Chace Infinite | In episode 88 of Light Culture Podcast, Paper Magazine founder David Hershkovits talks with Chace Infinite, founder of Agency 78 and Harun Coffee, as well as artist and longtime friend and business associate of the A$AP Mob and “like a big brother to all of us” according to A$AP Rocky.
Over a long career, he’s been an L.A. rapper, worked with A$AP Rocky and currently manages the Buffalo-based rap collective Griselda, which includes Westside Gunn and Benny the Butcher. We talk with the founder of Agency 78 and L.A.’s Harun Coffee about making emotional connections, Kendrick, Drake and J. Cole as conscious rappers, hustling weed and what he learned running a streetwear brand/hangout on New York’s Lower East Side.Read Transcript
David Hershkovits (00:01):
Creative executive or cultural hustler? Chace Infinite is one of those guys who’s hard to categorize or classify. His range is impressive. He’s been a successful L.A. rapper, moved to New York City to work in retail, managed A$AP Rocky, founded Agency 78, as well as L.A.’s Harun Coffee, which also serves up authentic articles of culture past, present, future, on its menu.
David Hershkovits (00:31):
So, who is Chace Infinite? Well, he’s all these things and more. He’s someone who’s soaked up knowledge on his journey and figured out how to package it for popular consumption. But, most of all, the secret sauce is the man himself. But most of all, the secret sauce is the man himself. A trusted advisor who’s got your back.
David Hershkovits (00:55):
These days he’s got his hands full, not only with his multiple entrepreneurial projects, but also managing the Buffalo-based rap collective Griselda, which includes Westside Gunn and Benny the Butcher. Welcome, Chace.
Chace Infinite (01:11):
Hey. Thank you, guys, for having me. How’s everybody doing?
David Hershkovits (01:15):
Doing good enough, I guess. Things are looking up at, all around us, so we’re optimistic-
Chace Infinite (01:20):
David Hershkovits (01:20):
… at this minute. So, I’m gonna make you pick, what is it? Creative executive or cultural hustler? Are they two different hats that you wear depending on the time and place or-
Chace Infinite (01:31):
David Hershkovits (01:31):
… is it just one-
Chace Infinite (01:31):
Yeah. Yeah. I’m a hustler of culture, for sure. But, I think, being a hustler of culture allowed me the space to become a creative executive. I didn’t come up with that term, I borrowed that from a lyric from Chuck D., hustler of culture, on Welcome to the Terrordome. So, I kinda have been saying that since I heard, Chuck D. Say it, so, technically I’m a creative executive, but being a hustler of culture is a thing that kinda made the on-ramp for that.
David Hershkovits (02:05):
Yeah. So, what does that mean to you? Cultural hustler or creative executive.
David Hershkovits (02:09):
What does that… How does your day go by?
Chace Infinite (02:13):
You know, I’m just like everybody else, right. I wake up. I brush my teeth.
David Hershkovits (02:17):
Chace Infinite (02:18):
No, but, honestly, creative executive… I just say that because I don’t like being pigeon-holed in some suit that’s only interested in manufacturing opportunities for money. A lot of times what I do is, you know, I want to insert myself into history and do things that, I guess the new word is “disruptive,” but, to me, it’s just trying to find a new way to do things that have kinda already been done before. We don’t reinvent the wheel, but just try to apply a little bit of emotional intelligence to whatever landscape I’m dealing in and rely on nuances.
Chace Infinite (02:53):
We form these emotional connections with people, places, and things all the time and I’m like an archive for that. So, I help, architect or build these moments to plug in or reconnect with someone’s emotions, regurgitate some of those emotional connections that we have to those things. The creative hustler comes from that, there are things that have an ephemeral value from a collection standpoint or things that have a passive, emotional, residue with certain communities of people and shit like that. You talk about that sauce, that’s the thing that makes a campaign or an artist or something feel. When it becomes recognizable to you, but you don’t know exactly why.
Chace Infinite (03:34):
So, that’s what being a cultural hustler is to me. ‘Cause it’s not always about, you know, my personal perspective or compass has a lot to do indigenous cultures in Africa and stuff like that, but some of the people I deal with don’t necessarily want that. They just want (laughs) what they consider to be culture. And, culture in America is anything that you can sell.
David Hershkovits (03:56):
(laughs) Oh, yeah. Right. Yeah. Right. I like the “culture” with a K, man.
Chace Infinite (04:02):
Right. You know, it’s like there’s a coffee culture, a weed culture, there’s a fucking culture for anything that you can buy, right, so, when I say “culture” I, I think it’s more about the emotional intelligence that kinda recognizes things that people having a, a connection to.
David Hershkovits (04:16):
But, from the beginning, I mentioned you were a rapper, you had a group, Self Scientific, with D.J. Kaleel-
Chace Infinite (04:23):
David Hershkovits (04:23):
… in L.A. and right from the beginning you stepped out basically coming out against the prevailing rap that was popular at the time. You immediately would say, “Here I am. I don’t like a lot of what’s going on.”
Chace Infinite (04:39):
Because how Self Scientific was, or is, we, um, it’s the camera [?] thought, or the context to whatever might be popular, and rappers, hip hop is about, living up to your title. If you say you’re Ladies Love Cool James and the ladies better love him, you know. We’re Self Scientific and, our perspective or approach to the music is really about giving context to certain shade, that particular song you’re talking about, Return, it was just an anti position to what was going on at the time. It was more pro, elements that weren’t really prevalent at the time, you know. Le- less anti, more pro. (laughs) Like, you know what I mean. Pro core hip hop values, but I’m not necessarily anti. I kinda was just, you know, talking about what we had given into in terms of the nuances. The blanket of acceptance, you know. And we kinda lost some of the shame in our community as a result of our love of the music.
David Hershkovits (05:53):
Was that conscience rap? Would you call that and that really wasn’t what was happening at the time, right? Musically, I mean.
Chace Infinite (06:01):
Yeah. Yeah. I guess some people would deem it conscience rap, but even that’s misleading, right? it’s just hip hop with a different focus. We focus so often upon the nuances of the street in the street tribes and the things that come as a result of the disenfranchised indigenous communities in America. We tend to focus on that a lot, you know. There’s just some artists that are just a little bit more inventive or a little bit more expressive when it comes to emotions outside of just that. Some of it’s conscience, some of it’s not. Some are just funny. Some of it’s just fucking (laughs)… And some of it kinda hedonistic, you know. In its approach but, you know, it just, but it’s fun.
Chace Infinite (06:46):
So I wouldn’t say Everything that I was talking about or speaking “against” in that song. There’s not a real antithesis for it, right. Like, ’cause even amongst the conscience shit there’s a degree of, what you might consider ignorance, too, right (laughs) or fucking… I think it’s just really just about the balance. What I was talking about was us just getting carried away with one particular perspective.
David Hershkovits (07:15):
But, in the meantime, that kind of music went on to become huge, global-
Chace Infinite (07:21):
David Hershkovits (07:21):
… incredible, money making machine-
Chace Infinite (07:25):
David Hershkovits (07:25):
… that created opportunities for so many people, including yourself, today-
Chace Infinite (07:30):
David Hershkovits (07:30):
… to do a lot more than maybe was possible or even dreamed of-
Chace Infinite (07:35):
David Hershkovits (07:35):
… when you started out.
Chace Infinite (07:37):
Yeah. I think that was part of it, right. At Self Scientific, we always knew that there probably wasn’t a really big market for us to make a lot of money unless we were touring, overseas and shit like that. We had some success doing that, but, overall, artists that make the type of music that Self Scientific made, or nearly weren’t huge artists, but coincidentally, you know, like you said, because the genre became so big and made so much money, there’s an opportunity for an artist like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, people that are probably closer to Self Scientific than they are to, like, you know, whatever you coulda, whatever I was speaking about, against at the time. (laughs) Even Drake, right. People give Drake a hard time, but, man, Drake is, in terms of the chances that he takes and the sounds that he brings to the table and, you know, being heavily influenced at one point of his career by Little Brother, and JDilla That shit comes through, right.
Chace Infinite (08:33):
So, there’s a redeeming quality or value for him to, even though he’s such a big artist, artists that usually get that big, you don’t really give them the credit of being an innovator, or, conscience in that way, but if you think about it, he really is, right. But, and that’s the thing that makes him special. Is, is in the pop arena he can express a degree of underground innovation that Self Scientific or fucking Slum Village or whoever might have.
Chace Infinite (09:00):
So, to your point, I think guys making such a business out of hip hop at the time when I was talking some of that shit (laughs), it enabled people like JCole Kendrick Lamar, Drake, whoever to have a real commercial stance or, ability to be a commercial artist ’cause, I mean, if he was 19, as funny as it sounds, you put Drake in the era that I came up in, you know, he probably would be an underground M.C.
David Hershkovits (09:30):
Chace Infinite (09:31):
David Hershkovits (09:31):
Yeah. I think you’re right in terms of what breaks through in a real big way outside of certain circles where a song could be really big and successful and an artist can do very well, but-
Chace Infinite (09:45):
David Hershkovits (09:45):
… you know, the three people you mentioned there, obviously, J. Cole, Kendrick and Drake many other rappers-
Chace Infinite (09:54):
And they’re all-
David Hershkovits (09:55):
… who are also successful.
Chace Infinite (09:56):
And they’re all pretty categorically conscious rappers. If you’re judging by the standards of the era that I came up in, all of those guys would be categorically unique.
David Hershkovits (10:05):
(laughs) Yeah. ‘Cause that’s actually maybe a swing right now to more cultural or content-oriented, in the industry. Possibly because of the times we’re in.
Chace Infinite (10:18):
I don’t think consumers got off of it. All right. You didn’t have a real big commercial or… And the labels didn’t find it fruitful to invest money in those particular types of Black people or music, to be honest with you. Really, what I was talking about was a prison industrial complex, you know, doing Return.
Chace Infinite (10:43):
The larger context of that… Um, I think the same year I wrote Return I did a song called the Prison Industrial Complex. ‘Cause I worked at Warner-Elektra-Atlantic, when Ice-T was going through the whole cop killer shit. And I remember seeing Dolores Tucker and how she’d burn all the C.D.s and shit like that. And people who know the ramifications of that shit, like, long-lasting, right. When you set up those types of attitude in government towards music and shit like that, it extends itself.
Chace Infinite (11:18):
At the same time, you know, it kinda builds the prison industrial complex. And, the themes that were popular in hip hop music were the six to eight themes that were also responsible for ushering young Black men into this newly erected prison industrial complex. So, it was less about the nuances of music, right, more about, the social political climate. Bottom line is, man, listen, if you tell me I can make a rap song about killing people and make a million dollars or go out and become a drug dealer, make a million dollars, and, maybe… Like, I’m gonna make a rap song about it, right. If I really want to have it, so, it became enticing for people to represent certain things. You know, it made some people rich, but it also succeeded in putting a lot of brothers in jail and shit like that. I’m talking more about, what’s happening in the world. And coincidentally, you know, it’s part of the reason why the music continued, that particular style of hip hop continued to be really, really popular, you know? It generated a lot of money, for the wrong and the right reasons.
David Hershkovits (12:29):
And so, when you decided that you were going to give up your being a rapper at that time, did you move immediately to New York? I’m very curious about your whole movement to New York-
Chace Infinite (12:43):
David Hershkovits (12:43):
… and where you ended up, (laughs) at the Lower East Side,
I’ve lived in New York three different times, for a total of maybe 12 years. I lived in Brooklyn primarily 751 Saint Marks actually for a long time. I moved to New York because, you know, I’m from Los Angeles, born and raised, and I’ve been in fashion really, and loving New York, for a long, long time, it’s the mecca in terms of hip hop culture, so for me, it was always important to … And, and then my name, Chace Infinite comes from, you know, a lesson, uh, the Nation of Gods and Earths,
Chace Infinite (13:44):
I studied with the Nation of Gods and Earths and received a lot of influence from brothers that were from New York. So New York had a major influence on me just in general. I moved there, it was almost like a rite of passage for me. The first time, I was being managed by … a manager named Nefertiti, an artist named Nefertiti I used to help. We used to help each other. She managed Self Scientific for a while. And I moved there, for like spring break. I was in college, I was selling weed, and I would go bath and forth, in a A3 Capri classic.
David Hershkovits (14:24):
(laughs). I see you were bringing weed from California to New York?
Chace Infinite (14:28):
Yeah, I was buying weed in California, and me and my friends head to Atlanta and we drive back and forth from New York to Atlanta. So I ended up staying in New York the first time I moved there. Adelphi between Park and Myrtle in Brooklyn with Nefertiti and with my good friend, Alyssa. And then, we came and lived in New York at that time for LA underground. Dude, it was like a- another level of I don’t know, intelligence or something, right? People looked at you totally different if you spend a lot of time in New York because people just want to spend a lot of time moving back and forth. So-
David Hershkovits (15:06):
Right. And there was a beef also, right? Between New York [crosstalk 00:15:10]
Chace Infinite (15:09):
David Hershkovits (15:09):
… and- and LA-
Chace Infinite (15:11):
No, no, no.
David Hershkovits (15:11):
… at the time.
Chace Infinite (15:12):
I was never involved in none of this shit. Like I didn’t have- it was never no, you know, I’ve known … And just fast forward, and this is like ’90s and shit. I’ve known a guy from Wu-Tang because of cousin, Biggie B since they first came to LA. And I was with those guys when it came out here, you know, a lot. And they never got caught up in none of this. You never heard Wu Tang being mentioned in none of this East Coat, West Coast shit because they had a network.
Chace Infinite (15:39):
Like you know what I mean? (laughs) So I didn’t really see a lot of this shit. Like I said, a lot of that was between two rival factions, and even that was kind of promoted. Looking back on that shit, you see how much of that shit was actually accelerated by the media and other forces. It wasn’t like, you know … At the time, I went to every Jack The Rapper, every How Can I Be Down every urban network, you know, so I’ve seen all the fights, all the fights, all the-
David Hershkovits (16:02):
But the- Yeah, right. There are fights all the time, right? And people got killed [crosstalk 00:16:04]
Chace Infinite (16:05):
Not even all the time, not even all the time. Like the times that it happened versus the times that it didn’t happen is kind of ridiculous. It’s really exaggerated, but it also fished a narrative that, Cowboys and Indians and the whole shit, it makes all this shit very sellable and it ma- created an incredible industry at the expense of people’s lives and blood, sweat and tears. But I never was a victim in this shit, you know. [inaudible 00:16:30] was like, “Oh, are you from the West Coast?” Like, none of that shit.
Chace Infinite (16:32):
It’s just that, travel had become as prevalent for people in a certain age group, like you know what I mean? Like I remember like in the ’90s and shit. Like I used to take first class flights and shit all the time and going, you know, it was a- a older white dude that had money. Or a drug dealer or some shit. It wasn’t that many people between 18 and 25. I think the amount of travel for people between 18 and 25 is probably an all time high, right? Or had been before COVID.
I didn’t know that many people. Uh, I had a handful of friends, those guys that were constantly overseas. Like it wasn’t like we were constantly going to New York. And the people that did, it was something different about them. It gave them an added advantage. So I think, to answer your question, I think it’s why I start going to New York. I feel like it gave me an advantage creatively, like having to network out there instead of having the, you know, people’s second hand … or learned about these, developments, and subcultures and shit like that second hand. Lik I just was there. Like you know what I mean?
David Hershkovits (17:35):
And how did you end up on the lower East Side running the store, Prohibit-
Chace Infinite (17:40):
So 2006, I was living here in Los Angeles and I needed to do some work. I needed some work. I just broke up with the mother of my child and I needed some money. So a good friend of mine, Daymon Green, who owns a company called Community 54, he used to be in Toronto, it used to be called Lounge. You know what I’m saying? In Toronto I met Daymon when I was working with Choclair. And when I worked for Priority Records from ’96 to like 2001, some shit like that, something like that. I don’t know, 2002, something like that.
I did all the marketing for Choclair’s album. And then Daymon, on Lounge, he knew everybody in the fucking city. Daymon did sales for Red Monkey, uh, Prohibit NYC. He did sales for a lot of brands he was a salesperson and he owned a retail shop. Daymon actually plugged me with Maki Nakaguchi, who is the owner of Prohibit and owned the license for Red Monkey, Prohibit NYC and some other brand. So at the time, it was a guy named Steve Schneider who was a garmento from, uh, New York. Daymon hooked me up with Steve Schneider.
Chace Infinite (19:10):
Daymon told me I should come down to Los Vegas and, uh, work the booth, with Magic for Prohibit. I was going anyway, I need the money so I was like, “Man, why not? You know. I’m sitting here, doing writing for fucking AO- At the time, I was writing for AOL, Complex sneaker section and, doing a bunch of writing, on sneakers and shit like that because I was really into sneakers.
Chace Infinite (19:34):
And, Daymon hooked me up with Steve. I went down there and became a part of their team for four days, did really, really well because I knew so many people and it was like probably my 13th year going to Magic and I knew so many people down there. Maki and I became really cool. And I became really cool with a guy named Shin Nikshigaki sp?] who worked for the brand, Prohibit. Fast forward, I stayed in contact with them, we continued to do sales on the West Coast for Red Monkey, for Prohibit.
Chace Infinite (20:09):
And then, Maki had opportunity, she was in New York- she was in Japan and wanted to start Prohibit again, where she wanted to call it Prohibit NYC, she wanted to do it in the lower East Side again because they start the store from 2001 to 2005 and then went back to Japan. So I was living in LA, she told me that she would pay me, and me come out there and we could, you know, run the store and partner for this me and Shin who I met previously to get to kind of run the store. It was supposed to be a six month thing. After six months, she lost some of the distribution in New York. We had the name for Prohibit NYC, me and my partnership. And then we just continued making this shit. We ended up having it for seven years. And running Prohibit NYC as our company and our store for about seven years.
Chace Infinite (20:59):
Right there on the Lower East Side, 152 Allen St, right next door to Reed Space? Space. And during that time is when I met Rocky, and all those guys, and Mac Miller and Danny Brown, Action Bronson, fucking all the guys in the street. I sold weed sometimes. And if people would come to the shop in between meetings and shit like that because you know in New York, if you live in Queens, or Brooklyn or Bronx and you got meetings in Manhattan all fucking day and you don’t live in Manhattan, it’s like what do you do between 12:00 and 4:00? You walk around, you go find a coffee shop, you go to your friend’s house, you fucking hang out in a corner trying to smoke a cigarette or some shit. So my place was like … In between all those meetings and shit, you go downstairs, into the back, and you smoke your shit, whatever the hell. You invite your friends over there so that- my place became a central meeting point for a lot of people in that community.
David Hershkovits (21:55):
Yeah, I wish I had made it myself, man. It sounds cool. There, you met ASAP Rocky and that became a big part of your life-
Chace Infinite (22:03):
David Hershkovits (22:04):
… from there.
Chace Infinite (22:06):
Rocky, all the ASAP guys there. Like I said, I met everybody on the Lower East Side. They are regulars in the Lower East side. They even go to all the stores, hang out.So I really know Mega and Arthur, and Alfred, the guys who start, um, Black Scale, might been knowing him since the brand started. Actually, I knew Mega when he still worked for HUF.
David Hershkovits (22:27):
Chace Infinite (22:27):
So I knew Mega a long time before he started his own brand, all that stuff. Rocky and those guys would go by there all the time. And I know Surr at the time. So, um, their brand opened in the same store that Russ from SSUR
David Hershkovits (22:46):
Who I know very well, from those days.
Chace Infinite (22:49):
That’s my very good friend. [crosstalk 00:22:51]
David Hershkovits (22:50):
I love him, yeah. He’s a brilliant designer also.
Chace Infinite (22:53):
Good guy, man. So Black Scale was sharing Ssur space. And I knew Ssur and fucking, you know, Mega for a while. So I was like, “Okay, these guys are hanging out with all these old mother fuckers.” You know, so just mutual friends and they saw that, you know, I kind of was, you know, a person that was, a fixture in this community, from the West Coast at least, already. These are people I’ve known … At that point, I had already known six, seven, eight, I don’t know, years already when- when I first started with [inaudible 00:23:23] Rocky. So him being kind of into all those brands and shit, it just- it- it just helped, you know.
Chace Infinite (23:28):
All those guys, you know, it was a huge time for New York hip hop. Like I said, Action Bronson, Mac Miller, Rocky, Danny Brown, all the guys from the Tam[?] Boys. Kendrick shot his, you know, Rigamortis video and fully clothed by Prohibit right in front of my shop. Fucking, so many things, you know what I mean? Like that whole era was being cultivated in Lower East Side and because I had a store there, I had a chance to, deal with everybody.
David Hershkovits (23:57):
That’s New York. That’s why you went to New York in the in the first place, right?
Chace Infinite (24:01):
Yeah, yeah. That’s part of it. For New York to be honest with you, my thing was more of a um, I needed to get away. When I moved back to New York, with Mikey and those guys, I didn’t necessarily need the money at the time, I wanted to dedicate myself a little bit more to Islam, and I knew that what I was going through here in Los Angeles, I just probably didn’t have the capacity to do that. So I moved. I went away. (laughs) It was kind of an exodus for me.
David Hershkovits (24:29):
When you hooked up with the ASAP crew, weren’t they ambitions to be something more than a collective of rappers a more of a community approach to what they were doing.
Chace Infinite (24:45):
Yeah, they definitely had, and Yams had a real vision for them, and he had a desire for those guys to be more than just rappers. And they were, already. There were several people in the crew that were already designers, painters, and these guys were doing all types- anything creative. I tell people all the time, all I really did, with ASAP, the whole crew, was really just take their ideas and help them bring them to fruition, or amplify ’em, you know. There are instances with things that I did, creatively, that I brought to the table, that were my ideas, but make no mistake, all those guys are real visionaries, in terms of what they want to do.
Chace Infinite (25:28):
It’s just, what happens is that, sometimes I know the people to make the shit happen, so …
David Hershkovits (25:31):
(laughs) Sometimes, that’s really the hardest thing to do is find someone you trust, and can work with. [crosstalk 00:25:40].
Chace Infinite (25:40):
More than anything, I think- more than anything, I think that’s what they would say, all right? Like, they’re just trusting me, ’cause I don’t- even now, I don’t overextend my hand, or try to ask for money when I don’t feel like I n- need some, or … I don’t know. Try to keep it close, man, try- yo, try to keep the integrity in this motherfucker.
David Hershkovits (25:57):
Yeah, so yeah, I want to talk a little bit about community, this idea of the collective, you’re working with Griselda, now, that has that kind of element, involved, and also with your coffee shop Harun, Uh, community based project there, as well. So, I happen to be reading this new book by Rob Kenner-
Chace Infinite (26:28):
David Hershkovits (26:28):
… it’s called The Marathon, Don’t Stop. It’s about Nipsey Hustle, a biography. And, a big part of it is this idea of community and reinventing capitalism for the community, using capitalism for the good of the people, and thinking about Nipsey’s way, versus let’s say, Jay-Z’s way, Jay-Z uses capitalism top down. He’s making deals with the big players on the top.
David Hershkovits (27:02):
Nipsey was going, bottom up, trying to work within community-
Chace Infinite (27:07):
David Hershkovits (27:09):
I feel you’re more in that vein, with Nipsey.
Chace Infinite (27:13):
I’m be honest with you, both those brothers, I’m extremely influenced and have a lot of respect for both of those brothers. Nipsey is somebody that, you know, we had a chance to- and definitely had a rapport before he passed, and had mutual respect, and I definitely watched a lot of what Nipsey did, his fearlessness, his vision, his foresight, his branding, and Marathon, things that I’ve definitely tried to mirror with Harun. And I talked to him about that, directly.
Chace Infinite (27:40):
He’s part of the reason, him and Ras G, both who are rest in peace, and that was part of the reason I’m here. I had a store that was on Beverley. And I was living in the Valley at the time. When I first moved back from New York, I moved to the Valley, I had a girl that was pregnant and I wanted to be, out, away, shit like that. But something kept calling me to come back to Leimert Park, and come back to the area that was so deeply rooted in African identity, and I think part of that is me living in Brooklyn for seven, eight years.
Chace Infinite (28:16):
Being able to go and see so many indigenous cultures being adhered to, or paid attention to on a daily basis, on Nostrand, on Fulton, we never get away from the Caribbean, or African influence, in Brooklyn. All right? I was really fortunate, as somebody that did grow up with that, you know what I mean? So, Leimert Park, if you’ve been here, is somewhat like, Clinton Hills, Fort Greene, before it went through this extreme gentrification, it’s that same energy.
Chace Infinite (28:46):
It’s a walkable neighborhood. People know each other. Everybody says, “Peace brother,” when you walk around, so … I just feel like what I was built with Harun, and I’ve always wanted to start a coffee shop, you know. ‘Cause I always said, even at Prohibit, we’re selling these $500 jeans, $600 shirts, and shit like that. But if we could just sell a cup of coffee everyday, we wouldn’t have rent. Because some days, people don’t want to come in and spend $1200 on clothes. People just want to spend $20 eating, or hanging out.
Chace Infinite (29:13):
So, on some of those zero days might have been three, 400, if we just had the ability to sell somebody something besides a fucking jeans or something. So, when I came back to the- to the community, it was really inspired partly by Nipsey, and then Ras G, you know, seeing what Nipsey had been able to do in his community, and him having so many more obstacles than I will ever have. You know, him opening a business in his neighborhood was a feat that you can’t really put words on, right?
Chace Infinite (29:48):
Him being who he is, from his particular neighborhood, and then doing that for so long, is an extreme example of love, and selflessness, right? Because anybody, and I’m sure everybody around him told him over and over again, “Don’t do that.” (laughs) You know what I mean? But regardless, he made a real example for all of us. Like, you can, convert some of that quote unquote, you know, desperation that’s in our communities, into real hope, and- and- and something else.
Chace Infinite (30:16):
So he was definitely an inspiration. And him and Ras G, I mean, when I was at Ackee Bamboo, which is the Jamaican spot down the street here, on Degnan, and I saw Ras G one day, and my shop was still on Beverley, near the Grove, out here in Los Angeles. I saw Ras G one day, and he just basically told me, “Bro, we really need that in the neighborhood. I see you doing all the dashikis and shit like that, but we need that right here.”
Chace Infinite (30:40):
And he kind of tugged my chain, you know, so what was the purpose? Am I satisfied selling cultural wares to people who find it fascinating, but maybe don’t really appreciate it, or do I want to reinforce something in my community? What’s it really about? You know, ’cause I could sell $200 dashikis to white people, all day. Right? But does that really do anything for my brand- does it accomplish anything for me, and my legacy? Not really, so, he tugged my chain, and I was like, “Man, you know what? I told my partner, immediately then, I was like, we should move the shop to the Leimert. The spots are cheaper, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. All this stuff. And we got a chance to really build something I came here, really as a result of that, you know?
Chace Infinite (31:27):
Of seeing Nip, and I bought a house, about 200 yards from the shop, and saw the example that Nip and Ras G, you know, constantly thinking about that, and I was like, you know what? It propelled me to do it. Um, kind of with that in mind. And I told Nip that, before he passed, I had the opportunity to really tell him that, like, “Bro, you know, this shit is really, really inspired by what you’re doing up there. I figure if you can do that shit, then I could try and figure this shit out.”
David Hershkovits (31:55):
Because you know how it is, in small neighborhoods, people tend to leave, get the big house in LA, in the hills, or wherever. [crosstalk 00:32:14]. Calabasas, or …
Chace Infinite (32:14):
I did that shit, too.
David Hershkovits (32:16):
Chace Infinite (32:18):
I’m 47, right? I did that shit too, but I came to a realization, in regards to after it’s all said and done, you know?
David Hershkovits (32:30):
Because in terms of, conversation going on, about Black owned businesses being the next step, and having leadership roles in the companies. Ownership being a big conversation, right now. And this seems to be a way of approaching that-
Chace Infinite (32:56):
Sure, as a person, or as an artist, that’s been our MO for a long time. Ownership, and trying to interject yourself as a real owner, in regards to, the money, and not just the influence, right? We got no problem with the influence, or being compensated for the influence. But the ownership has always been a issue with us, so yeah, um … that’s kind of Self Scientific been about doing for self, and running off the Marcus Garvey model, for a long, long time. I mean, that’s pretty much our MO, as artists.
Chace Infinite (33:32):
As a creative even, I try to consult, or steer the clients that I work with in a direction that would maintain their ownership even if you have to partner for a short period of time, but then maintain your ownership in the long run. I try to help them create strategies that’ll keep the ownership, because that’s just important man, and it’s become popular nowadays to talk about it, right, but you know … we honestly been talking about this shit for 30 years.
David Hershkovits (34:02):
Chace Infinite (34:02):
Like, for real.
David Hershkovits (34:05):
A lot of these things people are talking about now, it’s not new, necessarily, but it’s just elevated it to a little higher level of the conversation, at this point.
Chace Infinite (34:16):
David Hershkovits (34:16):
It’s great to have what you’re doing, as an example, to imagine a future where, let’s say your group, Griselda, in Buffalo, it sounds like they’re doing something of that nature, as well, too, They want to be in Buffalo, that’s the spot, that’s where their home is.
Chace Infinite (34:38):
And they’re definitely reinvesting in their community. Conway does a lot of work out there, Westside Gunn just opened a Buffalo located store, and he hired guys from- and- and women, I mean, guys from Buffalo, for his family, to work the store. It’s mostly Buffalo local artists that he’s promoting inside the store, whether it be a visual artist, or Libby’s Lemonade, which is a young girl from Buffalo that has a lemonade company, that Westside Gunn has basically made it his responsibility to help blow up around the world.
Chace Infinite (35:10):
So, I think in some way, we all inspire each other, right? Nipsey inspires The Chase, The Chase inspires another coffee shop, you know what I’m saying? Another coffee shop inspires all these people doing businesses and being innovators in their area, or people that are passionate. You don’t even gotta be innovators, just passionate about what you do. That inspires other people, like, “You know what? I’m gonna spend this 10,000 I got on opening my business.” My whole thing with Harun, is authentic articles of culture, right? All that means is popularizing things that have real context to ’em. So often we popularize things that don’t have a lot of context, or have no redeeming value. Like, right now, the things that are being popularized are ownership of land, ownership of corporation, starting a business, and how well can you brand your business. These are the things that you can take and get you looked at by a girl nowadays.
David Hershkovits (36:12):
Chace Infinite (36:12):
Like you know, get me? And it-
David Hershkovits (36:12):
Chace Infinite (36:12):
David Hershkovits (36:12):
Chace Infinite (36:12):
You know what I’m saying? And like that’s hot for a girl, and it has to get to that base level before it actually becomes, that’s my theory, that … before it starts to actually change, right? I read a lot of books and shit, you know, I was 13, 14, because I felt like I could get a cute, curly-haired girl that looked like she was in a De La Soul video because of it. You know, I was like, “Man, fuck. If I know some stuff about this or something-
David Hershkovits (36:33):
Chace Infinite (36:36):
… like conversations will be different.” Like, it could be … At the time it was popular. Everybody was listening to the Jungle Brothers and dancing and shit like that, so it made sense for us to try to get into this game because it gave us value socially. And that’s what we talk about all the time, what are the things that give you value socially?
Chace Infinite (36:52):
And so, the lowest common denominator, so low vibration, a lot of the time. And when somebody does give you a- an- uh, a counter to that, like a J Cole or Kendrick, you’re was like, “Oh, fuck. You guys are amazing,” because everything else was just so surface and so like, you know what I mean? I’m not, I’m not saying all the artists, but I’m saying just in general. You know what I mean?
David Hershkovits (37:13):
Chace Infinite (37:14):
Everything’s so surface. People don’t feel shit.
David Hershkovits (37:17):
So how do you feel about cannabis today? Would you include that in your, coffee shop?
Chace Infinite (37:23):
Yeah, I would. I would include cannabis if I could find a way to incorporate it without … Here’s my thing, right? If I could find a way to do it and not have the children in close contact with it all the time, yeah. I have such a family-oriented business-
I would need to create something special or have a bigger space for them in general, right? Like people come and bring their kids here and get vegan and gluten-free donuts and smoothies and you sit outside, and there are people sometimes, of course, they smoke. It’s California. They smoke outside, but it’s outside, you know, and they kinda keep it, pointed off. You know what I mean?
David Hershkovits (38:00):
So do you lend your expertise to people in that industry
Chace Infinite (38:06):
I work with, Viola has a brand, Al Harrington, with his company. I’ve worked with a couple of cannabis brands in the past, that’s part of what our agency said we needed because we’re at Agency78 such cannabis enthusiasts ourselves. We wanna, you know, define advertising, marketing in a cannabis space, because a lot of people spend a lot of money doing it, but I don’t think anybody’s really … you know? And it’s different for every brand, right? We’re just figuring out how to create content that’s compelling for a cannabis brand without breaking any advertising policy rules.
David Hershkovits (38:42):
Yeah, it’s hard. That’s how I would-
Chace Infinite (38:43):
David Hershkovits (38:44):
Chace Infinite (38:44):
You know? And, uh, and, and, and just, you know, extended summership that we did when the music industry moved to this space,
David Hershkovits (39:17):
You mentioned Africa as an area of, of interest for you. Have you traveled there as well?
Chace Infinite (39:29):
I have. I haven’t been to every portion of Africa that I wanna go to, but I have definitely been to Africa. I sourced some of the fabrics and stuff that we have from people that are still, contacts that I have that are in different parts of the continent. Uh-
David Hershkovits (39:44):
Have you been to Lagos?
Chace Infinite (39:48):
I haven’t, haven’t been to Lagos. I haven’t been to Nigeria yet. I have not been to Nigeria yet. I was supposed to go two years ago. It just didn’t happen. The government kinda held our passports for eight days, and we didn’t end up going, but I have a plan. Hopefully next year, Or, if, travel opens up there this year to go to Lagos.
David Hershkovits (40:09):
It seems like there’s a strong scene there. I had, a show with the Motherlan Collective.
Chace Infinite (40:16):
David Hershkovits (40:16):
Do you follow them at all?
Chace Infinite (40:18):
David Hershkovits (40:19):
Yeah, they’re very interesting guys. Really great, great conversation.
Chace Infinite (40:23):
David Hershkovits (40:23):
And it just gave me the feeling that there was so much going on. I mean, even now, you know, the opportunities that are opening up for people here that were never available before-
Chace Infinite (40:33):
David Hershkovits (40:33):
… because of the closed door, glass ceilings, and those-
Chace Infinite (40:37):
David Hershkovits (40:37):
… kinda things. Uh, just imagine what’s out there in Africa, the talent that, needs to be exposed
David Hershkovits (40:45):
The problem is that, a lot of them, like in Lagos, for example, they’ll wind up going to London, they have this community of successful creatives, they leave the country.
Chace Infinite (41:15):
Yeah. I think, there’s artists that are changing that, too. I think everybody’s kinda getting a little more localized, man. People will probably say that about Burna, but he also spends a lot of time in Nigeria and you see the difference. I think people actually see your home base and where you’re from, having that really secure is only gonna up your value around the rest of the world.
Chace Infinite (41:37):
So even for a brother like him who’s an international star at this point, he spent probably a lot more time in Nigeria the last two years because of some of what you’re saying, right? You get bigger when you’re localized, and particularly, if you have any potential to be an international artist, like it’s … only makes you stronger. Particularly, if you’re from an international city. Lagos has 29 million people, you know?
David Hershkovits (42:04):
I know. That’s crazy, right?
Chace Infinite (42:05):
60% under the age of 40, so a lot of youthful energy, lot of opinions. (laughs)
David Hershkovits (42:15):
I see on, your Instagram today that there were a lot of, postings about the project that you’re doing over at the café, with colleges,
Chace Infinite (42:28):
Yeah, African American college Association. My boy, Chris Lattimer, who owns the mark for the AACA, they were popular during the late ’80s early ’90s, Cosby Show and all that shit. Used to go see people, wearing Grambling State University shirts and stuff like this, so he’s owned that mark for a while. He’s never really stopped, but with the resurgence and, you know, everybody being woke and having these (laughs), uh-
David Hershkovits (42:54):
Historical Black College.
Chace Infinite (42:56):
(laughs) Historical Black Colleges and stuff.
David Hershkovits (42:56):
And Grammy stars.
Chace Infinite (43:00):
Exactly. So now, there’s an opportunity for him. He’s kinda been doing the same thing for a while. So, we decided … He decided, actually, that he wanted to do a pop-up out here, and of course my spot is a perfect place for it because of the strong African identity and community. So we’re just gonna come together for three days. Sell some, sell some wares. (laughs)
David Hershkovits (43:20):
And you think people are interested in that?
Chace Infinite (43:23):
I think so. I think so. It’s, you know, it’s weird, because it’s hard for people sometimes to represent a college they didn’t go to. I went to Morris Brown, so I probably wouldn’t wear Grambling State.
David Hershkovits (43:32):
Chace Infinite (43:32):
David Hershkovits (43:33):
You just wear your Harvard shirt, right?
Chace Infinite (43:35):
Uh, yeah. And I didn’t go to Harvard.
David Hershkovits (43:35):
Chace Infinite (43:35):
I didn’t go to Harvard either, so it’s-
David Hershkovits (43:35):
Chace Infinite (43:35):
… hard for me to wear that shit too. I don’t know if I’m gonna do that either. Like a Princeton shirt. I didn’t go there. I went to Morris Brown. I mean, I’m wearing a Morris Brown college sweatshirt, but, I think there’s a market. That’s what we talked about earlier, you know. That’s a part of the culture that has an emotional connection to a consumer that’s past the age of 35 because the design still looks cool and sweatshirts are popular, there’s a way to modernize that emotional connection, so that’s what you get. (laughs)
David Hershkovits (44:07):
We’ll finish up in minute here. I just wanted to see how you feel about this combination. Music, management, and branding company
Chace Infinite (44:23):
It’s all the same shit to me.
David Hershkovits (44:24):
It’s all one for you?
Chace Infinite (44:25):
It’s all one for me. It all falls into the same expression, you know? I don’t have a partner on the management side or Roc Nation becomes a Westside Gunn and Benny in that song, we have a partner, but, strategically, He’ll come up with creative concepts and move the needle on the business side in order to bring larger situations and amplify what these guys are doing already.
Chace Infinite (44:53):
And that’s the same thing I do with Harum, or, you know. It’s, it’s the same mindset, in a different medium with a different product, but it’s the same mindset. Same mindset. I won’t even do anything unless it kinda lines up. That’s why I only work with a certain type of artist. It has to fit in some way. It’s gotta fit in my DNA, ’cause I can’t do anything outside of myself. It’s hard. (laughs) You know what I mean?
David Hershkovits (45:16):
Well, that’s good.
Chace Infinite (45:16):
‘Cause, I’m a creative executive, not a mechanical executive.
David Hershkovits (45:22):
Exactly. And, and it’s worked out pretty well, I’d say. Thank you very much, Chace Infinite.
Chace Infinite (45:27):
So far. You know what I’m saying? I wanna give a shout out to Burb, man. I appreciate you, brother. Uh, shout Burb. Uh, you know? Good people that like podcasts. I appreciate you, brother, for even reaching out to me. I know it took a minute, but I don’t do this shit that often. (laughs)
David Hershkovits (45:42):
Appreciate, appreciate you sitting with me. Really enjoyed our talk.
Chace Infinite (45:45):
Thank you, bro. I’m gonna tell Russ I met you, too.
David Hershkovits (45:47):
All right. Yeah, say hi for me. I miss him.
Chace Infinite (45:50):
David Hershkovits (45:51):
Chace Infinite (45:52):