It ain’t easy being Cheese-y
Calgary rapper shares his story on making music in today’s internet age
By Bigoa Machar, Layout Editor
The first thing you’d notice upon entering Shea Roger’s one-bedroom Calgary apartment is a large, wooden and cardboard box standing up straight right in his living room. While it may, at first look like a makeshift time machine, a variety of buttons, dials and microphones line the inner walls of the contraption. Roger, better known as his rap monicker Chedda Cheese, says he built this sound-proof studio with his own two hands out of the love he has for music, something he says has been a part of him for as long as he can remember.
“I started off doing little rap battles online with my friends. We would do these things we called ‘text battles,’” says Roger. “There was no actually rapping, we would just write them on paper and battle that way. Later on, I really started doing freestyle battles in bars, which is also when I started writing songs.”
Much like Eminem in 8 Mile or Supa Hot Fire laying the smackdown on fools, Roger says battle rapping is just as much about the comedy as it is the music.
“In battling, the writing has to be geared towards more what’s going to make the audience laugh or react, whereas in music it’s more so geared towards what’s appealing,” says Roger. “Battles are more required on lyrics because you really don’t need musical talent to do battles. You can go up there and just say funny stuff and really do well.”
Once Roger noticed people were drawn to his music, he began taking it more seriously. He says one of the biggest things that helped him come out of his shell was honest feedback from people outside of his friend circle.
“I think being able to have people who don’t know me at all hear my stuff was pretty cool, even though a lot of the feedback I got when I first started was bad,” says Roger. “That’s what really helped me improve, because I could work to get better at it, where my friends wouldn’t really give me any constructive feedback. So definitely the Internet has helped me become a better artist.”
Roger’s talents eventually got noticed on a larger scale. He was invited to a Calgary event put on by King of the Dot (KOTD,) Canada’s largest battle rap circuit. Roger says his first King of the Dot battle was nerve-wracking but really helped his career get the push it needed.
“The very first KOTD battle I did was at the very first event in Calgary, so at that point they weren’t that big,” says Roger. “It was this new battle league that had just started up and the organizers heard me through Scribble Jam. It’s really just grown since then and now it’s pretty huge.”
Roger was able to turn this momentum into internet popularity, which eventually led to the release of his debut album, The Dairy Section Vol. 1, early last year.
“It wasn’t really an album to me. They were just songs I made over the course of two years, so I’d say it’s a compilation of songs that I thought were strong enough to put together for an album,” says Roger. “As far as the parodies go, usually I just listen to the song I have in mind and think of a funny concept for it. I focus on the hook of a song and build up from there.”
On top of this, Roger was lucky enough to open for rapper Lil’ Dicky earlier this month. Roger goes on to say that the new way music is distributed has contributed to his success. Websites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud make it easy to upload his music for free, while other social media platforms make it easy to connect with his fans.
“With the internet, you can literally reach anybody. If you can be successful on the internet, than you can be successful from anywhere, it probably wouldn’t matter,” Roger says. “If I lived in a city like Toronto or Los Angeles, I could connect with other people that are already established and would end up making friends with other people. I could make friends way easier that way.”
While Roger is enjoying the success he’s found so far, he tells us that the city has more hip hop artists just like him, ready to emerge into Calgary’s mainstream.
“I feel like Calgary is a blossoming city, but it’s not there yet. It can be a big city though because eventually somebody is going to make good enough music here that it’s gonna do something worldwide as far as hip hop goes,” says Roger. “I feel like Calgary is an untapped goldmine for hip hop artists such as myself.”
While Roger says the talent is here in Calgary, he tells us it’s only a matter of time before Calgary becomes a hotbed for hip hop artists.
“It’ll happen overtime. The talent will continue to grow and people will start to take notice more. I feel like if the talent is undeniable, people will come to it,” says Roger. “I don’t think the hip hop talent in Calgary has reached that point.”
From stigma around hip hop music to Calgary’s own stereotype of being a country music city, Roger says it doesn’t bother him when someone initially brushes off his music.
“I don’t mind them at all. I guess I come across as a nerdy guy. I’m a skinny white guy with glasses, so I’ll run with the gimmick if it helps me out,” says Roger. “I like to have fun with music and make people laugh with my songs, so I’m never going to stop that. I do like to do serious stuff too, so it’s really all about what I feel like doing that day.”
While everything may be happening all at once for Roger, he says he’s taking his music career one step at a time, enjoying the ride rather than trying to get to his destination as quickly as possible.
“The main thing is just improving as much as possible. I feel like if I keep improving the same way I have over the past 10 years, then I’m in a good spot. When I first started, I was literally bad, literally the worst rapper I’ve ever heard,” says Roger. “Now, I think I’ll be good enough to eventually make a living making music. I would really like to work full-time writing music. That would be a dream come true, whether it’s writing for me or other people.”