Feature Stories

Chaz French Found the Hip-Hop Promised Land, and a Fan in Wale, in Dallas

Chaz French never expected Texas would be the place to make his hip-hop dreams come true. When he moved here with family as a teenager and found himself living on friends' couches, it seemed like the place for those dreams to go to die. But the opposite has proved true: Still only 23 years old, French has a single with Wale, "No Shade," in his pocket and has received recognition from some of the country's biggest hip-hop publications. Suddenly the future looks bright.

French grew up in Washington, D.C., or the DMV area as some like to call it, in a traditional household with his mother, father and brother for the majority of his life. There he discovered his true love for music and the art of hip-hop. He decided to participate in a talent show in 9th grade in Maryland and the rest was history. “I got such a crazy reaction from the crowd and I didn’t expect it at all. That’s when I knew this was something I really wanted to do,” he says.

But not long after that talent show, during his sophomore year in high school, French received some upsetting news from his parents. His mother had an opportunity at work, and it would be taking them to Dallas. They would have to relocate to a completely new city. Like a typical teenager, French wasn’t excited about moving and was worried about making new friends. He recalls not talking to his parents for an entire week, thinking Texas was just full of “cows, horses and cowboys.”

His family wound up settling down in Arlington and, once there, French’s whole outlook changed: Texas was the complete opposite of what he had imagined. He quickly made a lot of friends and the transition was easier than expected. “I just loved the people and how they’re so friendly everywhere you go. The Southern hospitality is real,” he says.

After settling into his new Texas lifestyle, French told his parents that he wanted to pursue music as his full-time career. They weren’t fully supportive and he became rebellious, deciding to strike out on his own. “I was homeless and started going through all the bullshit by choice, not because I had to," he says. "I felt that I had to prove to myself and my family what I was capable of."
He spent a year sleeping at different friends' houses and getting drunk and high an "excessive" amount of the time. In his eyes he was “just being a loser” and was emotionless. He credits the girl he was dating then with forcing him to look in the mirror and be honest with himself. ”She cared about me enough to tell me that my current state was horrible and I really needed to pull it together, so that’s what I did,” French says. During that time he learned a lot about himself and that's when he feels he was able to grow as an artist.

After those dark times, a ray of sunshine fell upon him. His hard work was rewarded when he got signed to R&B singer Raheem DeVaugn’s label CCCLXVIII, 368 Music Group. Shortly after signing, he released his first EP, Happy Belated, in October of 2014, which he thanks his move to Texas for. “Texas shaped who I am and my music career. I wouldn’t have come up with Happy Belated, my overdue gift to the world which started my career, if it wasn’t for my time in Texas,” French says.

Happy Belated received great feedback and he started to notice the buzz building around it on social media. His manager, Dre Hopson, who had an existing relationship with D.C. rapper Wale, introduced the two in early 2015. “Wale took a liking to Chaz and decided to take him on a few concert dates,” Hopson says. Wale, more of a modern day poet than a straight rapper, doesn’t just collaborate with anyone. But once French met him at one of his studio sessions in Los Angeles and played "No Shade" for him, he was quick to jump on the track. Since then he’s been recognized by media outlets like The FaderComplex and Hot New Hip Hop.
His lack of shyness and love of attention made the transition to a bigger platform easy for French. He loves that people can make it through their days listening to his music. “My music is honest. I don’t really care about the other things. I’m just worried about the people who can relate to my music,” he says. “I create my music for the kid with low self-esteem who has a dream, but no one wants to listen to him.” He pauses. “I make music for the dreamer.”

When it came to releasing his follow-up project, These Things Take Time, French decided to go back in the studio with the some of the same producers from his first project, and Miles Franklin (aka Super Miles) and Kalon Berry (aka DJ Kal Banx) are both based in Dallas. By adding another local producer named Darius Wooten (aka D. Woo), you can basically say a dream team was created. This stellar combination created classic-sounding, compelling tracks that’ll make you fall in love with hip-hop all over again. “I’ll always come back to Dallas when I’m working on a project. It’s only right,” French says.

DJ Kal Banx, who produced "Young Nigga Nation" on the Happy Belated EP, became a part of French’s music family and feels blessed to witness the rise of a young MC of French's caliber. “Chaz is definitely one of those special people that you don’t come around too often musically. It’s real cool to work with someone that’s putting something positive in the universe,” Banx says.

The hopes for TTTT are that people will recognize “the patience of the struggle” and his growth as an artist. “I just want people to listen to my music and know that I’m a genuine guy with a genuine heart and I’m sexy as fuck,” he chuckles. “But seriously, I know I can’t change the world, but if I can make a difference in one person’s life then that’s good.”
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