ChanHays’ project Here combines a star-studded veteran hip-hop track-listing with superb production
Canadian super-producer ChanHays from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada is a veteran in this game very active in the 2010’s who has resurfaced for some amazing new music collaborative projects. His new album Here is jam-PACKED with huge guest features such as Skyzoo, Guilty Simpson, The Cool Kids, Roc Marciano, Ill Bill, One Be Lo (of Binary Star), Elzhi, Edo G, Rustee Juxx, Cormega, Ras Kass, Erick Sermon, Saukrates, Masta Ace… the list goes on and on. ChanHays is part of the Droppin Science – Canadian indie hip-hop label and crew – for more on them, check out http://droppinscienceproductions.com
Thomas Dente: What was the catalyst that got you into producing? Seems like you’re pretty influenced by like Boom Bap type producers a la Pete Rock/DJ Premier as well as Dilla/Nujabes/9th Wonder type production. Anything more you want to say about what stood out for you with Premo (DJ Premier), 9th, Doom, Dilla that made those your biggest choices? Maybe mention a couple lesser known ones that had an influence if there are some? Especially ones local to you.
ChanHays: There’s a great community of artists in Canada, including where I’m from. In the early 2000s, the local scene was flush with dope mcs and beat makers. We were all friends just hanging out and making music. Rapping was never gonna be my thing. I just gravitated to producing. And the influences of the time were Premo, 9th, Doom, Dilla, etc. Premo and 9th and those guys – it was just the chop, and the soul, and the drums. It was just different than the West Coast G-Funk that I was previously into (and which I still love). And from that I just started digging. Locally, the crate knowledge is insane. Jorun and Classified were sort of the more established guys, years in. But I was most inspired by my buddies. Ghettosocks and Bix were making crazy beats, Apt was like a prodigy, Litterbug, Ambition. All those guys were friends and making great music. So you’re always influenced a lot by those closest to you.
T: From what I’ve seen on your IG/social media, it sounds like you did a trip to Detroit, were you staying with Skyzoo/Guilty Simpson etc? What made that happen?
C: Yeah, I was down in Detroit and hooked up with Guilty Simpson, Phat Kat, and Fat Ray. We did the Smokin’ track for the album and shot the video. Detroit is one of the meccas of hip hop, so it was always a personal goal to get there. Same is true for New York obviously – especially Brooklyn. It holds a special place in my imagination. Skyzoo is the homie and he took me around where he grew up – just a few doors down from Biggie. He’d show me where they’d hang out, the pizza spot they’d go to as kids, etc. It’s just crazy how much history is there. Skyzoo and I recently connect on a new single called “Brooklyn” that also has Joell Ortiz on it.
T: When was your first time crossing into USA?
C: I guess probably as a teen as a school trip. In recent years, I’ve been trying to get down to NYC at least once a summer.
T: Who were your VERY first music/hiphop influences?
C: I originally sort of came up on west coast rap. But then that shifted a bit when I discovered Premo and Gang Starr. I loved Dre, Snoop, Pac, 213, Tha Dogg Pound, Cube, NWA, Westside Connection, DJ Quik, Xzibit, etc…
A couple friends put me on to Gang Starr and it was just a case of them knowing something I didn’t. And they blew me away.
T: Can you speak on the specifics of your production style?
C: I try to do a bit of everything. That’s why the album Here is so long. I wanted to show a wide range of sounds. If you listen to that project, you’ve got boom bap with songs like Smokin, then a smoother track with Running (Skyzoo, Elzhi, Uptown Xo), then Bully Zone is more of a Banger ( ILL BILL and Conway), New Bag (Cool Kids) is more new age, and Front Page (Elcamino and Benny the Butcher) is more grimy loop style. That’s diversity was intentional. My new EP (The Creepy EP) has one musical sample on the whole project. The rest is 808s and synths. I just wanted to do something different. But it still features dope mcs – Skyzoo, Joell, Guilty, etc.
(Physical copies of ChanHays Album Here available at https://chanhays.bandcamp.com)
T: Any producer secrets like how you begin tracks or where you like to sample from; which pieces of analog equipment you use, etc.?
C: I sample from everywhere. I try to avoid soul, but that’s tough. I like European music. Lately I’ve been digging through 80s material a lot more. There’s a bunch of garbage, but occasionally you come across something really interesting. And the 80s vinyl is less tapped out than 60s/70s.
I pre-edit sounds in Soundforge, then do just about everything else in the Maschine. Final sequencing and engineering happens with my homie Uncle Fester. He works in Logic.
T: Who pressed the vinyl for “Here”? The outcome’s incredible – the pink die one especially.
C: Slice of Spice they’re called!
T: In addition to noticing your Detroit trip on social media, I noticed you were recently number one on college radio. How did this happen?
C: Yeah, that was a great accomplishment. It’s a cumulative thing for the whole album, not one particular track. It meant that for those weeks, more college DJ’s were spinning tracks from Here than any other album. I’m not really sure exactly how it happened. Shout out to the DJs and college radio. They showed the project love right from the outset.
T: How is it working at Atomix studios?
C: Tom is incredible. He’s my guy for final masters. Tom is great because his out of the box mastering is so warm. Shaun Ryan (Uncle Fester) handles all the mixing for my material and he’s dope. Then Tom brings it all up. Together it gets that classic sound I’m going for. Even when I’m using cold 808s and synths, the end product is still warm and full.
T: Can you tell me more about Ghettosocks?
C: Ghettosocks has been doing his thing for almost 20 years. One of my favourite artists. We’ve been friends that whole time. He’s done it all, so he’s kind of a mentor for me. Lyrically, he’s incredible. He’s on the project on tracks with monsters like Pharaoh Monch, RasKass, Homeboy Sandman, Roc Marci etc. And he kills it. He can rock with anyone.
T: You have hugely prominent long term successful rappers on your tape from all over the US and Canada! How were you able to gather them all for this project?
C: Nowadays it’s easy to connect with artists, but you need to come correct with the production, overall project, etc. It helps that I have a lot of connections and those just built. Once I had some cats lined up, others became easier because I had people that would vouch for me. That was one of the best parts of the project – connecting with artists that I admire, and finding out that they’re also great people.
T: Can you comment on some of the popular scenes in music right now?
C: I love the music that is coming out right now because there is simply so much of it. Whatever sound you’re into, you can discover artists so much easier now than ever before. Some people want to hate on this new age stuff, but I don’t take things that serious. I love a good club jam. I don’t want to listen to the same music over and over again. Variety is good. Maybe not all of it is my personal taste, but who cares. While pop hip hop is everywhere right now, there is also an abundance of incredible more ‘traditional’ hip hop coming out. Just since the start of 2018 Skyzoo dropped an incredible project, Roc Marci dropped arguably his best album, Planet Asia put out one of my favorite projects, Willie The Kid has put out a couple fire EPs, Griselda has put out a few joints, Meyhem just dropped another great project. The list goes on and on.
T: Really good point about all the great artists that are still active – your album roster proves that as well. Have you ever had any involvement with KOTD or the battle scene up there? I’m a pretty big fan of Pat Stay from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
C: The battle scene here was huge around 2006-2009 I think it was. There was The Elements League and that’s where Pat Stay and a lot of those guys came up. It was dope. Pat is a monster.
Some people hated on the battles early on. Just because from a purist standpoint they aren’t freestyled and they aren’t even over beats. But the skills are legit. So it’s been interesting to see it become entirely it’s own thing. Like independent, but also an additional new element of the culture. And clearly the emphasis is on bars, which is dope.
T: Any teasers about upcoming features?
C: Well the new album has Skyzoo, Joell Ortiz, Guilty Simpson, Bodega Bamz, Ghettosocks, Aquakultre, Elcamino, Flee Lord… that’s all I can talk about right now. But more is coming.
ChanHays can be found on Bandcamp, Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud…
Update! ChanHays releases a new EP featuring Guilty Simpson, Skyzoo, Joell Ortiz, Fashawn: