In music, there are several different pathways and success stories for rising hip-hop artists. There’s the slow grind to the top (Kendrick Lamar), the overnight, almost accidental smash hits (Post Malone, Trinidad James), the “industry plants” that had all the right connections and great timing (Chance the Rapper, Raury), and the artists that made a name for themselves in a short period time, by way of artistry and unique qualities. Cleveland based emcee and producer Chelsea Pastel is the latter of those mentioned.
After releasing her first track in January, Pastel signed a record deal with the independent label Foredise Records in May, and now she’s finalizing her first project. While she’s only released five tracks, she’s shown a lot of diversity and original style. Particularly on her singles, she seems extremely comfortable and experimental, switching from a relaxed flow over the dreamlike soundscape that Boca Beats creates on “Let Me Live”, to the off kilter effects and abstract beat that she produces on “At All”. I spoke to Chelsea about her new music, how she began and what she wants to say with the platform that she’s developing for herself.
When did you start making music?
I started making beats in high school and started making my own songs in 2011.
What made you start making beats?
Well I used to try to make songs when I was a kid with the keyboards that I would get. Or I would replay songs I liked and try to remake them. I would use tape recorders and all that to record them. Then I got hip to FL Studio, which just made sense.
Once you started using FL, was production just a hobby or did you have the intention to give beats to artists?
I wanted to learn how to make beats for my own songs and eventually other artists.
Do you have any old beats from your first few months of producing that you still enjoy? I have a theory that every producer has at least 1 one beat that’s cold to them even though it’s from an early stage in their career.
Hell yeah. Its called “Trippy Times” and will forever be bae (laughs). It was some next level shit.
I have one called “Cadillac” from 2011. I used to listen to it everyday. Do you think that those types of tracks are extra great because of how early in the game you were? Or was it just a flash of greatness (laughs).
(Laughs) that’s dope. I can say both. It was around the time when I realized that this is what I wanted to do in life. So I was high off of that. I was more experimental too at that time.
When did you start releasing tracks?
Wow, that’s surprising.
(Laughs) Yeah, I was always timid musically.
When did you start talking with the people at Foredise?
End of May 2015.
So it only took you 5 months to get a deal? That’s pretty phenomenal.
Yeah. I wasn’t really expecting all that myself honestly. I guess they saw something in me (laughs).
What really sold you on them? Signing a deal early on can help some people or hinder them. The Alex Wiley situation is pretty scary.
What happened with him? And well, they were pretty new and had a simple concept. They didn’t ask for too much from me other than to make music and let me do what it how I want.
Closed Sessions was apparently giving Alex problems with releasing music and holding his contract. He said there was racism involved as well, but the information is a bit muddy.
Damn that sucks. But yeah my deal is pretty simple and didn’t require me to completely sell my soul over (laughs).
That’s great (laughs). Do you consider yourself to be a Cleveland artist? Or just an artist that’s from Cleveland?
Definitely an artist from Cleveland.
Do you associate with the Cleveland scene? It seems to be bubbling.
Yeah I do. I’m in the loop, I guess you can say. I’m cool with everyone. Down to work with some local artists too. But I strive to make an impact beyond Cleveland though. I kind of do my own thing and I lay low.
I see what you mean. It feels like we’re entering a promising time for Cleveland. I definitely see you, along with 16 yr old, as artists that have potential to shoot beyond the local audience. Possibly because you talk about a lot more than Cleveland related topics.
Yeah I completely agree. That 16 yr old kid is super dope. I’ve never met him but I listen to him. And yeah that’s what I’m aiming for. I really want to influence people to be themselves and be comfortable with that, especially younger girls. They need it the most. We’ve been constantly told we should look, act, and dress a certain way. So I have to reach far beyond Cleveland.
Are you confident in this generation’s treatment towards young girls getting better, or the concept of eliminating self esteem issues? It seems like we’re progressing when it comes to that. But that could just be the internet, and not the bigger picture.
Yes and no. I think it’s getting better but then again, at least where I’m from, I see so many young girls whose only aspirations are to be like the fake boob/ass/lip stars they see. I’m not knocking them for that, but it sucks that many believe that in order to live like a star, or to be considered popular or successful, that they have to have this “image”. I see a bunch of lost girls begging for attention on the net by being extra and all that. I think it’s getting better in some ways though.
That’s definitely true. Do you think it’s possible to come to a major level and retain your message? Even though it’s needed, I haven’t seen someone in rap come with a message for girls that was as powerful as this since “Doo Wop (That Thing)” from Lauryn Hill. It feels almost as if it’s been shut out from the media.
Yeah it’s possible. I’m gonna make it possible. It’s just about how it’s executed.
Can you reveal how you will execute it?
(Laughs) Sorry. You’ll just have to wait and see overtime.
Well, I’m excited for it (laughs).
Do you have an idea of what you want to say with your first project? And how you want to release it?
Yeah it’s gonna be dope and fun. And my project goes.
Will it be self produced?
It’s pretty close to completion. Just editing now. But it just introduces me as an artist. I’m telling listeners about my life. I rap about really easy to relate to topics. And I’m gonna release it online through iTunes/soundCloud/etc. It is self-produced except for one track. At least so far.
I’m looking forward to it. If there’s anything you want to say about yourself to the people that haven’t heard your music, what would it be?
(Laughs) Okay … Well…. Well let me think for a second (laughs). Well, all I have to say is that this rap stuffs only the beginning. I plan on going far beyond and getting into many other avenues of music through visual art, technology, and film.
Stream Chelsea’s latest single “At All” below.
William Lampley is a fan of Chelsea Pastel and a new contributor for Ohio Streets. Follow him @willcDPR.