Exclusive interview with Chi-Ill
by Will Hernandez

WHO?MAG: Tell me about your new project?
Chi-Ill: I’m real proud of this new project. I’ve put out nothing but mixtapes for the last four years, so it felt good to create a project from scratch. It’s called “The Last Chance Lounge.” It’s based on me sitting in a bar having a drink and evaluating my next move, my last chance, no room for error.

WHO?MAG: Do you have any cameo appearances and producers?
Chi-Ill: There are not many cameos on this album only because I wanted to take this opportunity and show how capable I am. There is a song on the album called “Hey Mama” that features an up and coming R&B singer from my city named Big Cheese. It’s real crazy, a real Chicago song for the ladies. My homegirl K Bizzle is featured on another banger called “Skyline.” She sings the hook.

As far as emcee’s, there is only one other MC on the album than myself and he carries the weight of 50 men alone and that is the legend Kool G Rap. On the production end, I’m blessed to have a young brother on my Torture Chamber Records team named O-ZONE. He produced 11 of the 12 tracks on the album. He’s doing big things right now and has built his name in this city. There’s much more in store for him.

The one track that O-ZONE did not produce was done by a very cool and very talented brother from New York named Rena1ssance. He produced the track that I did with Kool G Rap called “Ready For War.” Classic!

WHO?MAG: How did you hook up with Kool G Rap and how was he in the studio with you?
Chi-Ill: My friend/manager/attorney Jason Lopez hooked that up. My label Torture Chamber Records is based out of Chicago, but Jason’s based in L.E.S so he’s constantly out there making moves and maintains good relationships with people in the business. Kool G rap happens to be one of those people. Jason brought my joint to G Rap for the blessing and I received it. That was a big deal for me. G Rap is one of those dudes that built this thing of ours so of course I’m humbled and blessed to have him drop bars on my album.

WHO?MAG: How did you hook up with Ruff Ryders camp? How was it working with DMX and how was he in the studio?
Chi-Ill: I hooked up with X through my brother The Heavy Hitter DJ Nonstop. Nonstop has been DMX’s tour deejay for years. Back in 2005, Nonstop took me on the road with him and X for the first time. Since then, we’ve been family! I’ve learned much on the road watching X and listening to him and seeing what he goes through on a regular basis. I’m blessed to be part of the team. X is just a real dude. No extra sh*t, just a street dude that has seen a whole lot and been through a whole lot. We could be in a 5 star hotel or on a street corner…same thing.

WHO?MAG: Who are some of your influences as an emcee?
Chi-Ill: Too many to even name really from Tupac to Big Daddy Kane, Big Pun, Kool G. Rap etc. I’m influenced by hip-hop, by something that was created in the streets. I’m influenced by my city. It all comes out in the music.

WHO?MAG: Can you breakdown your writing process?
Chi-Ill: It may sound cliché by now, but I don’t write anymore. I write in my head. I used to hear about Jay-Z, B.I.G., and a few other mc’s that quietly let it be known that they don’t use a pen and pad and thought it was bullsh*t until I started practicing it. The brain is a muscle. You work it out until it works for you. It came to the point where I felt a new freedom in my music by doing it all in my head. Now it is not even a thought. People reach for the pad when the beat comes on, but it doesn’t even cross my mind anymore. I don’t preach against the pen either though, I think this is a technique that shouldn’t be used until the pen’s been mastered.

WHO?MAG: Being a Chicago native, did house music play a big role musically as to who you are as an artist?
Chi-Ill: Definitely. House music is Chicago. When hip-hop was in its baby stages in Chicago, house music was king. I definitely have that Chicago house music gene.

WHO?MAG: How was the Chicago hip-hop scene back the days that you remember?
Chi-Ill: The hip-hop scene in Chicago in the 90’s was a beautiful thing. A whole lot of great battle rappers came from my city, Juice, Rhymefest, Prime etc. So it was an exciting time for hip-hop in Chicago.

WHO?MAG: Did the gang situation affect you and did it influence you musically?
Chi-Ill: You can’t be from Chicago and not in one way or another be affected by the gang situation. It influenced me musically because it was killing my friends which in turn made me want to rap and tell their stories.

WHO?MAG: What other projects are you working on?
Chi-Ill: Right now we’re all about “The Last Chance Lounge.” I have a few other things in the works along with my team, but right now our main concern is getting this album to the people and giving them a chance to choose real music.

WHO?MAG: Any last words?
Chi-Ill: Just thank you to William and the WHO?MAG fam and shouts out to my Torture Team. Keep your eyes open for “The Last Chance Lounge.”