Re-Introducing Sean Billz

By Shakeitta on 7/18/2008 11:45:00 PM

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Excite Magazine first introduced you to rising music mogul/rapper Sean Billz (Chris Thurston) almost a year ago. We found out about how and why Billz got started in the music game and his take on the hip-hop scene today. This time we caught up with the 20 year old Billz to discuss his journey with his record label Reality Check Records, including parting ways with two of the artists on his label. We also find out just what he’s been up to for the past year. Billz’s fresh take on rap music and unwavering determination is sure to take him and his record label to the top. When it happens just remember you heard it here first.

Excite Magazine: We spoke last time about your music, that was almost a year ago, for anybody who might be reading this for the first time, briefly tell us about what your music is.

Sean Billz: Basically, it’s Reality Check Records, and our focus is bringing positive, uplifting music with a message in it, as opposed to a lot of music in the rap game now which is mainly the topic of guns, violence, women, and sex. So basically, our music is bringing something different, something fresh.

EM: So where do you personally draw inspiration for your songs?

Sean Billz: Inspiration for most of my songs I would say is the world. It’s just what’s going on around me whether it’s a world issue or things that are going on in my community. If I see a trend, or so to speak, like there’s a lot of teen pregnancies going on around me that might inspire me to write something. As I see something happening around me and it’s problem. Just instances like that are what really inspire me to write, and to bring light to the situation and to not push it to the side as if it’s not happening, but make people aware of it.

EM: So let’s talk about Reality Check Records. Last time I spoke with you we really didn’t go into that so much. For your record label, what kinds of artists do you have?

Sean Billz: Right now on Reality Check Records it’s just me and another artist, and that artist is a singer, Charice. She’s been signed to the label for about a year now. We did have two other artists and they were both rappers [Midnight and Young Che] but recently for creative differences we had kind of a falling out, so those artists aren’t singed to the label anymore.

EM: Since they are no longer on the label how does that work for the mixtape and the songs that you guys all have on there?

Sean Billz: Even though they aren’t singed to the label anymore we still perform together. We’re having our second annual Project H.O.P.E. concert which is like a benefit concert. The proceeds that we generate go towards a charitable organization. We’re actually having that concert on June 27th and with the last mixtape we put out we’re kind of having them perform, but they’re like featured guests even though their not signed to the label. So, we still keep that connection with them as far as performing since they did have songs on the mixtape until we put out future projects where it’s more solo work.

EM: So it’s like a more or less amicable relationship, it’s not bitter between you guys?

Sean Billz: Right.



EM: So when you started Reality Check Records how did you initially sign the artists that you signed? Was it more actively seeking somebody or was it that you saw people that you knew were trying to do the same thing that you were?

Sean Billz: It’s actually a bit of both. With the first artist we got, Midnight, he was a real good friend of mine and we had been talking back and forth about rapping and that we wanted to do the same thing basically, so it was just like ‘why don’t we bring him aboard because he’s trying to do the same thing that we’re trying to do.’ And with Young Che and Charice it was actually seeking them out. I had heard them rap or I had heard them sing, they kind of caught my attention. I kind of went out to seek those artists and ask them what their plans were, what they were trying to do as far as music goes. Because they were trying got do the same thing, they just didn’t really have an outlet to get their music out. As far as a label we saw it as a good opportunity to bring them aboard, develop them, and help them get their music out.

EM: So are you still adding artists? Or are you focusing on just you and Charice?

Sean Billz: We’re not adding anybody now. We’re always keeping an eye out for talent, but at this moment right now we’re not trying to add anybody because we’re trying to head in the direction of doing solo work. So we’re trying to build up the artists that we have until they’re at a level where they’re established and they’re stable, and then we will probably bring in new artists and do the same thing with them and get them to the level where they’re good and putting out albums consistently.

EM: I tried to access the Reality Check Official website but I can’t seem to find it, are you guys revamping?

Sean Billz: Yeah, we’re actually getting one professionally made now. The one we did have, it was a site I put up on Freewebs just to get the info out so people can know about us, but we didn’t keep that one active. So now we’re trying to get into a professionally done website. Since we’re getting that done right now we have a Blogspot which is kind of like our website because we keep it active and we keep it updated with information as far as pictures and events going on. So that’s really our website. www.realitycheckrecords.blogspot.com.

EM: So explain a little more about Project H.O.P.E.

Sean Billz: It’s a benefit concert event. The first one was last year, last December, and the way we decided that we were going to formulate it was that we wer going to have two concerts. They’re going to be bi-annual, like every six months, so we’d have one in June and then we’d have one in December. This is the second one we’re doing; it’s going to be Friday June 27th at 7 o’clock at New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church. This is the place we usually have all our concerts but we’re kind of billing this one as the last concert we’re going to have at this venue because we’re going to try to spread out more now and get to other venues and other locations. We have about 7 performance acts lined up, all very hip-hop and R&B. There’s a mime dance group that’s going to be there, there’s a Jazz ensemble that’s going to be there, so this one is going to be better than the first one because we always try to make each one better and keep building it up. Usually what we do at these concerts is free admission and then we ask the people who attend to make a donation if they want to and we usually donate the proceeds that we make towards a charitable organization. For this concert we’re donating it to the Y-Me National Breast Cancer Organization, so we try to pick a different organization each concert to support and donate the money towards.



EM: That’s really cool. You guys have more than just the rapping and the hip hop, you have the dancing. That’s really cool.

Sean Billz: Yeah, and we always try to showcase local talent; so, if you come to the show and you like them they’re talent you can find in Chicago or in the area. They might be performing in other places in the Chicago area so you can go check them out there. It’s not like people coming from out of town that you won’t see performing. We try to give a lot of the local talent an outlet to perform if they can’t get any place to perform but they have really good music. We try to have it as a showcase.

EM: Project HO.P.E., is this something you started yourself?

Sean Billz: I actually came up with the idea myself because I wanted to establish something annual for Reality Check Records to be known for doing, and the project idea of a concert seemed like a good way to go. Then adding that we wouldn’t charge people but we would donate the proceeds to a charity organization I thought that would be another aspect that we could add on to it to make it even better

EM: I was listening to the music on the Reality Check Records Myspace and you have “Get Money” on there, this kind of sounds like it’s aimed at somebody, is that the case?

Sean Billz: I don’t think that was the case with this song. Actually, it was one of Young Che’s songs for the mixtape that he submitted. I don’t think the song had that message. I know that in the song “Get Money” Midnight and Young Che were talking more about the money aspect, being on your grind, getting money, hustling, but in my aspect of it I wasn’t necessarily talking about it in the same way. I was kind of talking about how money has had a negative effect on a lot of what we do and how a lot of people are getting money but they’re not doing anything with that money to give it back to like the community where they came up through. They’re just focused on getting money and then they’re just moving along but not looking at where they started from.

EM: In the song “In Circles,” which I liked a lot, you guys talk about at the beginning how you went to different record labels that rejected you saying that your music wasn’t real, that actually happened?

Sean Billz: Yeah.

EM: How was it dealing with that at the start of your career? Was it something that you took as discouraging?

Sean Billz: It wasn’t discouraging, it was something that we mainly went through at the beginning, it was more so me when I was just starting out because before we had Reality Check Records established as a record label or had any other artists it was mainly just me and another one of my friends, and we were just doing a lot of demo tracks, and with those tracks we tried to put them out, tried to get them into the hands of certain people, certain labels. We were able to and upon meeting with them they told us that we wouldn’t fit right within their label or within what they were trying to do, or within what was popular at the time seeing as how we weren’t speaking about the same topics. It wasn’t discouraging; it was kind of motivational to say like ‘okay, a lot of these labels are turning us down.’ That’s kind of what made us come up with the idea like ‘okay we’re going to just do this on our own then. We’re not going to keep waiting for these major record labels to sign us and then if we get signed we have to conform ourselves and be the image that they want us to be just so we can sell some records. That gave us the idea, okay we’re going to start our own label and we’re going to keep doing it the way we’re doing it, the way we want to, and then we’ll be sure to reach people without having to change our image or sell ourselves out just to make some record sales.

EM: Okay, so in the same song “In Circles” you guys talk about succeeding anyway. Do you feel like in the five years since you started Reality Check that you have achieved as much as you wanted to or as much as you thought you would?

Sean Billz: Actually, I do think the point we’re at now, is the point that I saw us being at for the 5 years that we been doing it. You know, when we made that decision to start our own record label and go that route we knew that it wasn’t going to be something that would happen instantly and we weren’t going to see the big time success right off the bat. We all went into it understanding that this is going to be a process and it was going to take a lot of hard work to eventually get to that level, so I think that was the main thing of anybody that was going to work with us from the beginning we all had to have the mindset that this is going to be a process, that its not going to be something that happens instantly and if you think you’re going to be able to hold up to that and work through that then, by all means, we want you to be apart of us. But if you were looking for that instant fame, or you know, to be on 106th and Park then there’s no need for you to work with us because we all know it’s not going to happen like that. But the point we’re at now I think it’s what I kind of saw us being at and then it’s just going to take us working even more, but I think we’ve made a lot of progress in what we’re trying to do and to where we’re going to get it.

EM: I remember last year you were telling me that you were in school, are you still?

Sean Billz: Yeah, I’m currently taking some summer classes down at Columbia in Chicago.

EM: So you’re doing the school thing, you’re the CEO of Reality Check Records, also one of the artists on the label and a DJ. How do you manage all of that?

Sean Billz: (Laughs). It can be difficult at times but I try to space it out, give everything its own time and the main thing is I try to think about priorities and what’s more important. In terms of school, in terms of music, like if I have class and I have homework but I know at the same time I want to work on some music or do something in that area I’m going to have to put my priority in school because I know that’s going to be more important for right now. The music is going to be more important for the future but the school is something I have to take care of now, so it’s kind of like forcing myself to be like “Okay, this is more important, put that to the side, come back to that later. Focus on doing school right now. Finish this homework and then work on some music after that.” So it’s just putting everything in its proper place and having the time for it. And a lot of the time I don’t get a lot of sleep doing it.

EM: Yeah, I don’t imagine so.

Sean Billz: (Laughs). That’s the biggest thing because I might have class in the morning. I might have a 9 o’clock class and then I come back and do some work for that class, then I might have another class after that, come do some of that work, and I might get back home at like 7pm. Then I‘ll sit on the computer and produce beats, maybe I’ll make like 3 or 4 beats and that might not be over until 11pm.

EM: So in the span of time that you’ve been doing this was there ever a point where you just wanted to give up?

Sean Billz: No, I can’t say that I’ve ever had that mentality just for the fact that I came into it knowing that it was going to take awhile; that it was going to be a long process, so when I had that mentality coming in it didn’t deter me or make me stop wanting to pursue it. If I would have come in like I wanted all this to happen right now it might have threw me off and I might have been like “Okay it’s not happening for me so I’m not going to keep doing this. I’m going to go focus on what I need to.” So I don’t think it happened and it’s more because of the love for music that I have and how much it plays a role in my life everyday. Like, I’m constantly surrounded by music. This is something that I want to do so much so I’m not going to let how long it might take make me want to stop doing it.

EM: What else do you guys have coming up for Reality Check Records or for Sean Billz?

Sean Billz: Like I said, we have the concert on June 27th and then following that I’m working on my debut album currently. We had a meeting a couple weeks ago and we’re trying to set the release date for August or September of this year. We’re going to see how it works out. I just finished planning and selecting songs for the album and matching them up with the beats that I want to use and so from there we’re probably about to get into the recording process of it. We’re going to be doing a lot of the recording on our own, so we don’t really have to go out and look for the studio or anything like that. Working on that, and the other artist on the label, Charice, we’re going to start working on her project as well so that it can be up and going by the time I get done and release my album she’ll be the next person on deck to have a project released. And then we’re just going to be trying to get more gigs and do more shows so we can get the Reality Check name out, get Sean Billz’s name out more to the public. So we’re trying to really make that happen. Another thing I’m working on is my first outside project as a producer. It’s going to be an inspirational/R&B album. I’m producing all the beats on it. I’m actually going to get executive producer credit for the album so it’s a big project that I’m working on. It’ll probably be my first project that is put out in the light of me being one of the people in the creative process of putting it together and getting it out to the public so I’m looking forward to that as well.

EM: That’s awesome I’m wishing you the best of luck because you have a lot of stuff that’s good going for you.

Sean Billz: Thank you very much.

EM: Once again, it was awesome talking to you. You’re so cool.

Sean Billz: Aww, thank you very much. I really appreciate it.

Music lovers looking for something new in hip-hop music can grab the Reality Check A.O.A. Mixtape on iTunes and Amazon.com. Be sure to visit www.realitycheckrecords.blogspot.com for all the latest on what’s happening with RC Records and Sean Billz.

Interview by Shakeitta McCord

1 comments for this post

SB

Great interview Keitta! I really enjoyed reading it and am grateful to have had a follow-up interview with you and Excite Magazine. Thanks for the opportunity and keep up the great work. Props to Excite Magazine for the feature!

Posted on Wednesday, July 23, 2008  

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