Chet Hanks, son of Tom Hanks, really is serious about hip-hop: A Q&A
When a hip-hop remix recorded by Chet Hanks, otherwise known as the son of Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, circulated online yesterday, it prompted several questions. Is Chet Hanks -- pseudonym Chet Haze -- serious about pursuing a rap music career? Is he playing a funny online joke? And really, is it that surprising that the guy who did this would father a kid fascinated by rhymes?
It turns out that Chet Hanks is very serious about his music, a fact that was confirmed when I spoke to him via telephone yesterday evening. Like all hip-hop artists, the 20-year-old conducted his interview straight outta the Northwestern University library. (Hey, give him points for studying.) Here's what he had to say about his rap dreams and his being the son of two famous parents.
Jen Chaney: First, I just want to get some basic background information. What year are you at Northwestern?
Chet Hanks: A sophomore.
JC: Have you declared a major yet?
CH: I'm a theater major.
JC: Tell me about your music. Are you pursuing a music career, or is this something you're doing for fun on the side? Where did this all come from?
CH: Hip-hop has been something that's been a big part of my life for a while. It's something I love and is a passion of mine. It started off just as [me being] a huge fan, you know, listening to a lot of different types of hip-hop. Over time I started developing a passion and inspiration for it that it became something I started to, you know, dabble with, making my own rhymes. And over the years somewhere along the line, it just came to be something that was: this is what I want to do, this is what I want to pursue, this is the career I want.
JC: When did you have that realization, do you remember?
CH: Honestly, it wasn't really one moment. I do specifically remember from a young age, when I first fell in love with hip-hop, it seemed like something I could never actually do myself. The hip-hop industry was so different, even just a few years ago. It's been changing so much.
I thought, like, oh you know, I don't know if I could ever do this. I'm not from the 'hood. I'm not a gangster. I'm a white kid from the suburbs. Recently, over the past few years, with the emergence of other great MCs who share more similar backgrounds to me, I started to realize that I have this lyrical ability. I have talent. Who says that you have to be, you know, you have to fit all the characteristics of being from the hood, all that, to rap? You don't gotta do it. After seeing other MCs become successful, like Drake -- pretty much other guys with a similar background to me, I started to realize this was something I actually could be successful at.
JC: In addition to the song released today, have you recorded other music?
CH: Absolutely. "White & Purple," the single that was released, was just one track off of a mix tape that I'm in the final processes of finishing up, and we're planning to release that very soon. We don't have an exact date but we have an entire mix tape coming out in the near future.
JC: You mean release online? You don't have a record deal or anything like that yet, correct?
JC: You're using the word we. Are you doing this with other people or are you a solo artist?
CH: As an artist, I am solo. When I say we, I just kind of mean the team of myself and my friends and the team who are supporting this. Just kind of my team, the people who come to the studio with me while I'm making the stuff and are with me for every step of the way.
JC: I wondered what your reaction was to the Gawker piece and the other feedback you got online. How did you feel about that?
CH: I felt good about it. It was nice to see. I've seen some of the comments -- I get comments and feedback both negative and positive and pretty much every spectrum in between. If people are saying bad or good things about me, I'm happy either way because it means more people will be able to listen to my music. I just want to get my music out there, you know?
JC: Now I just want to make sure I have my facts right: your dad is Tom Hanks and your mom is Rita Wilson, correct?
CH: That's correct.
JC: I assume they must know about your interest in music. How do they feel about it?
CH: They do know about it and they share my excitement. And they're also very supportive, which is something I appreciate. It goes without saying that the support of my parents is something that I will never take for granted and I am very thankful for.
JC: In what ways do they support you? Can you give me some specific examples?
CH: Just sharing enthusiasm -- sharing enthusiasm for what's happening.
JC: I think some of the reaction online and the sense of surprise comes from the fact that your dad is Tom Hanks. I mean no disrespect by this because I love your dad's work and think he's a fine actor, but you don't necessarily think: "Tom Hanks. He's going to raise a hip-hop star."
CH: [Laughs] I definitely know what you mean.
JC: Does your dad like hip-hop music?
CH: You know, he keeps an open mind. I've spent a lot of time trying to show him a lot of the music that inspires me. And he does keep an open mind.
JC: You mentioned that you're a theater major; you've also been in a couple of films yourself. Are you interested in pursuing acting as well?
CH: Of course. I'm going to school, I'm studying theater here. Acting and hip-hop are two things that just greatly inspire me. I'd like to pursue them both.
JC: Out of curiosity, do people on campus know who your parents are, and how does that impact you on a daily basis?
CH: People have known about my family and my background at school, pretty much almost before I even got here. It impacts me both in ways that are enjoyable and unenjoyable.
Regardless of everything, I've never tried to hide from myself or who my family is. It's something that I'm proud of. In the past, it has attracted attention to me both negative and positive but in the end, it all evens out. At the end of the day, I'm still my own person and have my own goals and aspirations in life. And that's what counts.
| January 13, 2011; 11:26 AM ET
Categories: Celebrities, Music, Pop Culture
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