NEW SINGLE: “BLACK HOLLYWOOD.”
ALBUM: SIERRA LEONE
Austin Leachman a.k.a. Champ Jewels is a new artist from Atlanta, Georgia. Recently, I met up with the rapper to interview him on being an independent artist, his album Sierra Leone which is now available on iTunes, his inspirations, and much more. Jewels aspire to be a leader not only in the hip-hop culture but a leader in this generation of entertainers. Whether it’s movies, music, or business ventures Champ Jewels wants to do it all.
“When it is all said & done I want my lasting impression to be that I made a difference in whatever I was involved in and that I was an influential figure for generations to come.”- CJ
Follow Champ Jewels on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ChampJewels
Stream & Purchase His Album Sierra Leone Exclusively on iTunes & Apple https://itunes.apple.com/album/id1095867871
Check out the interview below.
S: How hard is it to be an independent artist today when there are so many musicians from Atlanta trying to get signed with a major label or already signed?
C: Hmm…I would say it’s not easy that’s one thing about it. It’s hard for the fact that it’s so many. I would say that the same number of people trying to get signed is the same number of people trying to do it independently. That crowds the market. It’s hundreds of rappers in Atlanta, so it’s hard to separate good talent from mediocre talent and the average talent. Therefore, everything gets all mixed up.
S: What made you want to do a remix to “I Got The Keys” and “Cut It?”
C: Well for one I’ve always liked doing remixes to popular songs that are out now. And for another, when I first started rapping I couldn’t buy any beats because I was young so I didn’t know how to process work to buy beats. So I would just always write to all the popular songs that were out at the time. It was just second nature to me. But for “I Got The Keys” in particular I’ve always been a fan of Jay-Z, and I’m also a fan of Future, so just those two come together and the actual content of the song well in Jay-Z’s part I just tried to match it for what he was talking about.
S: Songs such as “Sierra Leone”, “Ebony”, and “Black Sheep” seem to speak on issues in the black community and even empower black men and women. With these songs and the messages of the records would you consider yourself a conscious rapper?
C: I would!
S: How do you come up or decide what the cover art is going to be for the album and singles?
C: Well, actually I just give the songs to whoever I want making it. It’s a 50/50 thing. They will give their input on it, and I’ll give my input on it. I just try to make the covers and the single covers match exactly what the song is talking about. I just go off naturally on what they feel and what I feel.
S: Do you feel like police brutality towards black people play a factor in how you create your music?
C: Yeah, especially on the Sierra Leone. That was the main concept behind it. I started recording it towards the end of 2015 and for the first part of 2016. I’m not going to say that’s when all the police brutality started to happen because it’s always been going on but I would say that’s when it started to get the public’s eye more because it’s on video now compared to how it was 20 years ago. You can just whip out your phone and record somebody getting harassed by the police. So, I just wanted to capture the moment of what’s going on in today’s time because that’s what I try to do with all my projects. I try to capture what’s going on and all the songs on there just happen to be like current events of what’s going on.
S: Describe the single “Black Hollywood?”
C: At first, it started off just something talking about… I wanted to write it just basically what’s going on in Atlanta. You know how they say Atlanta is Black Hollywood?
C: Well, when I started writing I was just going to do it just as a whole. Just black people period. You know just black money and black money generating in the black community so like the second verse is more so well [pause] the first verse is just going towards Atlanta. The second verse is talking about black people as a whole. The entertainment industry, like modeling, musicians and different stuff like that. So “Black Hollywood” is just a mixture of different things going on in the black community.
S: Would you put yourself in a category with Kendrick Lamar and Chance The Rapper as far as what you guys rap about in your music?
C: I would. I’ve been a fan of Kendrick Lamar. Chance The Rapper his latest album or mixtape I liked that.
S: “Coloring Book”?
S: I like that one too.
C: But I would say I’m in the same category as them because we talk about social issues. When people try to say that music is boring it’s not boring it just takes extra time to listen to it and think what they are talking about. But what I do with my music is I try to have both sides to it like I want to make you feel good with my music, and I want to make you think as well. So I’m getting better at that.
S: At one particular point you were on Vine. I followed you. Why did you decide to abandon it or not post anymore?
C: Vine just died out for me. I am not even gone lie. I was on Vine a little bit because that’s what was popular at the time. But then I started to realize I don’t want to be a Vine rapper because I know if I would have kept doing it people would have started associating me with my Vine videos instead of associating me with my actual music. It would have put a stigma on me, so I just stop doing the Vine stuff, and I just watched the Vines instead of making them.
S: Do you feel as though this generation is having a hard time understanding rappers with a profound message because of mainstream rap?
C: I’m not going to say it’s because of mainstream rap. I would say they do have a hard time getting into it because on the radio you have so much stuff that’s not conscious and stuff that would make people not want to think. But music is objective as well, so I believe that it just takes the person to want to find the music to listen to. I also feel like there should be a balance as well. For every Future song, it should be a Kendrick Lamar song. For every Young Thug song, it should be a J.Cole song on the radio. A balance of both it’s just too much of one thing on the radio.
S: Top five favorite rappers?
C: 1) Tupac 2) T.I. 3) The Game 4) J.Cole 5) Petey Pablo
S: Why Petey Pablo?
C: His first album. I got his first album when I was six. So I just went back and listened to it like a year ago, and I would say he was ahead of his time especially with the content he was talking about. He came out in the early 2000s, and that’s when everybody was just party music and stuff like that. So I think he came out a generation too early. I took a lot from his work ethic and a lot of what he was talking about in his music, his content.
S: How often do you go to the studio and record? Who produces your music?
C: I probably go about two or three times a month. Every time I go, I try to get as many songs done as possible. Because I don’t know the next time I might go. My producer’s name is Ian Davidson. He is located in Stone Mountain.
S: If you weren’t rapping what would you be doing?
C: Honestly, I started rapping at 14. So if I weren’t rapping, I probably would be playing basketball somewhere. Because when I stop playing basketball is when I chose to start making music.
S: What sets you apart from other hip-hop artists? How do you plan on reaching mainstream status or do you care to?
C: I’m not going to say what sets me apart but what makes me stand out is that I try to bring as much truth to my music and make it authentic as possible. I try to make it where it’s about real life situations all the time. I do care to get into the mainstream. But it’s not really like a top goal of mine. Because you can do a lot with not being in the mainstream. Just to have that recognition, I would like it. But what I’m trying to do is fuse the conscious rapper with the “turn up” feel. I want to try to combine both in one.
S: What kind of music do you usually listen to for inspiration?
C: Recently, I’ve been listening to a lot of Marvin Gaye and Al Green. I grew up on that type of music. My mom is a big fan of Earth, Wind, & Fire and my dad is a big fan of Frankie Beverly & Maze so I just been going back listening to all the music from the 60s and the 70s to try to get inspiration from them. They were like our first rappers. If you listen to what they are saying it’s all that’s going on now in today’s time. That’s what a rapper is, you talking about issues of the community.
S: Why did you name your album Sierra Leone?
C: I got the name from the country in Africa. That country, in particular, is big on blood diamonds. They have workers to get the diamonds so when rappers talk about jewelry, golds, or diamonds they don’t know the hardships that came with the chain that they are wearing. Fantasy, everybody just leaves, and we go back to Africa.
S: Do you believe it is your duty to speak on social issues because not many rappers do it?
C: Yes. I believe it is my calling in life period. I’ve always been like that from an early age the type of person people come to for advice. Sometimes they might not take it and roll with but a couple of months later or a year later it will stick out to them. So when people listen to my music, I don’t expect them to get it the first time as long as they get it a month later, or a year later I’ll be satisfied with that.
S: Where do you hope to see you career in the next 3 to 5 years?
C: I hope that I will be getting the recognition that I deserve because I’ve been doing it for almost ten years. I just think that everything takes time because I’m not just trying to break in the industry so fast because if you come in soon, you will leave out fast because you don’t have a good enough foundation. It’s a lot of stuff you got to learn, and I’m learning that right now so I feel like I’ll be ready to break into the masses.
S: Next projects planned?
C: I’m working on another album. It supposed to be coming out either at the end of the year or top of 2017.
C: Right now I don’t have any at the moment, but I will be making some soon. I can dish out a single any time that’s nothing. My next album will be on iTunes, Tidal, and Spotify.
Check out his music below!