Shawn Chrystopher, hip-hop’s newest prodigy

By Sophia Coleman

At 8 years old, rap artist, producer and Chicago native Shawn Chrystopher, now 25, remembers watching rap-duo Kris Kross on MTV, dreaming of the day he would have his own spotlight. His time soon came. He graduated high school at the age of 16 and earned a four-and-a-half-year scholarship to the University of Southern California, which left him to pursue his career in music.

With his soaring IQ and ability to play five instruments—drums, piano, trumpet, saxophone and clarinet—the Inglewood, Calif., resident has proven to be more than just another hip-hop artist. Since the release of his single “Like a Kid Again” in 2009, Chrystopher has collaborated with a wide range of artists, most recently Owl City.

The Chronicle caught up with Chrystopher while on his Chicago leg of the “I Am Finally Famous” tour, to discuss what it’s like traveling with headliner Big Sean on the tour, his love for The Jackson Five and what he has planned for the future.

The Chronicle: What is behind the sound and inspiration of your debut LP “A City with No Seasons?”

SC: It was more so an alternative, hip-hop style. At that time in my life, I was telling an entire story—going through different relationships and heartbreaks—it almost became emo-alternative. As my life has changed, so has my music.

The Chronicle: In March 2010, you came out with “The Audition EP.” What issues did you address on it?

SC: Man, that one was me being a wide-eyed kid. I was overwhelmed with the huge response I got with my first project. I was anxious to [put] out another one, so there is a lot of energy in “The Audition.” It was a really high point in my life, where I was making my name a staple within the hip-hop scene.

The Chronicle: Where do you draw inspiration from?

SC: I listen to a lot of old acts—like The Jackson Five and Tupac Shakur. I’m a really big fan of Kid Cudi. I draw inspiration from topics he discusses because he is very open with his writing.

The Chronicle: What are you currently working on?

SC: I just released an EP a few weeks ago called “Silence Comes from the Blind,” and I’m on [the] “I Am Finally Famous” tour with Big Sean. We hit 42 cities. I’m promoting [the new EP]. I’m [also] trying not to rush myself and turn out quality tracks.

The Chronicle: What’s it like touring with Big Sean?

SC: It’s dope. I get to rock thousands of people and at the same time, I get to watch Big Sean’s show, which gives me motivation. I see every single person in the building with their hands up, singing the same words. From Big Sean, I get to learn more about the industry and what direction I want to take.

The Chronicle: How was it working with Owl City?

SC: Working with [the man behind Owl City] Adam Young was amazing. I was able to branch out from just being a hip-hop artist to another world I knew nothing about. Adam wanted to do something different, so he called me and we worked on 10 different versions and mixed and matched lines to create the perfect track.

The Chronicle: What is one of the most memorable moments of your career?

SC: Being in the studio with Pharrel [Williams]. He was the reason [that] I wanted to be a producer. To be in the studio with him and for him to tell me in his own words, “You’re a breath of fresh air,” was motivating. Pharrel has worked with big names like Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira—so it was a big deal.

For more information on Shawn Chrystopher, and to download some free tracks visit