Unassuming. Swag. Lyricism.
All this, and more, describe the undiscovered talent that is Kahleel “Chuckleel” Johnson. An easy to understand but dominating sounding wordsmith, Chuckleel’s flow and ferocity make him an artist destined for the stratosphere in the near future.
Leading the charge in an unheralded field of underrated but uber talented hip hop artists “chomping at the bit” to show what Jersey can do if given the spotlight, Chuckleel is ready, willing and able to be the go-to voice for New Jersey.
This is Chuckleel.
This is Beats Subterranean.
Tell us the difference between US and artist on your first project and you as an artist in your current project?
I dropped my first project last June and titled it “The Wolf Who Cried Bars” because honestly, it was STRAIGHT BARS. I had some catchy hooks in there and definitely some bops, but I made sure to fill up every track with great wordplay, punchlines and metaphors. My next project will of course feature bars, but I want focus more on the sound and the music itself. Ive always felt I was a more a conscious rapper than anything else, so I want to keep that alive but I also want to add a lil twist of what’s new. Expect a BIG leap in quality and sound.
Explain where the name “Chuckleel ”comes from?
When I was born my grandmother nicknamed me Charlie Brown due to my oversized head and me being very light skinned as a baby. Sadly, she passed away 8 months later but my uncle made sure to keep the name alive. Over the years I’ve decided to shorten “Charlie” and go by “Chuck” and being my birth name is Kahleel, I wanted to blend the two. Leaving me with CHUCKleel.
Tell us about your background and hip-hop?
I’ve always been proud to claim where I’m from. I was practically raised in Cranford NJ, which from my experience is a predominantly white town. For instance, I was one of the TWO black males in my graduation class of 2013. My boy Reg was the high school QB star, and me? I was the rapper. I didn’t start off rapping though. I started writing poetry in 6th grade. Mostly love notes, simple rhymes and love stories. I’ve always been a big fan of hip hop, but it wasn’t until I learned what bars and metaphors were in terms of music that I fell in love with the craft.
Who are your direct influences in regards to your lyrics and flow?
It’s hard to say who directly influences me and my music, especially nowadays when all I find myself listening to is LITE FM. I try to stay away from the radio because I hate to feel like I’m influenced too much by what’s going on now. I try to say unique and original.
When I first started, HANDS DOWN, it was Lil Wayne. The ultimate punchline rapper. I take so much pride in my lyrics because of Lil Wayne. I make sure to have multiple bars that you might not even catch the first time around, but to me, that’s the best part about music.
But only Lil Wayne when it comes to the artistry. Besides him, I’m huge fans of Drake, J.Cole, Kendrick, etc. I love conscious rap. I refuse to lie on my songs, rap about guns or gangs and hard drugs. I can’t speak on what I haven’t lived or what I don’t know. I think integrity and credibility in the hip-hop industry is extremely important.
How important is it to you to rep New Jersey as a separate part of the rap game when it seems to constantly be in the shadow of New York?
It is so important for me to rep New Jersey. To me, Jersey is home. Jersey is family. One of the main reasons I think we’re stuck in NY’s shadow is because everybody wanted to me MR./MS. NJ. Everybody is too afraid to show love to the next person without realizing that’s one of the only ways we’ll make it out. It should be an all for one and one for all type of deal, but it’s hard to find people like that. I want people to know me and KNOW where I’m from. Credit aside, I’d love to be the one to pop the top off for Jersey. Because once they hear me, they’ll feel me… because WE WILL FLOOD.
What is your general approach when stepping into the studio?
For the most part, I record in my own home studio. So I’ll start writing my verse, hop in the booth sometimes before it’s done, just to get a better feel of the delivery and flow I’m trying to achieve. That process can be anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours because I often find myself coming up with different ideas and new things to add just to give a fuller sound. But when I take what I have to an official studio to record? I come with AMMO. I refuse to waste. I’m always having fun recording so it’s always going to be a good vibe… until I ask for a few redo (laughs).
With the lack of shows for most hip-hop and R&B artists how do you stand out or how do you plan on standing out?
To be honest, I’m still learning how to stand out an artist. I mean I go by Chuck; I rock Chucks and everybody knows that. I like to call myself “the Wolf” so on a few songs of mine you’ll hear a howl. And when I would be on stage? The crowd would howl back, it was an amazing feeling. But with the lack of shows, it shows how important relationships with your fans are. You want them to feel like they know you, you want them to care about you and be invested in what you have going on. It’s easier to accomplish that at shows because it’s chance for people I’ve never met to actually meet me and see my live to get a feel for who I am and my energy. Without shows, I find myself game planning. I still work on music constantly but I’m all focusing on how I can come off as more of a people person. Even though I am, all of my followers don’t know that and I think if they felt more personal with me, that would do a lot for my music.
What has this pandemic taught you as an artist?
Besides relationships being important, this pandemic has taught me to make adjustments. I know, that’s a given. Everything for everyone is changing. Except for me, now I just can’t go out and do shows. So, what can I do? More music, more cover art, more skits, more short content for my viewers. This pandemic proves it is better to be ready then to get ready. Maybe I wasn’t ready for the time, but the way I’m prepping now… they might need to call for another pandemic once I’m unleashed on the world… but ya know… in a cool way.
Do you consider 2020 a wash or there’s still a lot of work to be done?
There’s NO way 2020 is a wash. It’s hard to even call it a setback. It’s more like a set up for me. It’s giving me extra time to really figure out a direction and how the execute goals. I know I’m going to come out the other side of this better and stronger than ever.
What projects do you have coming up next?
You can look forward to my new single “Master Chief” in June. We’re planning for a nice visual on that as well. I have so many songs in the vault, but I don’t want to give away too much, it’s time to get strategic because I feel like I have some gems. Besides that, definitely look forward to the CHAIRMAN OF THE BORED mixtape. My manager put together some dope up and coming artists from Jersey and we plan on doing something real special for y’all.
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