Originality Is NOT Dead: A Conversation With Chango4

Through the ever-expanding tangles of the world wide web, I was fortunate to happen upon the music of Chango4. Born and raised in Buffalo, New York, the now 29-year-old artist caught my attention with her idiosyncratic sound.

Butterfly’ is a single, part of a dual release alongside ‘Leaky Faucet’. The former was my first tango with Chango. She opens up the lyrics to the song with, “All I want to do is kiss you, but I’m timid, yeah I’m shy,” a classic predicament. I myself am not a casanova, so in my little notebook, I’m jotting down that Chango is for the people. As time passed, my infatuation with her music grew.

Chango released “Quarantine Oranges” the following month, and for a while after the release, I tried unearthing the words to describe her sound. It took a lot of plays to understand one simple fact about the music she makes: Chango’s music cannot be defined (she says something along the lines of this, keep reading).

I have been in studios with artists where they are trying to create a certain sound; already forcing themselves inside a box that no one has asked them to inhabit. When I listen to ‘Scarylude’, I can tell that Chango steps very far away from the box; from the influences of mainstream music. For that, I am thankful. In a world where originality isn’t accepted until it is reiterated and recreated, finding the source feels stupefying.

Chango brings this characteristic to any song or project she works on, solo or not. Look to Wavy, stylized as way2wavybaby. Alongside Chango, they are C4W2 (you “C” what they did there?), and their music is fucking fire. Wavy herself is another independent Buffalo based artist with her own illustrious catalog of music. So it’s no surprise that when these two stars collided, they created their own universe. They started with “Planet 9”, nine tracks of pure bliss, and they’re not stopping there. Their latest release, ‘GameStop’ is the amalgamation of the two, and the perfect way to catch up on all that you have missed so far.

By the time I decided to speak with Chango, I was a fan of her in general, not just their music. From the care-free personality I perceived of her from her posts on social media, to the exclusive content on her Only Fans (no, it’s not like that), I’d been hooked. In November 2021, I met with Chango (and Wavy) outside of a small cafe in Brooklyn, where I was afforded a direct peek inside the mind of Chango.

The music already spoke for itself; now it was time to let her speak for herself. For an exclusive interview with HangTime Magazine, that’s exactly what she did. We spoke about her ability to steer clear of outside influence, the healing powers of art, and the significance of collaborative efforts. But first, we started with the place where it all began…

Chango4: What [Buffalo] is going through now is like an overhaul, like a reconstruction almost. It’s interesting to see.

Curtis Ashley: You’re from Buffalo. I see you retweet India Wlton’s tweets a lot. Do you keep up with the politics of Buffalo?

I try not to, but it’s something that directly affects me, so it’s always best to gage where society’s thought process is at. It’s hard to escape politics nowadays. 

Do you feel like she’s one of the more progressive candidates up there? 

Yeah, yeah, they had Cynthia Nixon out there. AOC was out there this past weekend for this huge rally. It’s pretty interesting to see; Buffalo never gets anything, it’s the ass-crack of New York State, really. Cause you got New York City, then people are like, “Okay, what the fuck is a Buffalo?” 

Yeah, yeah. Well I’m saying “Yeah,” but no, we don’t think like that. 

I have so many questions for you. I’ve been listening to your music for a little while now, and I always thought you were dope. For now, tell me more about living in Buffalo, especially with this resurgence of the art community.

I feel like Buffalo breeds artists, and not just saying that, but unique artists; people that want to remain in their nation and don’t really appease the status quo of what art should be and look like. A lot of artisans; a lot of people that do skill-work shit. You mix that in with the creative aspect of them just being a painter, or a dancer, singer, rapper, whatever, and it creates this community that was never really meant to interact, but it has begun to interact in an interdisciplinary manner. I think that’s a really cool thing about Buffalo; it’s not pretentious in it’s art community, but it has an art community that should be taken seriously and one to be proud of, and I’ve seen that growth of it. 

It’s like any other small town: you’re going to feel like you’re not being stimulated artistically or culturally. That’s what it felt like for the longest time, until people said, “Fuck that, let’s make our own shit here.” Kind of what I think happened with Atlanta and all of these other little small places. 

That’s interesting; you’re talking about the sense of community without it being so pretentious or being so fake, and you brought up Atlanta. I feel like everyone down there was in their own lane already before it became a contest of followers. 

I get the idea you’re big on individuality; was there ever a time when you considered following a different path, or what someone else was doing, and how did that work out for you?

Yeah, surprisingly all the time. Comparison is the — I forgot what the fucking saying is — when you compare, you steal from your own sense of self and shit, and that’s something I had to grow up to realize. Every time I feed what I believe in, I expand on that. That’s when I actually receive blessings that I’ve always wanted. The more I did that, the less I did of the other shit, try to be like someone else, emulate some other shit, which comes really naturally to me. 

That’s wassup. So you told me you came down for a concert, but you’re also here to visit a couple friends. Any shoutouts you want to give?

Shoutout Ray, Rayhanna. She makes music too, and cooks really good food. She goes by Rai when she makes music. She’s like the first best friend I had out here when I lived out here, and she’s just amazing. Also, shoutout to Swaya, that’s who we’re gonna session with later. She works with Tony Seltzer and shit, as his engineer. We’re gonna go make some music with her tomorrow. There’s a bunch of people out here like Jacob, so, yeah.

I’m sure you dabble in a few disciplines, but I’m interested in you for your singing and your voice in general. It’s the classic, “You’re better than anyone I’ve heard on the radio.” I truly believe you have a unique voice. I would love to hear the story of how you got it to where it is now. What inspired you to sing in the beginning, and what made you stick with it?

Umm, I was always singing. I would talk but I would sing. Then I just merged that with my poetry writing, like my writing writing, and it somehow organically evolved into songwriting and singing.

I just don’t think about it, it’s something that flows through me when I sing and freestyle, very based in jazz vocals, no proper training. I know I can sing, but if I actually took vocal lessons or vocal training, I think it would be even better for me, but I never did that. 

How long have you been singing?

I’m 29, so a very long time, I would say. All my life basically.

How would you describe your music regarding the style; genre?

Genreless. I try not to go for a style, and if I do try to go for a style, it’s very that style. Like I said, I like to emulate things, I think there’s a skill in that. I think there’s talent in being able to cover a song that’s not yours, and make it your own. I think that’s a really cool aspect about singing and performing. 

The music I make with Wavy is really experimental.

I definitely get those vibes, and leads right into my next question: How did you link up with Wavy, initially?

We met through the scene; we were performing, I saw her perform — actually I didn’t see her perform. I just saw her and she had lime-green hair, like, “Who the fuck is this superstar/rockstar person?” Through that we hung out a couple times, then our music was exposed to one another, and then somehow got on the same production from another local producer back home, Shwevs. She tweeted something about, “Oh I got a beat, who wants to get on it?” I offered, and so did Wavy. She hit me up like, “Wavy wants to get on this track too, would yall want to do a duo?” We were like, sure.

We listened to it in a studio; our first session together was to record this song with CBSM, who produced “Planet 9”. We recorded that song, and from that moment we decided to work with CBSM more. We had our first official session, and that birthed the first song that we recorded for Planet 9.

We were working on that for eight or nine months until it was ready, and we’ve been recording ever since. We’ve had sessions with multiple different producers; we’ve traveled to LA, New York City, and did all that stuff together. It quickly evolved into exchanging ideas with art gallery owners and directors, having residencies for our paintings and performances; getting paid good money to perform at different places.

I think that the symbioses that I have with Wavy is important to that rapid growth. I don’t know, there’s something appealing about us, I guess some people see it. I know it’s fun and it’s special — what we have when we create together — I find it really hard to collaborate with people, and I’m sure she does too. You believe in something, it’s your own, and you have to kind of let go in order to be able to collaborate and create something new with someone, and I think that’s the difficult aspect. Fun, but albeit difficult, because you have to give up some of your own vision to accommodate another. 

Working with Wavy’s been fucking awesome ‘cause it’s helped me do that and it’s helped me make music that I would have never thought to create. That’s why I go genreless, because we said what we wanted to hear, and we created that world. It’s like a space where the sound exists. 

You said sometimes you have to accommodate other people’s visions. Would you say that you and Wavy’s visions were so aligned that you didn’t have to compromise?

I think it’s like perspective. Everyone, at the end of the day, wants to have something we can all be proud of. I feel like when you think of success, it can’t always be [just] you. You can’t just imagine yourself, that’s not success. Success is being able to share that with your friends, your family, whoever you care about. 

When it clicks for a group of people working together, it creates this synchronicity; vibration that makes creating together very easy. Like very easy. That’s why I really thrived off our sessions at CBSM. Every session was unique because it depended on how we were all feeling, and how those feelings interacted with each other, and it would reflect directly in the music that we made during that session. I think that’s special, cause it’s like therapy. You’re therapizing with your friends as you’re creating, and I think that’s a huge reason why we had the theme of self-care for our residency.

Art is self-care. Being able to create, having the time, having the freedom to create is helping yourself. I think that’s really good to highlight, and remind artists of. 

Art is a form of healing that I think some people take for granted, and it’s being oversaturated for commercial use. I’m glad you started talking about stuff other than music, too. There’s SO much to get to know about you, but what is something you’d want to share about yourself that not too many people know about you? Whether it’s something you’re feeling, something you’re just getting into…

I don’t know if people know this about me that much, but I’m really into cinema and film. The huge basis for me getting into music making was because of how many movies I was consuming at a certain time in my life. I almost got over the medium and had to switch to something else because it was just so much that I took in, but it made me want to make films, and because of that I had to learn how to make music. That’s what led me to that jump in production, producing my own shit, songwriting, recording myself, all that. 

I knew that inevitably, if I wanted to make a film, I would have to make the music for it too. 

Yeah, you’d at least have to know something about mixing, basic audio engineering. Well, what sort of movies are you into? What have you’ve watched lately?

One of the first films I ever referenced in my music is Natural Born Killers. It was insane just because of the colors, for me, and the angles of the camera.

Hmm, I’m not familiar with the movie.

It was written by Quentin Tarantino, but it was directed by Oliver Stone, and it’s one of Tarantino’s least favorite movies, he says, which is interesting. It’s about a couple; it’s a man and a woman and they’re literal psychopaths and they kill people, go to jail for it. They get famous for being serial killers; it’s basically a commentary on American digestion of horror, trauma, and violence — how hooked on it we are. 

That does sound pretty interesting. You said one of the things you took inspiration from, regarding the film, was the colors. What is it about the colors? Like, when you’re crafting a project, artistically, are you already thinking of what the color scheme is going to be, that sort of thing? 

Not that direct, but I like to close my eyes and feel what I see while I’m creating. I think that helps clear any other non creative thoughts out the way. When you close your eyes, you do see color, when anybody closes their eyes. It’s interesting to see what that color is. 

Switching the subject: your Twitter. That was one of the first places I started getting an idea of who you are behind being an artist. A tweet that caught my interest was “Winter is my summer time.” There’s another one where you say, “Bout to turn up this Winter, y’all could never handle Ice Princess.” You said Buffalo gets bad in the winter, so I’m like what’s going on? Who is Ice Princess?

It used to be really cold, I think global warming definitely altered that. It hasn’t been as cold as I remember it from my youth. But back in the day, it got cold every day, and we would have freezing temperature, blizzards. It just looked like a frozen tundra up there; nobody’s outside, it’s just snow. 

A lot of that cold inspired a lot of my wanting to create because you kind of go crazy being stuck in the house, not being able to go outside because it’s so cold. And you gotta do stuff, to be able to be okay. 

Well said. I’m interested in learning about what music you’re listening to right now. 

Umm, I’m listening to a bunch of stuff right now, it’s just shuffled on my phone. I like Don Toliver a lot, his new album. Kali Uchis is cool.
Joven Frodo444; my friend Anthony. He makes Spanish trap; Hip-Hop in Spanish. It’s pretty dope. People out in Buffalo; this person named Medusa, they’re really dope.

[Photos by Curtis Ashley]

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