Chancellor Warhol (real name: Antonio Boleyjack) has become one of the more notable hip-hop exports in a town not necessarily known for hip hop: Nashville. The rapper and visual artist took his stage name based on his affinity for Andy Warhol; on Sat., Aug. 23, he plays The Andy Warhol Museum, in his first trip to his namesake's institution on the North Side. He spoke with CP about his music, art and inspiration.
Are you originally from Nashville?
No, I'm originally from Mars; I landed in 1983 ...
Yeah, this is getting really interesting, right? No, I was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. It's not the biggest hip-hop scene, but it's pretty fun.
That's something I was going to ask about: Is there a budding scene there? Is there a history to hip hop there? It's obviously a city better known for country, and even rock.
I think it's evolved a lot. I've always been an outsider, because I grew up in a community of skateboarders, grew up on grunge and punk music, backpack rap. My upbringing is a little different from the normal hip-hop [background]. You incorporate that with a lot of the indie bands that came up on the scene before Paramore got big, Kings of Leon, bands like that — I incorporate more of that side of it than a mainstream hip-hop side of it. I definitely see myself as one of the torch-bearers of hip hop here.
A lot of rappers move to Atlanta or New York or wherever — why stick around Nashville? Are you comfortable there?
No, I'm never comfortable. I'm always traveling. I'm actually moving to L.A. in November for an extended amount of time. Most of my dealings are in L.A. and New York.
Why did you take the name Chancellor Warhol?
It's crazy that I'm even playing there; it's like playing the biggest venue in the world to me. Like performing at Madison Square. Warhol, to me, was an integral part of my development. I went to school for design, and when you think of art or pop culture, he's synonymous with that. So automatically, I drew toward that as a name for my music. All the culture that he left behind can still be seen today, touched by people who weren't even born during his era.
There's a cohesive quality to your music; do you have a big hand in what your producers are doing in terms of beats?
I have a huge, huge play in my sound, because at the end of the day, it's a reflection of me. On this new album, I worked a lot with Josh Crosby; his producer name is My Kid Brother. Very forward-looking producer. We both set out to make this great project about the culture of Paris, painting this picture of somebody lost in Paris. I also work with the Boy Genius guys; we came up together.
Expand a little on the new album, Paris Is Burning. What inspired the title and the idea? Is it all one theme?
The title came about when I was talking with a friend in town, and we were talking about the culture of Paris — the art, decadence, how much people were all about Paris at the time. I just wanted to paint my own picture of how I perceived Paris. I watched Midnight in Paris and thought it might be interesting to paint a picture of this guy, maybe not of this Earth, kind of lost in Paris. And in the end, finding an understanding of it all.
I wanted to paint good visuals, too; in turn, we built a whole visual-art play around the record. We did a showing at the planetarium here in town, for the listening party, and I did a live performance with visual art at [the arts center] Oz Nashville.
On one track on the new album, "Kennedy's," you're sort of putting together a collage of words, and making lots of references and name-dropping, which is very Warholian. Do you try to employ devices from different art forms?
There's a rumor that there's a Chancellor Warhol drinking game: Every time that I say a pop-culture reference or name from pop culture, you have to drink. I thought that was pretty cool. But yeah — I always look at the whole of everything I do. I always look at the beginning and the ending, making it a complete story — something that, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, can still stand alone as a story. Also, growing up, being engulfed in pop culture, being drawn toward culture in general, I always try to incorporate that into my rhymes. At the end of the day, we're artists, we are a reflection of the culture we see. With my words, I like to reflect my take on that culture, and turn that into my story.