Growing up in Hazelwood, rapper Chevy Woods could be found in the trenches of street life. Today, as a member of the Taylor Gang and Wiz Khalifa's partner in rhyme, Woods can be found traveling the world. While his music and performance skills have gotten him on tour, he remains defined by the streets that raised him.
"Coming from where I come from is more or less the story, it tells it all ... a neighborhood with a lot of violence, a lot of drugs," says the 31-year-old Woods. "I can tell you firsthand from being on the block hustling every day, I felt stuck. I was content with that until I started seeing other places."
Woods has played more than a hundred shows worldwide to date; he recalls a warm reception in Europe.
"They were saying my words with me when I was rapping, and that's kind of crazy to me," he recalls. "It's a challenge to get people in the U.S. just to listen. These people over there are listening to it and rapping it, and they don't even speak English."
It was 2010 when Khalifa asked Woods to join him on tour as his hype man.
"Before Wiz went on the Waken Baken Tour, I was still running around in the streets," Woods says. "[Wiz] was like, ‘Yo man, I don't feel like your heart's in it. You're running around and still doing the street stuff. If you ain't got it together in two weeks we're just gonna move on.'
"And that was real, because it becomes business before friendship. I have to be personally down with the business before anything, so I dropped everything and it was time to go. I never turned around and looked back at the old stuff that I used to do."
In June, Woods released his Gang Land mixtape. Most recently, he unleashed an official video for his song "Hazelwood," paying homage to his hometown. Music videos for Gang Land have exceeded 750,000 views. This month, Woods joins Khalifa and fellow Pittsburgh rappers Mac Miller and Boaz on the Under the Influence of Music Tour.