Shawn Chrystopher: The story behind The Lovestory LP (Exclusive) [Interview]
Inglewood, CA – California-based rapper, Shawn Chrystopher, released his highly anticipated debut album, The Lovestory LP, on July 23. Chrystopher has been working under the wing of legendary super-producer Timbaland, who executive-produced the entire album. Chrystopher’s raps are laced with melodic piano hooks, and mellow production— the entire album is pure summer jams. But Chrystopher isn’t afraid to switch things up. The heated June-released video for “Blackandwhite” provides thought-provoking commentary on interracial dating, while the more recent video for “The Temptation” makes for a spacey little tune-out joint.
So as Chrystopher’s been roasting up the airwaves, HipHopCanada started wondering if he had plans to tour in Canada. We got a chance to chop it up with him on the phone this week. And much to our delight, Chrystopher confirmed that Canadian hip-hop is “dopeness” and he’s planning to visit us in late fall 2013. We also got to pick his brain about the new album, rubbing shoulders with Justin Timberlake and Timbaland, and his own personal love story. Check out our exclusive interview after the jump.
“Love is the one thing we all have in common. No matter what race you are, or how old you are, or whatever you believe in—we all love.” -Shawn Chrystopher
Shawn Chrystopher: Q&A
Interview conducted by Sarah Sussman for HipHopCanada
HipHopCanada: So the album is called The Lovestory LP. I’m wondering if you could tell me what your “love story” is.
Shawn Chrystopher: A lot of people see the title and think I’m just talking about love between a man and a woman—like relationships love. But really, it’s just love. The love you have for your family, your friends or my homies, or whatever the case may be. That’s why I called it Lovestory. We’ve all gone through heartbreak. Love is the one thing we all have in common. No matter what race you are, or how old you are, or whatever you believe in—we all love. That’s just who we are as humans.
HipHopCanada: I noticed in the track “Dinner with a Supermodel,” you show a lot of love for your family: your sister and your mom.
Shawn Chrystopher: My mom had me young. She was like 21, single mom, whatever. [But she wasn’t] just my mom. Growing up, she was my best friend. I didn’t have any siblings at the time and then my mom got married and had my sister [who is] now 10 [years old]. I was old enough to have enough knowledge to really show [my sister] the ropes. So I was almost like her second dad. Actually, I still am, to this day. My mom’s taken care of me for so long. It just feels great to be able to do what I’m doing and help them out.
HipHopCanada: Learning from how your mom raised you, what do you want to pass on to your sister?
Shawn Chrystopher: There’s so many things. I mean, we had the roughness where I grew up so my mom did whatever she could for me to get whatever I needed. But there’s a lot of things I want my sister to be able to have. And that’s kind of what I rap for. I want her to have a life – not only one I didn’t have, but one that’s just [what] the average American kid should have. And that’s what I think about every time when I write my lyrics.
HipHopCanada: Now you were pretty fortunate to work with Timbaland for this album.
Shawn Chrystopher: Yes.
HipHopCanada: What’s the most important thing that he taught you?
Shawn Chrystopher: Patience. As an artist, we want the song that we just recorded last night to be out and to be number one the next day. Because we feel like, “This is the best art I’ve ever created.” We have seasons, you know? Winter, spring, fall, summer. The music industry has seasons as well. My music, to me, is summer music. It’s weird, I call it “summer at night,” because it’s not necessarily daytime happiness. But it’s a summer feel. I wouldn’t get the same reception if I released it in the winter. Even though I finished this album months ago, the one thing I learned from Tim was to be patient [and wait] for that moment to strike. And as you can see with what he’s doing with Justin [Timberlake] and Jay-Z, he waited for the perfect moment to strike and he’s back on top again. It’s all about patience in this game.
HipHopCanada: And you actually got to sit in on some of Justin’s recording sessions. Is that correct?
Shawn Chrystopher: Yeah. It was amazing because Tim actually called me and was like, “We’re out in Hollywood so you should come through.” And I came by. I met Justin and his wife. And everybody was just so nice—so down to earth, you know? You expect to walk in the room and they’re, like, sitting on thrones. And they actually should be. Or they could be, if they wanted to. They’re really chill. One of the first conversations I had with Justin was sports.
HipHopCanada: No way.
Shawn Chrystopher: Yeah. He was watching SportsCenter and we were talking about the NBA. And we’re talking about basketball and I realize he’s a really big sports fan. And I am, too. That’s kind of what we had in common. So being in those [recording] sessions, that’s the one thing I learned about them—they’re real humans. They just happen to be really, really good at their professions. But they’re just like you and I.
HipHopCanada: Now getting into some darker stuff, “Blackandwhite” was probably one of the more thought-provoking tracks that you released. Do you want to elaborate a bit on the story behind it?
Shawn Chrystopher: I [went] to this super big university where, literally, out of a 200-person class, I was probably the only black guy in the class. It was a culture shock at first, because I was mad young and I’ve never really had to do any type of socializing with anyone outside of my community. Then there was this one girl. We were basically from different opposite ends of the spectrum. She was rich and she came from family money and a whole other state. And I was pretty much an inner-city kid. But we related on so many different topics that I started to like her. And we kind of dated. [But] even though it’s a higher-learning institution, there’s still a lot of deep-rooted societal issues. And we could never be as public as we wanted to about how we felt about each other. I never really talked about it, ever, since then. You know, we grew apart and I got over it. But as I was writing the story, I just wanted to be as honest with my fans as possible. I wrote the song. I put it out. And so many people felt the same way, or really understood.
HipHopCanada: And I’m kind of getting the sense, too, that you have a thing for white girls.
Shawn Chrystopher: It’s funny because I listened to my album and I was like, “Wow. I mention white girls a lot.” If you have a black guy, you automatically think he likes black women. But with me, I like all women. It has nothing to do with race. I think that love or attraction is all vibes. Sometimes you feel a certain vibe with people who look like you [and] sometimes you don’t. For me, I like all women.
HipHopCanada: So what’s the best quality that a woman can possess?
Shawn Chrystopher: Sense of humour.
Shawn Chrystopher: Yeah, I love to laugh and I love to tell jokes. And I love for a girl to get my jokes. ‘Cause that just means that we’re thinking on the same wavelength. Of course you want her to be smart. And she has to be pretty, too. But more than anything, you have to have a sense of humour. No one really looks that bad when they’re smiling. As long as you’re laughing, you’re a beautiful soul.
HipHopCanada: So I have to ask you, are you planning on coming through Canada?
Shawn Chrystopher: I am. I am definitely coming to Canada. I want to say [in the] late fall. I’m really excited. It’ll be my first time going to Canada. And I’ve been talking to my friends who have gone and they tell me that you guys have great casinos, and stuff.
HipHopCanada: Oh yeah. We go hard with the gambling.
Shawn Chrystopher: We have casinos out here. I’ve been to Vegas, Reno, and Atlantic City. But I’m really excited to gamble in Canada. I think that’d be dope.
HipHopCanada: If bingo is your thing, it’s top-notch here.
Shawn Chrystopher: Really? I’m down for that.
HipHopCanada: Well I’ll have to take you while you’re here. So which cities are you coming through?
Shawn Chrystopher: Probably just Toronto and Vancouver, for now. We’re trying to get a few more cities down. But I know T-dot and Vancouver, for sure, are on the top of the list.
HipHopCanada: Do you have any plans to do some features with Canadian artists?
Shawn Chrystopher: You know, that’s one thing why I love to tour. If I go to a different state, or even a different country, I love to know who’s poppin’. Even if I just remix somebody else’s song, I just love to get involved [and] immerse myself in another country’s music. You guys have some really dope music coming out right now. I was messing with Drake [and] Party Next Door. Some really dopes vibes coming out of that. The Weeknd…
HipHopCanada: I could definitely see you and The Weeknd.
Shawn Chrystopher: I’m really excited to go out there when I do and definitely collaborate with some Canadian artists. It’s nothing but dopeness coming out of there right now.
HipHopCanada: So do you have any last thoughts you want to share with the HipHopCanada readers?
Shawn Chrystopher: I just want to thank HipHopCanada for even taking the time out to talk to me. I just want to tell everybody, make sure you pick up my debut album, The Lovestory LP. It’s on iTunes or you can hit up my site shawnchrys.com and purchase a hard copy. We mail all around the world.
Photography courtesy of Shawn Chrystopher
Interview conducted by Sarah Sussman for HipHopCanada