DJ ChaunceyCC on the Spooky Side of Hip-Hop, and Stopping with the Stupid Subgenres Already
East Coast-rasied hip-hop DJ-producer ChaunceyCC began his career in a very straightforward way: "I became a DJ pretty much out of the sheer fact that I can't rap, and everyone else I grew up around could." The observation paid off, as the selecter born Chauncey Johnson has since toured with indie rappers like Cage, EL-P, and Aesop Rock. Now based in San Francisco, Johnson is currently the live/tour DJ for Oakland rap duo Main Attrakionz, and the Bay Area opener for Tumblr-wave rapper Chippy Nonstop. Although hip-hop remains his first love, he's recently ventured into the darker side of things, becoming resident at witch house party 120 Minutes. He DJs Friday at Elbo Room for 120 Minutes with addtional performances by NGUZUNGUZU, oOoOO, boychild, S4NtA_MU3rTE, and Nako. Ahead of the show, we talked to Johnson about the similarities between hip-hop and rap, and his final wish for music before the world ends.
Why did you gravitate toward hip-hop while growing up?
I mean, I've always liked all sorts of music, even to this day. But I'd say I gravitated toward hip-hop mostly 'cause of how and where I grew up. I lived in a pretty urban environment, in the "projects" or "ghetto." Everyone in my hood growing up loved hip-hop, especially New York hip-hop like Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep, Cam'ron.
How does that shape you as a DJ today?
Back then, a lot of the beats for the stuff I was listening to were darker and grittier, which I guess makes sense when you think about the parties I DJ more so now, like 120 Minutes and Future Perfect. Those are both darker electronic parties.
What local acts inspired you growing up?
Oh man. I loved Wu-Tang, specifically Ghostface Killah and Raekwon the Chef. My friends and I worshipped those dudes. Their slang, the way they dressed. I still wear Clarks Wallabees 'cause of Ghostface. Luckily I left the Nautica jackets and Tommy Hilfiger vests back in the '90s (laughs). I really liked Gravediggaz too. Oh, and Kool Keith.
How did you become the tour DJ for indie rappers like Aesop Rock and Cage?
My friend Daryl Palumbo who sings for Glassjaw, Head Automatica, and like a thousand other bands, did a song with Cage a few years back called "Shoot Frank", which was unreal to me at the time because we loved all the Def Jux stuff. We just ended up hitting it off with all of them, and making a little crew and doing music together. Aesop actually lives in San Francisco now, too, so shouts out to Aesop.
You've also done a few shows for Bay Area rapper Chippy Nonstop. Since you are first and foremost a hip-hop head, give us a few thoughts on this whole "Tumblr-wave" rap explosion.
I mean, just like any rap explosion, there's good stuff, bad stuff, and really bad stuff. But there's definitely a lot of good MCs and producers from that world. Flatbush Zombies, Friendzone, Keyboard Kid are lumped in with Tumblr-wave stuff, and I most definitely rock with all those cats.
Lately you've also gravitated toward witch house parties. What do you enjoy about DJing the darker parties, like 120 Minutes?
The people are just more down for different kinds of music, as opposed to say, an EDM party or a hip-hop show. You can mix like Depeche Mode into Gucci Mane into Pictureplane into a weird Lady Gaga remix into a Purity Ring song featuring Danny Brown at 120 and nobody is really going to second-guess it. Whereas if you did that a hip-hop party, you would for sure have some fools mean-muggin'.
You often get asked to spin hip-hop at punk shows. What do you see in common between the two genres?
A lot. That could actually be its own article all together. For starters, they're both viewed as maybe a little dangerous to some people. It's crazy how many people are just down for both now. Ever since Odd Future blew up, there's been this huge crossover of like, skateboard and punk rock kids who are down for hip-hop and vice versa. I played a show at DNA Lounge last night with Trash Talk, Mellowhype, Antwon, and Sabertooth Zombie and you really couldn't tell who was there for what artist because all styles were just clashing. You'll see hip-hop cats wearing punk vests with band patches and spikes, and then long-haired headbanger dudes with hats tilted to the side that say like "TRILL" on them or something. Hesh vs. Fresh, as Thrasher Magazine would put it.
What productions are you currently working on?
I'm working on a mixtape with my homie Khalil Nova from Atlanta right now. It's going to be hip-hop in the sense that he'll be rapping on it. But musically, the beats span everything from Crosses to oOoOO to Death Grips. It should be a crazy one.
So if the world ends this Friday, Dec. 21, what do you wish would happen to music before then?
I wish everyone would stop making up stupid names and subgenres for everything. Enough is enough. Fidget Step? Slime Wave? Trap Trance? Pffft, get real.