Interview: Chris Scholar Talks Changing the Game of R&B and Building His Legacy

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Chris Scholar is in a fight for his life. He’s fighting for his identity as a triple-threat artist, often being compared to Chris Brown for his pop and lock dance style (they also share the same home state and surnames). He’s fighting for the music that he loves in the genre of R&B, once powered by soulful serenades that have now been replaced with the sounds of simplistic swag that is more stereotypical of today’s rap songs. Most importantly, he’s fighting for his respect.

The young artist has hit the stage as an opening act for Mindless Behavior, and has been featured on The Source for his new track “Nothin Betta,” but like many artists he believes that he has more to offer than what the industry currently permits. He’s out to prove that he’s not here to be just another one-hit wonder—he’s here to make a statement and to build a legacy.

We sat down with the multi-talented singer, dancer, and videographer to discuss his new music, the state of R&B today, and building his brand.

Kontrol: You’ve come a long way from the “Way Back Home” video, and your recent music seems to have shifted to a more Cali sound. Tell us about the new direction of your sound and your brand?

Chris Scholar: “Way Back Home” is actually a very good record that explains who I am as an artist as far as conceptually and the vibe of it. But traveling a lot more than usual has opened my eyes to different cultures and different experiences, so I can talk about more. I can see how the west coast is a way different dynamic and vibe than the east coast. I would say the direction my music is moving into, though, it’s going to stay in that conceptual lane, but I’m trying to get out of being called a R&B artist. I want to bring back R&B, but it has to be a new type of R&B.

I was riding in Uber and I talked to different drivers and they tell you about their experiences. This one girl was like man my favorite type of music is R&B/alternative. I was like what? What’s that? I’ve never even heard of that. She’s like yeah it’s a new genre, and that’s like The Weeknd and that type of music. I didn’t even know that was a genre. So what it made me think about was damn, I really have the chance, if I bring back R&B, I can do something totally different because R&B to a lot of people is dead, especially for Black males. If it ain’t hip-hop it ain’t rocking right now. So I kind of try to fill that void and be able to fit in with hip-hop people, but also still maintain true to my roots of R&B, so I’m still trying to find that middle ground and just create something new. Not alternative R&B, but something totally different. I have to create a new genre.

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Kontrol: So what are you doing to do that? Are you listening to new genres of music?

CS: I’m listening to a lot of different music. Classical, jazz, all types of cultures and picking up on that type of stuff. Listening to where hip-hop is shifting into and trying to fuse the elements together. Even the new record I put out  “I Got It Babe,” that’s just a real fun record, but once we really start digging into this music, the music that I have coming is about to be crazy. It’s just some stuff that’s going to make people think, because I think that a lot of times now, music ain’t speaking to people and we loss storytelling. It’s really on this I’m so real, that’s everybody’s message. I’m the realest, I’m the illest, and you got to do that because people like truth. But at the same time creatively I like to direct movies and direct videos, like I direct all of my videos, so I’m taking that same approach with writing music. Like write stories, maybe put somebody else in the story and it’s just creatively take people to a different place.

Kontrol: A lot of the new male R&B artists like August Alsina are coming out with a more street sound with more honest lyrics. What’s your perspective on R&B music of today?

CS: I think August is super dope. I like his music, I like where it’s going for him. I’ll play that vein, but Chris Scholar is my name so I have to kind of live up to that name. When I do that metaphorically I want to challenge myself, lyrically I want to challenge myself, and melodically I want to take it places that it might throw your ears off for a second, but you be like oh snap that’s really hot. I don’t want to be like August, I don’t want to be like Chris, I don’t want to be like none of these people that are out right now. It’s almost hard to explain it. It’s better to show than to tell, and that’s where I’m at now.

My goal is to be the 2015 version of Michael Jackson. So what that looks like, nobody knows. What it sounds like, it doesn’t sound like Mike it doesn’t look like Mike, but at the same time I have to have that star quality like Mike. I have to captivate these people and I have to say messages that they understand. In our generation the way we talk, the way we speak, the way we walk is different then when he was coming out. He was up against love music. He was up against coming out listening to the Supremes and those type of people.

Kontrol: You’re up against hoes lol

CS: Yeah [laughs] our generation is different. I have to kind of think like I want to be epic like him, but I can’t go all the way there, I have to keep it relevant and relatable to where we’re at now. The type of people that I look up to in the game right now is Kendrick Lamar, conceptually, if you take me as a singer version [of Kendrick] who also dances.

One of my biggest assets is live performance, because I focus a lot of on live performance. From writing to dancing, I’ve done a lot of shows on tour since I’ve been on tour with other people. But I haven’t done a Chris Scholar show where everybody is coming to see me, and I got my own lighting people, my own DJ, my own dancers and it’s from top to bottom. And I’m just waiting for that point because when I get there it’s like oh snap we got somebody.

Kontrol: So tell me about your latest video “I Got It Babe.” 

CS: “I Got It Babe” was actually a song that we did over the summer. We just recently put it out and we shot the video too in the summer on the 4th of July, and I think the vibe of that is that it shows me in a fun element, just having a good time. It’s not a whole bunch of madness, it’s showing that you can be amongst your people, and everything be straight. Family popping, telling girls I’ll pay for your tuition. It’s like spitting young dudes spitting game in college, that’s what that is.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yn5EMVJwWk

Kontrol: You mentioned you were working on music, is there an actual project to put out?

CS: Right now “I Got It Babe” and this new record that we’re about to put out this month called “Usain Bolt,” which is on Language Arts but we’re re-releasing it. We’ll probably do like five songs on a little EP called Fall Semester, but then we’ll start getting into album records at the top of the year. That’s what I’m ready for. I got a name for it, but I’m not going to say it yet.

Kontrol: One thing I do respect about you is that you’re on it when it comes to social media, and a lot of artists either aren’t or just have a hard time being active. How has social media benefitted you as an artist?

CS: Social media is key for any artist now because that’s how people get in touch with you. I think now it’s not just about the music. That’s also the downfall of social media is that it’s not just about the music. People care about your fashion sense, they care about your overall everything. They’re so involved you have to really give the world you in its entirety for people to kind of rock with you.

Kontrol: What lessons have you learned over the last year that has impacted who you are as an artist?

CS: Nothing great comes easy. I didn’t think it would come easy, but I feel like the closer you get to your dream, the harder it gets. You just have to make up your mind. I had this conversation with one dude and he was like when you get to that point, that brink of success, it’s going to be a point where it feels like it’s not going to happen at all, and you have a decision at that point in time to make either you’re going to say fuck it and go against all odds, and keep doing what you’re doing and make it happen. Or you can go back to being regular. It’s up to you. I’m at the point now where I’m like I know what I want to do, know where I want to go, know who I’m going to be and as long as my vision lines up with God, I don’t care what circumstance it is, they can’t stop me. I’m just more confident than anything that I’m about to be number one.

Kontrol: Cool, well any last words?

CS: Shout out to all of those true musicians. Stay true to your craft and much love to my team and all of those people around me. Blac Elvis, Harold Lilley, Rio Bridges, my production team District 9, the whole squad man. And just look out for some great things to happen in 2015.