In what appears to have been a wave of talented, multi-faceted, Hip Hop artists, Chynna Rogers—better known simply by her first name—has emerged and effortlessly established herself as one of the genre’s most promising newcomers. The Philadelphia-native started surrounding herself with music about and around the same time she started modeling at age 14. Following her teaming up with the world-renowned A$AP Mob and successfully overcoming a serious opiate addiction, Chynna is more than ready to manifest a position within the ranks of fellow Rap-experimentalists and beyond.
After a string of SoundCloud stints, the 23-year released her official debut EP (Glen Coco) back in 2014 and has been expanding her catalogue of dark and moody, Trap-infused Hip Hop gems ever since. Prior to her performance at Berlin’s St Georg, we had Chynna share her thoughts on Europe, Alfred Hitchcock, and the fear of being vulnerable.
So, what have you been up to recently?
Before arriving in Berlin, I caught food poisoning in North France. Trying to be vegetarian didn’t quite work out as planned. But I need to stay positive and active because I feel like I’m slowly getting to the point of exhaustion from all of the touring. I’ve been playing shows every day, so I’m gonna need a good day-break in between.
How long have you been travelling through Europe?
I came on March 1st and been on the road ever since, performing about 12 consecutive shows.
That’s a lot. So, what do you like to do when you’re not performing?
Exploring wherever I am. Up until now I’ve only performed in places I haven’t been to prior. So, if I have the time, I like to have a look around, outside of the concert venue. I barely have the chance to take it all in, with this tour I’m really trying to get to know my surroundings a little better.
When’s the last time you’ve been to Europe?
2 years I think. I came for London and Paris only, the former of which I don’t even think counts, it doesn’t even really feel like being in Europe at all.
Why is that? What makes you feel like London isn’t really part of Europe?
The English. I kind of feel like the British are very unique, maybe because they live on an Island off of the mainland of Europe. Also, the insane amount of different cultures here. It’s amazing but at the same time it becomes easier to forget where you are. Here in Germany, for instance, I feel like I’m in Germany, just as I did in Finland or Poland. But all in all, that’s the best part I guess, the mix of everything and the many different languages.
You used to live in London for a while, right?
A few times, actually. As long as my passport would let me. So, about three months at a time, recording in djing. I really enjoyed it, maybe because it reminded me a lot of America in many ways and thus seemed easier to adjust to. Not a fan of English cuisine though. The other nations’ food was great, though, especially Asian.
Whilst on tour, do you find time to write new songs or are you focusing more on the tour itself and the stress it may entail?
Absolutely. I get a lot of inspiration from touring, so, yes, I do write a lot. Recording becomes an issue, though, when on the road, because I can’t achieve that state of mind. When travelling I can only think about the next thing, one step at a time. But I’ve been writing a lot, so, I’ll probably have a bunch of new material once I get home.
I also read that you tend to publish new music around your birthday…
It seems so, yeah. It‘s like wrapping up a new year of life and, like, “here’s a new project”. But yeah, that was the case with the last three projects, but mainly by coincidence. But I might end up doing the same thing this year.
How has your year been so far?
So far, this year has been pretty good. I was spending most of my time trying to prepare for this tour, but it is really hard to prepare for a European tour, there is not really much you can do. I try to be healthy and try my best at maintain relationships that mean the most to me. That‘s been my focus this year. Making appointments to call my friends that I haven‘t seen in a while or just checking in on people because I know how good that feels for me right now – if I can‘t respond, to know that she tried.
It can be so hard to stay in touch with your loved ones.
It’s because the internet makes you feel like you see them. So when I’m on Instagram, I feel like I saw my friends even though I actually haven‘t seen them in a year. And now, in Berlin, I actually got together with my best friend from 8th grade yesterday. He’ll be at the show tonight and it‘s kind of cool because it reminds you of how small the world really is.
He was living in Munich, I think, and then happened to move here recently, so I was just, like, “Oh, I‘m coming to Berlin, come out“. So he ended up taking me to that Bar with the bunk beds and it’s so cool to see how people grow up and to see that they are not the same person that I was friends with a decade ago. It was a pleasant surprise.
Sometimes I feel like when you haven‘t seen friends for a while, but you are really close to them that it is a real struggle to call them up because you feel like like it’s been too long and you need to tell them so much and then you struggle to actually call them. Do you know what I mean?
I feel that way all the time. And also because of the internet, I feel like I know what people are up to and I know what everyone is doing and I only feel the urge to call when things have changed in your life – which is bad, but you kind of forget that everyone has their own life even after you haven‘t seen them anymore. When I come home, they ask me what I have been up to and I don‘t want to talk about me. Let‘s talk about something else. Everyone‘s having babies and everyone‘s getting married and I‘m like “oh, we‘re at that age already? Is it time?”
Can you imagine getting married?
Eventually. Like, not too soon. I don‘t think anyone is prepared or built to date me.
Why would you think that?
I am hard to deal with, I think. I have been told. That‘s what my reviews say.
Like, your ratings?
Yep, my yelp reviews. I mean I just like the kind of personalities that tend to be like me. And the kind of men that I end up being attracted to aren‘t always fond of their partner being as independent as them or having chosen a career path that is so male-dominated. They don‘t like me being around men all the time. Men are not as secure as they like to pretend to be and I couldn‘t imagine dating someone right now because they probably wouldn‘t be able to trust me. But that‘s fine.
What other things might come up in one of your reviews?
I‘d like to think that I am very caring to a point, but I don‘t react to emotion as much as I can react to logic. Like, if you can explain to me what‘s wrong, I am way more likely to be understanding than when I see you cryin and being upset. I won’t try to figure out what‘s wrong. And this seems very straightforward to me, but it is not always the most comforting or romantic way to act.
Is there a certain emotion that really frightens you?
The only thing that really frightens me when I think about love is the vulnerability. I don‘t like to give someone the opportunity to hurt me or to let anyone know enough to be able to. But that’s kind of what love is – you trust the other one not to do it, even though they could. And that‘s a lot of pressure to put on someone, and also a lot of pressure to take. And I can‘t promise that I won‘t hurt you. I know, it sucks, but I think that, occasionally or circumstantially, everyone needs to be able to be selfish.
What else would you say you’re afraid of? Besides vulnerability?
Rejection is up there. One of those two – I have a very sensitive ego and also a big ego and I don‘t like rejection. I feel like when I am putting myself out there I am confident that it is going to go my way. But at the same time, when I am scared to get rejected by you, it probably means that I like you, and I haven‘t felt that in a while. So, …
Looking back at your life, do you think that there is a certain day or a certain memory that you would like to relive? That you would like to feel again?
No, I am looking forward to new experiences. I feel like with memories, you take all the good parts and only remember the good part. But once we really look back and see that it might not have been all that great, it’s important to look forward to the future and I am trying to do that because I am at a different place in my life and I know a little more than I did then. And I need to apply all the shit that I have learned and move forward
Is there anything you would like to erase from your past?
I used to say yes. But—this might sound cliché—I think I needed everything to happen the way it did. I received my reality checks when I was supposed to. You can‘t outsmart the universe. We keep trying, but the universe has a great sense of humor. So I’m just, like, let‘s see what‘s next.
Would you say that you are spiritual? What do you believe in?
I practice Buddhism – I am not a perfect Buddhist by any means, and I still have a lot of unnecessary and superficial wants and desires, but I try my best. I try my best to be conscious of these things and to do better, but sometimes, doing better isn‘t the fun thing to do. So, I am just trying to take one day at a time – I’d like to think that I am getting better at embracing my spirituality.
I also saw that you own those energy-stones and -diamonds.
Oh yeah, my crystals. I need to put those back on. Sometimes, I think that maybe they aren‘t working or I am fooling myself – but whatever makes you sleep at night, right? Faith, that‘s what I would call faith. It just feels good to have them on and so far, I have done every show with at least two on me and I haven‘t had a bad show yet.
What kind of crystals are they?
Four out of the five that I brought with me are quartz, but different kinds and different colors. The only one that is not is my birth stone: the peridot. It‘s mine and my mom‘s birthstone, so I keep it close.
I find it interesting how our generation tries to cope with issues: Some go to therapy, some speak out on social media, and then there are those that try to figure it all out themselves. What do you think, which one are you?
The latter. I speak about it later. I mean, it was easier to be outspoken on the internet when I didn‘t have any followers because then I can retract my statements or post, like, a drunk tweet. But there are more politics involved now, which is why I try to be a bit more neutral on the internet. I usually have the unpopular opinion, so not everyone tends to agree, but I guess that’s when and why I use music. To get all my feelings out. I don‘t comment on my personal life too much anymore, I try to be safe with my words a little more.
Do you also react like this when you speak to your closest, to your dearest? Do you need the time to really focus on yourself and then be open? Or is it more like speaking to the public?
It‘s more like towards the public, because you can‘t please everyone. With my loved ones, I am a lot more candid. Sometimes, it comes out a little “too fast”, and I end up not considering everyone else‘s feelings. I always try and speak the truth, regardless. But if I’m not, if I‘m saying something I don’t mean, it‘s my face that usually gives away how I really feel. It sucks.
A phrase that you said in another interview was “Silence is so loud“. And it really touched me. Do you also think this is a reason for creating music? To cope with the silence around you?
Yeah because I‘m not normally too lengthy with my answers, not in an interview, but just in general. If it’s in regard to my emotions, I am pretty closed off and I won‘t talk that much and I have been in relationships when I would just sit there and be silent—and not a pleasant silence. It‘s not a calm one, it‘s like you can feel the tension in the room. The music helps with that, but I think I would do it anyway. It‘s just part of who I am and to a lot of people, it seems like a flaw, but I am over fixing my flaws if I don‘t see it to be a real problem. I don‘t think you have to always talk. Some people are scared of silence, I am not scared of it, I prefer it. But on the plane, when I don‘t have my headphones, the silence can get very loud, you‘re sitting in this engine and it gives you too much time to think sometimes. You just get way too deep in your head and you fall into it. That‘s the part that I don‘t like.
I can’t fall asleep in silence, I always need to watch a movie or TV. You, too?
I can‘t fall asleep with music on, but I can fall asleep with the TV on. And I also can‘t fall asleep if there is a light in the room. It‘s bad because some nights I am up until the sun’s back up and I know that I am not going to go to bed that day.
And when you dream, do you have any reoccurring dreams?
I used to. I used to have a lot of lucid dreams when I was a kid. I kind of just lost that over time. As of late, though, I don‘t remember the last time that I had a dream. I think that reality is enough for right now, so that when I go to sleep, I just black out. And then I wake up, like, “what time is it?“. But during my time in Europe, I hope that I am going to have a dream. I sometimes just dream of what I had been watching on TV, which is not always good because I watch murder shows or I have some crazy, movie-type dream. It‘s kind of cool, though. I just wish that I would wake up and write it down because the longer I try to remember, the farther away it seems.
But you‘re also a big fan of Hitchcock, right? When did that start?
When I was younger, we had a DVD, like a set of his movies. I think the first one I saw was “The Birds“. And it legitimately scared the shit out of me. I don‘t like birds because of this movie. I like him because I don‘t like bloody horror. I think that can get really tacky. And he could make movies that are scary and suspenseful without having to add any extra violence, which I find to be a skill. And he tells really good stories, so I try to emulate that the best way I can. Especially, in the visual aspect of making music. He‘s a very big influence.
In another interview, you also said that “Music to die to“ was not just another reference to Hitchcock, but also intended to make death a bit more relatable, to start a conversation.
I think that it would be naive to think that you and all your friends and loved ones are dying at the same time and every time someone passes, you are so shocked and we need to be able to cope and deal with it more. And the title can be taken a few different ways. I think it is a conversation that more people should have because it happens every day, thousands and millions of people die every day and it’s just a part of life.
I recently watched a movie by a director from Thailand and it was called “Die tomorrow”, and it was really touching because he showed the day before the death of the protagonists and it really took my fear away. I watched it and I was like “okay, it’s not that bad, I guess.” How would you imagine your last day or your last seconds? If you could choose how it should be?
I would just want to be doing something that I really enjoy doing. If I am not asleep, I would love to have eaten something that I really want to eat or just had an orgasm or anything like that. I am not too picky, I just don’t want to feel it too bad. I think one of my biggest fears is drowning. That‘s the scariest way to go, I’d say. I hate the ocean. Every time, I am on an airplane, I think about it crashing and that I don‘t want to die in the ocean. I’ve watched too many movies like Titanic or Ghost Ship or Poseidon and they just put me off. Cruise ships are not fun to me.
Can you remember the first time you took drugs?
The first time I took a drug was for cramps. I got bad period cramps and it was the first time that I ever had to take a pill. It was funny because it fucked me up so bad, my mom was like “you should never do hard drugs because you can’t handle it”. But I was like 12 or 13. For a lot of people, I think, it starts with being a medical necessity and then, you know, they’re just fun, and it is what it is. But the best drug is still weed, always has been. And the worst is alcohol.
In Berlin, drugs are so omnipresent and everybody is, like, “it’s nothing, it was a party, we took pills”, but I find it so weird. I was always, like, “let’s be careful with that”. Did you feel like taking drugs for your period, you took it more seriously? Or have you ever really question it at all?
In the moment, I think that I care too much. I don’t really have tips for taking drugs, but you need to trust your connection, you need to know how your drugs are supposed to feel. If you want to be doing anything, you need to know your limit. Unfortunately, some drugs, you don‘t know your limit until you cross it. But I think that it is all about moderation and being careful. Because when you tell people not to do any, it just makes people more interested in them. I think the best advice that you can give is to be careful and google every pill you take.
How did you come out of your phase? Was it just a moment when you were “oh my god, this needs to stop”?
It was through the help of my family. You just have to be ready, you can try to make people stop, but if they are not ready, all you‘re doing is depriving them of tolerance. I saw people go in, get clean, for the sole purpose of going out and being able to get fucked up faster and cheaper. So I just had to be ready and make that decision and I am very happy that I did because I feel good again. It feels good to just be regular, to just have one drink or so.
Was there ever a situation, in an interview or the like, when you were asked a misogynous question?
Not so much anymore. At first, yes – I think the worst question was what it is like to be a female rapper, like I would know anything else. I don’t know what is like to be a guy. But I think this is a really good time to be a female musician. There is like a lot of influx of female rappers, especially, so it’s good to see and I think we‘re receiving more respect in nowadays. It’s the best time I’d say to be a girl – out of all the times that there have been so far. It’s not perfect, but it’s not perfect to be a man either. So we’re just trying to do our best.
I think that it is interesting that you can really see how both gender, all genders have these identity crises at the moment and are trying to overcome it and are dealing with it through the art they practice. Also, seeing males and females, alike, breaking their respective stereotypes. That being said, I find it great to live in this day and age.
I think we were all brought up in ways in which we were taught how men are supposed to act, not showing emotion, not crying. And women were supposed to be more delicate and feminine. But I chose a job where female traits don’t really work that well. At the same time, overdoing it, trying to be too much of a guy is obvious, but I was always just like a natural tomboy, so it’s working out for me right now. It’s just a prime time for people like me or just for people who don’t really fit into either category because we’ve always existed, but you couldn’t always have express it or be yourself completely. So I am grateful that I can do that without having to put on a mask – I don’t even have a stage name. I am really happy to be here right now.
Have you ever struggled with your gender or wished to be a male rapper?
The only time that I want to be a guy is when I’m on my period. This is some bullshit, I am pregnant or I get my period, both kind of sucks right now. That’s the only time, but it’s like, just because I am a tomboy doesn’t mean that I don’t like being a woman. Women are better, you can quote that. We’re superior.
Don’t you find it scary to imagine having a human growing inside of your belly?
It’s terrifying. I just can’t imagine loving something that much. I am not ready to have a piece of me running around outside, always worrying what he is doing. Because you finally love something more than yourself. I’ve been in relationships when I thought I loved the person more than myself and that’s not healthy, but when it comes to your child… The closest I have had to that was my dog and that was too much, I was so stressed over what it was eating, what it was doing. So, I am not ready for a child and that kind of stress yet.
You started modelling when you were 14 and at the moment I like these Instagram accounts like “shitmodelmanagement” – especially in contrast to all fucked-up shit happening in the modelling industry. Did you also have experiences like that? Or do you think you were ready for this industry?
No, I wasn’t ready – I am thankful that I didn’t have too many bad experiences with anybody trying to take advantage of me. I am very thankful because so many people do. I was always lucky enough to be in good company or have a good team. But at 14, if you don’t use it as acting or some kind of performance art, it can really fuck you up as an adult. It’s so misogynous. It’s like a gay misogynous thing, which is kind of hard to maneuver through, especially as a teenager because you‘re still developing physically. And people are constantly picking you apart and either call you beautiful all the time or keep denying you every job and you start hating yourself. It’s all just a lot to take on as a teenager when everything feels so intense and with every situation, you feel like it is the biggest deal ever. So, I think people should focus on school, just finish the basics, not everyone needs to go to college, but just the basics of school. And I think above education, school is more for the social skills. You need to learn how to be around different kinds of people. And I think that when you’re going to an industry that young, it is not a good representation of what the world is really like. The world is not really like New York or any major fashion city. You just have to do the regular thing for a while and then go and experiment.
Yes, luckily, not everyone ends up in fashion.
Yes, I am glad that there are just regular people out there who hate their jobs and just want to drink a beer.
You get most of your information news from Twitter, right?
I have to. You can’t really trust the news.
Why don’t you trust the news or the media?
Everybody has their own agenda, it’s not “Fox Fake News”, even the liberal side can be kind of embarrassing because it’s already enough bad shit out there, you don’t have to overdo it. I remember when the news had like ten minutes when they talked about space and what Nasa is doing and there is like no segment for that anymore, it’s just straight shooting, murder, government, Russia – that’s it. But Twitter can also be dangerous because I know their algorithms are only adjusted to the people who kind of agree with you and these echo chambers and that’s not safe, but I try to fact check on Twitter. I type it in and when I see that enough other people said it, then we are on the same page.
Are you also interested in conspiracy theories?
Don’t even get me started, I love a good conspiracy theory. Even if I don’t agree, I just like seeing another points of view because nobody knows for sure. I don’t think we will ever know the truth about everything, it’s just good to have the conversation and hear other peoples’ opinions because you can get really stuck in what you believe, what you were taught and if someone you trust told it to you, you’re just going to go with it. And that’s not a safe way to live.
What’s your favourite conspiracy theory?
The earth being flat. I have to say that I don’t believe it but I enjoy people talking about it. That one or a man has this store and it is called “mattress firm theory” that it is a laundry money business because there are like 40 mattress stores in a concentrated area. And yes, people don’t buy beds that much, so it does make sense, but I mean you can get so lost in a YouTube hole of conspiracies. So, you can usually find me there.
You also got a tattoo on your neck for law and order, right?
Yes, I love Law & order and all the branches of it, like Chicago PD and I have been watching it my whole life. I learned a lot about the law and a lot about rights of women as far as sexual encounters go that you don’t learn in school and unfortunately, makes it seem like America takes it that seriously and it is just not true. It messes my mind that you can commit fraud and you get 20 years, but when you are a pedophile, you might get two or three years. It’s just crazy to me. They say that they don’t base the episodes on real cases, but you can see where they get them from, it’s good that they make a conversation. And it’s been running for 20 years and you don’t think that it could be that touchy. But it seems that a lot of people are still interested even if the government doesn’t reflect the interest in it.
What scares you the most thinking about the future?
Money. Just having the money to continue doing what I love or travelling and taking care of my family or taking care of myself. It’s very expensive to just be a single human being, you know I don’t want to have to live with people forever, I don’t want to have to date to be able to pay my bills. I just want to maintain and be content and not have debt. I don’t need to be rich, but I don’t want debt. I don’t want to have to check my bank account in line at the store.
Have you watched Black Mirror?
Yes, it reminds me of the Twilight Zone or even Hitchcock had a show like that, the Hitchcock Hour. But I don’t like watching it that much because it’s hitting too close to home, it’s too realistic, I don’t like artificial intelligence, I am not into having smart refrigerators or the like. I do have an amazon Alexa in my house, but she can’t lock my doors or anything like that – I think that’s taking it a little too far, especially, like, with that robot citizen. I am not here for that.
Header Image: T-Shirt HELMUT LANG, Jeans LEVI’S, Slippers STYLIST’S OWN
Photography DAAN DAM
Styling OLIVE DURAN
Hair and Makeup ANNE TIMPER
Intro MAXIMILIAN MIGOWSKI