It’s been awhile since we last received a project from RVA rhyme-smith Chance Fischer. So when I heard he was about to release the Whisky Neat EP, I knew I had to catch up with him, preferably over the libations that inspired the title.
Originally printed in RVA #31 WINTER 2017, you can check out the issue HERE or pick it up around Richmond now.
After a few missed appointments and conflicting schedules, we meet at a bar in downtown Richmond on Broad Street on a rainy Sunday afternoon. After describing a particular drink to me, the Richmond emcee said, “This is the stuff I want to talk about! People asking me random questions like, ‘So what you doing next?’ Like, come on, yo!”
It’s a conversation that includes the bartender, who’s having fun talking spirits with us on a slow night. We’re not talking about Fischer’s new EP, or the rap battle scene he’s been in this year–not yet. First, he wants to talk spirits. “Is that Wasmund’s single malt back there?” he asks the bartender. “Let’s do two of the Wasmund’s single malt, neat. This is coming from Sperryville, Virginia. Rick Wasmund does that; he also does the Copper Fox stuff. He has a gin called Virgin, which is pretty cool, but this stuff is kind of like a cross between a bourbon and a single malt scotch, with this nice deep chocolate toffee notes and tobacco. It’s real good.”
Talk of bourbon and scotch sparks a memory for me of a Japanese whisky named Yamazaki. When I mention it to Fischer, he already knows about it, and gives me the quick backstory. “All Japanese whisky, for the most part, is modeled after Highland scotch. Crazy thing that I found out the other day is that the actual leading whisky market is India. They sold 20 million cases of Jack Daniels last year, and their Indian whisky is technically–since they don’t have any laws for it–it’s actually closest to rum. They make it out of sugarcane and molasses. I had some of their stuff the other day and it was actually pretty good. We were smoking cigars with this dude, and he bought me some stuff.”
Both the bartender and I are amazed, and we want to hear more from Fischer about these bottles. You can hear the passion in his tone as we get farther from the topic of his music and deeper into our cups. I had to know how he got so into the flavors, different styles, and origins of all these drinks.
“I guess I’ve kinda always been into this. The restaurant enhanced it, definitely,” he said, referencing his other job as the assistant manager of a restaurant. “My dad’s a chef. I was in the kitchen since I was four years old. [I’ve] just always been around stuff, always making weird stuff in the house and making my dad try it–sometimes it would turn out well, sometimes it didn’t.”
When it comes to his preferred spirit, he reveals some dope insight into his mind and how he works. “Scotch particularly, my love [of spirits] started with scotch. I started drinking scotch to actually level the playing field between me and very rich people,” he explains. “Then I started smoking cigars and being able to pair it, and I really took a liking to it. It wasn’t for show–I really want to understand this thing. I’m fascinated. When you start finding out the stories behind these bottles, the histories, it’s really fun. I mean, these names aren’t there for no reason.”
Fischer has always had a love for knowledge, and he’s more about the history of a brand than any status boost it might confer. For example, he’s a fan of Samsonite over Gucci, because Gucci started as a leather goods company, not with luggage-making. His wide-ranging interests come partially from his reading, which has always leaned heavily toward philosophy and magazine articles over fiction, even as a child.
“I grew up literally reading GQ, Architecture Digest, even Playboys when I got a chance,” he said. “Not even looking through [the pictures]–literally reading the articles. Which is crazy; people don’t even understand. Playboy was putting out some of the best articles at its time.”
Hearing him talk about his childhood gives me an even deeper impression of the man, which I previously summed up as “the relatable, bougie rapper.” Still sipping on the Wasmund’s from earlier, Fischer doesn’t disagree with the assessment, but is also clear that he doesn’t dwell on the ways people perceive him. “A lot of people have their whatever perceptions of me, about what it is, you know. But I don’t care…as long as you don’t threaten me or my family, then we good.”
By the time we finish the single malt–and I finish my third cup of water–the conversation has gone from the history of whisky to talking about Chance, the rapper (no pun intended), and hip hop stories. I first got wind of Chance Fischer around 2009 when he was working with legendary Richmond producer Kleph Dollaz. This triggers a funny memory from my old record store days, where I first met and worked with Kleph. A customer called to ask about a Master P tape, and Kleph’s reaction was hilarious and over-the-top: “YOU BETTER GET SOME BEATNUTS!” he yelled, then hung up.
Fischer laughs before explaining the musical differences between him and Kleph. “I was listening to Cash Money and No Limit, that was my thing. I was a Turk fan too,” he said. “For a minute I didn’t know the difference between Wayne and Turk. Me saying that now seems crazy, but at the time… I ain’t think Wayne was that fire. Turk and Juvenile, I thought those was the dudes. Master P was my Jay-Z, the way people look up to Jay-Z as far as hustling, getting money and investing in Black [culture]. You got these dudes that are out here really hustling, selling units literally out of their car…those were my guys when I was coming up.”
In the “underground vs jiggy” wars of the late 90s, Fischer was on the underground side. I was more on the jiggy, listening to many of the commercial hits of the day. I tell him this, but I also let it be known that I listened to De La Soul’s Stakes Is High, along with Nas’ It Was Written. Holding his empty glass, Fischer discusses Nas’ second opus. “I’m one of those guys that thinks It Was Written was better than Illmatic. There are songs that I actually don’t like on Illmatic, but ‘It Ain’t Hard To Tell’ makes up for all that.”
What about “One Time For Your Mind”? His response is immediate. “I hate ‘One Time For Your Mind’.” We might not like the same Nas songs, but it’s good to get into the history of the music as we come to our main topic.
As we both move to glasses of water, the talk shifts from how our tastes evolve to how Fischer’s own style has evolved. What brought him from his performance art style to the gladiatorial arena of the battle rap world?
“Battle rap is how I seriously started rapping,” he said. “I started writing when I was like seven, then around 12 I started watching all that [battle] stuff. In high school I used to battle all the time, I met Fair [of Slapdash]. Battling against Fair over the phone–that’s how that happened. Of course, I knew about Nick[elus F] and Radio B back in the day, because they were out there doing their stuff and whatnot. For me, [battling]–that’s what it was. You know, if you rapped, you battled too and had to have bars. We all were freestyling, so you would be right there and just had to go. And that was my thing, like, I could just go on you, right in front of you, using my environment. It made my mind real quick and sharp.”
He gives a fair assessment of how he did in his latest battle, at Legends Never Die 3. “The battle was cool, yo. Sonny [Kolfax of League of Champions Battle League] definitely won the room on that one. We’re going to see when the footage comes,” he said. “I still was dumping on that boy, but he was dumping on me too. Like no games, I’m out here in these streets.” It was the third battle in a series that’s only grown since it started, created by upstart Richmond battle rap league the Southpaw Battle Coalition.
Fischer first returned to battling when he was invited to a local battle earlier this year by one of the league owners, Radio B. It wasn’t an easy decision. “I was like, ‘man, you know, this could be crazy, this could be a lot, maybe I shouldn’t do it, this could be bad for the brand’,” he said. But eventually, he decided he was in. “I was like, ‘Nah, I wanna eat’.”
“I stopped battling because I changed the way I started writing,” he said. “When I was battling, I didn’t know any battle rappers that were making good music at the time. I didn’t want to be pigeonholed into this, and I stopped. I took a year and I only wrote hooks–I didn’t even write verses. Battle rap comes from some of the punchlines, so how can I take these bar setups and turn them into hooks?”
“After being able to get something catchy and fun, then I just started making music from there. Now I know the type of music that I make,” he said, describing his evolution as a journey of self-discovery. “I can do an easy separation here because my music now isn’t focused on being bar heavy. It’s focused on making sure that the lyrics are written in a way that takes very complex situations and makes them easily understandable.”
Fischer explains that he’s not rapping to tell stories, except when he’s got one that really matters to him. “My shit is more about, what is life about, and the themes that sew everything together,” he said. “Since I’m not so focused on being bar heavy in my music, battle rap is just the outlet for me to have all them crazy bars and all that aggression that I have pinned up.”
Now that battling is in the rearview along with our bourbon, we finally get around to talking about that new EP. “I’ve just been spending so much time like, really just living my life, enjoying my life. Like, I’d been waking up every day, but I wasn’t actively enjoying it,” he said. He doesn’t sound melancholy, just busy. Fischer talks about his many obligations–rapping, running a restaurant, dining with Richmond political bigwigs–and how that workload inspired the EP.
“The idea behind it was that everything in my life was just very tumultuous, everything was changing, everything was kind of like whirling around,” he said. “One of the only things that stayed constant was my drink of choice. Like, that was it. And that’s crazy. That’s saying a lot, because the only thing that I can actually be like, ‘Damn, this has always stayed the same’ [about]; what’s in my glass. Outside of that everything was questionable.”
Fischer has released plenty of singles over the years. Some gained traction on Spotify and even on the Smoking Section, a site featuring the best new hip hop and rap. Most of these songs, such as “Souffle” and “Candles” were originally part of larger projects that were never released. “It’s not for a lack of connections or any of that stuff,” he said. “If I wanted to press the button and have stuff out there, I could do that. My thing is, am I happy with where I am overall as a human being? There are certain goals that I want to accomplish as a man before making music. I feel like I can always make music and love music, and I will always write music. I always got shit down.”
Life sometimes gets in the way. “I was actually supposed to put out Whisky Neat in October. I was looking at getting everything done, doing the [release party] at Vagabond, but Vagabond had changed ownership and I didn’t have my same connect with everybody,” he said. “That’s like its own thing, I can’t go too much into what we were going to do for the promo for it, but it’s some fun stuff. I had the opportunity of pairing with some people in the spirits world. I wanted it to be like, I’m not just putting out music, I’m putting out experiences for people–a world that you can dive into and really understand me.”
While we’ve been talking about battle rap and the prospect of new music, the check is now on the bar, and Fischer has gone through some central themes that help make up his musical DNA. We still have to wait for Whisky Neat to drop, but now we have a better understanding of the man behind the bars and suits, and what really matters to him.
“All of this bourbon and wine and cigars and clothes and all that, how it connects to the things that I talk about–at the end of it all, it’s still kind of fucking worthless,” he said. “Of course I can come in here and talk to you [about] how much shit is worth and blah blah, all that’s cool. But if I go home today and my girl is upset, I could give a fuck what I’m wearing.”
*You can catch Chance Fischer performing at Strange Matter on Jan. 12 at 7 pm.
Article by: Hip Hop Henry