Chris Crack
In Conversation With Timmhotep Aku
Photos by Elizabeth De La Piedra
Might Delete Later out now

How did you manage to stay productive last year, amidst all the shit that was going down? You couldn’t even perform. How did you manage to stay productive?

Man, actually, the quarantine is nothing new to me, know what I’m saying? I’ve been quarantining for years. I don’t really be fuckin’ with people like that, so I be in the studio, anyway. It really just put me in my zone even more than I [usually] be. It was just naked outside — nobody outside, nobody going anywhere, nobody doing anything. Man, that’s why I dropped so many albums! Like, shit, I'mma keep droppin’ that shit! And I got hella songs just piled up from that, you know?

Let’s talk a little about this particular record, Might Delete Later. How do you view this project? Do you view this as a debut album? A tape? How would you put that into words, what this project is?

Shit, all my albums are albums. I don’t call them “tapes” or nothing like that. It’s an album because I put my heart and soul into it, so this shit is my first kinda album that I let somebody else take control of outside of the making the music. They [A-Trak and Nick of Fool’s Gold] really took control of putting it places and doing their thing with it, and they picked the songs; they told me “nah” on this and “nah” on that. This is the first time I ever did that shit. It’s taught me a whole lotta shit, and it’s taught me some patience, too, with the music industry. Me, I be ready to just drop it when I’m ready, so when they [said], “Nah, you really can’t do that. When you trying to move majorly, you can’t just be dropping shit.” I know you saw Meek Mill the other day on Twitter. [He was] like, Aw, “I’m gonna start dropping music, man, because this music industry shit… you gotta wait so long to drop it and shit.” I was like, See?! He knows how I feel. That’s kinda why I’m on that wave. We been trying to put this album out for a hot-ass minute, and we’ve—they’ve—gone through probably four or five albums. 

Fool’s Gold?

Yeah, Fool’s Gold. Man, it took them maybe a hundred and fifty songs to get these fifteen songs.

They selective, real selective!

Selective! I’m like, Damn! But, nah, it wasn’t mostly that. It was mostly because of sample clearance. That was mostly why they had to pass up on a lotta songs. They liked a lot of the joints. A-Trak said at one point, “Damn, I wish we could keep all of this!” Samples, when you’re trying to do it majorly, you can’t be fuckin’ around with that legal shit.

Let’s talk about this record from the perspective of how it differs from your past albums. Every one is a different snapshot of a different time, a different mindset you’re in, a different vibe that you’re in. Describe the vibe of this record and where you’re at on this record.

Remember, they picked the songs, [and] I kinda like how they kinda give you a whole, broad view of Chris Crack. A little bit of rappin’ right here, some dance shit over here, some pimp shit over here, some gangster shit over here. They really A&R’d the fuck out that joint. I was salty that a certain song didn’t make it on there. Real salty about that. But they said they gonna do a deluxe version or whatever. I’m not the type of rapper that can be doing that deluxe shit — that deluxe shit is kinda wack to me — but if it’s a good deluxe? I’ve heard good ones. Then, I guess it’s a pass; you get a pass. But it’s kinda wack to me because it’s like, Yo, let’s put some more shit out. If you’re an artist for real, not just a rapper, then you got more shit, you know what I’m sayin’?

What’s your favorite joint on the album?

The joint that didn’t get on there!

What’s your favorite that made the record?

Probably the one with Nickelus F.

Tell me about how that record came about.

Man, I just be shootin’ in the dark, and I be hitting n****s up, and they respect my genuineness, and they fuck with me. I just hit the dude up: Hey, man, I wanna fuck with you. I wanna work with you — you cool. U.G.L.Y. Boy Modeling actually put me on Nickelus F, that’s one of his favorite artists, and he’d been fuckin’ with Nickelus F since 106 & Park. N****s don’t even know about that! But, yeah, he put me on, and I’m like, G, this n****’s nasty! Then, what I like about what he did on the record is he gave me Nickelus F and [his alter ego] Sweet Petey on the same record, and I didn’t even ask for that. That was super dope, that was hella dope. I fuck with the dude hella hard. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Hell yeah. And he just came. He was real with it. He was like, “All right, I’ll fuck with you, G. I heard of you before.” I was like, Damn! For real?

I wanna talk about your approach to music, not just in terms of being prolific in putting it out, but in terms of how you make it, how you construct your rhymes. It’s very unique. It’s intricate. From my perspective, as a listener and a fan, it’s like, Damn, this is some free-association shit, but in the midst of all the free association, it’s confessions. There’s anecdotes, there’s axioms. How do you compose your rhymes? Is it a thing where it’s like, you have a running list of lines and random thoughts, non sequitur thoughts, on your phone? Do you write in the studio? How do you come up with this approach? It’s wild because it’s very Chicago and it’s abstract at the same time.

Well, I just attribute it to [me being] real-life crazy, you know what I’m saying? I’m not dangerous or gonna hurt myself or anybody else, but, yeah, bro, this shit be comin’ to me sometimes, and I go back and look the next morning, because I like to write my shit in different mind states, and… I go back, and I’m not trying to pat myself on the back or nothin’, and I be like, damn, I wrote this shit!? Damn! It’s only because I wrote that in a whole different self of mine, and I’m letting another self of me listen to it, and he be like, damn, that shit hard!

I’m thinking about the titles of the songs. One of the other things you’re really known for is having these very specific, peculiar, funny, of-the-times, relevant titles. Let’s talk about the album title in general, and then we’ll get into some of the titles on the album.

I was trying to make it, like you said, relevant to the time. But, also, you have to make it relevant to the time while, at the same time, be timeless. You don’t want some corny shit later. It’s cool now, like the smiley-face outfits, know what I’m saying? It’s cool now, but...

It’s not gonna be cool [later].

You look back and you’re like, What the fuck was I doing? So when I came with the Might Delete Later, it was like, Well, this is relevant to the time, and it will be cool later, and it’s how I really feel, and it’s the time we’re in now. People want to do things for right this very second, and it’s like, Ah, tomorrow, I’m gonna delete this shit, it ain’t cool no more, people ain’t fuckin’ with it, I didn’t get enough likes on the picture. I think that’s how it’s gonna be for at least a couple generations.

You’ve been around for a minute and seen things change in a bunch of different ways, rap-wise, but, as you’ve evolved, you’ve definitely stuck to your same formula. Tell me about sticking to your guns while everything is kind of changing around you, and waiting for your time. [For instance] I’m a Doom fan, not just because I like the music, but because I’m very familiar with his story, and I’m very familiar with the fact that, when he reinvented himself as Doom, he was like, “Yo, I’m gonna do shit on my terms. I don’t care what else is going on right now.” That was a time when, like, hip-hop was really first starting to explode in terms of the money you could make. It was a big deal for him to be like, Nah, fuck all of that—I’m gonna be on some other shit. Tell me about you sticking to your guns and about what Chris Crack does.

I’m all the way truthful, man. I’ve been the guy who tried to fit in everywhere. Anywhere you can think of, I tried to fit in that shit, I tried to be that, I tried to get with them, I tried to play with them or sit with them or kick it with them. I was always the weird n****, you know what I’m saying? It didn’t matter where you put me at: you put me in the hood, I’m not hood enough; you put me with the white people, I’m too hood; you put me with the skaters, I’m too hood; you put me in the hood, they like, “You look like a skater.” That’s just been my thing, G. Have you ever seen the meme with the two dudes digging for diamonds, and the one dude about to hit the diamonds but he gave up, and the other dude kept digging and he hit them bitches? Man, sticking to what you do, how you do it? It’s gotta work. I don’t care if it takes til I’m sixty — it’s gonna hit!

Because your shit is so unique, people don’t know how to classify it, not just in terms of style but in terms of region. Me, listening to hip-hop the way I listen to hip-hop, I’m like, “This is a West Side, Chicago-ass rapper.” I know what that style is. Let’s talk about reppin’ West Side Chicago and how Chicago your style is, but then also how it’s a very specific thing to you.

I like that. OK, I'mma be a Chicagoan because I’m from Chicago, right? And you know how Chicagoans are real aggressive, real to-the-point, like hurry up and get it over with. And then, being from the West Side, you are already a cool, laid-back-on-some-pimp-shit, just-trying-to-get-some-money, we-ain’t-worried-about-no-gangbangers [person]. Then, it’s just like, being from out west, it’s a totally different… when people see Chicago, they always think of South Siders; they know King Von, they know Lil Durk. They don’t know nothin’ about the West Side. It is very tiny compared to the South Side, but it’s a place that stands on its own — it stands up to that — and we can get it on our own and do our own thing, and it’s wavier than what they doin’. It’s way wavier. We getting way more money, we fuckin’ hoes, we havin’ parties. Them South Side [guys], they just wanna gangbang. We don’t have to talk about that. You can listen to my music and I never talk like a tough guy, but you can listen to the music and be like, OK, well, at least he was outside.

Let’s talk about some of the topics in your records. You’ll have twenty topics on a song! What is Chris Crack prone to talk about or address in his songs?

Fool shit, definitely. Probably something political. Some person just got sad that I can say this so freely and so easily, but someone just got you-know-whatted by the police, or… a little bitch just pissed me off on the phone. Whatever. My music is just my life. It might be that day, it might be that week, it might be that month, it might be that year, but you can bet that it’s gonna be some real shit — because I said it, because I did it. Except for the bad stuff!

I think another thing that’s really interesting about you is how you come at shit generationally. You are definitely an artist of right now, but the references are bugged out. You have references that a person who knows hip-hop beyond his city and his era knows a lot about. Tell me about your influences and fandom when it comes to hip-hop shit.

You know when people was growing up and everybody’s doing the same shit? I was the kid who… not to be that guy, because you hate that guy who’s trying to do shit different because everybody else is doing it like that, but… I wasn’t that guy, but I was the guy [that was like], If everybody’s doing A, can I see what B or C is about? Most people don’t even wanna see what B, C, D is about! They just, OK, everyone doing A — that’s what we doing.


Right. So I always been the n**** to be like, Bro, what’s going on with F, G, and X? I wanna know about everything, I wanna see everything, I wanna experience everything, and that’s where my music tastes came from. While everybody was doing rap and saggin’ pants, I was doing R&B with the fitted joints and the Kangols or whatever. My house was like a gangsta rap song. My brother, he just used to play rap all day long, blaring through the basement, just banging. 

Older brother?

Yeah, older brother. And it would just be like, Bro, I need a break from this! Give me some Jodeci, man. Give me some motherfuckin’ Monica. Sisqó was that n****, G! Dru Hill and them, bro? At the same time, I still go to school with kids doing A, so I’m listening to Nas, Jay-Z. You still gotta keep within the cool...

Be conversant, so you can talk about things. Were there any local artists that you were into?

Hell yeah! It was the Snypaz, Crucial Conflict, Psycho Drama, Triple Darkness, Twista, and I’m givin’ all these n****s props and they wouldn’t shout me out. It’s all good! And keep the shuot-outs in there! Who else, who else? Oh, Bump J. We used to be gangbangin’ hard listening to Bump J.

He was on some gangsta shit before drill blew up, really.

Yeah, I still fuck with Bump. i don’t know him enough, but I fuck with him. He kept it solid. He went to jail, did his time, he got out, kept it solid. You can’t hate that no matter what.

Let’s talk some more about some of your more recent influences. You’re one of the few Chicago artists who will mention Max B. Tell me about that type of shit.

Oh, man, I don’t even wanna tell you my Max B story.

You’ve met him?!

Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah. Hell nah. I was staying in this crib, when I used to live in Logan Square, seven, eight years ago, and my roommates damn near wanted to kick me out the crib because I played Max 24/7. Nothing but Max all day, every single day. Every single day, just Max. Nothing but Max. They were like, “Bro, we’re gonna have a house meeting. What the fuck, bro?” They hate the songs, but they know them, though, because the radio. It was bad, man. I love Max B, man. I listen to Max at least once a week. Gotta hear a song or two. 

We already talked about “Ghetto Until Proven Fashionable.” The title alone is a bar, it’s some real shit. I wanna talk about some of the other joints. You have a joint with Roy Kinsey, who’s one of the Chicago cats I just got put up on. He’s ill.

That’s my boy!

He can rap. That motherfucker’s ill. Tell me about “Kaiser Permanente,” tell me about bringing people into your universe.  Tell me about the people you chose to bring into your universe this time.

Well, you know I’m not the coolest cat in this motherfucker. I’m not the most popular name. I’m not trying to put that energy out there, but you know what n****s be on. I know a lot of people that you wouldn’t think that I know because they wouldn’t talk about me to other people because of the status quo. It’s like, when people see that I know this person, they like, “Damn, how the fuck you know?” It’s kinda more like, How do they know me? Know what I’m saying? It’s like, Yeah, I know this n****. I’m in here. I’m connected. It’s just they not gonna say my name. It’s cool.

You’re putting together your records. You have a specific sound and aesthetic, but you bring other people into that aesthetic. What makes you choose the people you want to feature on records? What’s the common element of interest from your perspective? Literally, you could do this yourself! The way you run and how prolific you are? You don’t really even need guest appearances. So what do you think they add — and why do you add them?

I just like to bring people into my world. If I like this person’s style — they wave — I would say come fuck with me on my shit. It always goes well because I feel like I saw them in the future on this song already, or they saw themselves on the joint, or we hear the song together and we like, “Aw, this the one.” And I like to be random with the picks, too; you might see Lady Gaga on my next album. I’m a random n****. People are too serious in life, bro. Just lighten up, bro.

How do you come up with the song titles? Is it something you come up with before you make the record or after?

It’s usually after. Sometimes, I do it when I hear the beat, but it’s usually when the record is done. I do a song-title naming session, and I listen to the songs, and the first that comes to my mind, that’s the name of the song. The first thing it makes me feel at that very moment. Sometimes, it takes me six listens. Sometimes, I won’t get the title that day; sometimes, it’ll be three or four days later.

How does this project make you feel? What did you feel? I know what I’m gonna project onto it from the perspective of the person experiencing it. Tell me about the colors on this albums, the emotions you experienced, and how it made you feel.

It’s like they took songs from different eras. They cycled through a lot of shit. It makes me feel… it’s like a rainbow: it makes me feel happy, sad, emotional, wanna dance, on some real shit. It’s like a complete feeling for me because I feel like they really overthought the fuck outta it. Not even in a bad way — they just really tried to make it like that. I ain’t even really notice that until it was all done and wrapped up. I listened to the album one more time, and I’m like, damn, that’s a full spectrum.

How you remember shit when you perform?

I don’t! I don’t know none of my songs, bro. People be like, “You know what song where...” I cut them off. No, I don’t know that song. I promise you I don’t know the song, but thank you. But when I gotta perform, I get the song I’m gonna perform, and then I memorize them bitches. Other than that? Man, I be fucked up!

What do you look for in a production?

When I’m looking for beats?

When you choosing a beat. What is it you look for in an instrumental?

I’m not really looking for anything, man. I’m just really looking for some really cool shit that I can fuck it up on. People ask all the time, “What you looking for, bro?” I’m like, “I can’t even tell you, bro. I just need some dope shit.” I know it when I hear it, but I can’t tell you what I’m looking for.

You being a person with so many projects, how do you know when a project’s finished?

I feel like a project ain’t never finished, to be honest, but to the point where it needs to come out… like, Sky High and Cutta are always having to cut me off, like, “Alright, bro. This is enough songs. Time for an album.” Whenever I’ve gotten a group of maybe a hundred joints, I guess?

Damn. You on some Tupac shit. Thinking about how prolific and productive you are, what inspires you to be that way?

That was my goal from the jump! I wanted to have so many songs I don’t even know ‘em. And it happened. And I didn’t even do that on purpose. I said it one time, and now that’s what it is.

So the question is: why?

Because, like I said, if you doing something and it’s consistent, as long as it’s dope, as long as it’s consistent, it has to work. Water cuts rock, G. Imma be water, ya dig?

What’s it like to be the newest part of the storied legacy of that label?

Danny Brown — that’s my n****. I feel honored, to be honest, man. Danny Brown, dead-ass… if you listen to my music, you know that I love Danny Brown. And I get to come out of a joint that he came out of, that really blew him up? That’s an honor, man. I appreciate them people, man. They’re very genuine, and they do everything they say they gonna do. They don’t be on no fool record label shit. They keep it real as fuck. They let a motherfucker know what they ain’t gonna do, what they don’t like. You know what I’m saying? They did everything they said they was gonna do, and more, too. I ain’t got nothing to say about them n****s but good shit! A-Trak is a real-ass n****, G! I was surprised, actually!

I’ve known him for a minute, so I’m not surprised to hear that, but...

Yeah, yeah, I didn’t know. Only thing I knew about him was he was a child-prodigy DJ. I heard he was real nice and shit with it, and that he was Kanye’s DJ. and then I started doing some research on him, and I was like, Oh, this n****’s official! OK!

What else do you want the world to know about this album?

I want them to know that I put a lot of flavor into it, so it can be as delicious as possible. We all wanted it to be like a real super smash to the world. Y’all know what Chris Crack gonna do, y’all know what Fool’s Gold gonna do, but y’all don’t know what they gonna do when they come together. Y’all don’t know the wave that it’s gonna create. I’m anxious to see what that’s gonna do.

I was gonna ask you what your favorite lyric on the album is, but you might not even remember a lyric from the album!

Can I give you a favorite skit? The one where buddy was like, “Let me tell you something right now,” and he’s pissed. That’s my homie, one of my sandbox homies. He was real-deal pissed off, to the point where he was gonna cry, about the Popeye’s chicken sandwich because he couldn’t get one, G! He was real-deal mad about that.

Where does all the random skit shit come from? Are you recording shit constantly?

I do it because I wanted to be a comedian before all of this. I never wanted to do music when I was a kid; I wanted to be a comedian my whole life. The skits, it just comes from… you just be sitting around, and you think of some random shit, and you start laughing outta nowhere. Those are my favorite ones because I feel like those are sent to me by the universe. I’m sitting here randomly, not doing shit, and you start laughing, and then I gotta write that down. I gotta put that in the song now.

You talk about all the random shit, and it reminds me how your style is very of right now because it’s almost like scrolling the timeline.

Yeah. And that’s how I like it, though! People have said my music is like flipping through TV channels back in the day. I want it to be as random and in-your-face as it can be. Especially in this generation, that’s the only way. You gotta shock people. You could come with the coolest shit, but if you don’t shock a motherfucker? They just be like, OK.

How important is humor to your recipe and how you create your music? How important is humor, and why is it important to you?

It’s very important to me because people just take life too serious. Like, Lay back and chill. I feel like it’s important in the music for the same reason. Music is therapy, fam! It’s been therapy for me a whole lotta times. Eveybody knows it’s therapy, everybody says it is, but, man, I gotta put them laughs in there, G. the world is fucked up, shit is fucked up, life is fucked up. Everybody’s not fortunate. At least we can laugh a little bit to make it a little bit easier. I joke around in a song, but then I come back and bring it, like, Hold on — I’m serious, though.

A lot of the great comedians do that. Richard Pryor does that. It’s funny, but there’s a part of it that’s really serious. This is what life is—it’s that mix. Who’re your favorite comedians?

Martin Lawrence, hands down. And I fuck with him on every level. On the personal level, I just really love the n**** he is, how real he kept it with n****s over the years, how he put n****s on and shit like that. The humbleness. Martin, period. He’s the funniest n**** of all time. He took the old shit and he mixed it with the new shit, and I don’t think there’s been a funnier comedian since Martin, man.

Martin’s definitely better than Seinfeld.

Aw, what!? Seinfeld!? What!? Right now. Man, I will play every episode of that shit, and not one episode is bad. I can’t say not one, but you know what I mean. He had ninety percent from the line. On some real shit, though. Before Martin, it was Eddie, and there wasn’t nobody better than Eddie. I don’t feel like Martin was better than Eddie, I just feel like he picked up where Eddie left off. They wanna give it to other dudes, but it ain’t nobody close to Martin.