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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Chaz Kangas Builds A Career With A Promise
Thursday, July 03, 2014

Chaz Kangas’ career can, in large part, be traced back to a promise. In 2005, Kangas, an NYU student at the time, was looking to build his name in NYC’s hip-hop scene, but doing so required being in 21+ venues. Sans a fake ID, his word would be his way in.

The pledge that put Kangas, who is originally from Minnesota, on some of the city’s most important stages occurred after he’d attended a MINDSpray show at the Brooklyn venue Asterisk. He’d accidentally left his gloves there, and MINDSpray emcee brokeMC offered to bring them to Sin Sin, in the LES, for him to pick up at the weekly Freestyle Mondays event. (Freestyle Mondays is still a fixture in the city’s underground hip-hop scene to this day, even though Sin Sin has long since closed)

Kangas recalls approaching the door that evening, saying, “My very first night I try to get in to Freestyle Mondays, and the bouncer outside told me no. Illspokinn (who co-hosts the event with Mariella) comes by ... I ask, ‘Hey, is it cool? I’m 19.’ He said, ‘Wait here. Let me talk.’ He went and he talked to the manager, and the establishment, and came back out and said, ‘OK, I can get you in, but you need to promise me that you are not going to go to the bar and try to buy alcohol until you’re 21.’ I promised, and I kept my word the entire time.”

“Ill stuck his neck out, and took a risk on me, and that’s something that really everything that I have from rapping in New York can all trace back to that one big break, and I’m big on my word. I believe in honesty and honor. It comes from watching Van Damme films, I’m sure.”

Once in, Kangas was a fixture at Freestyle Mondays, becoming one of the events most celebrated freestyle battle champions. He also started releasing music.

Fast-forward to the present, and we find Kangas having just released his latest effort, the Empire Records inspired The Rex Manning Day EP.

While Kangas had a love of the film Empire Records during his high school years, it was his experience working at the final Virgin Megastore, followed by a recent repeat screening of the movie, that brought everything together for him. “The film itself has such a vibe of a celebration of just being music fans,” he explains, “there are so many different walks of life, and so many things about record stores, and about just being a music fan, that I think Empire Records really caught.”

In the film, Rex Manning Day was when uber egotistical aging pop star Rex Manning came to Empire Records to sign autographs. The Rex Manning Day EP, which is available for free via Kangas’ Bandcamp page, is a celebration of lyrically skillful, and intelligent humor filled, hip-hop, with heavy doses of pop and fringe culture thrown in. Kangas even scored an appearance by one of his favorite professional wrestlers, Colt Cabana, who does an interpolation of Mike Tyson’s rants from Canibus’ 1998 LL Cool J diss track “Second Round K.O.”

The Rex Manning Day EP follows Kangas’ 2011 full length effort, A Personal Reference. The extended wait in-between albums was a result of his, and his producer Good Goose’s, busy schedules. Kangas, in addition to being an artist, is also a music journalist, and Good Goose has seen recent success at Tommy Boy Records, producing for the likes of Mike Doughty (formerly of Soul Coughing), and Hand Job Academy.

Kangas notes that quality, rather than speed, was his main concern, saying, “There’s nothing worse than having a kind of half done thing, and just throwing it out into the abyss of the internet. We wanted to really take our time, and wait for the moment to be right, and it just so happens that here we are.”

Many hip-hop artists who become known from battling attempt to run from their roots when they start recording albums, but this is not something Kangas, who is well aware of the stigma that battle rappers create poor albums, endorses. “I don’t like when battlers try to separate themselves from the battle scene,” he states, adding that his early years in the scene taught him a lot about performance, and catering to different crowds.

“I was one of those real road warrior types where I’d be taking buses up and down the East coast getting to different battles,” he explains, “They’d be entirely different crowds, entirely different scenes, entirely different styles, and you had to learn how to play to each crowd.”

When it comes to future performances of songs from The Rex Manning Day EP, Kangas says he isn’t sure if he has a Rex Manning outfit in his closet, but he notes, “It is something I aspire to have,” adding that in addition to something Rex Manning related, “any ensemble based on pretty much any character in Empire Records I would be down to wear, sans Warren. I think I finished my Warren phase in the early to mid 2000s.”

While Kangas is leaving his Warren phase in his past, the promise he made during that time played a large role in making The Rex Manning Day EP possible in the present, and it has secured him a future where he’ll never be asked to “Say No More.”


Interview originally ran on Arena.com.

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