Da Real Choppa Interview: Coming Back Home

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by Alex Shtaerman

New Orleans’ native son Choppa returns home and urges his friends and neighbors to follow suit as the former No Limit affiliate teams with pound for pound boxing king Roy Jones Jr. to release his new album Coming Back Home.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Being from New Orleans, how do you feel about thousands of hurricane Katrina survivors being kicked out of their temporary housing? FEMA has stopped paying rent for most people still in need of assistance. Also Mayor Nagin’s plan to rebuild the city has been widely criticized; how do you view that entire situation?

CHOPPA: Excuse my French but I got two fingers up for them; Fuck FEMA right now. And for Ray Nagin to rebuild the city, I’m with him because he trying to make it a “chocolate city” and I’m really with that.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Do you think Mayor Nagin has been unfairly criticized given the scope and magnitude of the disaster he had to face?

CHOPPA: I think the blame is [unfairly put on him] because before the hurricane Ray Nagin did so much for the city and now he’s being criticized for something that he didn’t do. Everybody know that the government blew the holes in the levy. We’re not stupid, we know what happened. They trying to blame everything on [Mayor Nagin] when he was trying to help people. I remember seeing him out there – I mean, he was out there just as well as we was out there. And he was really trying to help; no one else was there. And he’s still trying to help but he still gets criticized for what he does.

RIOTSOUND.COM: There’s been talk about the government blowing out the levies in New Orleans to protect more affluent neighborhoods at the expense of flooding the poorer areas; also there have been some other explanations. In your view, what would be a reason for the levies being blown out?

CHOPPA: Actually, I think it was to get the people out of the city. They knew that New Orleans was one of the poorest cities in America and it would have been hard for people to rebuild. So they felt like – well, if we run them outta here they won’t ever come back. But they can’t stop us from coming back down there. We’re gonna be back home and that’s why the name of my album is Coming Back Home.

RIOTSOUND.COM: You were originally affiliated with No Limit Records but in 2003 you ended up starting your own label and then from there you teamed with Roy Jones Jr. From the business standpoint, what did you learn being around a mogul like Master P?

CHOPPA: It was a blessing to run into P and to really learn the game. I watched him from ’97 through 2002 do his thing and I felt like – well, if he can do it, I can do it. I ran into Roy and Roy had his own label. I felt that if I hook up with a business man like Roy, I only can go to the top.

RIOTSOUND.COM: What’s your new album Coming Back Home all about?

CHOPPA: The meaning of Coming Back Home is I’m trying to get everybody to come back home to New Orleans. I’m really spilling my guts and expressing myself. Da Real Choppa is on this album to make people understand that it’s not just club hype; Choppa can really rap. [On the album] I address some of things that happened with Katrina, I address the situation with me and the other Chopper – the fake Chopper from Da Band.

RIOTSOUND.COM: What do you say about the other Chopper from Da Band?

CHOPPA: I just let the world know that he’s a fake and an imposter. He wanna be me. He not even from New Orleans and act like he is.

RIOTSOUND.COM: When you were young you weren’t really thinking about rapping, you were an athlete; how did you change course? Also, you were partly inspired by Crescent City icons Bust Down and Tim Smooth, can you talk about their influence?

CHOPPA: I played sports all my life but always knew I rapped, it was just a talent I had; it was like a hobby. I could recall how back in the days my mom would be like – if you do your work like you do them damn rap songs, you’ll be a straight A student. I tell her today like – that damn rapping has got me far, huh ma? [laughs] As far as Bust Down and Tim Smooth, they were like local heroes to me. I saw them doing their thing and I heard the songs and I was like – I want that to be me one day. So I just kept working and striving to be the best that I could be and I became Choppa.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Earlier in your career you were able to take a regional hit in “Choppa City” and bring it to the national stage. With the way things are set up with the radio stations and labels, is it getting harder and harder for young artists to do that?

CHOPPA: Yea, I think it really is getting harder. Where I’m at, where I stand right now, I could say its like, when you’re hot, you’re hot; when you’re not, you’re not. When you have a hit song on the radio everybody is your friend but when you don’t have a song on the radio they could give two fucks about you. I’m just being real with you. Then as soon as you bring something to the table everybody is your friend again. That discourages me a lot. That make you not even want to do it because you don’t know who’s real and who’s fake, you know what I’m saying.

RIOTSOUND.COM: Being that Hip-Hop artists are so influential nowadays; do you think that the Hip-Hop community and New Orleans artists in particular have done enough in the wake of Hurricane Katrina?

CHOPPA: Actually, no – I mean, we were victims too. All the rappers in New Orleans, we were victims, we lost everything. If you didn’t have a little money already stacked away you was assed out. FEMA not doing nothing for nobody, Red Cross ain’t doing nothing. They made it seem like they was helping us in the beginning but [so far] I haven’t got a damn dime. I’m not complaining, I don’t care; but at the same time, what about the families that really needed it? Some of my family members really needed it. [FEMA] put people out of their apartments and all kinds of stuff like that in Houston. I just don’t understand.

RIOTSOUND.COM: If it was up to you to decide what was done; what would you do?

CHOPPA: If it was up to me I would have done something with the levies a long time ago. They talked about it for years like, we gonna rebuild this, or, we gonna put this here, we gonna put that there. Everyone knew that New Orleans was an “ashtray”. Soon as some water get in there its over, we’ve been knowing that for years. So why wait until a hurricane is getting ready to come to start talking about doing something? They shoulda been did that. They knew it was gonna happen [eventually], it was predicted a long time ago.

RIOTSOUND.COM: You got the new album Coming Back Home in stores now, what else should fans be looking out for?

CHOPPA: They should expect a more mature, grown up Choppa. I’m not seventeen or eighteen years old no more. I’m really giving them music now, something that gonna have they ears hurtin’.

For more news and info on Choppa stay tuned to www.MySpace.com/DaRealChoppa