Salt River High School junior Jason Chiago finds rapping (also known as MCing) as a way to stay out of trouble and stay focused. The high school student discovered his love of MCing at age 11, when he first told one of his grandmothers that when he grew up he wanted to be an MC.
“I remember coming back from Phoenix one day with my grandma and I told her I wanted to be a rapper,” said Chiago. “She laughed and told me that that’s what my late aunt Michelle R. Chiago used to tell her all the time. Michelle would tell my grandma she was going to be famous and that when she was she would buy her a house, but unfortunately she passed.
“That is where I get my MC name from; is from my aunt’s initials, but I added the E’s, which is ‘Emm-Cee,’” explained Chiago.
Chiago liked to perform freestyle battles among his friends during his junior high school days and has recently started again. But in the last couple of years he also has written and freestyled his music in a recording studio. He shares his songs on YouTube and other social networks.
“I have a YouTube account. I have my music on it and people contact me where they offer to make beats for me so I could rap over them,” said Chiago. “I have met other artists who have helped and even recorded with me.”
Chiago is influenced by a lot of famous artists, such as Big L, but he has taken an interest in local Arizona artists such as ILL P and Mav. With his music out on the Internet, it has given him some contacts for recording studios including Minds Under Craze, the studio he now records with.
“I go to this studio to record called Minds Under Craze,” said Chiago. “There is this guy named Reerun that works there. When I first met him, I asked him if there were a lot of people that came into his studio, because when I walked in, he had pictures of CDs in his studio, [which] is run out of his home. He said that he has over 200 to 300 people that come in and out of his studio and he gets new people all the time.”
When Chiago went to record, he met ILL P, who just finished his CD at the time. He is a poet and descriptive with his music. Chiago said he listened to it and thought it was pretty good.
“After listening to ILL P’s CD, I wanted to listen to more artists from Arizona,” said Chiago. “Later I met an artist named Mav at Park ’n Swap selling his CD, [and] the next time I went there I started talking to him and got his CD and we started talking about music and recording. People I meet all help me and have good advice and ideas.”
Just like any other music artist who comes up with his own lyrics, Chiago is no different; he gets his ideas from everyday life, where he grew up here in Salt River and the people around him. He also gets help by learning new words in the dictionary and thesaurus.
“I find certain words that I like and look them up,” said Chiago. “When I come up with my lyrics, I will find a beat and freestyle over it, and if I like something I say, I will write it down and I will try to keep it on topic. I will use the dictionary or thesaurus or rhyming dictionary; that helps [me] use new words.”
Chiago’s favorite lyrics are from a song he and an artist from California named D-Boy did called “Miss You”:
It’s funny how they count ways,
I just count days and reminisce about the ways
We had it made throw it all away
It’s just a memory, a blur in my life I don’t bother visiting
In May, Chiago decided to try something new: to perform in front of an audience. So he decided to participate in the Salt River High School Talent Show, performing a more school-appropriate song called “Wishes Don’t Come True, Only Dreams Do.”
“The song was an inspirational type to youth to look forward and do what they dream of doing in life. I worked on it for a while because I had to keep it clean because it was being performed in front of families and other youth,” said Chiago. “I had never been in a talent show, so I was kind of nervous. It was the longest song I ever worked on, and I don’t have that one on my YouTube page. I have about four or five songs that I haven’t put out on the YouTube page yet, but I hope to soon.”
Chiago also performed at his friend Jacob’s graduation party. He performed his songs that were more family- and youth-friendly.
In the future, he hopes to go to the next level of MCing and become more popular in the hip-hop scene, but if he doesn’t he said he is fine with that, he just likes to pursue his music no matter what.
Chiago has a lot of encouragement from his friends and family to continue to do music, but at the same time his grandma Carmen Lopez encourages him to stay out of trouble and do his school work before he can go to the studio to record.
“She will give me money to go to the studio if I do good in school, so that kind of keeps me in line. So instead of going out and getting into trouble, I work on my music,” said Chiago.