivals in high school… They were called The New Style back
then and they were the crew to beat. Not to disrespect anybody or anything,
but my rhyming and technique was way more advanced than a lot of people had
heard, so it wasn’t hard for me to do what I had to do lyrically. As far as
the whole performance thing goes, they had all kinds of like suits and
dancers and I just went out there and tore ass out the frame. That was my
thing, but they paved the ways, in many ways for the Jersey movement. Treach
and I have done movies together and we are cool as hell now. But it’s great
to be part of that Jersey scene initially. You had so many great artists
from within a five-block radius.
Dubcnn: So did you ever battle Treach back then?
We battled during Summer School… and I’ll leave the rest up to your
Dubcnn: *Laughing* I’d like to have witnessed that battle. Anyway, Lauryn
Hill she’s also from Jersey…
She’s from South Orange, which is basically like the Maplewood area. Her
affiliation with East Orange is through Nasty Nell, which is known to the
world as Wyclef. They used to be a group called, Rappin in Many Languages.
It was Wyclef, Lauryn and then Sam who was the dancer – who is better known
as Prakazrel [Pras] joined the group and that’s how you got the whole Fugees
thing. Wyclef has always been extremely talented.
Dubcnn: I have an old-school hip-hop head friend of mine from New York
named Greyson [also a DVD Producer] and all we do is talk about hip-hop…and
sometimes our hip-hop talks can get very argumentative, you know how it is
with those hip-hop history discussions…
Trust me, I know and when it gets going and [then] next thing you know, it’s
three hours later and you’re immersed in this whole hip-hop thing and you’re
talking about ‘remember this’ and ‘remember that’ and you can just smell
where you were when you heard the song “Broken Language” for the first time.
Hip-hop is such a passionate thing for me and it’s such the love of my life
that sometimes I’m hesitant to even get into it.
Dubcnn: Yeah, I feel that. Anyway, Greyson always says that Eminem stole
his whole style of rhyming and persona from you and you were Em’s biggest
lyrical inspiration. Have you heard that before?
I’ve heard that from some people… and me and Proof were pretty close and I
know that in that area in Detroit they had their battle culture going on
over there. Here to Save You All [Chino XL’s debut album] was veered as a
very, very heavy lyrical album and Jay-Z told me himself when I worked with
him that he was influenced by that, but anyway, I was listened to a lot in
that [Detroit] area and I probably helped influence their sound. The uncanny
thing is that Em and I probably have a lot of the same influences like [Kool]
G Rap and so forth. And also numerologically speaking, he is a eight and I
am a eight -- but he’s had problems with his kid’s mother and he has
problems with his [own] mother and those are the kinds of things that you
can’t fake and he didn’t get his life circumstances from me and he couldn’t
have emulated that. Let’s just say that Eminem and I have traveled along the
same rhythm a lot.
Dubcnn: Eminem is crazy nice and, in my opinion, he is one of the best that
ever did it.
Dubcnn: You obviously have the respect and the critical acclaim; but do you
want to also get in the bracket as one of the best-selling emcees and have
some of that mainstream or financial success?
I mean, I wouldn’t kick it out of the bed *laughs*, but the compromises you
have to make to get into people’s living room… and sometimes it can be too
much of a curveball, if you can’t find the exact way to do it on your own
merit. Luckily, I have people who have respect for me, I stay in constant
communication with the people who follow me, and I let them know that I am
going to try some new and different things, so the people ride with me…
There is a certain longevity that an artist like me -- and I don’t want to
say ‘artist like me’ per se because I do have a unique thing that no one
else has -- the way my genres are so crossed, the way some people say I’m on
a legendary thing, but I’m really younger than Rakim and all of those dudes.
Another thing, I’m in the class bracket with Canibus and Rass [Kass] and
some of the greats like that. I intermingle with people like Bun-B and I
always stay very relevant. I’m a Latino artist also, and I’m an East-Coast
human being, but a West-Coast artist, so I got all of these different things
that I speak for. I represent so many different things. (Long Pause) If I
had to make 15 million dollars off of this business in my lifetime, I would
definitely be more happy spreading it out the way that I have been doing,
instead of just getting it all in one shot and end up being a laughing
stock, or not being able to look myself in the face because I became a cheap
commercial for myself. I’m happy with what I have done so far and I’m still
able to respect myself.
Keep in mind, my first single [“Kreep”] that broke me to the world was a
remake to a Radiohead song, and it was all over MTV and BET, so I’ve always
experimented a little bit.
Dubcnn: Radiohead is such an impressive group, period.
It was such a blessing when I remade that “Kreep” record and they cleared my
interpolation of their song in two days… The quote from the lead singer
[Thom Yorke] was ‘Chino made my song better than I made it.’
Dubcnn: That’s crazy!
Jonathan, it’s just amazing to me and sometimes I just get choked up about
it that you really do have this labor of love and you send it to the world
and, in some kind of way, that vibration goes to the people that it is
supposed to and somehow they find it. Some kind of invisible, weird morph
thing travels through the universe and the people who can’t see it, can’t
see it and then boom it hits the target. It hits the little kid who is just
like you and feels misplaced, it hits the person who is being abused by
their stepfather and they need to find something to hold on to. It hits the
people who think that lyrics don’t matter, it hits the Latino emcee trying
to get out their neighborhood…it inspires the target some kid of way,
without a whole bunch of radio or video play or even without retail and it
just find it’s mark and when it does that, it doesn’t do nothing but make me
Dubcnn: That’s deep and very inspiring, Chino, you have a legacy and a mark
that will go further than any amount of money will go.
I really appreciate that. I go in and out of these phases where I’m not sure
about what I am going to do next and you look for a sign, or an omen or
something… I remember one time I was watching something on the History
Channel about the Thrilla in Manila – the [Muhammad] Ali and [Joe] Frazier
fight -- and they weren’t talking about how much money Ali made, or what
kind of car he drove, or what his homies were thinking, they talked about
the fight, that moment in time, and what it meant. It kind of chipped away
at certain illusions that I had about what it is that we are really doing.
This literature or this vibration can hit a global village for the next
person to catch, or for another person to relate to. It is really about the
achievement or accomplishment a lot more than the commerce on certain
levels. I just always stay true to myself.
Dubcnn: With you being a Latino emcee with heavy ties in the game, did you
ever get the honor to work with Big Pun?
Back in the day, Fat Joe’s manager was helping me with so much stuff from
organizing my tour, to merchandising endorsements and so forth. There were a
lot of places down South that Pun and Joe would open up for me when they
were bringing Pun up. I know Pun had crazy admiration and love and respect
for what I do. People who worked with Pun used to tell me that he would
bring my music to the studio everyday to listen and study it. However, me
actually doing a song with him…no, but I do have a project that everybody is
about to hear with him.
Yeah, and it is vocals [from Big Pun] that no one has ever heard. It gives
people chills because it sounds like he is still alive. So I can’t say
before he was in heaven, but we are collabing now. I’m telling you, when you
hear it, you will get chills because it sounds like he wrote to the beat
when he was alive, way better than I could.
Dubcnn: When will people be able to hear that?
It’s on The Secret.
To Be Continued… Stay tuned as we dive in deep to all things Chino XL in the
next segments of this special three-part interview.