An Interview with Chet Haze, Tom Hanks’ Rapper Son
Two months ago a rapper named Chet Haze dropped the song “White and Purple,” a Northwestern University-friendly version of Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow.’ The song went viral, bouncing from blog to blog with unusual velocity for a remix from a rookie rapper. The story got interesting when the Internet discovered that Chet Haze was really just a stage name for Chet Hanks, the son of legendary Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks. You know, that Tom Hanks: Andrew Beckett in “Philadelphia,” Commander James A. Lovell in “Apollo 13,” Captain John H. Miller in “Saving Private Ryan,” Chuck Noland in “Cast Away,” Forrest Gump, Sheriff Woody in “Toy Story,” etc.
In other words, unlike the hundreds of other Khalifa dub-overs on the Internet, the Northwestern University sophomore who wrote the bars on “White and Puple” wasn’t some bored, inauthentic wanna-be from the suburbs with a knack for online promotion. Rather, as the son of the one of the most commercially and critically successful screen actors of all time, Haze’s genetics alone make him an anomaly in the college rap world.
Fast-forward two months: Haze has released his debut mixtape, “Get Hazed,” and started to self-market his music on Facebook and Twitter. Around 7:30 on a Friday night, long after we’re usually ready to call it a weekend, Haze and his manager swing by BroBible’s New York office, where our long-time friend DJ Cash has arranged for us to talk one-on-one with Chet about his rap career, his passion for hip-hop, being a student at Northwestern, and how he addresses critics and snarky bloggers who are quick to drink the Chet Haze hateroade.
Here’s what he had to say:
BroBible.com: What do you say to the haters?
Chet Haze: In 2011, I think people would agree that the industry is very different than it was. Along with that, since the nature of the game has changed, the nature of establishing yourself as an artist has changed, with all the free downloading and file-sharing. So it’s really at the point now where I’m getting attention for my music, for different reasons other than the fact that it’s my music, you know? I’m getting attention for it because of the last name, like people are talking about it and I recognize that. I recognize that for what it is. And I don’t regret it, I don’t have any qualms about it because I’m glad that my music is getting out there regardless. I also recognize more than anyone else that I want this to be something that I’m doing for a very long time. I want this to be a career that lasts a long time, so I recognize that all I’m doing is putting my efforts towards getting better and mastering the craft and becoming a well-defined, official artist. I got to say a lot of people right off the bat when they hear about me and they hear about my situation, my parents (Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson) they discredit me. What I honestly got to say is that hip-hop goes far beyond race or socio-economic background, or how you grew up or the places you’ve lived or how you’ve lived. Hip-hop is music, it’s an art form, it’s culture. I think that if you’re a person, no matter how are or how you grew up, if hip- hop speaks to you, then you are inherently a part of hip-hop. It’s a culture, and it speaks to me, and it always has.
Why Is hip-hop a passion?
From a young age, I’ve been a huge fan of hip-hop. I still consider myself somewhat of a hip-hop nerd.I’m writing lines, but I’m not telling anyone about it, because I don’t want people to know I’m writing rhymes, but I’m just dapping then it starts getting like “Wow, I think I might actually have some skill, it’s like I write my own stuff and then it gets to the point where you have to make the choice to either put your shit out there and put your music out there to be heard, or be the type of guy who goes, “Oh, I don’t think this rapping thing is for me.” And I know that I really love this, so it was a big moment making the decision to go in that direction, but there isn’t anything else I want to be doing.
How would you classify yourself as a rapper?
I would classify myself right now as a very young artist who has some talent but is new. I’m always looking towards the future in terms of my music. I’m a very, very new artist, I’ve only been in the public eye, meaning I’ve only had songs released for no more than five weeks. I have a different situation than most MC’s, because most MC’s will continue to make music and have the music be out there, but haven’t yet been in the public eye, but because of my situation, my music was kind of just cast into the public eye. Whether or not it’s at the point where I’m in the spotlight, and that’s not to say that I don’t think I’m there with my music, I do think I make good music, but I also recognize that my best music is yet to come.
Did you expect “White and Purple” to Blow Up?
I kind of, in the back of my mind, expected it to get to that point, eventually. But I did not expect how fast it was going to happen. I dropped ‘White and Purple’ at about 11 pm one night, I just chilled. But when I woke up the next morning, I woke up and my face was on Gawker. So I didn’t expect how fast it was going to happen, but just because of the nature of my position, I’m not surprised by it happening.
Were you happy with the reaction to “Get Hazed”?
I thought the reaction was positive. So far the mixtape hasn’t received the kind of viral success that my original single had, just because buzz wears off. But buzz comes and goes, I’m always going to be making music, I’m always going to be getting better, so as I said, it’s all about looking towards the future. I feel good about ‘Get Hazed’ as a mixtape, but my goal for ‘Get Hazed’ was just to have something out there, to release something. Just get some music out there. It’s not even a fraction of the story I have to tell, but I feel like it’s a strong introduction and I feel good.
Let’s talk lax…
Yeah, I played lacrosse in high school, I played crease attack. For anyone who’s not familiar with lacrosse, that’s the one standing right near the goal with the biggest defenseman on them, so I got my ass kicked a lot, but I scored some goals. Yeah, I played lacrosse for three years, started in ninth grade, played until I graduated. But yeah, that’s definitely a big bro sport.
Northwestern? When I was applying to colleges, I had three main things that I really wanted. I wanted a college campus, like a real college campus, everything you’d expect, fraternities, sororities, that kind of stuff. I wanted a college town, because I wanted to just have my little spots locally, and I also wanted a big city. A lot of college have like one or two, not all three, but Northwestern has all three and on top of that, I’m studying acting and they’re one of the top theater schools in the country.
When I started applying to college, acting was a main goal for me in terms of what I wanted to do for a career, A.) because I have a passion for it and have a talent for it, and B.) because it’s kind of a family business. From a young age, I knew I was going to go into it and knew this was what I was going to do. When I got to college, and I was pursuing that (and I’m still pursuing acting), it’s a time when you’re going through a lot of changes and starting to realize what it is you want to do, what you want to learn about, what you want to study, I made the commitment while I was already at college to hip-hop, although I was going to keep studying acting and getting better at it. Hip-hop and music is the main focus for what I want to do as a career.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself having a much better grasp of my craft, I just want to master the craft. I want to be the best artist I can be. Right now I’m just focusing on making the best music I can and thinking about HOW. I have a pretty clear sense of the story I want to tell, but now I have to see HOW I’m going to go about telling it.