Chanel West CoastLEFAIR
Written by Madeline Rosene @madelinerosene
You might know her from MTV shows like Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory and Ridiculousness, but Chanel West Coast is more than a reality TV show star and comedian. Since 2009, Chanel has been recording rap music and collaborating with some of the most prominent rap artists of today. Lil Wayne signed Chanel to his label, Young Money Entertainment, in 2012. She then released her mix-tape, Now You Know, in 2013. The mix-tape featured Evan Ross, French Montana, Snoop Dogg and Robin Thicke. Although it’s a little grey outside, today, Chanel is sitting by the pool of a recording studio in the Hollywood Hills. Beaming and bubbly, she is sporting sweatpants, sneakers, and a clean natural face. Her long white and gold nails are excitedly scrolling and tapping through snapchats.
MR: How did you know you wanted to be a rapper?
CW: I’ve been into music and poetry since I was a little girl. I always wrote poems. In school I was in hip-hop class, choir, orchestra, you name it — I was involved in every form of performing arts. Being able to perform is what made me like going to school. Since poetry is basically rapping over beats, I started writing raps over instrumentals and I haven’t stopped since.
MR: Tell me about your process and who inspires you.
CW: My songwriting process starts with the beat. When you hear a beat, it inspires the lyrics. If it sounds more like a sad song, it will inspire sad lyrics. For me, it always starts with the music. Every now and then it starts with poems and I’ll tell Rich, my producer, “I got this idea. Let’s do this!” One time, Rich and I were in the studio in Miami. He had a beat and he wasn’t planning on making something new. But I wanted to do a song about fashion and we thought about the best way to pay homage to fashion, so we made the song “Karl Lagerfeld” ‘cause you see Karl’s face and you immediately think fashion.
2pac is definitely my biggest inspiration. As for female artists who I look up to— definitely Gwen Stefani. No Doubt was the first CD I bought when I was a kid. I appreciate how Gwen went from being in a rock/pop band to doing her own thing in hip-hop. She kind of changed the game. There was really nothing like that at the time and it’s something I see myself doing in the future but in the opposite direction. I would like to cross into pop/rock and showcase my singing voice.
MR: Why aren’t there more female rappers?
CW: I don’t know why there aren’t more female rappers. I can’t really say, but it’s one of the reasons I got into rapping. I love all kinds of music. But for me to do rap, it stands out a little, you know, to be a little white girl who raps. I really think there should be more women rappers. I think, as women, we need to unite more and support each other as artists. We should all come together!
MR: How has social media played a role in your music career?
CW: I got on social media because of my music. I made a Myspace.com music page. I would sit on Myspace for hours a day and be like, “Yoo, check out my music—white girl rapper!” I got a lot of attention on Myspace way before I was on TV. Right before I started on TV was when Twitter and Facebook fan pages came out. I remember one of our producers was like, “You should make a Twitter. It’s a new big thing for celebrities!” and I was like, “I can’t even keep up with my Myspace and Facebook.” Luckily, on Twitter I didn’t have to try really. I didn’t have to follow people to be followed. All of a sudden I looked and I had 10,000 followers. I realized I could use this outlet to get more fans and that’s when I started getting really into social media. Overall, it’s been helpful for my career, but it’s hard. It’s been hurtful in ways. I think with me, it’s helped because people don’t get to know me through the TV shows, so they get to know me through my social media. There are people who think, “Oh, there’s a reality star that does music. I can’t take that seriously.” Sometimes people make negative comments and those comments influence other people to make them too. You can see it so clearly. A lot of young people’s mentalities are especially influenced— “Well he thinks she sucks, so I think she sucks.” Occasionally, I wish these people who are not my music fans would just leave. I don’t need these negative comments. There’s so much bullying on social media.
In response to this, I’m starting my “No Shade Campaign,” an anti-bullying campaign that stands for not dissing or making fun of people based on how they look or how much money they have. To me, bullying is the most negative side of social media. In some ways, social media has made bullying easier. I wish there was a TV show where I could go meet one of my haters and they could form a different opinion of me, or maybe a whole show for celebrities to address their haters. It’s kind of sad when you read the comments aloud. It shows how miserable other people are.
MR: Besides being the target of social media trolls and haters, what other kinds of issues have you faced in your career?
CW: One of my biggest blessings has been my biggest struggle—being on TV before being known for my music. When Rob asked me to be on his show, I could barely afford a burger. Being on a show changed my life in many amazing ways. But as far as my music goes, being on TV has made it hard to be recognized as an artist. A lot of people don’t understand me as an artist. My music is a whole separate part of my career but they just see me as this funny, happy-go-lucky girl on rob’s show. They don’t see my life and my problems and who I am as a rapper.
I also feel like people follow people from TV just because they’ve seen them on TV. It’s just for the sake of following, or they’re like, “Oh, I think she’s hot,” or “I like the show.” Music is a different story. Music fans care about the musician they’re following because they care about the music and lyrics that person creates.
MR: What is it like working in such a male dominated industry?
CW: I’ve been on shows for years where it’s all guys and we don’t even have a lot of women on our crew. It’s fast paced for any girl and you have to get used to being rushed. It takes a long time to get ready! I have makeup, bras, pasties, high heels, clothes to change, and a bunch of different pieces of jewelry. A lot of the time, people don’t give girls as much time as they need. People don’t take into consideration the things girls need in this industry. In many ways, we have to work harder to keep up. The guy on tour doesn’t need hair, makeup and back up dancers. A lot more goes into being a female artist.
MR: What’s your next move?
CW: Trying to take over the world! No, just kidding…well it’s kind of true. I’m working on a TV show of my own. It will still be funny for my fans from the TV show I’m on now. That’s easy to do since I have a funny life and funny things happen to me. The show will mostly revolve around my music, but will be more of a behind the scenes look at my life. I’m so busy right now, working on a jewelry line, a nail decal company, and a new album. I’ll be singing a lot more on the new album. I’d like to make it more diverse with more pop and rock mixed in. I want to make it a more colorful blend.
MR: What advice would you give to young girls who want to start rapping?
CW: I feel like every female rapper is unique in her own way. I think we all have our own style. My advice would be, “Be very strong. Don’t let people intimidate you or put you down. Follow your dreams.”