Spark me up
C Plus strives to go where no Sacramento emcee has gone before
“He’s the hottest rapper in Sacramento right now!” proclaimed A.V. as he introduced C Plus, one of 10 rap artists performing at the Colonial Theatre earlier this year. A.V. was a bit biased: He was not only the evening’s host, but also is part of C Plus’ crew, Live at the Dojo.
But C Plus has legitimate buzz, too: His latest mix tape, All on Me, received a major plug from 2DopeBoyz, one of the Internet’s most popular hip-hop blogs. And he had just opened for weed-rap scion Curren$y in San Francisco.
At the Colonial, C Plus freestyled over the instrumental from Promoe’s indie classic “Off the Record” as the crowd drifted in the front. “I’m just coming onstage and representing for y’all,” he said while bounding across the stage, trying to hype the crowd during a truncated 10-minute set.
Unfortunately, the audience was all rapped out. C Plus was the sixth performer in a little over an hour, and with most of the crowd reserving its last bit of energy for the night’s headliner, L.A. blog phenom Dom Kennedy, he only elicited curious stares. Even an inspired rewrite of Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow” into the Sacramento pride anthem “Black and Purple” drew scattered applause. “If you can’t support where you from,” said C Plus before he walked off the stage, “what will you support?”
Days later at his house in south Sacramento, C Plus, whose real name is Chaz Wheeler and is originally from Natomas, waxes philosophically about the concert. “You have this new generation of the hip-hop fan,” starts the 23-year-old emcee. “They’re high out of their mind. They’re head-to-toe branded-out in all the new street wear. … But they don’t know about call-and-response.”
“I remember coming up. I would go see the CUF, the Cawz, Righteous Movement—real hip-hop. They do call-and-response, they had good stage cadence, and you felt them. Now, everybody’s too cool to be into a show.”
It didn’t help that the concert’s promoters, local clothier Foreber Robin and local rap clique Fly High, allotted the performers a mere 10 minutes apiece. Then again, assembling an entertaining hip-hop show these days is a thankless task, what with so many rappers assaulting e-mail accounts, websites, blogs and human ears with their mix tapes, MP3s, freestyles and demos. (Andrew “Noz” Nosnitsky from pioneering blog www.cocaineblunts.com once compared emcees to “fruit flies.”)
Every musician is doing the same thing, sure, but rock bands can play their instruments and electronic producers can deejay. What do rappers do? A lot of talking shit, usually. Even Sacramento has dozens of entrants, all of them swagged out in designer T-shirts and limited-edition sneaks, just like their prospective listeners. “There’s a million rappers,” C Plus admits.
These are steep odds to overcome, but C Plus is confident he can make an impact. “If I were to stop rapping now,” he says, “it would be like spitting on all the sacrifices I made. Like, oh, I just wasted the past four years of my life.”
But as it goes with any fledging artist, an extended conversation about his career inevitably turns to making it big: How he’s going to do it, whether he can do it, et cetera. It’s like dream mining. “I feel like I’m doing something, not only because I’ve gotten blog placements, but because I’m making an effort,” he explains.
C Plus has been a part of the Sacramento scene since his late teens, when he was a member of State Cap. and the Wu-Tang-like posse Neighborhood Watch. His current venture is Live at the Dojo, a record label and brand-marketing firm that includes his manager Shaka Haynes, Allowicious “A.V.” Vanguard, and videographer/Web designer Bossie.
C Plus has released several mix tapes in the past two years, All on Me being his most widely distributed to date. Most of the collection features raw freestyles over popular rap instrumentals, but its best track, “There You Go,” is an original song. “Champagne spilling / merlot overload / never doing just enough, homie, I overflow,” he raps, over a sunshine beat from DJ Flow. “It’s the glitz, it’s the glamour / I promise I won’t fuck it up like Hammer.”
He claims to make “oatmeal rap—music that’ll stick to your ribs” and continues to hone his craft. Currently, he’s working on his first full-length, All City. However, he jokingly confides, “We’re calling it a street album, because when I get signed to Def Jam and Jay-Z executive-produces my album, that’ll be the album.
“When I get the look, and the attention I deserve, then we’ll call it an album.”
In early November, Live at the Dojo released a video for the first single from All City. The song’s title, “Captain Kirk,” is a nod to the popular slang term “Beam me up, Scotty,” as in getting outer-space high, and the clip features sumptuous images of weed porn as C Plus’ crew partakes in smoking sessions.
At one point, C Plus hugs a concession vending machine, overcome with love for the munchies. “I get ’em lifted with the pen / So what I’m scriptin’ be a hymn / What I’m spittin’ be a gem,” he raps with lyrical slickness. “Roll up, man. I’m finna Kirk out.”
It sounds pretty good.