The East Side Chedda Boyz look beyond bootleggers and strip bars

Say cheese

Jul 23, 2003 at 12:00 am
click to enlarge SCB members include (clockwise from lower left): Lil’ Dre, Malik, Tuff Tone, Lil’ Baby and Wipeout. - Doug Coombe
Doug Coombe
SCB members include (clockwise from lower left): Lil’ Dre, Malik, Tuff Tone, Lil’ Baby and Wipeout.

Chedda Boy Permanent Frown’s (P. Frown for short) hood vernacular might scare the hell out of the average suburbanite. If you come from the part of town where neatly manicured green lawns and gleaming SUVs govern the landscape, be careful not to judge the man by his linguistics. Otherwise, you may miss out on the fact that Frown’s crew, the East Side Chedda Boyz, are one of the smartest hip-hop groups in the area.

“The streets, they was playin’ us,” Frown says, referring to the massive buzz that helped push the Chedda Boyz’s single, “I’m a Chedda Boy,” into rotation at WDTJ-FM 105.9 and WJLB-FM 97.9. Filtering the self-released record through the venues and strip clubs, and through renowned DJs like Ray O’Shea and DJ Polo, helped to create their buzz. The Chedda Boyz understand the graft of self-promotion, the necessary tool of success in hip hop, despite that getting interviews and photo sessions was no effortless task.

“We was out networkin’ it hard, east to west, passin’ CDs out, sellin’ ’em, even rappin’ with the bootleg people and everything,” explains Frown

That’s where the intellect hits. The writer understands that smart thinking is sometimes irrational. See, “bootleg” is an evil word to an artist, particularly one scraping by to survive; artists and songwriters never see revenue from sales of bootleg recordings. But the Chedda Boyz approached area counterfeiters early in the promo phase for their first album, Makin’ Chedda on the East Side, and discussed the issue of respecting local artists’ projects, which is evidence that they think a step beyond the average marketing team. The bootleggers respected their work ethic, and avoided duplicating the disc. That’s gotta be a first.

If you live within earshot of Detroit, listen to urban radio and have not heard of the East Side Chedda Boyz, you could very well be hard of hearing. “I’m a Chedda Boy” is reaching Detroit classic status by virtue of myriad radio spins. The record’s old-school hook — I’m a Chedda Boy, baby. That’s fa sho. Me and my homies come through wit’ dough” — either by clever design or simplicity, sounds like it’s looped through an old Casio sampler. It plants itself in the psyche and becomes one of those songs that makes your mom slap the back of your head when you’re mumbling it at the dinner table. Play it at any metro Detroit club from Northville to the north end, and watch folks tear the place up. Maybe 50 Cent runs mainstream radio, but records by Chedda Boyz and Rock Bottom have been setting clubs on fire for at least the past year.

East Side Chedda Boyz are a large crew — solo artists in a group context — one similar to the prototype set forth by Wu-Tang Clan 10 years ago. The revolving-door roster of performers consists of Anguish (Malik), Frown, Lil’ Cheezy, Lil’ Baby, Lil’ Dre, Chedda Boy Rell, Tuff Tone, Bucho, Mall and Lil’ Joe, and their ages range from 12 to 27. The extended family includes executives Wipeout and Big Dee, and A&R sideman Sticky Stan.

They’ve rolled pretty damn thick since childhood in the Jefferson/Conner neighborhood. It was easy to do, since many of them are bound by blood. “We family, man,” says Frown. “We all done grew up together. Malik, that’s my cousin. Bucho — him and Malik — they brothers.” The crew began rhyming during the senior Bush years. This was hip hop’s golden era, when groups like NWA, X-Clan and Boogie Down Productions changed the way we looked at hip hop, indoctrinating an entire generation in the process.

Toward the turn of the decade, the Chedda Boyz organized and began seeking ways to turn the change they got from local skills into multimillion-dollar record deals. “We was doin’ our thang, like, me and Malik, we been on so many different CDs and compilations throughout the city, and been puttin’ so much work everywhere. All the old little names, and some of the new up-and-coming artists, like Live Action Entertainment. Sick Notes. Dynasty Society. When we got with our managers, we put our thang down.”

Part of what they put down involved traveling and building relationships with bigger names in the industry. Tela, Too $hort, Juvenile and Cam’ron are some of the artists who have become Chedda Boyz fans. The support is timely, since their new album, Chedda Makes It Betta, hit the streets two weeks ago.

Understanding that things that are not broken need no fixing, the Chedda Boyz are recycling the strategy that got them on radio in the first place. They are promoting in the streets and in the clubs. All the clubs, the ones you hear about and the ones you hear about. (Promoting in the eddying confines of “titty bars” is one of the best ways to break a record in Detroit.)

They’ve even got something extra for the B-word people. “All the bootleggers can come get whatever,” says Frown. “We got mix CDs and everything for ’em now. We ain’t even fittin’ to hold the bootleggers up in the D. ’Cause now, you know how you run up on the bootleggers and they be like ‘We ain’t dubbin’ no Detroit music.’ It’s like that, you know? We fittin’ ta give it to ’em now. We gon’ let ’em have it. Get everybody to fall in with us.”

Chedda Boyz have done a good job of avoiding cross-town rivalries by respecting the talent and healthy competition given by their local counterparts. It’s simple common courtesy. “A bunch of the groups that’s around doin’ they thang, we good with ’em. You know, them boys alright, from Rock Bottom, all the way on. They graspin’ what we doin’. Hot Life, them boys got something good. You got the Street Lordz over there. We know them guys and they good guys too. It’s room for everybody. But you know everybody can’t get in the door at the same time.”

The Chedda Boyz seem to display some of that transplanted Southern hospitality that migrant workers brought to their new auto plant jobs and East Side homes 50 years ago. That’s a good trait to have in a music industry where artistry takes a back seat and money is, truth be told, the bottom line.

In fact, here’s an interesting tactic. Put money in your name (“Chedda” means money) and hospitality in your game. Hell, it works for hotel managers, why shouldn’t it work for some hood-raised hard rocks?

What is Soul Purpose: Detroit Hip Hop 2003? Khary Kimani Turner covers the hip-hop beat for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]