So is Chet Haze a serious musician or just a flash-in-the-pan Internet meme? RedEye went to the source, which in this case meant meeting up with Chet, 20, at the Northwestern student union between his trips to Starbucks and Sbarro.
How do you feel about all this crazy buzz around you?
I feel good about it. I feel good about the music I'm gonna be releasing. So I feel like the music is gonna speak for itself.
What's been the most surprising thing so far?
We've been gaining a lot of publicity on Howard Stern. … First of all, I just want to state for the record that I've been joking around a lot on Twitter about Howard Stern, but the honest truth is that I consider it an honor to even be spoken about on his show. I have a lot of respect for Howard. I've been a fan of his. I think he's hilarious.
What does he say about you?
Not the kindest things. But, you know, it's all out of fun.
We saw on Twitter that you and [Lakers star] Ron Artest are collaborating? What's up with that?
Me and Ron Artest recently got on a track for his mixtape, "Ball'n." … The track is called "For Life." … It's a good track for the city of Los Angeles.
How did you do it? You did your part in the studio here?
Once I got in contact with Ron, he seemed pretty enthused about having me on the mixtape, and so I was even more enthusiastic about it, so he sent me the track. I took it down to the studio that night … laid down my track on it and sent it right back to him that night.
Tell us about "Get Hazed."
"Get Hazed" is my debut mixtape. It's going to be eight tracks, so it's quality. There's eight, but each track is quality. It's the type of mixtape you'll be able to listen to it from beginning to end without having to skip a track.
Is there one track you expect to be the biggest?
If I have to pick one that I think is going to gain a lot of publicity and would also just be extremely popular, it's a track called "Adios, [bleeper]."
What's that about?
It's just a clubbin' song. It's not really clubbin', but just about like, a night out.
Who are your fave artists?
I enjoy all types of music. I honestly listen to hip-hop more than anything else, obviously. My favorite artist of all time would probably be Biggie Smalls. But out of people who are alive right now doing things, I'm a huge fan of Wiz Khalifa, Yellow Wolf. I'm still—I've always been—a fan of Eminem.
Have you done campus events?
I have yet to do a performance, but I have one in the works coming up.
Do you also DJ?
I don't DJ. I'm just a rapper.
Are you looking for gigs in the city?
Absolutely. I can't wait to start performing. … Now once the mixtape drops, I'll have a lot more time to do performances and record more.
What do you think of the Chicago music scene?
I think the Chicago music scene is great. There are so many talented people out in Chicago. I can't wait to start doing more collaborations.
So, with all this publicity comes a lot of haters. How do you deal with that?
[Laughs] I couldn't thank the haters enough.
Because every hater is a potential friend.
Are you the kind of person who always has to be liked?
I don't give a [bleep] what any of these haters may do or not. Honestly, I couldn't care less. Like, honestly, getting a lot of negative attention has been something that I've been used to far, far before the drop of the mixtape or even, you know, the drop of my first song or being in the public eye. It's just on a much bigger scale now.
Why did people hate on you before?
Different reasons. Since I can remember… I've always been the type of dude who always got hated on. … Because of who my father is, people have always had their preconceived notions about me. In other words, people always are going to have their minds made up.
Speaking of the fans, what's it like being a rapper around Northwestern?
A friend of mine told me on an econ exam, one of the questions was like, "Chet gets up in the morning and he has to decide between his white hoodie or his purple one." I thought that was tight. … Other than that, it's just been cool hearing my music being blasted at parties around campus.
What about "White and Purple"?
It got a lot of attention, but it really wasn't meant to, you know, be like, a defining song for me at all. It was kind of just like a fun college anthem. I made it pretty much completely with the intention of just like having it be a Northwestern thing.
And then it blew up.
Yeah, but it's true that even people at other colleges can relate to it too and still enjoy it. Because even though it's specifically about Northwestern, it's really just about college life.
Do you ever feel a disconnect between wanting to be a rapper, and then going to Northwestern, which is not really known as a badass school?
No, it's definitely not badass. It's definitely not badass.
So how does a rapper come out of this?
It doesn't matter. Hip-hop is not contingent upon color, economic background or where you're from or how you were raised or anything. Hip-hop is an art form, a culture and a music. And it can come out of whoever it speaks to. And it can be lived by anyone who lives it.
And that's what the haters don't know?
The haters don't understand it.
How do your parents, your family feel about your career?
They're supportive of it.
What do they say?
They just … want me to be smart now that I'm going to be in the business world. And they want me to make the right choices and pretty much you know, just be careful. But they're very supportive. And that's something I couldn't appreciate more.
Do you talk to them a lot?
I notice you don't really tweet to them.
Twitter is different, you know? … I'm not going to communicate with them for the whole world to see. That's family. That's private.
Were they surprised to hear you wanted to be a rapper?
They've known. [Laughs] They've known for so long that I love hip-hop. So it wasn't really a surprise.
Why did you want to come to Northwestern vs. just pursuing your career in L.A.?
Because I really value an education. I have opportunities and I'm very thankful. You know, I thank God for the opportunities I have, and I'm going to take advantage of the opportunity to get a great education.
So you're a rapper, and you also must be kind of smart?
[Laughs] I get good grades.
What are you studying?
Theater. I'm a theater major.
So you're interested in acting?
Yes. Acting is also a passion of mine, but it's something I want to do in the future. But my main focus is really hip-hop.
I read that your brother's [Colin Hanks] wife had a baby recently?
Yeah! I'm an uncle. I'm also the godfather.
Oh, wow. That's pretty sweet.
Yeah, I think it is.
Are you going to be the super-protective uncle? The cool uncle?
I'm going to be the cool uncle, for sure. I think everyone has a crazy uncle—I could be that uncle.
Earlier, you complained about the cold. Why did you pick NU if it's so cold here?
Because, you know, the way I saw it, I'm gonna live in L.A. my entire life. It's my one chance to try something different. Chicago is such a great city. I love the place.
What about it?
What's not to like about it? Cold. The cold. That's what not to like about it, but, you know, Chicago has great people, great sports city. In terms of just the way it looks, I think it's a beautiful city. It's the skyline, the architecture, it's nice and spaced out.
Yeah, just, like everything is wide. It's not like, cramped. … I respect the grandeur of Chicago.
Where do you hang out in Chicago?
Well, the studio is probably our home away from home. But I just like the downtown area. The Loop, the Loop area, Old Town. Yeah, the Fireplace Inn is dope.
Do you like deep-dish pizza?
Hell, yeah. Chicago's pizza, holla. It's called Chicago's. Chicago's pizza. I'm all about it.
Why did you decide to join a frat? It doesn't seem too rap-star.
'Cause I wanted to do kegstands. [Laughs] And throw stuff off balconies. And have a lot of food all the time, stacked in the kitchen. Naw, I'm playing. But no, that's all true. [Laughs] … I think a fraternity is a really beneficial thing. It's just a lot of fun, that's all it is. It's having a bunch of good friends, people who have your back.
But if all you want is to do kegstands, doesn't Asher Roth have that market covered.
Asher Roth, yeah, respect to Asher Roth. He was the first, like, suburban white boy to gain a lot of attention in the public eye. … Although I'm in a frat and have a song about, you know, about being in a frat … by no means am I like a frat-rap artist. I'm a real hip-hop artist.
I read something online that said you crashed an R. Kelly party. Is that true?
That's just rumors.
If presented with an opportunity to crash an R. Kelly party, would you?
Oh, hell yeah. Hell yeah. I'm a go-getter.
I have to say, a lot of the hate online is about how you were in "Bratz: The Movie." So do you want to put your position on that out there?
All right. Here's my position on the "Bratz" movie: I made it when I was in the 10th grade. I got to take a month and a half off from school, go hang out with a bunch of hot, cuteass girls all day—the Bratz—and get paid for it. So, I thought it was awesome. No regrets about the "Bratz" movie. No regrets. Straight up.
Is there anything else the public should know about you?
I'd say just listen. Just listen to the mixtape. There's nothing really I can say because my music says it all. Just listen. You know? Put your biases and preconceived notions aside. And if you don't like it, just hit skip, you know what I'm sayin'?
I saw something else online that said you're a descendant of Abraham Lincoln …
Yeah, that's true. Abraham Lincoln's mother … her maiden name was Hanks. Her name was Nancy Hanks. And that's someone you can trace back in my family line. So, yeah. It's American as hell. I'm very patriotic.
What would Abe Lincoln think of your rap career?
[Laughs] I think that he would be probably the most psyched person of anyone. I think he'd be like, "Four score … [manager interrupts: "and 16 bars ago?"] four score and 16 bars ago, Chet Haze merked this."
When did you create the name "Chet Haze"?
Haze is a name that I actually went by when I was a kid. Like, if I was in a situation where I'd be around a lot of kids who didn't know me, I just wanted to be me, you know? I didn't want anyone to find out and think differently of me. … I would go by the name of Chet Haze instead of Hanks, because … if someone said "Haze" … I wouldn't slip up and like, not respond, because it sounds similar to my real name.
But more awesome.
Yeah. Exactly. Just more awesome. Z is a sick letter. So I wanted to put a Z in there.
So you were doing that before you knew that "Haze" could have smoking connotations?
Any response from the NU administration about you having songs referencing smoking?
Reaction from your parents about that?
[Laughs] Well, you know, yeah. They're not the biggest advocate of that. At all. But, like I said, they're supportive. They're not gonna critique me for every single thing I say.
If I were a kid and my dad was Woody from "Toy Story," that would be pretty awesome. What was that like?
All I've gotta say is: Woody over Buzz, all day.