In the Sky Box Exclusives [Interview Series] Chrys J. Speaks Candidly on the Stepping $tonez of Music +Career

On any given Sunday, you can find Chrys J., creating magic in his decked out Charlotte studio. The bass is hella loud, melodies playing like oceans in the sound system and he's super focused, hardly anxious, and ready to work. Every once in a while, he takes a break to crack a joke or sarcastically applaud his own genius, but in the blink of an eye, it's back to business. And if you're fortunate enough to be there as a mere guest and nothing more, there is a presence that something real is taking place. 

Quiet, yet extremely confident, effortless swag, but a perfectionist to a fault, he carries the best of many worlds. He's like one of the popular kids in high school, who was good at everything, who no one no one truly expects to be so cool and down to earth. Once you get to know him, however, all those prejudices are challenged. Music wise, I'm honestly not even sure if the industry is ready-let alone the world-but I'm excited to have had the chance to get to know Chrys J. as a person before the fame, so respecting him as an artist comes that much more naturally.

CA: Ice breaker: Who-in your opinion-is the best rapper in the game at the moment? Is there ever a point in your creative space where you hold yourself to that standard of “the best”?

CJ: Jermaine Cole. No-brainer. We have a somewhat similar story. Coming from a military family, hoop dreams not panning out the way you hoped and music taking the lead, college being a turning point in your life when you realize you're capable of more than a degree can offer. You kinda just use school to buy time. The producer/artist tip. Plenty similarities. I respect a lot of artists for various reasons, but lyrically and conceptually his story resonates the most. I don't necessarily aim to meet his standard. Being my own worst critic, it takes a lot to impress myself, so I try to meet my standard. 

CA: So now to what may be hardest question in this interview…In your own words, who exactly is Chrys J. (be as detailed or as vague as you want to be, no pressure)

CJ: A pimp, for one. Lol. Nah. I've grown to be a man of few but usually wisely chosen/calculated words. "Usually." Moving around a lot as a kid forced me to have to constantly leave friends and meet new people, and eventually I just went into a shell and didn't care to. I've always been relatively well known through hooping/females/etc. no matter where I was, but holding a conversation wasn't always my favorite thing to do. Still isn't. Music was big in our household. Just about everyone in my immediate family can sing. Both of my parents. My granddad is cold with it. I've written songs and dreamed of being a musician of some capacity since about 5, though people didn't really know until about Junior year in high school when I started experimenting with recording and dropping songs on MySpace. They were probably trash and definitely don't exist anymore. I was living in Jersey at the time and hated everything about it, so I made my room a studio. Yeah. I think "pimp" sums that up. 

CA: Being the man behind the audio engineering and in the forefront as a hip-hop artist, as well a healthcare specialist in the United States Army takes a certain level of focus, discipline, and talent. At what point did you decide music was the direction you wanted to take your life? Was there anyone around you or someone you grew up listening to who influenced that decision?

CJ: I'm actually not active army. I was at Augusta State 2010-2012, and after pledging Kappa Alpha Psi, all I was doing was drinking and partying. Hardly went to class. I just wasn't interested. Then came a point where I had to decide what the next step was. I didn't want to be that guy whose greatest accomplishment was pledging. Didn't want be known as "Chrys, the Kappa." Didn't want to be the only brother/homeboy who wasn't achieving. My brother, Jae, who already had many successes in the Army at the same age, convinced me to pursue the reserves. Keep in mind, the whole way through I was still dabbling in music, but was nowhere good enough to take myself seriously and pursue it full-time. Short story shorter, I left Augusta for the army, went through EMT/Nursing school, then returned to Atlanta to work as a nurse at Morehouse School of Medicine in 2014. I used my enlistment bonus to purchase my first "professional" music equipment. Army was a stepping stone (shameless plug).The same summer, my LB, Bernard, passed away and a couple weeks later the girl I was engaged to had a change of heart. That dark place propelled me into a relentless pursuit of my dreams. Bernard didn't get to live out his, and she didn't believe in mine enough to stick around. Fast forward to today, I still work full-time as a nurse, and I still spend countless hours at the studio. It's like two full-time jobs. Success is the motivator. To prove myself right and make B proud. Think I'm doing okay. 

CA: Where did you grow up and how did it ultimately lead you to NC? What’s your biggest takeaway from being on the Charlotte music scene right now?

CJ: Man...I've lived all over the place. North Carolina is like the 6-7th state I've lived in or something crazy like that. I'd say I "grew up" the most in Augusta, even though I moved there when I was 19. I just gained a sense of identity there. Learned who I was (and who I wasn't). To be completely honest, a nice young lady lead me to Charlotte. I was making the commute from Atlanta to Greensboro/Charlotte for army drills and visiting her. So I said f it and moved. All I know of the Charlotte music scene is that they seem to be extremely territorial and set in their ways. It's not as much of a collective effort as it is in Atlanta, or even Augusta. They're not as receptive to "the new guy" or what can be perceived to be competition. I've only been here for a year though, and I'm borderline antisocial. So it's probably just me. Lol. On the other hand, people knock on my door all the time at the studio to figure out who I am and exchange info. I'm open to working with anybody though. Well, not "anybody," but you get it. If it's mutually beneficial, say no more. 

CA: Let’s talk about this new single out ‘$Tonez’ ft. AE produced alongside Akeem J. Wells. There’s a pretty intense love story unfolding in this song, a vulnerability aspect if you will. Is it safe to assume you are currently spoken for? 

CJ: Stones. Stones. Stones. First, shout out the homie AE and the homie Keem. AE's a monster singer. Her debut single "Whatever" was one of the first beats I made when I decided to start producing in 2014. So I had to have her on my artist debut. Keem is the mf plug. Lol. Best producer I know, hands down. Threw me all the game when I first started, and still does. To have them both play their respective roles in the track was dope. It's a completely honest track. As I mentioned, I was engaged before. When that fell through, I was 99.9998% sure I'd just be pimpin' for life. Then the nice young lady, also mentioned before, slid in my DM's. At first I was like, "Mannnnn this mf." A young, slightly intoxicated Chrys J once told her he had a crush on her on his 21st bday after ending up at her sorority house somehow back in 2011. She curved. Had a dude or whatever. 4 years later she in my inbox... ready to risk it all. So, without getting too far in detail, the track is about that situation. Could do a whole 'nother interview dissecting the track. It's of high sentimental value.

Listen + download G.O.A.T.$. (Gifts Of A Terrible Summer) EP: Apple Music | Soundcloud
CA: Of course the people want to know: who is the special lady?

CJ: A "Delta from Carolina....she the meanest calling 'oop'"... Or whatever I said 

CA: {Laughs out loud} That’s what’s up! It's amazing that you have someone like that in your corner! 

So now back to the music. When you’re in the studio, what’s the best way for you to remain focused? Do you ever have a lot of people there creating like a jam session atmosphere or do you work better alone or with a selective crowd?

CJ: Definitely alone. At the most I'll have the homie Chill Woods there when he pull up to the city. We started this production journey together as "Thirty4$even." A lot goes into creating what y'all hear. We start from absolute silence and end up with something that could either become part of your everyday lives or completely ruin ours. Lol. So I appreciate very minimal distraction. It doesn't take me too long to knock out a beat once I get an idea, but it takes me forever to record. I'll do something 100 times over when it was right the first take. Like I said in the track though, "what's good enough should be left alone" (shameless plug).

Dope interview. Real quick. "$tonez" ft. AE available on iTunes/Apple Music, Spotify, Google Play, soundcloud...all that. My debut project, the "G.O.A.T.$ EP" will be released this summer. Shout out the label RMR, MADE Ent., all the supporters/closet supporters/haters. Everybody. F Donald Trump though. He bogus AF.  

Follow me on Twitter: @TheSkyBoxSuite | @ChymereA