VSA CHXCKY 333 is a rapper out of Storm Lake, Iowa; a fact in and of itself which puts him in rare air. Over the past year he’s stepped out of the small town, expanding his reach and connecting with other likeminded people by playing shows across the region, challenging his personal and creative comfort zones in the process. In this Q&A we discussed his experience of being the firstborn of immigrant parents, how he reconciled his heritage within his music, and what some of the lessons are that he’s learned throughout this early stage of his musical journey.
villin: In past interviews you’ve talked about identifying with a west coast sound. How did you first get introduced into rap and at that time were you more drawn to the lyrical side of the music or the beat?
VSA CHXCKY 333: How I got introduced to rap was I heard it from my cousins growing up. Since I’m the firstborn and my parents are from Mexico, I would only hear strictly Mexican music. And then when I started going to school and just being around my cousins from here — from the states — that’s when I started hearing rap like Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, Wiz Khalifa, and after that I fucked with it.
And then the West Coast. I’ve always been listening to rap and shit, like rap has always been around me growing up. But the ones who actually made me like, “Oh yeah! I want to rap now,” would be Shoreline Mafia and SOB X RBE. And Drakeo the Ruler – they had their own movement in 2016, and then what they did is what most people think about the West Coast now.
villin: I take your music as an outlet for personal expression, but also an outlet for personal reflection. With your parents being Mexico-born, there’s definitely a thread of showing respect for your heritage in your songs, but what do they think of your music and do they understand what it means to you?
VSA CHXCKY 333: Well, at first my parents were like, “Oh, why are you doing rap and shit?” They wanted me to do Mexican music, like, typical Mexican music. And I had no issue with that. It’s just, for me, I always wanted to rap, because in my head it would be easier for me to come up with rhymes and shit in both languages. When I started writing down raps I started in Spanish but I never put it out because I didn’t think it sounded good but that’s what I started with. And over time I started putting it out there little by little until I got fully comfortable, like “Yeah, I can actually do this.” My family from Mexico, they support me and shit. My cousins, all my tias, all my uncles and aunts, like, they fuck with me. They see what I’m doing and they see I’m trying to do something for myself, you know?
villin: You’ve played shows in the region, be it Sioux City, Sioux Falls, or Spencer to name a few locations, but I’m curious what support has been like in Storm Lake itself?
VSA CHXCKY 333: My personal experience with Storm Lake… at first people didn’t like it. I knew it wasn’t my best shit out there, like it’s my first time. My homie said “Oh yeah, just keep pushing, bro, like, blah blah blah.” And I just kept practicing, kept writing every day, and just mastering my shit. And then until the year of 2022 that’s when I started taking my music career serious. I started doing shows, putting myself out there, forcing myself to get out of my comfort zone, actually make something for myself.
And then I started seeing it; all the people I went to school with, people I knew, close friends, people I didn’t talk to back then, they started seeing what I’m doing they’re like “Oh yeah, keep pushing!” And then they started seeing the moment and until this day, they’re still supporting. And just like anything, not everybody supports it but, you know, they see that you actually got something going on for yourself.
villin: When I went to BV I had no concept for any music that was coming out of the area, but in your Nasty Collective interview you made a passing mention of there being others coming out of Storm Lake before you, when it comes to making rap and hip-hop in town. Are there any names that come to mind when thinking about local artists who you appreciate?
VSA CHXCKY 333: Like, my boy Chubbz712Boss, he had a group back then called Brown America. They did big names out there like King Lil G and a couple artists from the old school, and they would play clubs and shit and travel around the Midwest.
Life shit happens and they separated, but Chubbz is a really good guy and he’s really motivated to do music. He likes to be around and he’ll always been a supporter of me. When I started taking my music career serious he’s always been there giving me advice and shit, to get out there, you know, be hungry for this shit. Yeah, he’s been helping me a lot.
villin: In your WLTV interview, you talked about how when you first started making music, you had this idea like you could release songs and just let them sit, and they’d just find an audience somehow on their own merit, when in fact it takes a lot of hustling to develop and build an audience. Are there any other lessons you’ve learned that you wish you could share with your younger self now?
VSA CHXCKY 333: Some lessons would be to put myself out there from the jump, keep promoting my shit, put it out there on all platforms, all the social medias. When I first started, I just started putting it on SoundCloud; like no Instagram, here and there Snapchat, no YouTube. One day I’m like “Nah, I gotta step out of my comfort zone and just put it everywhere”; all platforms and all that. And I started seeing growth in all areas, and then it all combined and everything started playing out how it’s supposed to be.
Another thing would be is: always practice. Always practice, especially if you’re getting shows, practice your set, practice movements. Imagine yourself with a big crowd and you’re just going crazy and you’re just getting into it and everybody’s fucking with you and they’re vibing, all that shit plays out. Then when the right moment comes you’re going to be able to execute. And then you’re going to show the potential you got, and that you really got this for real.
Another thing is never rush your art. If you have a gut feeling, like, you know you could have changed this, you could have done this and that, go back work on it. Even if you have to redo the song, just do it, just get it done, make sure it’s perfect.
Then another thing would be, be more social. For me, I’m not really a social person. I’m more like a quiet guy, a chill type of guy. I’m just doing my own shit, in my own zone, stay in my own lane type of guy. And especially with this music, there’s been times where I miss an opportunity or I could have got myself an opportunity that could have helped my career. So if I would have been social…
Right now, I try to talk to everybody — not everybody — but, you know, people that are doing some shit with their music career. And getting my name out there, keep tapping in, networking. Networking is another big thing. Networking is going to get your name out there. The people that you network with are most likely to bless you up with an opportunity because they see that you’re actually hungry for it, and you’re actually trying to do something for yourself. The more you network, the more opportunities you make for yourself. You just never know. It’s always a surprise because you never know, but it all benefits your career.
[This interview has been edited for clarity.]