June 17, 2013


My Hustle: King Chip on Making It in Cleveland, Hating Former Rap Name

Paul A. Hebert/Getty Images
Paul A. Hebert/Getty Images

Chip tha Ripper broke into the Cleveland rap scene when he was still a teenager thanks to some locally beloved mixtapes and his unbeatable battle rap skills. Although the Ohio rapper has since changed his name to King Chip, become a father, moved to Los Angeles and landed some heavy-hitting collaborations—Kid Cudi, Game and Curren$y—his hometown roots are always on his mind.

Fuse spoke with the "WTF I Want To" rapper about what he did to get started in the game: Burning mixtapes off his dad's computer, decimating MCs in local rap battles and playing by his own rules. We also found out he dropped his former rap name because all these years he thought Chip tha Ripper was "wack."  

Check out what King Chip had to say about his new name, his upcoming projects and why he'll never let his son be a rapper. And if you love hip hop, watch The Hustle—Fuse's scripted series about a Brooklyn rap duo and their crew trying to break into the game—when it premieres Wednesday, June 19 at 11/10c.

How did you start out in the rap game?

I originally started battle rapping and that's how I got the name Chip tha Ripper. I didn't name myself. In high school I was known for battle rapping, I was the undefeated champion. And then I went out to the West Side of Cleveland where they had something called spit boxing, which were rap battles every Tuesday night. Suave Goddi was host of the night and since I was already called Chip, he was like, "Yo, you ripping everybody! I'm gonna call you Chip tha Ripper." My real name is Charles Worth, my father has the same name and his nickname was Chip. I was always Little Chip, so it's not a rap name. It's what people really called me before I knew what rap was.

What got you into rapping?

I was sitting at home on 120th and St. Clair and watching TV when I was a little kid. I had to be four and Fresh Prince came on. And I heard the beat and stopped what I was doing and then he came in… and he wasn't singing. I was so used to hearing singing but he was doing something else. And you could tell he was cool because he had his hat to the side. It blew my mind. "What is he doing? The words sound the same every so often, what is this?" My uncle explained it to me: "That's rap, man, he rhymin', that's Will Smith." So Will Smith introduced me to rap and from the first time I saw him do it I was like, "Yo that's what I'm doing." I got some friends that can tell you I started rapping young as hell.

Did you always think of it as a career?

You got guys who are great at basketball. They may never get into the league or even try, but they're all-stars. You get them out on a pickup game and they'll do moves you wish you had a camera for. That's kind of how I saw rap. It was something you could do—I didn't know you was supposed to do it for something. And eventually you see people get successful off it and you're like, "Wow, that's even better! Hell yeah." You didn't see too many super rich, flashy rappers with yachts back then when I was four, which was like 92-93. It was just street sh-t with the gold and a couple foreign whips. I just saw it as something to do.

When did you start releasing music?

The first time I made a mixtape I was 17 in 11th grade. I would stay up all night burning them on my father's Dell computer and bring 'em to school. I would come to school with no money and leave with 300 dollars. And it was like, what? But it was how I came about. It started with my high school but I had a friend Fat Al at a different school. We kinda cliqued up and all the high schools were into [my mixtape through that]. From there it bled into the streets and then the clubs. The DJs picked up on it by seeing how popular it was with the youth in the ghettoes. When they started playing it they were getting the craziest reactions to the songs we made, more than the radio songs they played during their set. It was crazy—you would think Obama walked in. And after that radio picked up on it. But it was Cleveland and it was all organic. I never shopped my music in any way, even with record labels. Everything up until this point has been mutual or somebody reaching out to us. I don't have a crazy manager, everything I've done so far has been me and my friends. Cudi's my friend and I don't really have any heavy-hitters other than Cudi on my side so it's just really organic.

Rappers are corny. It's embarrassing for me to tell people I rap sometimes

King Chip

How did you hook up with Cudi?

I met Cud in '08. We had mutual friends, like my friend Kevin. We were both becoming household names in our areas and we linked up. 

Recently you changed your name to King Chip. Why did you drop Chip tha Ripper?

Man, I just wanted to get in the driver's seat with my life. Not even my career. I'm a laid-back kind of guy, I'm go-with-the-flow but that can work against you. Sometimes you need to know what you want specifically or people will curve it and make it what they want. So I had an epiphany and was like, "Yo, I'm going erase everything before right now in my mind. Only thing that matters is now and later. Right now, let's wipe it clean like I never did nothing and pick a name for myself and reinvent myself in every way." Not just music. I wanted to finally choose my own name. Chip tha Ripper was chosen for me. I was doing my real name, Charles Worth, for a while but I didn't want to stick with that. So I was going to do King Charles but there's the real King Charles in England. So I was like, "Yo, I'm going to do King Chip." That way it's not too much of a change. Part of my name change was because of my homie Hawk, rest in peace. Right before I moved to Los Angeles from Cleveland a real good friend of mind, who I mentioned in "Just What I Am," was murdered. It was devastating. I got over 20 dead friends but his was so devastating because he was in a wheelchair already from being shot eight or nine years prior. When people say, "Who died and made you king?" I'm like, "His name was Hawk." Man, he told me a lot of things I still think about. So I just wanted to put that in there about my name change. Shout out to Hawk.

Was there any part of you that was worried the name change would confuse people?

I thought about it, but something came over me and gave me the strength to not even care. Whatever happened, I knew I had the ability and tools from the first chunk of my [career] to get back at that status. So I changed my name and the first record I got on was Cudi's "Just What I Am." So that was a big alarm to let everyone know I changed my name. Instead of dropping a little mixtape, that was a single Universal funded. And then I did the Game's album, Jesus Piece

I moved to California and bumped into Game and just dealt with him organically. We didn't have anyone to hook us up, and I made his album [on a track with ] Trey Songz and that was another alarm to everybody. Same with Curren$y's tape and Big Sean's Detroit mixtape. Everything fell into place as if that was how it was supposed to be. The reason I chose King Chip was because I believe everybody I respect is a king. If I can look in your eye and I respect you as a man, I believe you are a king. And that's how I want to be seen. It's not like everybody else is peasants and I'm King Chip. It's not like that. It's uplifting and I want to represent self-greatness and the recognition of self-greatness.

Speaking of names, I heard your actual debut album will be titled your real name, Charles Worth.

Yeah, I want to do an album—my first album—and I want to call it Charles Worth. But before that I want to do an EP or two and definitely a mixtape. And I want my first album to be crazy. Up until your first album, everything else is kind of the appetizer. 

My first album, in my mind, is when I'm in the rap game. Granted you got iTunes songs, but it's about dropping your first album. That's the name I want on the billboards. I want that name, Charles Worth. There's such a glow to it because that person is a really genuine, good person. There's an energy that comes from it.

Is King Chip a different personality than Charles Worth?

It's really just a name to me. To me it's just letters. Only it's less letters and cooler letters. I never liked Chip tha Ripper, ever. I always thought it was wack. I mean, people loved it and I grew to love it and the love I was getting from it. But sometimes it was awkward when I was introducing myself or my music to people that hadn't heard it. Then it's kinda awkward for a second until [they listen to my music] and realize it's dope. 

Even from a business side, if you're trying to get someone interested and put some money up [it's awkward]. If they've never heard of you and you have a great name, it's cool, but if they haven't heard of me it's like, "What? Chip tha Ripper? What the f-ck is that?" If you zoom out and put yourself in the shoes of someone who's just clueless, then before they've even heard the music they're like, "What?"

What about the mixtape you mentioned earlier. How far is that along?

I'm going to release a project called 44108, that's the zip code to my ghetto, where I grew up on the East Side of Cleveland. I just really wanted to zoom in on that area, because there's a famous phrase in Cleveland I created. It's—quote, unquote—"Bitch, I'm from Cleveland." I made it up when I was 17, 18 and it got huge in Cleveland. It was a thing I made to be aggressively uplifting. But it got too popular where you had people attaching themselves to it that were from the general area of Cleveland and not where I was talking about.

So I wanted to make a project just to zoom in on 44108 because I have over 20 dead friends that have been taken away from this earth by murder. And to see people treat it like candy or Teletubby-fy it kinda hurts, because lives were lost. My friends' lives. So I'm about to zoom in and focus on my neighborhood, the same one as Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. Bone Thugs are my friends now, believe it or not. It's crazy to say that because they're such icons, but I was just talking to Krayzie the other day. Those are the oracles right there, the OGs.

You mentioned working with Curren$y earlier? Did you meet him the same way you met Game and Cudi?

I met Spitta in a real organic situation. I was in Chicago and a buddy of mine, Chuck Inglish, put this beat on in the studio and I laid something to it. A week later the engineer hits me up and says, "Yo Curren$y was here and we were playing him what you got on that beat and he just jumps right on the record was like, 'Yo, cut the mic on.' And I was like, 'Damn, wow, that's amazing.'" And Big Sean did the same thing for that record, "Fat Raps." I was just blown away because he was at such a high level. Spitta's the homie man, he's a real genuine dude. When I was having my son and sitting in the labor room, he hit me up and was like, 'Yo man, just giving you mad love.' That's the homie.

What's your son's name?

His name is Cash Charles Worth. We named him after Johnny Cash. He's three years old. Actually, my son was a huge piece of why I had that epiphany where I hit the brakes and wanted to reinvent my whole sh-t. Before him I was just doing it to do it, because it's cool. But now I see everything differently. 

Until you have a son, man, you're missing out on a huge chunk of manhood. After having a son, I realized that the only thing that's worth more than my life is what to tell my son about my life. I couldn't fathom that before. Nothing was worth more than life until my son came, and now I'll go to jail or hell before I let somebody tell him I was a piece of sh-t and have that be the truth. It's a crazy, indescribable feeling. The most amazing in the world.

Would you want him to become a rapper?

I would try to steer him away from this career and lifestyle. If it's in his heart, that's cool, but the one rule is he can't be a rapper.

Why can't he be a rapper?

Because rappers are corny. It's embarrassing for me to tell people I rap sometimes because there are so many cornballs out there and I feel they classify me with them. At the end of the day it's a positive thing. But there are more simple-minded people than open-minded people and I think a lot of people—if you tell them you rap—they just classify you with the worst guys they've ever experienced. Because maybe the only rap they've ever experienced is the worst rap ever, you know?