5.4.2018

Exclusive: Chantel Jeffries Talks Debut EP, Offset Collaboration, & Power of Social Media

Chantel Jeffries is already a social media darling. She has nearly 4 million followers on Instagram and earns more than a million Snapchat views per day. Plus, the social media influencer has been linked to the likes of Justin Bieber and The Weeknd. But after signing a deal with 10:22 pm/Capitol Records, the model-turned-DJ is embarking on a new career as a producer.

Fresh off the release of her Offset and Vory-assisted single “Wait,” which she produced and co-wrote, Jeffries spoke with Rap-Up about her debut EP, Calculated Luck. “I just hope that people like it,” she said. “It’s a little scary when you’re putting out something that you really like but it’s different, and the first thing you’re doing. You’re not really sure how people are gonna take it and take the fact that you made it. It takes a lot, but I hope that they like it.”

When she’s not in the studio, you can find “CeeJay the DJ” spinning Oscar and Coachella parties and serving as a brand ambassador for L’Oréal and BooHoo. She is also developing her own line of merchandise, which will be released simultaneously with her EP later this year.

Read on as Chantel dishes on Offset’s raps, Diplo’s mentorship, and some genre-bending dream collaborations.

Your debut single “Wait” is out now. How does it feel?

I’m really excited because I’ve been working on it for so long. I just wanted to make it perfect. I tried so many different versions, changed so many different things, and I’ve been teasing it for a while, so I know that everyone was kind of anticipating it, so I’m really excited to share it.

You produced and co-wrote “Wait.” How was it collaborating with Offset? Why did you decide to make it your first single?

Originally, I didn’t think this was gonna be the first single, but it was the first song I did that I knew I was gonna put out. I had an idea that I wanted to work on so I went to the studio and met with Louis Bell. We had a session. I saw this Vine and they made a beat out of the wait sign. I thought it was really funny and it sounds really cool, so I said, “I want to try to do something based on this idea that I have.” I went in and I was like, “These are all the things I want to do.” We sat down and produced the track and Vory just happened to be in the studio. He heard the track and was like, “Do you mind if I lay down some melodies?” I don’t really do melodies. I haven’t really done them yet. I’ve done a few, but like, for me, it’s more about I know how the track should sound and maybe I have a concept for the lyrics. So I’m like, “Great, sure, put some melodies on it.” Then the lyrics just started coming to us. I’m like, “Say this.” He’s taking it from there. The next thing I know, we just had this song written that same session, that same day. It was such a synergy between us so we continued to do a bunch of other stuff together.

Then I wanted to put someone that was such a great force in hip-hop on the song because I wanted to open it up to a wider audience. It’s more of a European house-inspired track and I wanted people that listen to hip-hop to hear that to see if they like that type of music. It might not be something that they normally listen to, but I think it’d be something a lot of people might like if they gave it a chance. I took a lot of time thinking and tried different people on the track and landed on Offset. Migos and Offset have so many great tracks that I personally love, so I thought it would be a great fit. My favorite part about having Offset on the song was listening back to the verse and trying to decode everything he was saying and find the meaning of each line. The way they say things is so different sometimes, you get a chance to play “Clue” with, “What does this mean? What does that mean?” I felt like I was writing for Rap Genius when I was telling my friends what each line meant. I think that’s a really cool way to say things on a song. It’s a cool way to say something you wouldn’t normally say in everyday life. That’s what art is, expressing yourself in a way you couldn’t ever really do normally. Altogether, it’s kind of a great marriage between something a little more urban and something more European or pop. I love it a lot.

What made you want to transition from DJ to producer?

The DJing came from my overall love of music, being exposed to so many different genres, and having a wide variety of music that I liked. It kind of took on a life of its own from there. I felt like the people I look up to in my friends who are DJs, they kind of mentor and inspire me. It was the next logical step because they all produce. When you’re playing so many different genres you like, they are so different. It’s like, “What if I put this and this together? I think that could be really cool.” Sometimes you’re DJing two different songs from different genres, but sometimes it sounds so great, it inspires you to create that on your own. That’s where the inspiration came from. Seeing people I’m close to do that gave me the vision to see that I could do that. I tried it out and “Wait” happened.

Who are some of those DJs you’re close to? What did they share with you?

I’m really good friends with Diplo and look up to him a lot as a DJ, producer, and a really hard worker. He travels so much for DJing and when you’re doing that, you get a lot of inspiration and influence from the places you visit. You hear so many different things. I saw how he would take influences from different places and put artists together…Seeing that happen and meeting a lot of people gave me all the ingredients I needed to comprise and make this happen.

What can we expect from your debut EP Calculated Luck? Did you produce and write all of it?

I produced and wrote on all of it. Also liked choosing people I wanted to be on the songs. Don’t have a release date yet, but each song has a different feel. It’s just different inspirations that I’ve been having. This is the mood I was in and this is the stuff I was listening to. This is what was birthed from that. There’s a lot of instruments and just different vibes for each song.

Who are some of the artists you collaborated with on this?

It’s gonna be a surprise as it comes along. It’s also not done so I’m still working on putting different people on the songs and finalizing them.

You have 3.8 million followers on Instagram alone. What’s it like to have such a huge following?

It’s a great platform for sharing things you’re working on, interested in, and being able to talk about things that are important to you. I try to utilize that as much as possible but working on all these things, I’m not as active as I was before. I still look at the feedback that I’m getting if I tease something. If I play this song, how many people are asking what it was? Especially on Snapchat because I get over a million views per day. I usually play clips of different songs and I like to read the feedback to see what amount of people are inquiring about it. So if I mix in a clip of my song, how many people are asking? Is it more or less as other songs I really like? So that’s how I kind of knew from the beginning because I had so many people like, “What’s this on? I tried Shazam-ing the song and couldn’t find it anywhere!” I know that they’re interested and that they like it so that’s good. It’s a great feedback tool.

What music did you grow up listening to?

Growing up, I went through a lot of different phases of things that I like and still like. I grew up with a lot of Motown. My parents would play that for me all the time. A lot of soul, a lot of Barry White, a lot of jazz, Coltrane. There are so many different things my parents would play. I think that stuck with me in choosing the type of music I make today. Today, I’ve been loving so many different artists and a lot of new artists that I’ve been finding. That’s always a great little easter egg, when I find someone new that I like. It’s amazing.

Who would you like to work with in the future? Dream collaborations?

I’ve been really inspired by Kevin Parker, Tame Impala. I love his music and style. He can do something so avant-garde and abstract, but you still enjoy it without even knowing the depth of it. I just love Frank Ocean’s music. His lyrics are something I go back and read over and over so I could get the full meaning. I really like The Neighbourhood and Big Wild. Those are some people I’ve been kind of wanting to collaborate with or definitely looking to for inspiration if nothing else.

–Andres Tardio