Chris DeLine

Cedar Rapids, IA

Chill Mac Interview

Published in Blog, villin. Tags: , , .

Chill Mac Iowa Rapper Hip-Hop

Chill Mac has had a prolific output over the past ten months, following up last summer’s AKA Chill Mac EP with his new full-length release titled None Chiller. Dropping in April, the album’s 12 tracks cover a wide swath of hip-hop, while regularly leaning in on a slowed, pitched-down style that’d fit well within the chopped and screwed scene of yesteryear. Helping him along the way with the album was a slew of collaborators, both on the production side, as well as on the mic. And behind the board for None Chiller was Anthony “AMMixes” Maldonado, who recorded, mixed, and mastered the release. Catching up by email, Chill Mac spoke to his relationship with AMMixes and how it’s helped him grow as an artist, while also discussing the release’s tone, its many collaborations, and broader concepts around approaching the album as a product of healing.

villin: There were several collaborators you worked with over the course of None Chiller. Who pitched in with guitar on the album opener, “Heart & Soul,” and what sound were you going for with that track?

Chill Mac: Taylor King came through and laid guitar down for “Heart & Soul.” I didn’t have a direction in mind when I made the beat but after I started writing to it and saw where it took me, I just felt like guitar was needed. Taylor probably laid down six good takes for that song and it was tough to decide which one to use, but I feel we (AMMixes and myself) chose the best take that flowed with the vibe of the track.

villin: To me, the track’s lyrics speak to ideas surrounding the larger what if’s many of us face in life; provoking contemplation surrounding how life could have gone wrong, but also how it’s ended up working out. What did you have in mind with your lyrics on the song and what made it the right track to open None Chiller?

Chill Mac: That’s pretty much all it is lyrically, kind of a life update/journal entry of sorts. I felt that was a nice lil warm up into the album when looking at [the] track listing . When I started to write “Heart & Soul” I didn’t know that it was going to be the opening track or even that it was going to be on the project at all, to be honest. I went into this project just wanting to make something that was authentically me, but more selfishly I just needed to get some things off my chest. Music is therapy for me and that can get really personal at times. I didn’t know if I wanted to put that song out in the beginning because it was very raw for me to express myself so openly and expose my insecurities, in a way. I am glad I did though. I feel much lighter and like I have more room to grow, both as a person and as an artist. And I really like that hook, too. That’s a fun one.

villin: Speaking of what could have been, I found it fascinating to learn about the road work you did—circa 2009-2013—which in some ways helped inspire your own creative direction (hat-tip to Jordan Mayland for that). Are you able to speak to which acts you toured with? , and looking back on those years, how do you think they continue to inform the work you’re doing today?

Chill Mac: Yeah, in 2009 I had freshly dropped out of college and was really struggling with what I should be doing with my life, as most 19 year olds go through. A friend of mine had just joined a hardcore band from Columbia, Missouri called Nothing to Nothing, playing guitar. They were getting ready for a two month-long tour and needed a merch guy to sell their t-shirts and records, and I didn’t even hesitate at the opportunity.

After a year or so touring with them around the US, they decided to call it quits and I began doing merch for another hardcore band from Milwaukee named Expire. I traveled with them until 2013. I was able to literally see the world selling t-shirts and records. We toured with bands I never thought I would be in the same room as. We shared the road with Power Trip, Rotting Out, Backtrack, Soul Search, Xibalba, Comeback Kid, Figure Four, Madball, Senses Fail, Twitching Tongues, Take Offense, and so many others! I met some truly beautiful souls on the road and wouldn’t be doing hip-hop, instead of being a merch guy, if it wasn’t for some of those people. Rest in power Riley Gale and Tim Butcher.

Touring definitely opened my world up to help me bust out of my comfort zone. I grew into myself out on the road and found who I am and what my purpose is. I found my moral compass out there and can stand on everything without regrets. But all good things come to an end and I don’t believe in coincidence. It was good I got out when I did because I was forced to focus on myself, which is something that hasn’t always been natural to me. Some of my fondest memories to date are traveling around the world, waking up to new horizons, all while being surrounded by so many creative individuals. Imma take all that game I acquired being a merch guy/roadie and apply it to myself and my own hustle, because that’s the dragon I’m chasing in this lifetime. Music is definitely my drug of choice. Fosho.

villin: Working merch for part of that time, it’s no wonder we saw a cassette of AKA Chill Mac released to accompany the EP’s digital drop. What led you to going the tape route and what did it mean to you to have a tactile representation of your work in your hands like that?

Chill Mac: I personally love cassette tapes. I have a small collection of my own and always wanted to put my work on both cassette and vinyl. Coming from the hardcore/punk/metal scene, and also being so into hip-hop, I am a sucker for the physical copies that I can open up, and look at artwork, and/or read the lyrics as I listen along. I wanted to provide that and maybe inspire someone else. I get excited when I pick up a new vinyl or tape; it’s kinda like chasing a high to be honest. Cassettes are also considerably cheaper to make than vinyl, so it was an easy decision for me! Shout out Noah at Future Sight Records for the tapes, too!

villin: Did you produce all of None Chiller, or mix it up with someone else making the beats?

Chill Mac: Definitely had to mix it up a bit! Everything was recorded and mixed by AMMixes. As far as production, it’s [mostly] myself and I either collaborated or asked specific producers from Des Moines, Iowa to be a part of the production. I wanted to show that you don’t have to go far to make something shake. Des Moines is full of so many talented artists. I encourage the collaborations. How else we supposed to grow the city?
I produced “Heart & Soul,” “I’m Chill,” “Cousin of Death,” “Ciggy Muzik,” “HOWiFEEL,” and co-produced “Contact High.”

Pondarosa Mo (or MOBEATZ) cooked up on “Contact High” and he also made “HOWiMOVE” by himself. He is a beast on his own. You’ll see this man set up shop and make a beat anywhere! Mothking64 produced both “Standard” and “She/Her,” and big shout out to 64 for workin’ with me on these instrumentals ’cause it was a whole process for real, and I been wanting to hop on his work for a while now. Who is Lupa produced “Well…” and really showed out on that one. He gave me the beat and said “Rap about patience ’cause I really need some.” That’s another raw one for me.

Hurst Hitz produced “Hollows.” This was my first time working with him and it was smooth; definitely look forward to some more collaborations in the future. Mike be doin’ big things with his music, IYKYK. “Hollows” is probably the oldest song on the project and had another instrumental to it at one point that just wasn’t resonating with me so I’m glad the song found its home with a Hurst Hitz original. Shout out my MF Juliano Dock, too, for blessing me with some more fuego.

Lastly, Static Soul came through with a sleeper for “Please Tell Me.” He be goin’ crazy on the SP and I was instantly inspired when I heard the sample come in. I told him to rearrange it a bit and start writing cause I already had a hook done. That is one cold ass white boy!

And please go tap in with all the artists I worked with. If you’re an artist reading this, go get some quality work done! Shout out all my other features I didn’t mention: Bagz Marley and Aree Love both snapped. I was really happy with all my features and collaborations on this project.

villin: What was the goal you had when thinking about the tone of the album as a whole? A song like “Cousin of Death” strikes me as an outlier musically.

Chill Mac: I didn’t have a set goal for the tonality of the album, really, other than I wanted to just create and make the puzzle pieces fit to a point where I felt it transitioned well. I feel like it started to take on a theme lyrically in a way, I guess, or at least it told a story. I think that just speaks to where I was at in life while creating this project. I was doing a lot of healing and shadow work while creating. I took it pretty serious and did lots of fasting and cleanses of different sorts. I was going through a lot personally. I feel like music is so powerful. I wanted to be intentional with this release and not just make some mundane copy paste “rapper” shit. I wanted it to hit.

“Cousin of Death” is definitely a lil bit different than the rest but I was just having fun making that beat, to be honest. I didn’t really want to sound like anything other than me, so at times it’s laid back, chill, and contemplative, but it’s also gotta pick up the pace and kinda poke its chest out a bit as far as the sound and content goes. Really just wanted to show some more of my range with the beats and I ended up digging what I wrote for that one more than I thought.

(Sidenote: I say P.B. a few times throughout the project and just for any confusion that stands for Plant Based, lol. I’m just out here tryna rep a healthy lifestyle at the end of the day.)

villin: A few songs have a not-quite chopped & screwed sound, but at times a slowed and pitched down sound. What led you to incorporate that as a creative choice along the way, including the likes of “HOWiFEEL”?

Chill Mac: I am so glad you asked this question and it kinda makes me double back on my last answer. If you know me personally you know that I’m a lil obsessed with the whole ChopNScrew & slowed with reverb sound. Sounds like you’re floating through space. I listen to the majority of my hip-hop and R&B chopped or slowed down and have to admit I rarely play even my vinyls at their intended speed. AMMixes and I sat down and slowed down my last project, AKA Chill Mac, and I released it on a limited lathe cut press. That will be up to streaming platforms soon. But I put this project together with the intentions of being able to chop it up and slow it down. So you can definitely look forward to that in the near future, as well. “HOWiFEEL” is a lil teaser of that. I also put out a single before None Chiller titled “HMU” that was the same kinda chop/slowed feel. That was really fun to do and I look forward to more work like that. So if anyone at ChopStars is reading this get at me! I’m tryna get that CHOPNOTSLOP stamp of approval out here lol.

villin: Listening to your catalog, there’s a thread of collaboration that runs throughout it. That dates back to work with Tha Füt and runs through much of your solo work. How did you decide who to work with for None Chiller, and what was your hope or expectation when linking up with Anthony for the recording, mixing, and mastering of the album?

Chill Mac: I love to collaborate. I think it brings the best out in people. I have learned my creative process and the beginning stages are definitely spent in isolation but more often than not I need to work with other creatives to help bring my vision to life. When I connected with AMMixes I was just hungry to create in a way that didn’t have any limitations and I thrive on keeping things as organic as possible. I am blessed to have a relationship with Anthony like I do; he has definitely helped me grow as an artist and I can’t speak for the man, but I’d like to think the feeling is mutual. Nothing has ever been forced or confusing. But I think most importantly I wanted to make a statement that “Chill Mac” can stand on its own. Being a solo artist is much different than being in a group. I definitely had a lot of fun and built my foundation in that group, but I am able to express myself more unapologetic and organically as “Chill Mac”… it’s just me.

villin: Also relating to collaboration, I’m curious about something relating to the work you do with the DMMC’s Hip-Hop 101 classes you run. What ages of kids do you typically instruct in those classes, and what have you learned from your students that has impacted the way you make your own music?

Chill Mac: I’ve been teaching hip-hop classes through DMMC since 2017 and since then it has really become a passion project that I have poured a lot of time and energy into. The past two to three years I have had the help of AMMixes with recording and mixing and that has been a great dynamic. I’m able to help kids create a beat and write to it, then we get them to record with AM. In the summer program they get to perform at the 80/35 Music Festival. We typically work with middle school, junior high, and high school, but we’ve done work in some elementary schools more recently and that has been surprisingly really fun, too.

My personal preference of focus is the older youth that may be transitioning into young adulthood and stepping into themselves as an individual in this world we live in. I resonate with the kids that are struggling to express themselves in other outlets. I never had a program like this that I could go to when I was younger. If i did I probably would have been doing this stuff a lot sooner in life. But these kids inspire me every time I go into a class and they are ready and eager to work. I could have an absolute trash day, but when I go in and there’s a student ready to chop samples or already playing keys trying to decide how to work drums in, I forget about all the BS and just want to create, too. I guess to answer your question of what I’ve learned from these kids I’ve worked with is that I am doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing, and not to question this journey I’m on.

[This article was first published on villin.]