They say you learn something new every day, and even ten years into touring, MC Chris is proving that to be true. The king of nerd rap, who released his tenth studio album, MC Chris Is Dreaming in September is currently on the road and more confident and hopeful than ever. As someone who has learned quite a bit from his passionate fans, MC Chris is giving back this time around, hosting costume contests at every upcoming show and picking a winner to be posted online every single night. At the end of the tour, a grand prize winner will receive $500 worth of Freddy Krueger toys, and if that wasn't incentive enough to catch him when he comes through town (cough cough, he'll be in Colorado Springs tonight and Denver tomorrow) then maybe the fact that this current tour has had more sold out shows than ever before is.
We recently caught up with MC Chris to talk about everything from his ten years of touring and the lessons that he has learned on the road all the way to his Freddy Krueger themed new album and the importance of hope during times of fear and uncertainty.
Interview by Dom Vigil
You’re currently out on the road not only in support of your new album, MC Chris Is Dreaming but in celebration of 10 years of touring. What are you most looking forward to on these upcoming shows?
Well, we’re at the tail end of the tour now, and some of the places I always look forward to are New Orleans and my hometown. It’s nice to be back in Brooklyn because it’s where I lived before Los Angeles most recently and I have a lot of fondness for my neighborhood. In New Orleans I like to have my fortune read and I like the jambalaya. The jambalaya in Brooklyn and New Orleans is equally amazing and I think I’m just happy about jambalaya.
I also like being in my hometown. I went and saw Doctor Strange in the movie theatre where I saw movies at growing up as a kid, so I kind of just hung out in my hometown for a day and that was really amazing. Those are the places I usually look forward to, and they’ve been awesome this time, just like they’ve been awesome in the past. I love the tour, I love the places that I visit, and I love finding beauty in places that it’s not expected. Sometimes when I’m driving, because I drive myself when I tour, I turn on the avoid highways on google maps, and it takes me through some really beautiful areas of the country. I love that as well, and because there has been so much driving this tour, I’ve really just been able to enjoy America from looking out my window.
I have been able to stop in some places and see some really cool things. I’m really into music history right now, so I went to Sun Studios, to Stax Studios and did some other things, and it’s really fun to research and investigate my vocation and its history. I could answer that question forever.
What has been the most significant change you’ve gone through as an artist since you first started touring?
I’m a lot smarter about how to tour. In the beginning, I let other people do everything and I did very little except perform. Now I am selling my own merch, driving myself, setting up the tour and just preparing everything, running a business, making sure everything is stocked and paying all my bills. I handle everything now. I’m capable of doing that, so I’ve learned a lot about how to get rid of waste and how to become self-sufficient and independent. Also the live show, I’ve been performing a couple hundred shows a year for ten years and I think that’s just made me a more solid performer, a better storyteller and a better rapper. I’m better at how I manage my breath and my energy and how I arrange a set. I’m also better at how I interact with fans. I get a little bit better at that every year.
What about the most important lesson you’ve learned?
That’s a good question. I guess one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in the last ten years traveling all over the country and going everywhere and meeting everybody is that we’re all the same and every town is the same. There’s not a lot that’s separating us from each other, at least geographically. Everywhere I go is very similar to each other, it’s a very even mix, and I like that.
I guess that is a lesson - that we’re all the same. Just like my fans, I go through every emotion they experience, I’m a human. I guess I’ve learned that there’s no such thing as celebrity and that’s been good for me. Cause thinking you’re a celebrity and acting like you’re a celebrity is lame, and I don’t want anything to do with that. I want people to think that we are equals and we are friends, and that we can talk about anything. I definitely respond to kindness and I respond to rudeness in different way, and I think I’m just like anybody else. If anything, that made me feel good because it helped me learn that I had been built up a lot in my adolescence and it helped me see actually where I was in the world and what my true standing was. And learning what your true standing is is a lot easier to maintain than some lofty goal that doesn’t exist.
On these upcoming shows, fans are encouraged to dress up for a costume contest every night! What have been some of your favorites you’ve seen so far?
We get a lot of Bob’s Burgers, we get a lot of Rick and Morty. Those costumes are not as much fun as the people wearing them want them to be. What I want to see in costumes are a costume that no one else would do, that you’ve really put some time into, that looks really good, that you’ve assembled really well and you’ve really tried your damnedest to look like this thing. That being said, I definitely think that Tyrone Biggums is the man to beat this tour, I mean he came out of nowhere! I don't know where we were, but not only did that picture get so many likes, but it really killed. Everyone just cheered so much and everybody online cheered so much and I was right there with them. So I’m going to have to go with Tyrone Biggums, which is a character from a Chappelle's Show skit.
What’s one ridiculous costume you’re still waiting to see?
I’ve seen everything that I like… I’ve seen a lot of Star Wars, I’ve seen a lot of Ghostbusters. Those are two of my favorite things. I like video game references, but everyone’s references are always a little different than mine. I’m a really big fan of Mr. T, if someone dressed up as Mr. T that would be great, without doing it in an offensive way, of course.
You’re coming through Colorado a few weeks after Halloween, but should fans still keep their costumes out and ready for these upcoming shows?
Yes of course, absolutely! People have been wearing their costumes every night. Every day on my facebook fanpage, we post the winner of that night’s contest. At the end of the tour, I will pick one grand prize winner factoring in several factors - that’s what you do with factors, is you factor them in - and the grand prize winner gets $500 worth of Freddy Krueger toys from Neca Toys, and they make really amazing toys. There’s also a replica glove that’s being thrown in, which is awesome.
For MC Chris Is Dreaming, did you have any major goals in mind when you first started working on it?
Yes, I wanted to expel my demons. I wanted to get rid of what was gnawing at my subconscious while I was sleeping. So I wanted to talk about some of my issues and talk about my mental state with my fans, and also discuss fun things like the brain and Freddy Krueger, so it’s all kind of thematic. Every album I make is thematic. I had an art teacher who made us pick out themes and I didn’t know what that meant, and then I figured it out, and I guess that’s how I work now.
What would you like fans to take away from the album?
I want my fans to take away that you can be just as hopeful as you can be afraid. Right now, we’re all very afraid - or a lot of us are - half of the country is very afraid about the future and that is a difficult mental and eventual physical weight to carry. So you can actually think, “What if things go well?” What if people retain their civil rights, and what if families aren’t broken up and deported? You can hope for the best, and also work for it and fight for it as well, cause hopes and prayers have good intentions, but elbow grease is what gets anything done.
In the beginning of a Freddy movie, things are very fearful, the main character is very afraid. They’re consumed by fear, and it’s fear that drives the villain. And by the end of the film, she has realized that she can control that fear and destroy the villain, and I saw that as a great parable for how I want to live my life right now. I want to control my fear, I want to keep Freddy at bay, and I want to be hopeful about the future, because doing the opposite hurts too much, and it’s too tiring, and nothing gets done. I want fans to have that feeling of hope being more powerful and better and healthier for you than fear.
What has been the highlight of your 2016 so far?
Well, my son is definitely the first thing that comes to mind. I can’t even talk about him without getting emotional. It has been forty days since I’ve seen him last and just watching him grow and being his parent is an amazing thing for me, it has made me happier than I knew I could be. Nothing trumps that.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you so much, I appreciate it!