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Dreams of a Dance Party

Local hip-hop artist Chae Hawk’s releases a new record

For three years Buffalo hip-hop artist Chamus Hawk, better known as Chae Hawk, has been working on his masterpiece, a yet-to-be-completed, full-length rap album he calls Dance Party for the Heavy Hearted. On his mission to perfect Dance Party, Hawk traveled from Buffalo to Chicago, to Connecticut, to California, on the hunt for the right producers and the hottest beats.

The twist: His coast-to-coast, criss-crossing journey resulted in a totally new and separate piece of work, evidence of the young musician’s heavy ambition. That record is Blues of a Journeyman, an 11-track hip-hop album in the vein of Kanye West’s College Drop Out but heavily influenced by Hawk’s interest in alt and indie rock bands like Brand New and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. “As I was working on Dance Party for the Heavy Hearted, I started meeting all of these producers who were bringing out this other perspective that I just had to get off my chest,” Hawk says. In an Ouroboros-like cycle, his journey to create was inspiration enough to give birth to further creation. As he zig-zagged across the United States, he carried with him only a bag, which he said contained everything that made him who he is, including a journal in which he wrote constantly. These notes eventually became the material for Journeyman, his first solid release.

The record is much more inspiring than most contemporary hip-hop, touching on private topics like his upbringing, his canvas of tattoos and scars, the sheer amount of hard work he’s invested in his music, religion, and his love for pot and sugary candy. “My name is Chae Hawk, and I welcome you to my journal entries,” he reveals on the album’s first track, “Vagabond Footwork,” where he realizes that his life is one of a wanderer. Don’t be surprised if Hawk’s name sounds familiar, because he’s more than acquainted with Upstate New York. Born in Albany, he grew up in Rochester, before moving in the early 2000s to Buffalo, where he honed his hip-hop skills. He grew up listening to 1990s hip-hop acts like Kris Kross before he started performing music at talent shows and jamming with musicians like his friends in Rochester’s Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad.

“Buffalo taught me how to be a professional because I took the business serious at an early stage,” the tattooed 27-year-old explains.

“A lot of the production on this album is from California kids though,” he adds, while we chat outside on an unusually hot and sunny day in Buffalo. The strong beating sun that day is no match for the everyday sun in Carlsbad, California, though, where Hawk recorded most of Journeyman with a slew of producers and his friend/engineer Chris Wallace, also of the popular pop-rock band the White Tie Affair. The record features a few more impressive guests as well, including a bonus track with Every Time I Die’s Keith Buckley, an inside shout-out to Buffalo from Lance Diamond on “Birds, Bees, Fish,” and an unexpected cameo from Good Charlotte front man Joel Madden, who belts out a remixed Coldplay sample on “Lost.”

Ironically, as I talk to Hawk about the catchy and immaculately produced record that is Journeyman, he insists on turning our focus to his future projects, further proof of his forever moving, journeyman point of view. These future projects include Dance Party, still in progress, and his newest single, “Superhero,” which he is pitching to radio stations across the country, including KISS 98.5. The single is so fresh that it was released after Journeyman, which itself was released at a loft party in Buffalo on June 25.

The big kicker here is that Chae Hawk is giving away this debut album for free as a mediafire download, or in hard copy form when you buy a t-shirt from his website—his personal site, brand, creative consulting agency, and now record label.

As ambitious and hardworking as this young rapper is, he admits that there is certainly an aspect of chance involved in success. “A lot of it’s fate, man. It’s about relationships happening at the right moment and the right time, and being in the right place.”

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