The American Dream. The axiom that anyone, regardless of birthplace, class, creed or color, can attain their chosen brand of success through hard work and perseverance. For years, this theory has motivated us all to endure hours of strenuous endeavors, so that we could fully enjoy the prosperous fruits of that labor. That type of dream is one that we never want to wake up from. However, in today’s society, is upward mobility really possible for everyone?
While many of us choose to believe that the American Dream can and will eventually be realized, others beg to differ. Chucky Blk is among those who stands firm in this opposition. While many feel that the dream is simply tarnished, the Austin, Texas native believes that perhaps it never existed in the first place. Today, Chucky joins me to speak candidly regarding his cogent views of the world’s civil unrest, as he takes listeners on a pragmatic journey with his new 8-track, hip hop/spoken word release, “A Scathing Critique of Current Affairs”.
Greetings Chucky! Thank you for taking the time to chat with me today!
Oh yeah, no problem! Thank you for having me!
The production of the album is heavily jazz influenced. Aside from hip hop, is jazz one of your favorite genres?
Yes, jazz to me is the basis, the foundation of hip hop. So many rappers I admire appreciate jazz on some level. For example, you’ll catch a rapper rapping a similar cadence to Charlie Parker. The more and more I listen to jazz, the more and more I start picking up on things like that in expert level rappers. I think at the end of the day, jazz is a philosophy. Specifically, it’s a mantra of improvisation for black Americans, and influences so many parts of black culture.
Being socially conscious seems more imperative now, than it has ever been. How did creating the album help you cope with today’s events?
If anything, I think it helps me process the world. For instance, whenever you’re stuck with a constraint, something like the limits of four bars, you have to choose each word precisely and get the message across. The music process for me is all about boiling down and getting to the true roots of the idea. This project has been in the works since last December. It’s been crazy to see how these themes have been intensifying as we got closer to the election and even now.
Interesting! If you were elected President of the United States of America, what is one law that you would fight to have passed?
I think some sort of wealth distribution. Reparations. A lot of people have made their fortunes on the backs of others, and the gap is only widening. I’m also passionate about environmental issues, and would want to see changes to infrastructure there. But free market capitalism is wild, and that would better more lives in the immediate future. If systematic racism and police brutality is one part of the problem, the other is global warming so we can’t forget about it.
Do you feel that the abolition of civil unrest is up to authoritive figures or the people?
The people, no doubt. The quote “You’ll never free yourself with the master’s tools” comes to mind. Freedom to me, is moving in a way that is not harming others, but is true to yourself. So, when you’re up against a government that won’t let you love who you love, for example, I don’t see any freedom in some authority’s dogmas dictating my choices.
Totally understandable. “Empire Shakes”, describes how you don’t fully believe in the American Dream. Briefly explain why you don’t.
For me, the American Dream has been this idea of freedom of choice, and has turned into coming to a place and buying a 3-4 bedroom home, 2.5 bath, white picket fence and living your life there. The foundation of that dream is built on other’s backs. What is America but a graveyard for Natives? I can guarantee that this country was built in part at the expense of my ancestors, and we’re still dealing with that generational trauma of Africans being sold and shipped here, to build this idea of the American Dream in the first place. Yall hear dream, I hear sleep. People ignoring the shameful history of where we are now.
Do you feel that total equality will ever exist?
It’s like the pessimist in me says no, will never exist. People will always try to play power games over each other. Theoretically, utopias are never possible. But, I do think that the goal of folks should be to try to bring utopia to fruition in spite of that. Part of me is hopeful that by continuing to do the work, I can affect positive change.
Your lyricism on the album expresses your disdain for following the system’s rules. If you could create your own system, what would be the main rule that you would enforce?
I don’t know how to force people to empathize with each other, or treat each other as humans, perhaps, I would try to move forward with a collective-based experiment, such as society, I suppose. Maybe required therapy. Either that, or a computer AI, like a human nursing home. I’m just kidding, but I think there’s a movie about that already. But I do think about what that would be like sometimes haha.
That would certainly be intriguing! In the spoken word piece “So Damn Angry”, featured artist Sasha Banks expressed how anger could be diffused if people would listen to eachother more. Do you agree?
Yeah, that’s why it felt so necessary to have her on the album. I think she explains it eloquently. People have a fear of anger, and treat it as if it were a more primal emotion, but oftentimes, it is a compass. If you’re pissed off about something, it’s likely that you want it to change. You should think about it, dissect it, and get to the roots. You might just find a new direction for yourself, and meet your soul. But yeah, I think people need to reframe how they think about their anger.
That is definitely something to ponder on. I adore the poetic flow of “Top of My List”. What inspired the lyric “I delight in imperfections”?
I feel like the imperfections are places to grow and improve on, but also make us more interesting. Carl Jung had a quote where he said something like, “We’re always trying to perfect ourselves, but we can’t perfect something that isn’t whole yet.” You have to know yourself in your full capacity, imperfections included. When you can see them and accept them, then you can continue on knowing yourself more and more, rather than struggling to achieve the unachievable.
Do you believe that the world’s imperfections make us weaker or stronger?
Stronger. A lot of the viewpoints talking about one dominant race, and to them, imperfections are a weakness. But those imperfections are really differences; cultural differences and experiences that make us unique. There is strength in that diversity.
Nicely expressesd. Chucky, it has been a pleasure! Good luck with the album and all of your future endeavors! Where can the fans reach you?
Thank you, yeah it’s been great! I’m most active on IG, but you can find me in all the usual places.