An Interview w/ Chali 2NA
by Mark Pollard
November 2001

What have you been up to recently because you seem to have been bouncing through a mass of different groups and projects?

Yeah, well Iíve just been trying to keep busy. Thatís the main objective. Iím an extreme lover of music and Iím trying to continuously engage in relationships. [laughing]

Musical relationships?

Yes, yes.

Are you still working with Ozomatli or have you moved on?

Itís not that Iíve moved on. We still work together but at this particular time we canít do what we used to do when Ozomatli started.

What else have you been working on then?

Iíve done some stuff with Swollen Members. Iíve done some stuff with the Long Beach Dub Allstars. Those are some of the bigger things.

Are you getting involved with the music side of things or just focusing on the lyrics?

Iíve got a little bit of equipment at the house Iíve been trying to work on but Iím not the maestro yet.

Who do you draw influence from?

Everybody from Grandmaster Caz, the Cold Crush Brothers, to Sade to Beanie Man. Thereís so many different aspects to myself and the other guys as well and thaíts what I think makes us who we are when we bring it all together.

Tell me about the Goodlife Cafť because that seemed to be the central focus for a hell of a lot of innovative groups and especially lyricists. What were you doing around that time?

I was there. I witnessed a lot of it. I came and started attending the Goodlife not soon after its conception and I was there until its closing. It was college. It was like us being there constantly, watching people, learning from people, getting up there, teaching people. It was cool. We were learning ourselves and honing our skills as live performers so thatís why a lot of the groups that come out of the LA underground are extreme live performers.

Have you got any memorable stories from that venue?

Oh my god, yes. Some of the best times were when we performed there we did this song called ď7 OíClock BusĒ with a couple of friends of ours called the Dark Beat??. We all sat in chairs like we were at the bus stop waiting for the bus and whoever rocked up next would stand up to look for the bus Ďcause the bus was late. The place was packed and John Singleton was in the house. He complimented us and stuff. From something as good as that to something as ruthless Fat Joe, when he first came out here he tried to do his first single ďFlow JoeĒ a capella and he got booed off the stage because they were that ruthless.

So I guess being able to stick around in that environment would mean you had your shit together.

[laughing] You had to have it together. If you didnít youíd know. Youíd go home with your feelings hurt.

What about the period before that as far as you as an MC?

Iím originally from the south side of Chicago and I got into hip hop by a dude named Dave 3 who moved to Chicago from the Bronx. He was a grafitti writer. He used to have a lot of the old school Harlem World tapes that I would hear, park jams, just basically exposing me to the era before it actually hit Chicago and the era of extreme house music in Chicago. So I got into it through him. Iím a graffiti artist at heart. I started painting with him and he taught me a lot about the whole elements of hip hop. I saw it blooming in Chicago and I moved to California when I was 14 or 15 and I kind of caught it as it was breezing through California as well. It was cool. I got a well-rounded exposure to hip hop in an American form if you know what I mean. That basically influenced me to rhyme.

What prompted the move to California?

Oh man, Chicago is a very hell-holish place if you will. Certain aspects of it will suck you under. And my family was going through a whole bunch of different things and if I would have stayed I would have been either a drug dealer or a drug user or dead Ė one of the three, because of where we stayed at the time. So my grandmother was moving to California and she asked me: ďYou can stay here with your mum or you can come with me if you want.Ē And at the time a friend of mine had got killed maybe four months before my grandmother had moved so I decided to leave with her.

And that was when you were 14? That must have been a few years after your voice broke because it must have taken a while for your voice to get that deep and booming.

Well actually, man, I guess thatís a gradual thing. I had the high-pitched voice when I was a youngster as wellÖ

Have you got any tapes of that?

Yes and they probably will surface so when it comes out please donít laugh at me. Just enjoy what Iím saying.

You have kids yourself donít you?

Just one son.

And has he taken to hip hop as well?

Oh yeah definitely. My son loves it all. Heís an eclectic guy. His mum sings too so itís cool.

How has Quality Control been going for you as a group?

Itís going well. We just on this journey again and learning newer things about each other and about ourselves and trying to translate it to tape, man. So itís been going good. As you listen to the newer stuff and you listen to the older stuff, you see the growth, you see different directions, you see us being ourselves at the same time. Itís amazing. Iím liking what Iím doing.

Youíve got a pretty talented bunch of guys that youíre working with. Apart from Cut Chemist and Nu Mark do the other guys work with other groups at all?

Well, Akil does a lot ot things. He has a group called The Tone of Justice. He has a group called the Unabombers. Marc7 does a few solo things here and there. Heís done a few things that are going to come out with the Beat Junkies. Zakir sings and he acts. I think everybody is talented in different areas and is just trying to get into it in different areas.

Have you been watching Cut Chemist at these infamous Brainfreeze sessions?

Definitely. Iíve been around Cut Chemist since he was about 14 years old so you know, Iíve seen the growth.

Did you go to the most recent ones Ė Product Placement?

Yes, I did two shows with him. I performed. That was cool. Those guys are amazing. Itís amazing to me that people can come out and see DJs like that.

What were doing?

He kind of dropped something that is an original to what Jurassic did and we just did the song. It was cool. I wonít really give it away because he may want to come to down to Australia with it.

Is he coming out here with you guys?

Yeah definitely.

I know you are doing a few separate shows from the festivals but the festivals seem so perfect for your sound and energy.

Yeah I hope so. Iíve been hearing only good stories so I just canít wait.

You guys are known for rocking parties but what tracks do you think display you on a deep and meaningful level?

Well Jurassic 5Ö the song ďContribution to LifeĒ is one of my favorite, heart-felt songs weíve ever written because a lot of that stuff was actually elements of our lives as individuals when we were children. Thatís one for sure. Some of the newer stuff weíre writing right now on this new album weíre just expressing real deep feelings. One of the songs is about a platonic relationship with a girl that could be somebody that you could spend the rest of the life with but itís about maintaining that friendship. We have a song about the word freedom itself. Just different things we do to try to express feeling and evoke emotion.

So tell me about the word freedom then.

Itís a misconstrued word. Itís a small word that encompasses so much and yet is used more as a mask than as a cleansing material. Thereís so much stuff you know. Youíll hear the song.

Where do you source material from? Do you read? Life experience?

Life experience, man, which includes reading. But also just us loving the music we do and loving a certain sound and wanting to create that sound.

Have you perfected that?

Nah, you never perfect anything.


Stealth Magazine is the first and only full color hip hop magazine in Australia with a CD-Rom. It was established independently in 1999 as a zine and has grown ever since. Currently, Stealth Magazine is distributed in over 12 countries including through Tower Records worldwide. Editorially Stealthís mission is to act as an historical documentation of hip hop culture around the world Ė not as a product catalogue. Each issue sees coverage of artists from many different countries and continents all with one thing in common Ė a passion for hip hop culture.


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