Chip Fu Interview: Ring The Alarm

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by RiotSound contributing writer Todd Davis

To some, the name Chip Fu may or may not ring a bell, but to real Hip-Hop heads the man born Roderick Roachford is, simply put, ‘the truth’. As the front man for the seminal early 90’s Hip-Hop group The Fu-Schnickens, Chip Fu’s innate ability to twist and turn words at super-hyper speeds, made this emcee’s emcee a welcome breath of fresh air in an oxygen deprived music industry. With their up-beat yet street savvy brand of rapid fire Hip-Hop, The Fu-Schnickens had no trouble winning over fans when the group first burst onto the scene in 1992. The Fu-Schnickens’ (F.U. meaning for For Unity, and Schnickens, a made-up word representing Coalition) first foray into music came with their definitive gold selling debut LP, F.U. Don’t Take It Personal. The set spawned a trio of hit singles including “Ring the Alarm,” “La Schmoove,” featuring A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg, and “True Fu-Schnick,” setting the stage for the group’s highly anticipated sophomore effort.

Chip, Poc and Moc Fu would soon join forces with NBA superstar and self-proclaimed Fu-Schnickens “biggest” fan Shaquille O’Neal to record their biggest smash to date, “What’s Up Doc? (Can We Rock)”. While scoring a Top 40 hit, the group’s buzz would fade by the time their second LP Nervous Breakdown was finally released in 1994. Consequently the album received a lukewarm reception from fans and critics alike leaving one of Hip-Hop’s more exciting groups to face an uncertain future as the rap music industry shifted to accommodate a variety of new acts and trends. With the meteoric rise of Death Row and Bad Boy Records and a bi-coastal rap feud brewing out of control, the Fu-Schnickens’ name and legacy was almost entirely eclipsed by a new generation of “rap music moguls”. However, real Hip-Hop fans fear not! The fan favorite of the crew, Chip Fu, is finally traveling down his own path with his long-in-the-making solo jump-off, M.A.T.H. – ya’ll better recognize and cop the record – now read the interview and see what’s up!

RIOTSOUND.COM: It’s been nearly thirteen years since the release of your last group project, Nervous Breakdown on Jive Records; what actually caused The Fu-Schnickens to disband?

CHIP FU: The whole separation of the group stemmed from contracts and the direction the label wanted the group to go in and [also] basic different opinions on where we should take the group’s music.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Well, that’s all understandable, but why have you opted to remain gone for so long?

CHIP FU: The break came from the contractual problems and trying to move forward. I wish it didn’t take so long, but it is what it is.

RIOTSOUND.COM: So, what have you managed to occupy your time with during your absence from music?

CHIP FU: I actually wanted to take a break, and during that break I went back to school. I got a degree as a physical therapist assistant [and also] a second degree, mastery in Reiki and massage. And, I had a son. But I always stayed in the studio recording stuff. I never stopped. One of my goals after parting ways with the group was to do my solo album. Man, it’s long overdue.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Was a solo career always in the cards for you?

CHIP FU: Well, the solo album I always wanted to do. It was in the plans. Even being part of the group, my partner Poc [Fu] encouraged it because he knew I always wanted to do it and introduce a different side of myself. But, I never got a chance back then, but now I’m going to do it, trust me.

RIOTSOUND.COM: You’ve titled your first solo project M.A.T.H. – how come?

CHIP FU: Well, M.A.T.H. equals Music, Appreciation, Art, Time and Healing. I was always an average student in math, but in every other subject I was damn good! So I felt I would strengthen my weakness by making it the title of my album and knowing that music is math in a sense. I can finally say I mastered it in my own way.

RIOTSOUND.COM: For someone who hasn’t heard the new record yet, what can they expect?

CHIP FU: Look out for the Illmind produced “Timeless” song, the Needlz produced “Phood” song, (and) the Ali Shaheed [Muhammad] produced “Skah”. Man, I can’t forget The Are also produced a song called “Emcee Squared”.

RIOTSOUND.COM: When did you first become interested in music; how did it all begin for Chip Fu?

CHIP FU: It began listening to this group do block parties when I was a kid. The group actually turned out to be UTFO later on, I was just a kid watching them do their thing. Then from there I said – I want to do it! So I started writing; but being a West Indian kid in Brooklyn, reggae, soca and calypso influenced my flow from a young age, which I thank God for because there are certain things I listen for in a track that other emcees don’t, which makes me different. From there I got into a bunch of emcee battles and the buzz started. The [Fu-Schinckens] were formed and we destroyed shows. Then after Jive [Records] saw us at Howard [University’s] homecoming, that was it – history began.

RIOTSOUND.COM: You mention UTFO, are there any other acts that influenced you?

CHIP FU: Living and growing up in Brooklyn my biggest influences [were] Barrington Levy, Slick Rick, Yellow Man, KRS One, Grand Puba, the list goes on.

RIOTSOUND.COM: How did you, Moc and Poc Fu come together to form the Fu-Schnickens?

CHIP FU: Poc and I grew up [together] and Moc went to high school with Poc. We all loved music and decided to form a group.

RIOTSOUND.COM: As a soloist, how would you describe the style of music you create and perform? Does it vary from what you are already known for with the Fu-Schnickens?

CHIP FU: Well, as a group, we did a fusion of all kinds of styles, but as a solo artist being able to do it all by myself makes a big difference because then you would get the full spectrum about Chip Fu. On the group album you was only getting pieces.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Lyrically, what motivates you?

CHIP FU: I draw my inspiration from life experiences and from having a crazy imagination; it all helps.

RIOTSOUND.COM: What do you think will keep you relevant in this day and age of Hip-Hop music?

CHIP FU: Always being different. I think the more you change and grow as an artist the more people want to stay in tune with you. If you always have surprises for people, [that’s a real good thing]. Right now people are shocked I can sing. I did a new song with Collie Buddz that has people bugging out when they found out it was me because they just heard me rhyme on the Nas [“Where Are They Now?”) remix. So, if I keep sharp, I’ll be okay.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Coming from the golden era of rap, how do you feel about the Hip-Hop that we know of today?

CHIP FU: I’m happy to a point man, but there needs to be some balance for real. If I could hear “Laffy Taffy,” why can’t I hear a P.E. song right after? I think balance is key. If I could hear Nelly, why not play a Redman song also right after? Hip-Hop just seems one sided right now. You’re hearing the same story from different people.

RIOTSOUND.COM: What type of person is Chip Fu?

CHIP FU: I love people. I love the position God has put me in to be a voice for Hip-Hop. But, not a redundant voice, I want to be that ever changing voice for the people because I am for the people. And, I’m the quiet dude, man. I’m so down to earth some people think it’s crazy. I know what I’ve done and accomplished but I’m [still] as human as the next person. So when you see me, know that, say what’s up, it’s all good!

RIOTSOUND.COM: When you’re enjoying some downtime, what do you find yourself doing?

CHIP FU: Probably in the park with my son, or at one of his football games. I’m his biggest fan.

RIOTSOUND.COM: To date what would you say has been your biggest career achievement?

CHIP FU: I would have to say performing on Arsenio [Hall’s show]. That made my family proud man.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Will there ever be a legitimate Fu-Schnickens reunion? How often do you all communicate?

CHIP FU: We still all keep in touch, but as for doing music that’s left in God’s hands. What’s to be, we will see.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Okay, so what about your NBA buddy Shaq Fu, the unofficial 4th member of the group?

CHIP FU: I saw the big homey last year at a game he played in Philly, but dude got a busy schedule so I wish him all the luck!

RIOTSOUND.COM: What does the future hold for Chip Fu?

CHIP FU: Running my own label and speaking at different colleges, high schools; doing work to enlighten people on any topic, not just music, but just helping people to be aware and mindful of things. [Right now] we got the buzz single out called “Love Mi Sensi,” which is a straight reggae song. Then we are going to put out a Hip-Hop song and then drop the album. [We’re] just building the buzz up.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Any parting words?

CHIP FU: I want to shout out the fans. Thanks for the support; I won’t let you guys down! Peace out to Blaq Ink, my company, [and to] my partners, Sheldon and Tony – let’s do it! Big ups to all the producers who worked on the project – BK, what up!

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