“I'd Like to Be Happy”: An Interview with Brooklyn’s Chelsea Reject

Chelsea Reject isn’t sure exactly what her future holds, but she’s excited to define it on her terms.
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Chelsea Reject, 2019

Chelsea Reject sees every day as an opportunity to become a better version of herself. This ethos has defined the Brooklyn MC—born Chelsea Alexander—since the beginning of her career. Her music finds comfort between the everyday and the surreal—complemented by sturdy flows, giving the laid-back production unexpected and fiery energy. To this day, Reject feels like a Saiyan marooned on Earth, speaking for those stuck between outcast and regular.      

Despite her Othered status, Chelsea pushes on. As an independent artist, constant forward motion is a requirement—especially after the 26-year-old experienced some massive sea changes during the past few years. A breakup following her previous album, CMPLX, led to a three-month stint in Berlin, Germany, which broadened her perspective on herself. 

While in Berlin, Chealsea spent as much time teaching herself how to cook as she did working on her latest album, This Is Not My Final Form, released April 8. “You need to live life to be able to write music and create content,” she says of the experience over the phone. “It wasn’t on purpose, but it just kinda happened like that.”

As an album, Final Form exists as a life of constant tumult. Songs like “Kidulthood” and opener “Anxiety (Intro)” present Reject at her most uneasy—bouncing off the walls created by frantic drums, guitar twangs, and piano twinkles. “Anxiety knows me by name/Calls me in the morning sometimes, just to complain,” she sighs on the intro, and it’s easy to believe her.

For Chelsea, the anxiety melts away while she’s recording in the booth. She created Final Form over two years, including her time in Berlin. Chelsea’s isolated process gave her the space to develop on her terms, sifting through beats from the likes of Emani, C’mar the Producer, and D’Artizt, among others. When all was said and done, she walked away with 30 completed songs.

“That’s the best way to approach making an album because then you have so much to choose from,” Chelsea explains of leaving the studio with too much as opposed to too little.

On “ViiiBEs II,” producer 4K balances pattering 808s and chords shrouded in radio haze to soundtrack a potential fling, while “Energy (Enemies)” picks up the pace as Chelsea eviscerates would-be foes (“You’re not yourself cause you ain’t bold enough”) over producer Homage’s rickety drums and synthetic chirps. There’s a variety in the record’s sonic cohesion that keeps the intergalactic rhythms grounded.

Chelsea’s vocals do most of the experimental heavy lifting across Final Form, with her mid-range coos dotting many of the songs and complementing her versatile raps. Chelsea credits her isolation to feeling more comfortable taking risks:

“I don’t consider myself a singer, but I was able to come out of my shell a little more,” she says. “I got more comfortable working by myself. When you’re just locked in, you don’t have other people’s opinions floating around.”

It can be hard to justify taking risks as an independent artist. Whereas Chelsea’s last album, CMPLX, was released through New York indie stalwart Duck Down Music, Final Form was self-released and promoted. “The most difficult part is the funding,” she says. “It’s harder when you have to get money for everything yourself. From your videos to touring, it can be a real struggle.

Chelsea has faced down these struggles, much like Dragon Ball’s Goku, bent on overcoming any odds with a wry smile. She spent a fraction of this past summer touring Europe. She’s already released three music videos from the album—for “Kidulthood,” “Out Alive,” and most recently, “Amnesia,” which sports a bright psychedelic look reflective of the song’s embrace of self-love—and she plans on delivering a video for every remaining track.

Chelsea Reject’s independent zeal is inspiring, but her moment in rap’s hyperbolic time chamber has only just begun. Though she isn’t sure exactly what her future holds, Chelsea is excited to define it on her terms. 

“I’d like to be happy, comfortable, healthy, and have a lot of pit bulls,” she says with a chuckle. “Just the basic life essentials.” 

There’s nothing better than well-earned peace.

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