I waited anxiously with my friend and 4-Star’s interim photographer, Chris Thompson. I looked up at the address which read 345 North Loomis. I was suddenly worried about how this artist’s personality may be. I was surprised when not a group but one singular man came out to greet us. It was the artist himself, Diontae Johnson, better known as WhoisChi. The West-side raised Chicagoan greeted us warmly and had an air of humbleness that was greatly appreciated. He walked us up to booth 308, appropriately dubbed as “The Jungle.” “It’s because all kinds of musical animals run through here,” WhoisChi jokes, Chi for short.
Since 2009, WhoisChi has been self promoting and independently releasing his music to the masses buliding a substantial facebook and twitter following. He has managed to network and collaborate with such artists and producers such as BluClown, Young Chi, DGrams, and J Green; just to name a few. He impressed many with his first mixtape self-titled, WhoisChi, seemingly wedging his foot in the door gaining many a music-lover’s attention. Chi, has been hard at work gearing up for the release of his second mixtape, IamChi, which does not yet have a tentative release date. His music covers various topics from grinding to girls to overcoming tribulations to staying real and gaining an understanding of self.
Chi offers us a seat and excuses himself before the start of the interview. He and Cruz are working on two new songs today which will be featured on the upcoming mixtape. While sitting on the couch trying to keep busy I got a chance to chat with Chi’s main squeeze, IamPrincezz. She giggles while looking on at her beau rap furiously in the booth. “It’s important to get to know the man behind the music. When I met Diontae, I didn’t know he was a rapper. I was a little worried once I found out but I learned to love Diontae, and be a fan to WhoisChi,” she shares with me. Princezz works with Eminent Phenomena Media she books acts for different events and also promotes for clubs. She believes in the important fundamental that your name, your look, your personality, is all apart of your brand. We chatted a little bit more and discovered a shared love of leopard print!
WhoisChi comes out of the booth with the effects of sweat on his brow and undershirt from rapping, almost attacking the microphone. He dries off and though standing is his custom he agreeably sits down and we begin the interview. I, Vonnie Coleman, on behalf of 4-Star Explorer prepared the recorder for questioning.
4-Star: Okay, I know you represent for the West-side, tell me a little about how you grew up.
WhoisChi: I grew up in St. Stephen, which everyone calls a community. It’s not really a project but let’s just say it’s a becoming project building. I grew up in a single parent home. I always had the kind of family that worked to keep me out of trouble…I never got into too much trouble though, because I always found a way to work around the system.
4-Star: Well that’s a good trait to have. How did you start rapping?
WhoisChi: When I was at Illinois Central College, some of my friends used to play around with music. They’d have a mic set up and we’d just make music for fun. Somewhere between the rapping we decided to put together a mixtape on Datpiff website. A mixtape which I suggest you never listen to. Only if you want to compare my growth from then to now. The rest of my progress has just been through word of mouth. Meeting new people and expanding my style.
4-Star: So do you work with any entertainment groups?
WhoisChi: I’m currently part of a group called Tag Team. That’s made of me, WhoisChi, and another rapper named, Young Chi. We both come from the same hood. One day we were just working on a song in the studio and we went back and forth, sort of like some Jadakiss and Styles P. stuff, and we just came up with the name and it stuck.
4-Star: Any other people you collaborate with?
WhoisChi: I also work with BluClown. He produces a lot of my beats and he’s helping me on the mixtape that I’m working on now. I also work with my friend Joseph who goes by the name of Boobie of Boobie Beats.There’s also Narcotics Beatz. I work with a clique of artists who also put on for the West-side: J. Green, DGrams, Ace-FlyGuy, and Millzi.
4-Star: What drives you?
WhoisChi: My son, DJ. I call him Lil Boss. My son drives me to do better, leave something for him. Plus he’s a junior so you know he has to be like his dad.
4-Star: So for everything that you do, everything in your music, what’s your overall message?
WhoisChi: That West-side has talent also.
4-Star: So do you think the South-side gets more recognition?
WhoisChi: Don’t get me wrong, the South-side has definitely opened the doors for Chicago artists I tip my hat to them. I just feel like the love should be spread throughout Chicago. I’m here to show what the West-side has to offer.
4-Star: What’s the process for writing your lyrics?
WhoisChi: I really just play off the music. I listen to the beats and I think in my head the story behind the sound. Then I just jot the lyrics that come to mind.
4-Star: I’ve gotten a chance to go to your Sound Cloud and listen to some of your tracks. I just wanted to highlight a few. Can you tell me sort of the behind the scenes of how they were written and made. Let’s start with Testimony.
WhoisChi: That was a song again for Tag Team, the group with me and Young Chi. We really wanted to just do something different from the other “look what we have” song lyrics out there. We wanted to set a different vibe and hopefully reach an entirely different core group of people.
4-Star: And 100 Freestyle?
WhoisChi: That was actually a song done for my friend, Romell, Rest in Peace. At the time he didn’t even know I was taking the rapping thing seriously. He was with me when I made it and I shouted him out in the song.
4-Star: Ok, Spotlight‘s a good one.
WhoisChi: I actually wrote that on the train. We were trying to do a little club theme song, something to get people moving. There’s actually a video on You Tube for it. I really like that song because it’s featuring myself, J. Green, DGrams, and Young Chi. We wanted to get out there and show our faces. We work well together because we’re all diverse, we got different styles, and we’re all from the West-side.
4-Star: So what’s the future look life for WhoisChi?
WhoisChi: Mixtape! I’m just really focusing on my music. I want to get 12 or 13 songs together and make a great mixtape to put out for everyone. And whatever’s left over…I’ma just leave them and release another mixtape! After the mixtape I just want to reach out to different people in the business in the Chicago area.
4-Star: Thanks for giving me a great interview. I guess the last question is do you have any advice for other aspiring Chicago artists?
WhoisChi: Keep grinding. Show your face everywhere. Your appearance is everything. As IamPrincezz would say your name is your brand. My name is my brand. So build yourself. Make sure you act professional then you’ll be presented as professional which will make it easier for you to keep grinding.
Ay Cruz is a musical wizard turning knobs and switches. Clicking different effects and sound levels. It’s all very reminiscent of the old Disney animated epic The Sorcerer’s Apprentice for me. I am mesmerized by how he takes squiggly lines and spiked pitches and turns them into music. He is a chief engineer with the Audio Engineering group, “The Jungle.”
After the interview we are greeted by Manny, a videographer, fellow member of “The Jungle” Audio Engineering group, and friend of Cruz.We network a little bit with him and he shows us some of his work.
I couldn’t shake the feeling of awe as the afternoon spent watching WhoisChi and his cohorts make music and deals wound to a close. We snapped pictures and gave our goodbyes as ended a meeting that was hopefully a wonderful beginning for all of us.
Check out WhoisChi’s newest single Save Me produced by BluClown by clicking here. Enjoy and stay tuned for his new mixtape, IamChi, coming soon.
Make sure you support our Chicago talent by contacting the following:
For full track list click here at Soundcloud
Follow on Twitter @TheReal_CHI
Like on Facebook at facebook.com/WhoisCHI
Princezz of Eminent Phenomena Media
Follow on Twitter @IamPrincezz
A. Cruz of “The Jungle”
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