It’s been over five years since the Young Gunz released their last album, Brothers From Another. Much has changed in the music industry since then, and with so much time away from the mainstream scene, it can be understandably difficult for artists like Young Chris and Neef to make a comeback. But label issues and time away won’t be stopping Philadelphia’s Young Chris, who is back with a new deal with Rico Love’s Division 1 record label, a new mixtape to reintroduce himself to the people, and the determination to make it as a solo artist. TheWellVersed sat down with Young Chris to find out what he’s been up to these last few years, what fans can expect with his new work, and how he has used the internet to keep his career going.
TWV: What were you doing during your major label hiatus?
Young Chris: I was still keeping busy, it just wasn’t on a mainstream level. It was more so the internet that kept me alive. I’m big on relationships, and that’s what held me over. [Lebron James] is a good friend of mine, me and Jay are still good friends… I’m blessed to still have all of those relationships. [Don Cannon] is one of my friends as well, and we did some mixtapes called “The Network 1” and “The Network 2.” I shot some viral videos for “The Network 2,” and Rico Love saw them and reached out and said “I almost forgot how nice you were, what’s your situation?” I had a few deals on the table at the time, but he was just confident in his. He flew out to Philly, a day after that we flew up to New York to Sylvia Rhone’s office, and a few days after that I’m in Miami recording records.
TWV: Tell me more about the Rico Love situation. What can fans expect from that?
Young Chris: “The Re-Introduction” was the pre-album. That’s just me and Rico’s work with only like a month together. Our chemistry kicked off, we bonded real well, and we decided to put out a tape with all of the new records we got to show people what we’ve been working on. One of the records I had, the first record off the tape, was called “40 Bars” at first. But we re-titled it to “Re-Introduction” since I started it out like, “Pardon for me for this sweet interruption, nah this ain’t no reenactment, this a reintroduction.” Rico was like “Yo, that’s it.”
TWV: You’re working on an album with Rico Love, can you divulge some details about that?
Young Chris: Yeah, shout out to Wiz Khalifa, we got a crazy record together right now. I’m excited about that. It’s called “That’s Just How I Feel Today.” It’s a potential single — a Top 40-type record. It could be huge. Not too many artists on this album. I don’t want it like a compilation, seeing as how I’m reintroducing myself I want to keep it light on the features. But you can look forward to Rico Love being featured on there, as well asSophie Green, MJ – people that are signed to Division 1. I really gotta love them if I’m going to put them on my album from outside of the camp.
TWV: What about features from Philadelphia artists?
Young Chris: [Meek Mill] is my guy, and one of the top locals from Philly that got potential to be global. One record I got out is this “Philly Shit” remix, shout out to Eve, Black Thought, and Meek Mill on that one. It’s a good record for the city right now.
TWV: You mentioned you and Jay-Z…So you guys are getting along well since everything went down at Roc-a-Fella?
Young Chris: Me and Jay are great. That’s why I say you can’t burn those bridges, it’s too powerful. That’s my guy. He’s excited for me right now.
TWV: You’ve been quoted as saying that the internet has been a blessing to you while you’ve been away from the spotlight. How do you feel about the sudden pressure being put on blogs, with sites like OnSmash being taken down? [Ed. Note: OnSmash has relaunched since the interview as www.FreeOnSmash.com]
Young Chris: I don’t think it’s fair. But you know, everybody has their own reason. I’m pretty sure there’s another side to the story. As an artist, I feel that they’re taking away from us. It’s free promotion, and there’s nothing better than that. When we first came in the game we weren’t able to promote ourselves, without a Def Jam or Roc-a-Fella cutting some marketing money. The internet is a blessing. That’s the only way we can really build our own brand and identity. Other than that it’s 360 deals and they’re taking every little dollar that you get. It’s tough.
TWV: Then how do you, as an artist, approach marketing if the people you’re signed to don’t necessarily want the internet getting your leaks, yet you understand the value of it as a marketing tool?
Young Chris: Personally, I’d keep going the same way I’ve been going. I’d tell the label, “This is the way you reached out to me, right?” We all know the truth when it comes down to it. It’s really the politics and [the label] keeping the majority of the money in-house.
TWV: You teamed up with Freeway as part of Project Succeed. What’s going on with that?
Young Chris: We went to South Philly High to talk to some kids and had a general conversation about the Stop the Violence event with the state Representative Kenyatta Johnson. We also did an event about Stop the Violence. This is something I really want to do, when it comes to building recreation centers in my neighborhood where I’m from. Looking out for the future? I’m all for that.
TWV: What’s up with the other half of Young Gunz these days?
Young Chris: Neef is good! It’s different. We came in together. We didn’t meet each other in the industry. We were brothers in middle school and we started the rap thing together. Hopefully we deliver another album, because people love Young Gunz. The brand was so huge. I never want to let it go.
TWV: How do you feel you’ve matured over the years?
Young Chris: I feel great. I’m excited about it. This is all from the muscle, this isn’t with [Dame Dash] or Jay or Beanie Sigel. Not even Young Gunz. It’s always been me attached to a group, but now it’s just me as an individual. I’m really excited about it. I haven’t been out in five years, so it lets you know what the internet does for guys in my position.