Chris Redd spoke with EBONY about how growing up in Chicago and having dreams of being a rap superstar influenced his career as a comedian, including his debut album, But Here We Are, which was released by Comedy Central Records on March 8.

Redd, 33, was born in St. Louis and his family later moved to the Windy City. He lived in Naperville, a western suburb of Chicago, and attended Neuqua Valley High School. As a teen, he frequented the inner-city, which he believes contributed to the different layers of his personality.

“Chicago is just where I found myself and found my voice,” the Saturday Night Live cast member said. “But that’s hard on you, especially if you live on in the burbs because they’re very territorial about where you’re from.

“I wanted to prove myself to my street friends that I had what it [took] to be out there and that I could build my life and then rap about it cause that’s the kind of rappers I love,” he said.

Redd said he also had a love for comedy. In his early 20s, he began watching a lot of stand-up routines and bought Richard Pryor albums, which in hindsight was him studying the craft.

His first interest in a comedic career came after he saw an improv show at Chicago’s The Second City, the first on-going improvisational theater troupe. Redd recalled never viewing it as a viable career until his pursuit of rap hit a wall. He then took classes at a few places including Jokes & Notes, a Black-owned comedy club that is now closed.

The pivot from rap to comedy made sense to the comic, who agreed that rap and improv require some of the same skills.

“A lot of it transcended,” Redd said. “I was funny in my raps, too. I wasn’t dead serious. I was trying to do a lot of gangsta s**t, but I would also do a lot of weird, goofy, fun raps that people couldn’t wrap their heads around. I was also trying not to be funny at the same time.

“I think the only thing that makes it work at SNL is that I’ve been able to embrace both sides of myself and not try to fight anything,” he added. “I can be like, ‘You can be as funny as you want. Go as hard as you want and make something that is truly me.’”

Redd captured that same authenticity during his stand-up sets and on But Here We Are, where he shares personal stories, including the time he helped his cousin come out the closet.

The comedian is on an East Coast tour until March 17. His album is available on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play, and for on-demand streaming via Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora Premium and Stitcher Premium.