Chanel West Coast Talks Her New Summer Album
You think you know her from MTV’s Fantasy Factory and Ridiculousness, but Chanel West Coast is here on the east side to set the record straight. She performed this week at Milk Studio’s MilkMade space in New York for the launch of Frank 151’s Chapter 59, titled Femmes, a book that showcased women who are talented, creative, and owning their own shit, of which Chanel is a great example. She made her official music debut with her 2013 mixtape Now You Know but since then she’s left Young Money and is releasing a full-length project this summer. It’s Chanel 2.0: Uncut. And for a girl who kicks it with Rob Dyrdek and Sterling Brim at her day job, she actually rolls with an amazing girl gang that includes her press agent, tour manager, and DJ. I sat down for lunch with her and her squad for a long talk about girl-on-girl hate (and love), beefs between female rappers, keeping it real on social media, Iggy Azalea, and why once people hear her music, they’ll stop talking shit and come apologize. And we might have formed a Spice Girls tribute band at some point too. Later that night, I watched her perform her set, and she brought an awesome energy to the crowd and got everyone hype about the new album. She’s definitely one to watch, and one of the best lunch dates I’ve ever had, so check it out below.
So the new album drops this summer, what is it called? And how are you building on what you started with Now You Know?
The album is called The Life. And I’m trying to tell more of my story than in Now You Know. I feel like with Now You Know, what I was saying was like ‘Hey, now you can’t say that I’m not a rapper!” And now I want to tell more of my story. I feel like I didn’t get to do that very much on Now You Know, those were more party songs and I was going through a relationship so there were some love songs, but I didn’t really get into those life type songs, and that’s why its called The Life. And its all about showing you the life of Chanel West Coat through my music, so there are songs that tell more of what I’ve been through, and you just get to know me more. And I’m singing more, which is something people are not going to expect as much. But I do that for a majority of the album; I’m pretty much singing and rapping the verses.
So how have you balanced your more known persona as an MTV cohost, with your experience as a rapper? Does being someone that already has a certain fan base help or hinder?
It’s been a big uphill battle. I feel like I’ve had to put in an extra amount of work to really prove myself. Whereas artists who come out and no one really knows them, can come out and don’t have to prove themselves beyond the music, you know what I mean? It’s just ‘oh, the music’s dope.’ For me, the struggle has been getting people to actually listen to the music. A majority of my haters have been people who are like “I’m not going to listen to that shit, you’re the girl that laughs on the couch.” And I’m like ‘you’re an idiot, why don’t you go listen and then come back and apologize.’ And I have had people do just that.
A lot of people don’t know that I got on Rob’s shows through my Myspace music page. I made it when I was 16 with the goal of being heard by someone in the music industry. I had no idea that Rob Dyrdek would discover me and ask me to be his rapping receptionist, it was the most random thing to happen to me. And I wouldn’t change it for the world, because being on the shows is so much fun. But for me as an artist, it’s been hard because a lot of people think they know me, when they really only see that one side of my personality on the shows. On the show we’re just doing funny stuff with Rob, its not like a reality show where you can see my personal life or my struggles. So it takes meeting people like you and telling my story through my music and eventually everyone will catch on. It’s all about getting people to hear me on the radio and that will put me more in the position where people who haven’t taken the time to listen, they’re not going to be able to avoid it. So that’s my next goal, I can’t wait to hear myself on the radio.
What are a lot of the impressions, or even misconceptions, that people have of you from seeing you on Ridiculousness and Fantasy Factory?
I think people see me on this show hanging out with Rob and Sterling, and all the guys, and being the only girl in a group of guys, you come off as cuter and sweeter. But with my group of girlfriends, I’m very much the leader-type. And its like, you don’t get to see me with my group of girls, you don’t get to see me with my girls and see how strong of a woman I am. You see me as the laughing, weak girl in the group of guys. So people kind of put that image on me.
Speaking of images, in reading your interviews, you are always asked about or compared to Iggy Azeala, what are your impressions of those questions? Or that line of questioning in general?
You know its funny, even when I was first presented the opportunity to work with Young Money, a couple of people were like: but what about Nicki Minaj? You have to worry about competing with her. And I’m like: we’ll be on the same team! At least that’s how I think, you know? But what I wonder is: why is everyone trying to compare rap females? No one compares singers, like no one would compare Beyonce and Rihanna, or R&B singers, but everyone wants to pit the small pool of females rappers against one another.
Would things be different if you didn’t start out from television?
If I was never on these TV shows, I’d be going way harder. Like when I first started rapping, if you heard those songs, you’d be like “whoa what the heck” but like, it’s the people I grew up with. I don’t like to brag about having delinquent friends, but I grew up with the bad kids. Like those were the people I grew up with, my homies are in jail or murdered, like those are the people I grew up with. So when I first came out, I was rapping hard on some gangster shit. But after being on the shows, I have all these cute little kid fans and, at first, on social media, I would never curse, I would never talk about smoking weed. Because I have these kid fans, and I felt guilty all the time.
I was very torn, I didn’t know how to be myself and show my true personality and be who I really am without offending this fan base. So that’s when I was like ok, I want to go a little more pop with my music, or maybe not so crazy, not so much cursing and talking so much about smoking weed. Even though that’s really me, but I tried to be a little more pop and mainstream to please that other audience.
So how did you deal with that struggle? What changed?
I really started coming out more like myself on social media and stuff after Miley Cyrus, I’m just going to keep it real. Because this is a joke to me that this person came from Disney, and I love Miley Cyrus, I’m a big fan, no disrespect at all, but it was a joke to me because this girl came from Disney and is blatantly smoking weed and doing all this crazy shit and no one is giving her flack for it and I come off of MTV and I’m getting flack. Like, lets be real, I was rolling blunts and rocking J’s when Miley was in pre-school. Real shit.
TV can really affect your image. And it can either really help with them showing a great amount of stuff about you. Like on shows like Love and Hip Hop and stuff, it helps that you can see their struggles and what they go through and stuff like that and you relate to them more and you want to listen to people you relate to.
And I’m on a show where I can’t be sad. There have been times when I’m on set and I just got through a breakup or I’m struggling with my other work, I could be dying inside and I have to go there and put a smile on my face and laugh. Like it’s a job, it’s my job. And I think that’s another thing that keeps people from relating to me because this girl is always happy. They don’t see the struggle, they don’t see the other part of it. And that’s why I think people on other reality shows might have an easier time transitioning into music.
How much of this do you talk about in The Life?
I talk about a lot of stuff. In my song The Life, I talk about me surpassing the haters and really just trying to break through and it’s just this feeling of a new life; I’m breaking through and forgetting about the past. And I have this other song about my ex-boyfriend who was the first producer I ever worked with who was shot and killed when we were 17, so I talk about that a little bit. There are just so many aspects of my life that no one has any ideas about and I really wanted to make sure to put those things in the music. Now You Know was really like me trying to put my foot down like ‘I’m a rapper bitch’ and now I’m trying to say ‘Ok here’s my story, get to know me.’