By Jose Mujica
February 16, 2020
Growing up in the streets of North Charlotte, rapper 704chop didn’t have much help carving his own path to success. Chop grew up in an era of Charlotte that most are seemingly eager to erase. “I grew up in Gangland” Chop stated, recounting his youth in North Charlotte, specifically the Sugar Creek/Hidden Valley neighborhoods, which were infamous for gang activity back in those days. He had to be aware of what colors he wore and recalled the nonchalant attitude he and his peers had towards crime.
The only boy among six sisters, Chop learned to fend for himself growing up. Raised by his mother as a child, the relationship grew strained as he got older and acclimated to street life, eventually leading to foster care. He never considered being a rapper, but aspired to simply be the funniest guy on the block. “I was the one in the group that always had some sense. Most of my friends seemed like they never really gave a f*ck,” he said. “I’m not emotional. Nothing phases me. I’ve seen my homeboy die. I realized talking to people didn’t really help, so I just started writing down what I wanted to say instead.”
It was then in 2015 that 704Chop penned his first track, “I Wish,” in which he enumerated all the things he wished he hadn’t done in life. It racked up thousands of plays in a relatively short time frame, proving there was an audience for what he had to say. Homeless and a father at age 22, he was motivated to make a better life for himself somehow and began pouring his heart out on YouTube instrumentals. Just as he found his calling, however, life would deal another blow as 704Chop found himself in legal trouble facing a two-year sentence which would delay his budding rap career. Deterred but nevertheless determined, 704Chop picked up where he left off after gaining his freedom, developing a signature sound that blends bars, humming harmonizations and soulful singing that has resulted in him becoming one of the hottest artists in the city.
704Chop dropped his latest project, Loyalty Means Everything on January 11, 2020. The album boldly establishes him as a strong presence in the buzzing Charlotte rap scene and lays a solid foundation to a promising music career. In an era of hip hop, where attention-grabbing gimmicks have become the standard and colorful aesthetics are valued over resonant substance, 704Chop proves the stock of authenticity has only risen as it’s grown increasingly scarce in the genre. His tracks have an unmistakable modern sound making them a natural fit for any Top 40 radio station, but beyond just the booming production and catchy flows is emotional depth and a raw vulnerability that spark feelings that linger even after the song is over.
The opening line on the first track, “Flawless” juxtaposes of a glamorous hood-rich lifestyle with the hurtful sacrifices, regrets and trauma typical of those who’ve had to endure life in the margins. Chop paints a picture of an introspective soul, getting pain off his chest the only way he knows how. The rest of the lead single resonates in the same way, with 704Chop emphasizing melodies and emotionally resonant lyrics over wordplay or technical flows. This sort of effortless but profound vibe can be found throughout the entire project and leaves the listener unsure if he’s making music for his listeners or for himself. Regardless, we’re simply enjoying the peek inside his mind.
The next two tracks, “Do Anything For You” and “All I Know” contain surprises for listeners in the form of unlisted feature verses from DaBaby and Stunna4Vegas, respectively. Listing the feature names could’ve attracted more streams, but Chop had another plan. “I don’t want people listening to my tape because of who I f*ck with,” he said, revealing an underlying integrity ever-present in how he carries himself.
It’s this unshakeable realness that’s refreshing in an artist such as Chop, while many are chasing clout, trolling on the internet and engaging in social media antics for attention, Chop eschews that sort of marketing, opting to be 100% authentic in every way. While he doesn’t judge others who engage in the clownery, it just never appealed to him. “Everyone in Charlotte rapping about street shit,” he said, “but a lot of em I never heard about in the streets. A lot of these rappers talking that shit aren’t really steppers. Malcolm X was a stepper. Huey [Newton] was a stepper. The Black Panthers were steppers. A lot of them waving guns around now aren’t steppers, they’re helpers.” Meaning they’re helping to oppress their own communities, rather than directing that justified rage toward the parties responsible. This reveals a sharper political analysis that may surprise some fans.
While the tone is still undeniably street, 704Chop doesn’t brag about guns in every bar, he doesn’t threaten and posture and engage in the over-the-top bravado that’s commonplace in hip hop. If anything, he illustrates the other side of that coin: the pain, loss, heartbreak and burden that one can only understand if they had really experienced the struggle. In songs such as “Demon” and “Peace Wit It” you can find him in conflict with himself, coming to terms with the wrongs he committed along with the wrongs people have committed against him. “Peace Wit It” in particular showcases an unexpected versatility. The track sounds like something a singer-songerwriter might compose, featuring a guitar sample over which 704Chop lays his soul bare. It’s in this track that one can envision huge crossover pop appeal. The project concludes with “Street Poetry,” an aptly named track and one of the strongest on the entire project. In it Chop preaches over the beat, fully assured of his prowess, his message and his destiny as a champion of Charlotte’s downtrodden.
When asked what he meant by Loyalty Means Everything, Chop wasted no time in explaining how it’s the bedrock: “With loyalty you can build anything, without it you can’t even get started. That’s why loyalty means everything.” With this mentality, integrity and artistic consistency, 704Chop is just getting started building a loyal fanbase.
Watch the music video for “All I Know” by 704Chop and listen to the album Loyalty Means Everything.