by Cynthia Gross
Known to “set the stage on fire” with his hard-hitting lyrics and commanding stage presence, Chuck Da Arsonist, a pioneer of the DC hip-hop scene, knew he was destined to be a rapper the moment he discovered A Tribe Called Quest. Growing up, the DMV native was influenced by the best of the best, including Stephanie Mills, Miki Howard, Howard Hewett, Luther Vandross, and Lionel Richie.
If you’re looking for “raw, uncut hip-hop music,” then look no further. Music videos for Chuck Da Arsonist’s latest singles “Threat” and “Blow” have amassed tens of thousands of views on YouTube, and he has nearly 2,500 monthly Spotify listeners, evident of his impact and staying power. Clearly, Chuck Da Arsonist is unfazed by newcomers on the block, and his music offers a platform to “turn the things that most would call misfortunes into treasures of life.”
His music, which has stood the test of time through countless iterations of the hip-hop scene, is an unwavering battle cry against injustice, inequity, and oppression. Make no mistake, Chuck Da Arsonist won’t give up the fight in the war against the system, come what may. “I’m on my grind where the hustle is intuition,” he declares in “Threat,” one of his latest singles. “To get this bread and then flip it, fucking the system. I’m systematically fucking them soon as the beat on.” His art serves as a wake-up call for society, shining the light on the reality of the divide between where things are and where they should be.
Recently, Chuck Da Arsonist connected with Alchemical Records to discuss his latest music, what gives him staying power after a 25-year stretch in the industry, and the connection between hip-hop and wellness in honor of National Minority Health Month.
Chuck Da Arsonist explains, “Coming from a city where you are more than likely not to succeed in hip-hop, it is my mission to kill the game every chance I get, not just for me, but for the underdogs.” With shameless lyrics and explicit content used to portray an unfiltered picture of “the reality of the artists’ lives and those around them,” Chuck Da Arsonist calls attention to the fact that one of the most important roles of hip-hop has arguably been to provide a space for artists to express themselves without restraint.
Inspired by Booker T. Washington’s 1915 proclamation that health is key to progress and equity, National Minority Health Month, held annually in April, was established to combat growing health disparities among underrepresented groups. Chuck Da Arsonist notes health, particularly mental health, is always on his radar.
“As kids, we would look at the homeless man and be like ‘he’s crazy…why isn’t that man living with someone else instead of being out there all day,’” he reflects. “As an adult, I know better. I know some people don’t want to be around anyone else because of their mental health issues.”
“I hope that we, as people of color, get more of the help we need. We shouldn’t feel ashamed because we, too, go through depression and have underlying issues that our parents recognized as ‘bad behavior’ but didn’t understand we actually needed help from counseling and other interventions. We need more programs to assist people, especially in the Black and brown community,” he adds.
In terms of the connection between art and health, Chuck Da Arsonist notes he is a firm believer in the healing power of music. “No matter what the issue may be, music is a universal language. I really hope we can continue to make people aware of what’s going on because education is key. I’m going to continue to do my part to offer support through my music.”
With his brutally honest songwriting, in which no topic is off limits, Chuck Da Arsonist reminds listeners of perhaps the biggest thing that sets hip-hop apart: it has become much more than a genre. It’s a phenomenon, a lifestyle for artists and the communities they serve. In a society tainted by systemic inequities that run centuries deep, hip-hop allows untethered creative expression free from censorship and prescribed rules. Hip-hop is about showing up as you are, unapologetically – no degree of fronting needed.
Currently, Chuck Da Arsonist is in the latter stages of recording his debut album, which has been an exciting process since he’s exclusively released mixtapes and singles in the past. “This WORDS RIGHT NOW album is all me. You can find out a lot about me as a person from this body of work, which is why I’ve taken my time creating it.” When asked what audiences can expect from the album, Chuck Da Arsonist shares, “The production is amazing, and I’m delivering music for everyone. People in relationships, the club, the street, the lyricist, the storytellers, and the women. I can’t forget the women.”
Check out Chuck Da Arsonist’s latest music video for “Threat” here. Stay tuned for new singles every six weeks through the release of “WORDS RIGHT NOW” this summer.
Maryland-based singer-songwriter Cynthia Gross seeks to inspire an awakening to all we are and all we can become. With a passion for language in all of its forms and more than a decade of experience as a professional ghostwriter, she is a light seeker who understands the power of each individual’s voice to create positive, meaningful change.
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