Chali 2na, born Charles Stewart, is a rapper and hip-hop artist that’s had a storied 25-year career with no end in sight. Best known for his time with Jurassic 5, 2na has released a slew of solo mixtapes and EP’s that accompany his “Fish Outta Water” album. 2na possesses remarkable music versatility as a founding member of Ozomalti, a salsa funk band.
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Read the interview highlights below, or listen to SCP Radio’s full-length podcast:
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Chris Remmers: Coming from Chicago, Illinois describe the city’s atmosphere. What would you suggest someone to see when visiting for the first time? Do you have a favorite spot you like to hit when in your hometown?
Chali 2na: To start with the first part of that question: Chicago Illinois, the onion city, the windy city, whatever you want to call it, is where I was born. It’s where a big part of my life was spent. That being said, the climate is extreme summers, meaning crazy humidity, and extreme winters, which means subzero temperatures. They say that Chicago has three different weather patterns: deathly hot, deathly cold and construction. In all seriousness though, some of my favorite places in Chicago to go would be the lake front, on all levels, including Rainbow Beach, all the way up. They are such beautiful lake fronts, something that the area is kind of known for.
Photo courtesy | Matthew Smith
I personally grew up in a impoverished area of Chicago where the climate was different when it came to social surroundings. It was thuged out with gangsters everywhere, drugs and crime. But, if you go parallel to The Loop in downtown Chicago, or above it meaning the North Side, that’s usually where people tell you to go, because of the rich culture of museums, zoos and all the touristy attractions are up that way. On the flip side, as you start to go south, it just gets progressively worse. It has always been that way.
CR: That’s incredible! So being from that area for such a long time, how did growing up and experiencing those things influence your music career?
C2: I would say that it’s definitely given me stuff to talk about. It’s given me perspective, and things to compare to. As I live my life I find other experiences that I bounce off the things that I know in order to enjoy or appreciate them. That being said, I’m never complaining about my background. It’s more that I’m just grateful that I was able to make the moves I did make, through out my life, to bring me to where I am today.
CR: Out of all the cities you’ve preformed in, are there any that stand out in terms of crowd atmosphere? Was this in line with the city’s nightlife when you guys went out afterwards?
C2: A lot of the college towns are usually the towns that kind of crack off, because the kids are just ready to let loose. As far as actual cities, I would have to say that Denver has an amazing party scene, music scene and just an amazing area to actually hang out in. I would also have to say New York, Miami and [Los Angeles] as well, but LA is more like show and tell, if you know what I mean. LA is just a place where it’s very entertainment oriented. If you’re not doing anything with entertainment it’s probably harder to find a job.
I have to say another one of my favorite places would have to be Amsterdam, just because of the freedom that you feel when you’re there. People over there are just so out of each others way, which allows for this air of comfort and it’s just amazing. Even the way they enjoy music over there it’s just different. There’s always a place with great food and great atmosphere. I just love looking at old architecture and stuff like that.
Photo courtesy | Bert Kaufmann
CR: What’s the first thing you try to do when you’re visiting a new destination?
C2: The first thing I normally try to do is get out in the street and take some pictures of the town so I can look around and remember it. If I’m not exhausted from the travel I’ll go out and find food that’s acclimated to that town. Sometimes we’ll travel to a spot and only be there for a day. You have to try and peek your head out there if you can.
CR: When you’re going to a vacation spot, are you more of an urban person or do you like a beach feel?
C2: I’ve always considered myself, even if I was born in this polar place, a tropical dude — the Jamaica’s, Hawaii’s, Bahamas, St. Maarten, Trinidad [and Tobago], South of France and Australia during our wintertime.
Photo courtesy | Ricardo Mangual
CR: Out of all those places what would you say your top three are?
C2: Kingston, Jamaica — I’ve got family down there — Montego Bay and Ocho Rios too. Next one would be Hawaii for me. I love Hawaii — the island vibe. It’s a whole different culture unto itself. You get that when you’re there dealing with the people. It makes you have to respect certain aspects of their life. It makes me reflect and look back at my own upbringing, because of the way they respect their traditions. After that, though, it would be Australia and New Zealand. Polynesians have the same vibe, they’re the same kind of people.
CR: How, in your life, would you say music and travel fit together?
C2: Music is a lot of things to a lot of people. One of the things that it is to me is theme music. It’s the theme. It sets the mood for the background and for what you’re visually looking at. It can also be a different language. Music is a language unto itself. It connects the planet. I’m able to travel around and do shows in places that don’t speak my language. When they’re listening to my songs, they know the songs and they know the words. That’s power man.
Photo courtesy | Guillermo Alonso
Other than that, the music itself leaves an imprint in the mind. It helps you remember certain aspects of things. You might be listening to James Brown when you’re walking around Italy for the first time. Then anytime after that when you hear James Brown you’ll remember that trip. It triggers memories.
CR: That’s the best part about music. It’s the same thing with smell and taste. You hear something and it brings you back to a certain time. So, you’re getting ready to put out your Coffee Table Book later this year, was the motivation, as you said earlier, to remember the sights and share it with your fans?
C2: To be perfectly honest with you, the motivation from day one, when we first started traveling, was to commit these things to memory so I can share them with my son. My son is as old as I’ve been able to professionally do this music. He’s about to be 24 and we’ve been traveling for that long. It’s been a beautiful thing to me to use him as a motivation for a lot of aspects of this — for staying on the grind so long and going so hard as we have. I also, like I said, wanted to be able to capture and keep these moments in time so I can share it with him when he’s old enough to really care about it. He’s been old enough to care about it, so it’s been cool.
Photo courtesy | Sam Valadi
CR: Are there any destinations that you haven’t traveled to yet that you’d like to visit?
C2: I want to go to South Africa — any of the countries in Africa — Egypt, Mozambique. That’s one of the continents that I’ve never really traveled on. I want to go to Rome, I haven’t been to Rome yet. I want to go over there and do all the touristy things, because I love architecture.
CR: Lastly, to wrap this up, when’s your next trip and what for?
C2: I’m going through Europe with Jurassic 5 for a month. At the end of that I get to vacation in none other than Amsterdam.
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For more on Chali 2na visit his website: