Chuuwee on Watching the Throne, his Soundset approach

By Mike Madden

Bambu on the L.A. riots' 20th anniversary, his Soundset debut

Traveling from his native Sacramento to take over Shakopee, Chuuwee might be the best bet among this year's Soundset freshmen to blow up by the time May 2013 rolls around. Not long removed from his excellent Watching the Throne mixtape and days shy of his Wild Style debut LP, the 21-year-old MC combs an otherwise nonchalant flow with stunningly natural-sounding bursts of technicality; imagine Earl Sweatshirt's playful-yet-BS-free tone blending with, say, Freddie Gibbs' most rapid-fire syllable-spillage. The best part, though? Dude possesses an extraordinary ear for beats, which complements his skills on the mic with a highly listenable grace.

Earlier this week, Chuuwee talked to Gimme Noise about his "neo-boom-bap" sound, the rap blockbuster for which his latest mixtape was named, how he plans to impress Sunday's Soundset audience, and more.

Apart from it being similar to the title of Jay-Z and Kanye West's album, why did you name your most recent mixtape Watching the Throne?
I named it Watching the Throne in the beginning as a playful shot to express my dislike for Kanye and Jay-Z's project. But as I traveled and worked on the album during the writing process, I started studying the medieval period and evolved it into a story loosely based off King James II and the Glorious Revolution. I actually consider it a free album, not a mixtape. I like to give people quality music for free as not to over-expect anything.
The mixtape features a freestyle over the beat of Watch the Throne's "Niggas in Paris," and "Reign (Long Live the King)" has a beat whose structure is similar to that of "Otis." What other big-time beats are you interested in freestyling over or interpolating like that?
I'm actually doing a mixtape called The Tape where I spit over a gang of industry instrumentals. It's reminiscent of an old Lil Wayne mixtape, the type of stuff he was doing in '07, only from my aspects. So far I've done "Everything's a Go" by French Montana, "OJ" by Young Jeezy, "I Don't Like" by Chief Keef, and "Hot Toddy" by Usher and Jay-Z. It's a little something different. People always expect me to spit over straight boom-bap, but I'm super-diverse.
Speaking of boom-bap, the ID3 tags for Watching the Throne list the genre in which you work as "neo-boom-bap." How is neo-boom-bap different from traditional boom-bap?
Neo-boom-bap is a genre I created. It's a blend of boom-bap and neo-soul; it's like Erykah Badu meets RZA, I suppose. [Badu] is actually who inspired me to create.
Since you have songs that reference everyone from Wu-Tang to Lil B, CunninLynguists to Kanye, Lil Wayne to Will Smith, you must have a solid knowledge of rap history. Who are some of your favorite MCs?
A few of my all-time favorites are Too $hort, Mac Dre, Dru Down, Jay-Z, early Nas, EPMD, Rakim, Method Man, Lauryn Hill, Big L, Mos Def, and MF Doom
18 of Watching the Throne's 20 songs were produced by Canadian beatmaker ENG. In your mind, how does working with someone that extensively play into the feel of a project?
To be honest, a friend of mine got a bunch of beats from ENG for the project and I just went through and selected all the ones I thought would fit the feel of the album. After I found I wanted to do a medieval theme, I selected the beats that sounded close enough to that feel while still being able to move a crowd or start a party. ENG is very consistent in his production, but he can also do various styles. He's just an all-around super-producer, honestly, so it was as simple as finding enough beats out of the 40-something I had that fit this one style I needed for the album.
Soundset's got to be one of the largest, if not the largest, gigs you've played. How will you approach your set in Shakopee differently than you would a smaller gig?
I approach all my shows the same, really. I'm always trying to figure out what I can do different to keep people's attention, and I learned a lot about myself as a performer while I toured on the East Coast last month. I just go out there and wild out, to tell you the truth [laughs]. I build off energy, so I think this is gonna be one of my best performances, since it's the biggest.
Who are some of the artists you're looking forward to seeing at Soundset?
I definitely wanna catch Lupe [Fiasco], Danny Brown, Action Bronson, Raekwon and Ghostface, and DJ Premier.
Anything else to add?
Find me @Chuuweetus on Twitter,, and My debut album [Wild Style] is dropping May 29. Free Max B, and big, big, big ups to my camp TUS.

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• General admission tickets $46
• VIP tickets sold out
• 11 a.m. Sunday, May 27
• Canterbury Park Festival Field, Shakopee

Nine hours of music will be spread over two main stages and the Fifth Element stage. The day's events also include a B-boy/B-girl DJ tent, live painting exhibit, skate demo area, the Soundset custom car show, and the Last of the Record Buyers live production showcase.

The Official Soundset 2012 Afterparty. 18+, $10-$15, 10 p.m. Sunday, May 27, at First Avenue, Minneapolis. Hosted by Brother Ali and MaLLy and featuring surprise performances by Soundset artists. Beats by Get Cryphy DJs (Plain Ole Bill, DJ Fundo, Jimmy 2 Times, and Last Word).

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