T H E S H O R T…
Name: Chaine Downer Jr./ CJ Fly
Nickname: Master Roshi, SGT Fly, Rap Game Tarantino, The Overseer
Astrological Sign: Cancer, but apparently I’m a Gemini now (fuck that).
Born & Raised: Brooklyn, NY/ East Flatbush, Bedstuy
Currently Residing: Bushwick
Five Favorite Things…
Can’t forget the queens.
Top 3 Favorite Albums or Songs:
1. Jay Z – Reasonable Doubt
2. Nas – Illmatic
3. A Tribe Called Quest – Beats, Rhymes and Life
T H E L O N G…
Give us a little background on who CJ Fly is.
[CJ Fly] is a Bajan and Jamaican-raised Flatbush kid who’s an only child that used his music to speak to the world. Cause I felt like I didn’t have anybody else to speak to… So the world is my siblings now. I use music as a communication tool for love and other positive things.
When did you start making music?
I started writing raps in the 7th grade and then recording by 9th grade.
Who inspired you to make music? Was there someone who taught you?
My mom would always hum around the crib. She never sang or anything, but she would [hum] different songs. I can vividly remember her doing that as a kid. I couldn’t tell you what songs, though. And my dad listened to reggae, that’s all I knew when I was a kid. He influenced me on that aspect. People would be surprised to hear that I wasn’t raised on hip-hop. Reggae is the main thing that made me want to make music. I admired reggae artists so much. Buju Banton…Sizzla, Capleton, those are my favorites.
Do you remember what your first song was about?
Yeah, my outfit. I said some shit like “fresh outfit, ill skateboard, I write what I spit, …you can’t afford”. So, I was always on my CJ Fly shit, definitely.
Do you think that your aesthetic project[s] your lifestyle and your taste?
It was kinda more coinciding with my love for Jay-Z’s rap. Being braggadocio rap or mafioso rap, you know? That’s what I wanted to emulate. But like, as I got older and I started detaching from material items a lot, I kinda lost that energy to be a materialistic person. So, now I’m like fly, but fly in my own way and I care about fashion only so much. Before I would go crazy like “you don’t have the CDG bro?, don’t talk to me bout nothin!” But now I’m humble about it. Just calm.
How did that transition happen?
My mom used to spoil me when I was a kid. When I grew up, I had to spend my own money on shit. I was like “ehhhh, I’m not gonna spend this 800 on YSL sneakers anymore”. Before when it was mom’s money, it was cool. I feel like I’ll get back to that when I start makin’ actual bread, you know? I don’t wanna sell a lifestyle that’s not actually real.
How did you meet the Pro Era Crew?
We all met at Edward R. Murrow and we used to cut class together. We went from cyphering in hallways, knowing each other very briefly, and then ended up hanging out with each other [and] cutting class, to make music and freestyle. We would all cipher and catch this beautiful vibe. That ended up turning into the crew.
Around what year was that?
For someone who grew up as an only child, which I feel like a lot of [Pro Era] did also, how was that? Was that an instant family bond?
We connected because we were all from Flatbush. We all got Caribbean parents. Half of us were Jamaican. We was just clickin. We had a lot of similar interests and a lot of similar goals. We wanted to be a positive note in music. We cared about lyricism, we cared about similar topics, as far as clothing goes. It made sense, we meshed really well… The universe wanted it to be.
What are the names of some of the most notable projects [you’ve put out in the past]?
My first mixtape was the way “Thee Way I See It”, that was in 2013. We did the Pro Era project, “Peep the Apocalypse”, I was on Joey’s “99”. This is about to be my second project, “Fly Trap”. I haven’t put out much. I just been putting out singles and features and shit
How do you feel that as a body of work “FLYTRAP” [in comparison to other projects] is different, similar, or [is it] a continuation of what you’ve been doing?
I think the similarity comes in because it’s like on the cover of my mixtape, “Thee Way I See It”, I’m sitting in the theater projecting this life with my eye. Basically, saying it’s gonna be different movies spoken about or being shared. “FLYTRAP” is, for me, one of my first films. I’m projecting my life and everything that has occurred in the last 2-3 years. I think in comparison, “FLYTRAP” was may more mature, it’s way more clear. I think on “Thee Way I See It”, I didn’t know how to fully be clear and deliver exactly what I wanted to say. Then I got time to figure out my sound and really pinpoint what I wanted to say it,..and how I wanted to present to the world. Like, I had the cover for a year. So I sat on that. Then the music kept changing, I thought it was done last year. So, everything went how it was supposed to.
What are some of the tracks that we should be looking forward to and [what] are your favorite songs?
Honestly, the whole project is my favorite. But the songs that connect…and mean the most to me “Always/Confined”, the song I dedicated to grandfather, who I lost last summer. I basically got the idea for the song in his garage after the funeral. It was something that just like clicked for me… Songs like “Lethal Allure”, which is so connected to the “FLYTRAP” title. It’s actually the nectar inside the plant that get the flies to fly in, thinkin’ it’s honey and shit, and [the fly gets] killed. “Perinneal”, that has a LOX vibe.
The content and subject matter is there. I tried to make sure I spoke a lot of positive topics on these beats, too. It’s not like a trap project. I’m not talking about lean and all that bullshit, it’s a positive note.
As an artist who is surviving the times, how does your music express anything that’s doing on culturally?
I try not to be too political, but I touched on a few topics as far as like the shit that’s occurring with the police. As far as people stressing over their lives rather than being thankful for our ancestors sacrificing so much for us. Like, I have a song on there called “Harder”, and it’s about basically saying, “you think you have it bad, they had harder”. Like all people that complain like “ooooh life is so hard”, it’s not. There’s people that were killed [for protesting]. It’s not taken that far. You have to be thankful that your ancestors took that risk for you, and not complain all the time ’cause it’s not about you complaining, it’s about making it through whatever struggle you’re going through, you know? So, I try not be to be too political and too preachy because it’s “not cool”, but I definitely try to sneak my message within the popular music. It’s always gone be a little message tucked in there.
So how would you describe the sound of “FLYTRAP”?
[The project’s] sound is my own sound. I feel like you might be able to compare it a few things that might’ve inspired it. [It has] it’s own vibe The way I rap on it is own wave. The way I flowed on it, the way hooks are, the way beats are. I was very hands on with it too, so I got to put my own touch on each song. It’s just my own vibe. It’s a universal sound, it’s not the normal Pro Era sound. It’s not what anybody is gonna expect, that’s the whole thing. I want it to be a surprise and an enjoyable experience. People have to just take it…, digest it, and see how they feel about it.
And who are some are some artists that in the future you see yourself collaborating with or would like to collaborate with?
I wanna work with 50 [Cent], cause we have the same birthday, so that needs to happen. Kanye. Stormzy.
For someone who is inspired by reggae music, do you yourself ever making a reggae?
See, it’s weird because I try not to say it in interviews, I feel like somebody gone try to beat me to it. But as soon as Buju gets out of prison, a collabo album is happening. I hope to God, I’m praying, I’m tryna make sure I put myself in that position [so] by the time he gets out I’m tryna be a big star and he’s like “yeah mon me need dis record…!” [Then] he come through, [I] help cuz out, he bus’ again, and it’s like yeaaah! Cause, I get so like …not pissed, [but] like “damn”, envious, cause Kendrick had Assassin on his album, and even Sizzla being on other people shit. That should be shit that we’re doing, we’re from the Caribbean. These guys are nowhere near Jamaican anything, but they just reaping benefits off the culture. Somebody tried to say, “You think you need to make music like Drake and the new wave?” I’m like “the new wave”? I am the new wave. I was born of that wave, these niggas just emulating that. So that’s definitely something I wanna do in the in the future, collab with a reggae artist and make a reggae album for sure.
Transcribed by Brooklyn White