The Chapter Interview
Author: Adam Bernard
Verbal E and 3Sixty, the duo that goes by the name The Chapter, have been living in Sin City for over a decade trying to help develop the Vegas Hip-Hop scene. It only makes sense, though, as both members of the group are originally from Chicago and as Verbal E, the lyrical half of the group, points out "Chicago started Vegas, some gangsters who had something in their mind to start paradise in the desert." He continued, explaining what he feels That Chapter's role in Vegas is saying "we try to bring Hip-Hop culture here, not bring it but help develop it. We are not the only group in Vegas and we are not the first Hip-Hop group in Vegas, we're a chapter in the book. We are, right now blessed with being at the forefront of this particular movement."
Being at the forefront, however, caused some problems initially. Not everyone in Vegas was open to Hip-Hop, in fact, as 3Sixty, the production side of the duo, remembers, some stories had to be told just to be able to perform. "Out here you can't go up to the hotels and different venues with two turntables and a mic, we had to disguise ourselves as a live jazz band then just on stage and rip straight Hip-Hop." Verbal E knows their performances ended up going over well as he proudly notes "they found out Hip-Hop wasn't so bad after all."
Verbal E notes there are other aspects to Vegas than the well known ones, saying "absolutely this town is run by gambling and prostitution, but that's a small area. There are homes, neighborhoods, projects and ghettos here. We don't live in hotels, we don't live on the strip, I don't even go to the strip. It's a regular neighborhood." A regular neighborhood with one major difference, it's open 24 hours a day. 3Sixty notes "they have 24 hour graveyard shifts, people walk around here like zombies half the time."
3Sixty and Verbal E made their way to Vegas in 1994 when they both got accepted to, and started their college careers at, UNLV. The irony to 3Sixty is that "we were living a block away from each other in Chicago and didn't met each other till we got out here." This doesn't come as a huge surprise to many in Chicago as 3Sixty points out "Common said some years ago some cats ain't seen parts of downtown, and that's how big Chicago is."
Vegas is fairly big, as well, and one of the biggest tragedies in the history of Hip-Hop happened there in 1996 when 2Pac was gunned down. Both Verbal E and 3Sixty were a little too close for comfort on that night. 3Sixty was working at the MGM at the time and notes "I was staying half a block away." Verbal E was even closer. He remembers "I was workin for Don King running the scorecards back from round to round. The fight was over, Mike Tyson knocked homeboy out, don't even remember his name, and 2Pac comes runnin out. He's standing to the point where I could touch him but BET swooped in for an interview. I come to find out on my way home, six, seven in the morning, 2Pac got shot right in front of the Super 8."
While the 'Pac tragedy was a sad day for Hip-Hop, and one of the biggest happenings when it comes to Hip-Hop in Vegas, The Chapter is starting to create some good Hip-Hop happenings in the city. In 1998 they came out with "Beneath The Sands," a project they had no idea would circulate like it did. "Beneath The Sands would get heard all over Vegas, even getting coverage in a local publication's top ten. According to 3Sixty, "I was eatin lunch and called Verve because we turned out to be the number three release in the valley that year of the ten good things." Verbal E adds "we were the only Hip-Hop representative in that list at all, we spun that into we were the number one Hip-Hop group."
Holding the claim to fame of being Vegas' number one Hip-Hop group, The Chapter recently released their 2005 effort "Us vs. Them." Verbal E explains "Us vs. Them" brings something completely new to listeners, noting "I have not yet heard on a major stage a viewpoint coming from Las Vegas and what it means to live here in the Naked City as we call it." The Chapter feels "Us vs. Them" fills that void. Verbal E continued, adding "there's a lot of emotion in the sound of the music and the words of the music, it's not a light album by any stretch of the imagination." 3Sixty jumped back in to add "there's a life outside of this music that needs to be addressed and if you have a voice to portray that voice you should go ahead and use it."
Some of the topic matter can be discerned from the title, "Us vs. Them." It seems simple enough. According to Verbal E "if you really really don't know, you're probably them." They go on to give the definitions of Us and Them anyways as 3Sixty explains "a lot of people here want to just do and album and put it out. We took time, kept driving and it almost becomes Us vs. Them. We've had many people with us and fall off. It was always us left, even after take em as far as we can, it was always us. That spawned 'Them.' And if you're Them you have some part in Us not putting out this music." Verbal E jumped in, adding "you know when you're 'Us' when you're down with the movement, when you break your back working and someone tries to take the credit for what you're doing and all the accolades that go with it. It really becomes that simple, in this music industry you have to keep it real simple, when you get complicated and you get run over."
For The Chapter things have gotten complicated on stage a few times, but they wouldn't let themselves get run over. Verbal E remembers "when the band left and it was literally Us. 3Sixty played the drums on one song, the bass on one song, the keys on one song, and DJed."
The idea of one man having to play every instrument is fairly amazing, but 3Sixty pulled it off. One thing he says you can be sure you'll never see from The Chapter, however, is beef. "We're not going to go out there and start no knuckle head beefs," he explains "we're livin, try graduating from college, supporting a family and putting an album. It's real true people trying to do music." For The Chapter, they realize for most people just getting by is stressful enough, there's no need to add any extra nonsense to it. 3Sixty notes "after you hit 18 the fun is over and you gotta start livin that life. It's OK to be on the streets, it's OK to struggle through that, it's OK to get a degree, it's OK to get a job, it's OK to raise kids. We feel it, we know it and we recognize that struggle."
They recognize the struggle because they're part of one of their own. 3Sixty speaks of their struggle, explaining "we say very humbly we have become like the renaissance with the Mulan Rouge and Sammy Davis and breaking barriers on the strip. We're breaking barriers in these hotels. Hip-Hop is brand new in Las Vegas, it's all Wayne Newton and the tigers. We stepped in and made sure Hip-Hop was well represented."
According to 3Sixty the group chose their name because "we didn't want to try to be the main group we just wanted to be a part of it, of the great culture, so we came up with The Chapter, in the book of music you have rock, jazz, and we want to be a chapter." With the moves they're making to help foster a Hip-Hop scene in Sin City Verbal E and 3Sixty might be looking at one heck of a long chapter.
Visit The Chapter's website at thechaptercrew.com.
Originally posted: May 24, 2005