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Musicians To Know: Bay Area Rapper Champ Green Isn’t Stingy with the Rhythm or the Wisdom

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Champ Green stands in front of a food truck wearing a baseball cap and an apron.
Champ Green stands in front of a food truck wearing a baseball cap and an apron.  (Nicholas Stennet)

Over 4 weeks, Rightnowish is featuring artists with local roots who are taking the sounds of the Bay to a national stage.

Champ Green is probably your favorite Bay Area rapper’s favorite rapper. He’s been putting in work for some time, and over the past calendar year he’s been on a music-making mission. And he’s not showing any signs of slowing.

An illustration of Champ Green on the outside of a "Hella Nuts" Grounded Walnut Meat bag. You can see him smiling in the bottom right corner of the bag as he bites into a burger.
An illustration of Champ Green on the outside of “Hella Nuts” (Mieko Scott)

His clever wordplay and wisdom-filled rhymes can be found on a project with DJ Basta, a recent single and video with Mistah FAB, and multiple tracks with the Grand Nationxl collective. And next week he’s scheduled to release Pleasantly Plump 2 with DJ Twelvz.

While his wordplay is on tracks, his face is on food. You can find him smiling on the packaging of the local plant-based food company Hella Nuts, breaking stereotypes on what health looks like.

On top of all that, Champ, a friend of mine, is the walking embodiment of love. His latest project, Agape Elephant in The Room, which dropped in December, is a testament to that love– and how it often gets overlooked.

Even with the competitive nature of the rap game, Champ says love has to be acknowledged. Today we talk about how Champ got love from his mother, game from the Town, and with each bar he spits he gives it all back.

Champ Green, wearing a beanie cap and glasses, stands in a field with some small trees in the background.
Champ Green, wearing a beanie cap and glasses, stands in a field with some small trees in the background. (Courtesy of Champ Gree)

Below are lightly edited excerpts of my conversation with Champ Green.

Pen: Your most recent project was “Agape Elephant in the Room.” Why was that the title?

Champ Green: It derived from the elephant in the room, so everybody says they don’t see the elephant, right? But it’s plain as day. So I’m the elephant with the big love in the room. Depending on the way you view it, either, I’m a problem or I’m the problem solver.

Pen: And for our folks who are unclear, what does agape mean?

Champ Green: Unconditional love and the love of God, give you the unconditional love, that’s agape.

Pen: Looking at what you’re doing right now with Grand Nationxl collective, it seems like there’s a lot of love in that collective. You’re working with 10-dozen producers?

Champ Green: I’ve been blessed to be a part of teams who kind of run ocean 12 or 13 or 11 game, which in order to get the job done, we have to be very, very good, or excellent. It’s like a real life Henry Ford machine. So the assembly line is heavy with a plethora of knowledge, a plethora of game and a potluck of camaraderie to the point where we get the job done and pull off the heist, respectfully.

Pen: Respectfully [[laughs]]… the Bay Area it breeds a lot of linguists, ya know obviously E40 is of it. But did the Bay influence [your wordplay ability] as well?

Champ Green: Of course, most definitely. I think also, when we speak of hip hop, I’m damn, near just as old as hip hop. I think I’m forty two. So I have front row seats to the game. Right. And then I had three older siblings and I was just able to be saturated in it.

Champ Green: And also growing up in Oakland, every turf got their own little slang… it could be a bunch of your partners, y’all say what your little slick word, and then it could spread like wildfire because one of your partners may stay in the West and the other partner me stay in a Deep East and the other partna stay in Richmond and it’ll become a thing. So, in the words of Mac Mall, “serving game is my occupation.”

Pen: But you individually have a lexicon that you go through that you pull from. And I just wanted to break down just a couple of terms that I want to hear you define them. So when you say things like “…Who’s selling peanuts?… They going to George Washington Carve they niche out out this game.” What does that mean?

Champ Green: Everybody’s always focused on the big, you know, “I need to do it big like this”, but a peanut is small. So, I mean, you gotta start small to get big, but who really going to sell some peanuts who really gonna be on the front line in this underground railroad. You know, speaking the Sojourner Truth…

Pen: Essentially like, who’s selling peanuts, who’s doing the grunt work with historical context?

Champ Green: Exactly… Then the inventor of peanut butter is George Washington Carver, right? He came up with roasted peanuts, peanuts in different ways. So how are you going to George Washington carve your niche out?

Pen: In your latest album, Agape Elephant in the Room, you released a single with Ian Kelly on that single. You have just crazy wordplay back and forth. That I wanted to quote, I might get it wrong so correct me if I do, but you go “longitude, latitude, horizontal, parallel telephone next person nextel communicate plant seed bean stock sky high sky’s limit moonwalk. HBCU…” The way that one thing leads to the next from the outside perspective, is almost like looking at a slinky go down stairs.

Champ Green: OK

Pen: From the inside. How does your brain work ?

Champ Green: Umm So, so I’m left handed. Right.

Pen: [laughs]

Champ Green: Right, so i’m coming from the other side of the brain. But at the same time, my dominant hand is my left hand. But like, I play basketball and I shoot with my right. So I’ll be serving ambidextrous game at the same time in rare form.

Rightnowish is an arts and culture podcast produced at KQED. Listen to it wherever you get your podcasts or click the play button at the top of this page and subscribe to the show on NPR One, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, TuneIn, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.



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