Growing up in Hazelwood, Chevy Woods learned first-hand how to make money in unconventional ways. This was long before his music took him around the world, but the mentality stuck with him, and became integral to his artistic approach.
For most artists, selling music is the first step into the vast music industry. Woods — who has been in the industry since 2006 and has more than 20 tours under his belt — dove into the business a different way and is now selling his first EP after having previously released nine mixtapes.
Not having a project for sale on iTunes is one of the things that makes Woods so different from other artists. Instead, he’s built momentum through live performance, doing much of his touring alongside fellow Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa. He’s proven that you can make money without selling out to a label, gaining more than 300,000 followers on Twitter and 67,000 downloads of his mixtape, Gangland 3.
Woods released only one single before the EP — “30 Deep,” in the spring of 2014. Woods says that he realized early that, by most industry standards, he was doing things backward. But that hasn’t stopped him. Some would say he’s taken the long road, but for him, that’s just part of the process of becoming a successful artist.
“I would see all these other artists putting out singles and doing good things like that,” Woods says. “But back since like 2008 or ’09, how many of these artists came and went? I’m polished to where I’m on stage and I don’t have to worry. Now it’s just focusing on the music.”
The 48 Hunnid Project EP, which comes out Aug. 7, blends Woods’ stories of the drug trade and lavish lifestyles with a perspective that isn’t normally heard in the Top 100.
- Photo courtesy of Zack Labos
- Taylor Gang rapper Chevy Woods
The title of the EP is an ode to the block he grew up on, where he learned the lessons that he now preaches in rhymes.
“I say [“4800”] a lot, it’s where I come from. It represents me, and my mom still stays on that block,” Woods says. “It’s the family that is there, it’s the kids. Everything about that number is just me.”
It’s also where Woods developed his unconventional approach to the world: For a time, he made most of his money hustling in Hazelwood while simultaneously studying business at Robert Morris University on an athletic scholarship. But he’s not afraid to talk about harsh realities of living for the streets. The EP deals with what Woods describes as two sides of a coin, the good and the bad. On the title track he raps, “I try to kick some knowledge just to break the cycle, but we can’t get a chance ’cause they just call us violent.”
The track stresses that even though some artists venerate the street life, there are consequences to that lifestyle.
“Doing the street stuff, everyone kind of glorifies what you get from it without getting in trouble,” Woods says of artists. “But there are guys and girls that have been on the other side of that coin. To talk about that side is important. You can’t tell a kid, ‘You’re not going to get in trouble, [you’re going to] get all the girls, clothes and cars.’ ’Cause that’s not reality.”
Woods mixes the gritty street sound of ’90s hip hop with today’s catchy, upbeat rhymes. The overall production of the EP will be familiar to fans of Woods’ previous projects; half of it was produced by Ricky P and Sledgren, of Wiz Khalifa’s Taylor Gang Records. Woods has long been involved with Taylor Gang, working with Sledgren since his first official mixtape, Tha Corner’s Correspondent, in 2008. As for Ricky P, he’s been riding with Woods since his 2011 project Red Cup Music.
“They know the beats that I’m going to pick, it’s not like when I go to the studio I need 10 beats. I can go to the studio and they have one or two beats,” Woods says. “They know exactly what I like and sound good on, so I trust their production.”
The producers can meet Woods’ musical needs nearly 24/7. Inspiration can come when you least expect it, and the hotel or tour bus can become a makeshift studio when necessary.
“Having Ricky and Sledgren there all the time at the push of a button or a phone call away has been a blessing. Everybody doesn’t get that, and everybody doesn’t stay close to their home producers,” Woods says. “I don’t wanna change my sound, so why would I change my production?”
The EP features Woods’ frequent collaborator and friend Khalifa, as well as Detroit’s DeJ Loaf on the lead single, “All Said and Done.” The track keeps to the theme of the project, speaking to issues from the past he wishes could have ended differently.
But Woods’ favorite track on the EP is “Lookin Back,” featuring Khalifa; the two have been friends since meeting at Pittsburgh studio ID Labs more than 10 years ago.
Similarly, Woods holds the Rico Love-assisted track just as close. Woods and producer/rapper Love met when Khalifa recorded “On My Level” for his debut album, and they stayed connected and continued to work together. “Once we exchanged numbers we were always talking, asking how the kids are. He’s like a mentor.”
Ultimately, The 48 Hunnid Project shows that Woods is evolving in the music industry. And the EP will serve as a set-up to his next project, a full-length studio album.
“We’re definitely gonna do the album,” Woods says. “That’s what the EP is for, we’re setting up to get a bigger machine behind it.”