“Until a year or two ago, Chester Watson wasn’t really into rap. He was into ballet.
“If you’re good at ballet, you’re good at everything,” the rapper/producer says recently, checking in over the phone from his mom’s house just outside of Atlanta.
At barely 16 years old, Chester Watson is already very good at rapping, but it was the video for the MF Grimm-sampling “Phantom,” a grainy collection of bleached-out movie clips that cut to a mug shot of an expressionless Watson rapping against a plain white wall that jumpstarted his career.
The “Phantom” video was directed by Australian artist named Tulsi (of the Tumblr Prettywhores), who saw Watson’s video for “Hobo” online and contacted him about collaborating. Though the two never met, Tulsi gave Watson instructions on how to film himself performing the song and then cut the final edit for the clip from her desk halfway around the world. The duo uploaded the video to YouTube on January 11, and it now has over 100,000 views. Last week, BBC Radio 1 DJ and new music fiend Zane Lowe played the track on his show.
Watson was born in St. Louis and grew up in Florida before moving to Georgia late last year. And though he had released two mixtapes earlier in 2012, it was Halloween’s Phantom that began pricking people’s ears. His deadpan delivery has drawn comparisons to Earl Sweatshirt, his production recalls MF Doom and his nine-deep collective, the Nü Age Syndicate, keeps in touch through the Internet.
He cites his influences in one breath—Doom, Earl, Mos Def. Even if he didn’t, they’re obvious, especially on his most recent song “Shapeshifter.” Over a loop of harps punctuated by the cha-ching of a cash register, Watson raps in a surprisingly mature, slightly blunt-burned monotone.
Here, he talks about who he is, how he started making music and where he hopes to go from here.”