That was the request that Chill Moody posed to his parents after he graduated from Millersville University in May of 2009.
“I told my parents, ‘Look, give me a year to follow my dreams and if doesn’t work I do have this degree to fall back on,’” he explains.
Although thankful for the investment that they’d already made in his life, he was asking them to take a gamble and bet on his passion for hip-hop music and his knack for making good music. They conceded and watched as their son did exactly what he said he would do. On January 2nd, 2010, Chill Moody hit mainstream radio via Hot 107.9 FM in Philadelphia; his family happened to be gathered over his cousin’s house when the record played. What he originally thought would require a year ended up being more like eight months.
“Since then it’s been a snowball effect. Now I’m being interviewed by EBONY [laughs], so shit kind of worked out,” he quips during our interview.
The snowball effect is perhaps the most fitting way to describe his journey. Chill has continued to set the bar high and exceed expectations every time, ultimately growing his reach and momentum. His “resume” is lengthy, to say the least:
He’s performed twice at the The Roots annual picnic in Philadelphia once receiving praise from Billboard.com as the “show stealing” performance; he’s had four videos premiere on MTV Networks within one year; he was nominated for an MTV “O Music Award” (for online music) which garnered him a performance at the awards show in New York’s Times Square; he’s made history by being the first hip-hop artist to have a concert in Philadelphia’s City Hall courtyard; produced multiple albums, including an album that debuted in the top 100 on iTunes hip-hop chart; he’s been hailed as one of the top 10 upcoming artist by Complex Magazine (Complex.com); and he’s been featured online by The Source and XXL.
And that’s the abbreviated version.
With a goal of becoming a household name, Chill has expanded his empire to include artist management as well as his own line of apparel, Cerebellum water, and watches. He’s also preparing to go on his first tour this year alongside fellow upcoming artist Aaron Camper.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this all is that he’s accomplished every feat as an independent artist.
EBONY.com caught up with Chill days after his performance at this year’s Roots Picnic to see how he turned his parents’ gamble and his dream into cold hard winnings and a new reality.
EBONY: Okay, who is Chill Moody?
Chill Moody: A football player from…[pauses and laughs] sike nah, I’m Chill Moody, a hip-hop artist from Philadelphia. I make hip hop and rep nice things.
EBONY: [Laughs] So you’re just coming off the high of the Roots Picnic. How was it?
CM: It was dope! It exceeded anything that I thought it would be. The crowd was crazy receptive–just watching them, as I’m performing, having those “aha” moments like, “I see why he’s buzzing, I see why he’s on stage”…I could see at certain points everybody just kind of got it altogether. It was dope.
EBONY: People have definitely had those “Aha” moments with you, mainly because so many try to categorize you as a “backpack rapper”. But you don’t identify as that. So what is your style of hip hop?
CM: I always say I carry a backpack but I’m not a backpacker. It’s music with a message and it’s more or less just me telling my story. It’s as close to the essence of hip hop as can be but it has a new age feel with the beats, the full band, live performance and things like that. My music is a direct reflection of experiences; the more I do, the more I can rap about. I can never run out of telling stories because I’m living. I’m always thinking of the next way to do something.
EBONY: For the past five years you’ve worked diligently selling out shows, gaining placement on major media outlets and growing your brand and business. All of this as an unsigned artist. How did this evolution happen?
CM: I fell in love with hip hop as a culture. So, every facet of that—music, apparel, the branding opportunities…like I came up when Wu Tang had Wu wear. That was like the first clothing line of a hip-hop artist so [I saw] you can be a rapper and have a clothing line. And then there was like, Sprite commercials that had rap music in them—people were really embracing hip-hop culture. So it was like, okay I can rap and get my music in commercials or partner with a brand. I just started seeing that early on from the guys that I was following and it [evolved]: rappers are in movies, rappers are writing books…it’s more than music. But everybody always said “hip hop brought me here.” It’s always been a goal of mine to not spread myself thin but to do everything that’s possible.
EBONY: That’s a quality necessary for business though—to always be courageous and yes, even curious, enough to explore the possibilities and potential.
CM: I always say I want Chill Moody to be a household name. Everybody may not buy into the music or you may not like that song, but you’re gonna like the shirt that I got out. So some way you’ll be reppin’ Chill Moody.
EBONY: So do you want to be signed? Is that a goal?
CM: The goal is just to do whatever I’mma be comfortable with…without having to sacrifice the creativity. I’m not like anti-label but I do understand the benefits of being independent. Monetarily it could be more beneficial to be independent if you can do it that way. I’m not the person that needs 12 cars; I only can drive one at a time. So if I can be independent and do my thing and make a living off of it, I’ll just keep it like that.
EBONY: When was the first time you realized that you had found your voice?
CM: I think it was the first time I was played on the radio—that’s when it became real. It wasn’t a “radio friendly” song. It was called, Hip Hop Don’t Fade Away. It took people on a journey of hip hop as I knew it and the stuff I love and how I feel like that’s going to affect the state of hip hop. [There] was a lot of foolish stuff on the radio and I was so against it at that time. Being able to speak out about it and then see that materialize into radio play was like, “okay, they understand me, they like me enough to give this song a spin and it’s 100% not a radio song.”
EBONY: How do you view hip hop now?
CM: I know more now. I understand why certain songs get more spins now. Just from reading and being it, I understand it more. I’m not bitter about if my song doesn’t get played or if I love these couple songs but I don’t hear them on the radio as much as I hear Chris Brown all day.
EBONY: What are some obstacles that you’ve had to face thus far and how have you managed to grow past them?
CM: My biggest obstacle is, has always been and always probably will be self-doubt. Like, thinking I might not have made the right decision. You would think I’d be over it by now but it’s still times and days where I’m like, “maybe I shouldn’t have.” It’s gone from doubting my career choice to doubting choices within my career. I hate dealing with that because I’ll shut people out until I figure it out myself. I hate that sh*t. [But] one thing that I’ve learned is that for every hater or doubter, there’s a hundred more on the other side of the spectrum. Then I’m like, “All right, I’m tripping. I’m doing this. Stop tripping and get back on it.” It doesn’t last too long but when it does it affects me. I usually get a good song out of it.
EBONY: What’s some of the best advice that you’ve received and who gave it to you?
CM: One thing Freeway told me was ‘save your money’. Something that simple. [Also] Dyana Williams. She’s always her. [She taught me] to give people who you are every time; people appreciate that. Instead of adapting to them, they adapt to you.
EBONY: What’s one of the greatest sacrifices that you’ve had to make for your dream?
CM: A lot of sacrifices. I think my time. Whether it’s spending time with my family, or a relationship or something…it’s always, I have to sacrifice time to get things done. I almost missed [attending] my niece’s prom send-off the other day because I had to go all the way to upstate New York to get this [Cerebellum] water [to distribute at a show]. I don’t have time to go down to my cousin’s crib to chill, because I really have stuff to do. It hurts because I don’t want them to feel like I’m getting to big to come sit on the porch. I would love to be able to just do that, but I gotta eat. I gotta make sure I’m always working.
EBONY: What’s up next for you? We just hit June and within this year alone you’ve made major moves.
CM: The water, the apparel, the watches and I’m also going to really put my feet to the ground with launching #nicethings Apparel and really putting that together. I’m going on tour with Aaron Camper June 20th– 24th; it’s called Camp Moody. That’s my first tour—a quick four city tour of Philly, Baltimore, New York and Delaware. It’ll be my first time on an actual tour and I’m looking to do more of those. And then working on [my R & B artist] Beano French. Basically, expanding the whole #nicethings brand.
EBONY: What’s some advice that you would give to other Black, Fresh & 20-Somethings?
CM: Manage your expectations. It’s good to shoot for the stars but you’ll avoid a lot of disappointment by managing your expectations and being more realistic with what you can do. I set little goals—like milestones or stepping stones.