Interview By: Michael Harris
An interview with Stephanie Lewis, known to most as “Chyna Whyte” and for her performance on Lil Jon’s hit, “Bia Bia”.
How and where did you get your start?
I started rapping as a child and decided I was going to really pursue rap in 92’, but I got my first break in 98’. The year before, I decided to send out my demo tape that I’d been working on with a producer named “XL” (for 5 years). I got a bunch of addresses off the back of his CDs and mailed it out to all of the major labels at that time and waited for a call back. I talked to Dr. Dre, met with Def Jam, and got a call back from Rock A Fella, but none of those situations worked out. I later got a call from someone named “Lil Jon”, who I had never heard of. At the time, he was working for So So Def as an A&R and he said he got my demo and wanted me to come to Atlanta to the studio. He was working on a group and wanted to see what we can put together. It was a guy named Six shot, Bohagon, and a reggae cat named Don Yute in the group. So, he set us in a hotel and we all met for the first time in the studio, and from that day we began laying down tracks. We had a great connection.
What happened with the Lil Jon situation and
your manager that stopped the release of your solo project?
I have really learned that in life we have “seasons” and I believe that God has been grooming me from day one. I had a lot of issues going on in my life and it seemed like they held me back. One of the issues that put a hold on my career was my pregnancy. When “Bia Bia” started to blow and was really going to get that major push, I got pregnant (2002). BME was independent and we had just signed a major distribution deal with TVT Records in 2001, the year I had just gotten out of jail. That was a little dilemma, but didn’t cause much because I only did five months in the FEDS and did the rest of the year on house arrest. My probation officer let me travel and do shows so I don’t believe that was a major issue. Me getting pregnant is what did it. I had my daughter in 03’ and didn’t go back to Atlanta until the end of 05’, after Hurricane Katrina. I went back with the hopes of getting back to work, but I feel like my label gave up on me. As for my manager, who was also my husband at the time, we started to get Chyna Whyte back and it was working for awhile. It was 2006 then, we were building momentum because everyone was waiting for me to come out but we were having personal issues (at least I was) with the things that he was doing on a personal end and it was too much for me to bare, so I left Atlanta again. I began to do things on my own but I also had another thing going on with me, a transformation, so in 2008 I stopped doing shows to figure out what God wanted from me because I couldn’t understand the trials after trials and the stagnation and the stumbling blocks and why all the people that I thought was for me seemed like they wasn’t. I tried reaching out to people, the people I thought had me, and they just ignored me. I was up and down within myself also and it was just a growing process. Sometimes we don’t understand what God is doing but he knows what he is doing and he was just taking me to another level. I learned a lot through everything and I have grown tremendously. I feel like now I can do what I’ve been trying to do because I’m a better person. (That was the short version of the story, I left a lot out)
What are some of the biggest obstacles that you have had to overcome in the music business?
The biggest dilemma that I have had is not having people on my team that were really on the same page as I was. I’m a leader, I don’t follow. I’m not into trends, and I’m not a gimmick. I don’t entertain, I pour out from my heart so I tend to go against the grain and that isn’t always accepted. I was never in this profession for fame or money, I did it because it is what I love to do. So, If I want to say “Jesus” on a crunk track I will, and everybody is not down with that. However, the time is now and I have linked up with some cats that are open and we are putting my new project together as we speak.
Is there a difference between “Chyna Whyte” and “Stephanie Lewis”?
Not really, they are the same. It’s all what’s in my heart. Chyna Whyte was the angry, bitter, hurt Stephanie. Now I’m better so they both are better but they are not different. I’m wondering how could they? If there is an alter ego thing I mean it’s all coming from the person. Everything is coming out of the heart of that one person so there really is no difference. I think people use alter egos as an excuse, when whatever they portray is what they really are.
Everybody seems to want to be involved in the entertainment business these days but they don’t understand what it could cost them. You have taken a different approach lately. What would you say to people who aspire to be the next big star?
I would say whatever you want to do, do it. Just stay real to what you believe and do what’s in your heart. When you begin to be something you’re not to please others is where you mess up. Everyone is not going to agree with what you believe, but I would then ask who are you trying to please?
Many people are wondering if Chyna Whyte has become a “Gospel” rapper. Can you please clear the air on that?
No, I am not a Gospel rapper, although I talk about the gospel. The Gospel of Jesus is my life. It’s why I’m still alive. It’s my hope, joy, and strength. It’s what pulled me out of a dark, ugly place, and it’s buried deep in my heart. I rap from the heart. I speak life and I’m a witness. This album I’m doing is going to be so raw! The streets need it and they are going to love it!
The women of hip hop/rap are missing in action today, and former female MC’s are either acting or doing everything except music to stay in the limelight. Do you think there will ever be an abundance of female MCs that are relevant again?
I think it can be, people grow and do other things in life though, especially women. We get married, have kids, and sometimes our priorities change. There are many avenues other than just rapping. I think if you are a female in the game then do what you do. Rap, create wonderful music. It’s when you begin to open your legs to everyone and disrespect yourself that people don’t take you serious or respect you. If you’re a female rapper and you screwing everybody and busting it open and bending over and all that you won’t be respected as an artist, you will be a whore and no one will give a care how you are on the mic; they’re going to want you on that other mic if you get what I’m saying. Women need to respect themselves although they might not know how to do that because of how they were raised. It is hard for a woman, it’s a male dominate industry and a male does not want to be threatened by a woman because in the order of men and women God created man to be the head but that is when you gotta work harder and make yourself heard. Personally, I don’t want to be a man, take his place, or dominate him but I do what I do and I’m going to do it how I do it.
Did you, being a pretty woman, ever feel the need to be a “Barbie” and how do you feel about Nicki Minaj, who is making a lot of noise right now?
I think they might have wanted to see me a little more girly but I never felt pressured because I have always done what I wanted to do. I have no opinion about anyone really. It’s not for me to speak on it. I will say that if you are being real with you then go for what you know.
How did Hurricane Katrina affect you and were you in New Orleans when it happened?
I actually left the Saturday before it hit. I lost everything, my house was under water. At first it didn’t affect me because I had learned from a child to block out hurt and hide it, but I learned later that it really did. I saw people that aged 10 years in 1 year from that situation. Families were separated, people were depressed and had to get on medication. We lost things that couldn’t be replaced. People died, we were treated like crap. That was a major thing to bounce back from. No one will ever know the emotions unless you actually experienced it. People can easily say, “Get over it”, “Get it together”, or “Get a job somewhere else,” but it’s been almost five years and people are still struggling. My mom, like so many others, was ripped off by contractors and has fought to get her house fixed. There are people that owned houses, like my mom, and have to pay rent somewhere else because of people that felt like taking advantage of the problem instead of helping. I believe they owe us money and I believe a lot of people stole that money. It wasn’t our fault, yet they act like it was. I understand natural disasters, but this could have been prevented. It wasn’t the hurricane that messed stuff up, it was those weak levees that should have been made stable. I hate liars and cheaters and I’m so tired of the corruption in this world.
How can people reach you if they wanted to contact you and do you have any last words?
People can get at me on myspace.com/thewhyte, facebook.com/thewhyte, or they can email me firstname.lastname@example.org. I thank you for the interview. I thank all the people that have been patiently waiting for me to drop, and for their encouragement. I don’t like to call them fans. I am working on a new project, aiming for summer 10’. It will be coming out on my very own label, “WhyteHowse Entertainment”. I also have some new songs available on iTunes and all the other digital outlets. Shout out to Rick Flare, Derrick “Deranged” Rollings, Love To Laugh Entertainment, Yung Gwop, and my whole fam that’s been behind me, pushing me to keep moving…….