Gold Chains and Young Miss America redefine white rap

Snow, El-P, Haystak, Eminem, 3rd Bass, White Dawg, Bubba Sparxxx, Kid Rock, Rehab, House of Pain, Dirty White, Northen State, Remedy, White Russian, the Beasties, Fred Durst, Sage Francis, MC Paul Barman and, yes Robert Van Winkle.

In America, white rappers make for a motley crew of hazardous rednecks, label experiments, tortured cynics and talented artists. A select few come correct, while the rejects stand conflicted in their showers, desperately looking for bars that aren’t there.

There’s also a breed of white MC, namely Gold Chains, Cex and the Streets, who walk through the lobby of hip hop with super size boomboxes, their images liberated of cultural baggage, freely blasting house, IDM, punk and garage without a care for tradition. All three, the former two from the states, the latter from Britain, are bigger in Europe and more likely to find print in XLR8R than XXL. At clubs, they tend to induce as much head nodding and ass shaking as arm folding. They’re relevant and worth hearing for that reason.

Gold Chains is Topher LaFata, a computer programmer with a degree in cognitive neuroscience claiming San Francisco. Over the past two years, he’s toured the globe and unleashed a Casanova flow of glass shards across two EPs of Kid 606-like glitch. Nerder than N*E*R*D, Chains’ zero-and-one anthems like “Mountains of Coke” and “Rock the Parti” are equally at home on the ones-and-twos.

His just-released LP, Young Miss America, is scattered all over the place like SARS, sure to cause a rawkus with Japanese kittens. Adios tech-tonic rawness, hello American social diary read aloud in a carnival of Kit Clayton beat lunacy. Imagine A.R.E. Weapons with love in place of violence where the message is “it’s nice to live your life like every fucking night’s the weekend.” Rap has hitchhiked a long way from the Bronx.

This is a Life & Art interview with Gold Chains.

Q: When are you going to play a date in Miami and show up our Gucci world?
GC: Hopefully, I’ll be able to get down there on the tour for this record. I still want to play some big, cheesy house club. I’m all about palm trees, and blow and Puerto Ricans and Cubans and shit.

Q: A lot of listeners interpreted your prior work as mocking rap excess, but this album offers less irony and more social commentary. For the record, where are you coming from artistically?
GC: In terms of people comparing me to rappers, it’s a lack of understanding about where I’m coming from. Most of the hip hop kids doing the talking don’t listen to techno, or psyche records, garage, punk records. I never say anything that ain’t true. I ain’t frontin’ or trying to be something I’m not. I don’t give a fuck if some kid’s like, “I’m a real MC and he’s not.” My shit is super progressive and most dudes are stuck in some retro sound.

Q: When did you get interested in sound systems and ghetto blasters, and what are the choicest ones you’ve played and owned?
GC: Well, I think my interest in sound systems originated from rave-styles back in the early ’90s – it sounded great to hear club music being bumped outta big PAs. There are so many obscene sound systems, like at Trash at The End in London. I have a boombox that I found in a flea market – it’s the sickest one I’ve ever seen.

Q: You went to college in Connecticut. When you entered the so-called real world, did your perception of the job market change and what took you off guard?
GC: I got outta college and I washed dishes for, like, 6 months, while I taught myself how to program computers. It was like, “how the fuck am I going to make money,” and I just stepped up to the plate. If you’re going to survive in America you have to hustle and work your ass off. I knew that from the start. In my case, I programmed computers and I bought shit loads of gear.

Q: On Young Miss America, many of the lyrics concern capitalism and economic pressures on society. Do you consider these topics to be the album’s main theme?
GC: A lot of the lyrical content is more of an observation than a judgment. I’m not out to judge anyone. It’s more like, “this is how things are and do they really have to be like this?” With the title of the album, Young Miss America, it’s named after a girl I knew, Amy, YMA backwards. She came to represent a lot of themes on the record as far as American society in general, this wayward teenage girl who’s beautiful in some respects, but also an ugly amplifier of our culture, how it’s centered around success.

Q: Has your voice always been so “gravel-y,” and do you prefer recording it in the morning or on the late night?
GC: Yeah, it has. It’s better when I get to rest it for a while. I just found out that I have a node on my vocal cord, but it’s not a big deal, I’m going to get it cut out. Maybe I’ll sound like (feminine voice) Michael Jackson.

Q: You’re starting a label through Kid 606 and Cex’s label, Tigerbeat6, called Gold Club. How will it be different from that label and what are some of your upcoming releases?
GC: I don’t know how much real club music Tigerbeat puts out, you know? Gold Club will be more like straight-up club jams, some vocal house stuff, big club beat rap tracks, so we’ll see how it all turns up. I just did a remix for Dismemberment Plan, and I think that’ll be one of the first things I’ll put out. That’s going to be totally for the clubs. I’ve talked to Peaches about doing some stuff too.

Q: Based on the name, would you ever consider opening a strip club named after the Gold Club label?
GC: There’s actually a Gold Club in San Francisco. I’ve been there once or twice, but there’s too many chumps.

For more info visit www.gold-chains-worldwide.com and www.pias.com.

Hunter Stephenson can be reached at HurricaneAccent@hotmail.com.

April 8, 2003


The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami

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