Interview with Chilly Gonzales


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Using another artist’s music without permission is a surefire way to boil up some bad blood in the music industry. When rapper Drake sampled part of a piano track by self-proclaimed musical genius Chilly Gonzales without permission, the multi-talented ivory tickler was understandably none too pleased.

Back in 2009, Corduroy magazine informed Gonzales in an interview that Drake had sampled his song ‘The Tourist’ from his ‘So Far Gone’ mixtape-turned-EP.

“Really? Drake sampled me?” the Montreal native responded in the interview.

“I don’t know how I feel about that. I mean, that ‘Solo Piano’ album has reached across many genres — it’s given me shout-outs from the hip-hop world all the way to the classical world. I’m pleasantly surprised whenever it makes its way to an unknown genre. Although, I must confess, I’m not a Drake fan. I guess Canadians should be proud that they finally have the closest thing they’ll ever have to a credible hip-hop personality, but I’m sorry, I’m just not a fan.”

Fast forward to 2011. Remember Drizzy’s opening sequence during this year’s Juno Awards? That was Gonazles on keys behind him. On top of that, Drake’s recently leaked single, ‘Marvin’s Room,’ from his upcoming album, ‘Take Care,’ features another lengthy outro from the Paris-based piano virtuoso (who also doubles as Feist’s producer/collaborator and just released ‘The Unspeakable Chilly Gonzales’). What happened to that whole not being a fan thing?

“That was before he liked me,” Gonzales tells Spinner, in his typical no-bulls— manner. “I said I’m a musical genius, not that I’m not a hypocrite. Of course I’m a hypocrite like anyone. You go from a hater to biggest fan the minute that your hero pays attention to you.”

Gonzales (whose real name is Jason Beck) can thank his dad for connecting the dots but Drake’s charm sealed the deal. Mr. Beck lives in the same Toronto building that Drake calls home and when Gonzales was over for dinner one night a year-and-a-half ago, his dad figured an introduction was in order.

“He basically called down to him — ‘Uh hello, Drake? This is John Beck, I’m the father of Gonzales?’ And then I hear [Drake] going ‘Yeah, Chilly Gonzales, yeah.’ ‘Oh, well, why don’t you come on up.’ So like Drake comes on up with a manager guy and he’s like, ‘Man, it’s such a pleasure to meet you. Man, I’m so proud. I used some of your music on my mixtape.’ And anyway I was like, ‘I’m in love with you.’ It was like a Bill Clinton level [of] charisma — I just could not be mad at him anymore. He was like, ‘Will you go over to your dad’s piano and play this song for me?’ And I was like, ‘Yes!'”

Hard feelings be damned. That night, Drake told Gonzales he wanted to work with him, and Gonzales was thrust into the world of the “NBA-level rapper.”

“I’m at an entry-level position at a huge corporation run by the mafia,” is how Gonzales describes being taken under Drake’s wing, where patience is key.

“[There was] lot of paying of dues, a lot of waiting around. A lot of ‘We’re going to work tonight,’ and then, ‘No, we’re not going to work tonight.’ And a lot of ‘We bought you a ticket, we’re flying you in.’ ‘No, actually, we’re not flying you in.'”

Finally, a few months ago, Drake invited Gonzales to accompany him on stage as he opened the Juno Awards. The wait was worth it.

“To soak it all in and to see how that guy runs his universe even for the eight, nine hours I hung out with him that night was a huge lesson already. I learned so much watching him work, and seeing how I fit into the pecking order. When he’s juggling Kanye, Swizzy and Alicia [Keys] for his album, of course I can’t really be the squeaky wheel and be like, ‘What the f—, you got me a ticket, man. You want to f—ing work with me or not? What the f—, I’m a f—ing musical genius — that’s not the moment to do that.”

Despite his initial statements about Drake, Gonzales has no shame about his modus operandi a few years later. “I’m letting myself be Drake’s bitch for a while, in hopes of getting closer.”

If getting closer is getting credit where credit is due, then Gonzales has arrived. “[‘Marvin’s Room’] came out and they were really very generous with saying that I was on it and made it very clear that I was participating, so it was a huge win for me.”