“We aren’t gang bangers so we will not be looked at as that,” says 20 year old Chris ‘C-San’ Sanford, referring to the new crop of MCs emerging around Los Angeles. “But that doesn’t mean we should go away from what we are and where we are from.” He’s right. The gangsta rap archetype has long eclipsed local rappers’ attempts to offer the masses anything but tales of police brutality, gang life, and lowriders—a brash, menacing (albeit street-smart) sound popularized by groups like N.W.A. But times have changed. And C-San is part of a new generation on the rise within city limits. A student of Biggie’s versatile flow and DJ Quik’s brazen candor, C-San recently spoke with Format about creating unity among new MCs, his forthcoming mixtape—“I Want To Work With DJ Quik”—and what sets him apart from the pack. Welcome to his L.A.

“I want the world to know where I am from and what I grew up on. And just because I dress a certain way doesn’t mean I’m not from here…”

Format: On your MySpace page under ‘Sounds Like’ you wrote: Fatburger, Ramona’s, Westchester High, and Darby Park, to name just a few. These are all L.A. spots; do you consider yourself a quintessential L.A. rapper?
C-San: Yes I do. Everything I represent is nothing short of what L.A., or my L.A., really is. I was born and raised in Los Angeles and have lived all over, from South Central to Hawthorne to the Valley, where I go to school, and now Inglewood. Through my music, I want people from all over to be familiar with the culture, lifestyle, struggles, and joy that Los Angeles has to offer.

Format: What sets you apart from others burgeoning acts like Nipsey Hussle, Jay Rock, Dom Kennedy and the like?
C-San: What sets me apart from Nipsey Hussle and Jay Rock would have to be the gang culture, lifestyle, and in some cases lyrical content. That is something that I have had to deal with all my life, through friends and family and my surroundings, but it is something I never actually did myself. Me and Dom are both from areas that are known for gang activity but we have a different side of the story to tell than what the world already knows from rappers like Snoop, Dre, Game, and now Jay Rock and Nipsey. We all have are own stories to tell, and each one is unique. I have a lot to say and examples to set; one day my message will be heard through my music and my actions.

Format: L.A. is such a sonic melting pot, who influenced your sound growing up?
C-San: I am actually fairly young as far as hip-hop goes, and music period, so I feel older heads should respect what I came up on. But my first ever album that I had was in the second grade and it was Busta Rhymes “When Disaster Strikes”. He was my favorite rapper until Eminem came on the scene. Major albums I remember growing up on were “Chronic 2001,” Wyclef’s “The Carnival,” “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” “Life After Death,” the whole Death Row movement and plenty of others. More recently though, I would have to say Kanye, Little Brother, Royce Da 5’9, Joe Budden and, of course, Jay-Z. People often get mad because I don’t mention albums like “Doggystyle,” “Reasonable Doubt” and “Illmatic,” but you have to understand I wasn’t old enough nor did I have the understanding to really value or appreciate those albums. I had to go back more recently and listen to them and understand them and see the value of those classics. I listen to R&B and rock also, but it’s nothing like hip-hop.

Format: You grew up in L.A. during what many consider the golden era of West Coast rap. From your perspective, how has the game changed?
C-San: The West dominated in my younger years! Now it’s like the only one really making noise is Game, no disrespect. As far as actually selling albums and being on a worldwide stage; he is all we have right now and I feel the West is waiting on a new generation to take over.

Format: In a previous interview I did, one rapper compared the current L.A. music scene, particularly hip-hop, to a renaissance. What’s your take on that?
C-San: One hundred percent true! It is almost scary how much talent is out here and on the rise. People on a national scale don’t realize what we have over here and how different it is than what they are used to. When it all hits it is going to be crazy! If I sat here and shouted out names of artist this would take all day and I would forget people who would get mad because it’s too many. I just hope everyone will stay grounded and stay away from the b.s. and push this movement to the fullest.

Format: Before, you mentioned you were a big fan of West Coast vet DJ Quik, so much so you have a mixtape coming out titled “I Want to Work With DJ Quik.” Talk about that a little bit.
C-San: Huge fan! Like I said before, I grew up on “Rhythm-al-ism” and “Balance and Options,” which are the newer albums, but I still have appreciation for the classics and his older material. He is the most underrated West Coast artist. He gets a lot of respect on the West but I feel like on a national scale people just think of Dr. Dre, and [Quik] and Battlecat get left out. So I want to pay respect to a legend. Quik has always been a positive person to me and has made efforts through his music to set an example for the younger generation.

Also a big reason I am doing this is because in starting this ‘new West’ movement; I feel the roots of West Coast hip-hop, from the sound and culture, have been detached from the new movement. The average fan, not homies or around the way people, always tell me ‘I love what you guys do the—fresh Melrose kids rap. You and Pac Div and U-N-I are kinda like The Cool Kids and blah blah blah.’ I can’t stand that. All the [elements] in my sound are what I grew up on, and the only difference between me and the older generation is the gang banging. I want the world to know where I am from and what I grew up on. And just because I dress a certain way doesn’t mean I’m not from here. I want to bridge the gap and create unity between the vets and the rookies because we all represent the same thing and I feel like that’s not happening.

Format: What new approach did you take to this mixtape than you took to “The Birth,” your previous effort?
C-San: “The Birth,” although it wasn’t my first release, I felt was the start of my music career because I was just an infant learning and growing into what I wanted to be. Then, I didn’t know my direction and what I truly wanted to do as an artist and I am still finding that out now. I’m growing as a person and artist. This Quik mixtape will be what this new West is, with the sounds from a West Coast legend.

Format: You also had something going on with The Hundreds—the L.A. street wear brand, right? What was the extent of that partnership?
C-San: I met Bobby Hundreds at the store one day and gave him my music and we talked a bit and he said he would check it out. I saw him a few weeks later and he said he loved it and wanted to put me on the site, and since then he has showed me a lot of love on the site. I appreciate that because it was a lot of exposure because of the huge following they’ve created. The brand is dope, no denying it, and I’m glad that they support me.

Format: In terms of marketing these days, rappers have to be able to spit more than a hot sixteen. What plans do you have in terms of expanding the C-San brand?
C-San: Just using all the outlets I can to reach the masses. Because of blog sites and YouTube or MySpace I can reach the world and let them all hear my music and learn what is going on down here all the way in Australia. I can shoot a video and get 100,000 hits, which means that’s an audience of 100,000 or so people that know who C-san is. Also, I feel like this Internet thing is making rappers forget about the streets. Hope I don’t offend anyone, but the average person off the streets of L.A. or the streets period don’t go on HipHopDX or WorldStarHipHop, and when I see a rapper like Nipsey just take over the streets then have the Internet come it’s like, ‘damn that’s some good shit.’

Format: If I could only print one thing, what would you want Format readers to know?
C-San: That overall I am a genuine, real, hard working person from Los Angeles, California. My music reflects the hardships, happiness, struggles, and personal experiences that I have been through. People from every city and every hood can identify with me.

More Info: www.myspace.com/csanmusic

Jason Parham

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