Tyreek Jarman learned a harsh truth after the release of his debut album, Not an Average Rapper, last November.
“I thought that was gonna be my break,” says the 23-year-old Las Vegas emcee, who performs as Chop808. Sure, the playful and introspective record helped him gain exposure, garnered him new fans and clocked thousands of streams, but it wasn’t the meal ticket he’d hoped for. “I started doubting myself after Not An Average Rapper … but I realized it wasn’t the end-all, be-all—it was the beginning.”
Jarman has spent the time since honing his craft. Though he celebrates the album November 19 at his Not An Average Anniversary party, he’s already moving forward. His new single, “Body Complex,” which we’re honored to premiere below, is a manifestation of his creative evolution. He pines for a physical and mental connection with a woman over spacey synths and a laidback bounce. On the surface, it sounds like a simple song about attraction—”I can feel your energy, body to body / Tell me that you’re into me,” he raps during the chorus—but Jarman is too quirky for that.
“Body Complex” is the first release from his two-track project, Space Wave, which he explains is about “an alien falling in love with a chocolate bar.” Huh?
“Yeah, it’s weird,” he says. “It’s about me going to outer space and finding the girl of my dreams.” The story will unfold with the release of his second single, “Candy Lane,” next month.
Meanwhile, the performer’s live show has matured into one of the most rambunctious ones in the city. He performs at every opportunity he can, enlisting a rotating cast of friends—backup singers, drummers, guitarists and his DJ/keyboard player DJ Noir—to assist him onstage. His cartoonish, ear-to-ear smile, signature black bucket hat and catchphrase—an elongated awe! in his southern accent—are fixtures of the local circuit.
“When I saw Kanye at Life Is Beautiful [in 2014], that changed the way I performed. He gave himself. He fused himself with his music. He was the music,” he says. “I took the time to say ‘Any time I go on stage I have to feel it. I have to be the music. I have to live it.’”
The same principles apply to his songs. Born in Las Vegas and spending his summers in Memphis, Tennessee, with his mom (hence his conspicuous southern timbre), Jarman grew up in the church and started off as a gospel rapper. Though he’s expanded his rhyme repertoire, his core values and faith remain in everything he does. He doesn’t even curse in his songs (nor during interviews).
“Whoever’s listening, whether it’s a kid or a grandma, I want them to be able to listen without having to turn it off or feel like I’m degrading people,” the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts alumnus says. If he does take cracks at anyone, it’s at himself via self-deprecating humor.
“My goal in life is to make people smile,” he says. “I didn’t have that when I was younger. I watched a lot of comedies. Those things took me out of real life. When we didn’t have food, or when we couldn’t keep the lights on, I had comedy to take me out of that.”
He spreads that positivity even when he’s offstage. He currently works two jobs, at Aacres and The Lovaas Center, where he assists individuals with autism and developmental disabilities. “Death can happen to anybody. It’s right around the corner, so why not give life your best?” he says.
That bright perspective only adds to Jarman’s good-natured charm. It’s why he’s quickly become a Las Vegas staple, and why he might be the hip-hop scene’s best new ambassador. While others hop on trends and act tough, Jarman isn’t too cool to smile. He’s almost unbelievably chipper and humble, never talking down his peers or claiming to be the better than anyone else. He is, however, his own biggest fan.
“If I don’t like [my music] enough to listen to myself, then I can’t expect anybody else to like me,” he says. “If I can’t listen to myself 10 times a day and bob my head to it, how can I tell someone else to?”
Listen to more of Chop808’s music at soundcloud.com/chop808.
Not An Average Anniversary
Nov. 19, 5-7 p.m., free, RSVP here