North Hollywood, CA – Ian Eastwood shares the same hometown, the same passion for true art and even the same birthday as Chance The Rapper. The Chicago native first heard of the MC through a friend who he traded music back and forth with. After listening to “Good Ass Intro,” the first song on Acid Rap, Eastwood knew destiny called.
“I was like what the fuck this kid is from Chicago and he has the exact same birthday at me?” Eastwood says in an exclusive interview with HipHopDX at a coffee shop in North Hollywood, California. “This is nuts. It’s like I have to work with him this is like a sign that I’m meant to work with this dude.”
After doing choreography to “Good Ass Intro” (the YouTube video has 1.1 million views) and contacting Chance through his lifelong neighbor, Eastwood and Chancelor Bennett tried to get a project done multiple times. They finally connected in a big way with the dancer co-directing the video for “Sunday Candy.”
“It was insane to me I wanted to work with this guy for a year and the first product I ever worked with him on was co-directing his music video and choreographing it and that was kind of a realization moment for me,” Eastwood says. “When I really want things, I generally like work super hard and it kind of comes to fruition. I was having a bad day and I was thinking about that like man that’s kind of really cool. I didn’t stay too down that day.”
The 23-year-old, who also appears in the video for Chance’s “Angels,” has been on his grind in the dance industry since he was 16 years old, touring and teaching. He is a child of the YouTube age, which he says has helped the dance scene reclaim artistic ownership instead of relying on something like a career as a backup dancer.
He released the first-ever dance mixtape, Adult Lessons, on DatPiff in December. It was a dream come true for the kid who grew up listening to Lil Wayne mixtapes on the platform to have his own project recognized on the site. After brainstorming which platform to ask to host the 28-minute visual project, Eastwood and his manager connected with Kyle “KP” Reilly, one of the site’s founders, because of his vision in the culture.
“This is the real shit,” he after saying goodbye to some buddies who ate with him earlier. “I’ve actually used this website since I was a kid and I’m releasing a project with this company and this website and it’s not only a big deal to me in that sense but it’s also that for them, that’s a big deal the first visual project that DatPiff has ever released. For me, that just meant the world and that they trusted me. He’s got 500,000 tapes on there and mine is the only one that has any visuals attached to it so that was a really cool moment for me.”
Ian Eastwood Seeks To Make Impact Through Dance
Eastwood emphasizes that for him, this project was not about making money, but about making an impact. He is trying to bring back dance as a legitimate part of Hip Hop culture. It is one of the original five elements of the culture that he sees has somehow taken a backseat to other pillars such as rap or even graffiti. Even though due to copyright claims the official stream for Adult Lessons has been muted, Eastwood still sees the project as a success.
“Anybody that’s going to find it through DatPiff is automatically going to give it some credit,” he says, “because it’s an association with them which is a big street cred kind of a thing for me. Especially if I’m trying to change the outlook of dance that we are a part of urban culture, too. It’s not just commercial it’s not just you know top 40 hits or whatever we can actually have real artistic impact on the urban youth for kids that are looking for something different and not just commercial stuff.”
Eastwood appeared on season 7 of America’s Best Dance Crew with Mos Wanted Crew, which helped him gain national exposure, but reemphasized the pop stereotype of dance. Since then, he says that getting a co-sign from Vic Mensa helped him legitimize himself in street culture. He connected with The Innanetape rapper through the same neighbor that introduced him to Chance. Mensa enlisted Eastwood for the “Feel That” video and then he made an appearance in Eastwood’s choreography video for the track. After that, he says people would come up to him and recognize him as the guy from the video and they could have legitimate conversations about Hip Hop culture.
“Me being in the ‘Feel That’ video that was before ‘Sunday Candy’ so that was my first time ever being in anything like non-Pop,” he says. “That was something that was a little bit more underground, a little bit more Indie, a little bit more cool and different and that was a big moment for because it started to change my demographic.”
Eastwood has been mentored by dance legend Mr. Wiggles who was a member of the Rock Steady Crew and the Electric Boogaloos. He says that his mentor has taught him to have an appreciation for the culture as a whole. That has translated into a vision that his higher than what most dance industry people view as success, which is traveling and teaching.
“I think about the OGs of Hip Hop when I’m doing the mixtape because I want to honor the entrepreneurship and originality that they brought to the table when they were creating this stuff,” he says, “and I think that more people right now are concerned with making it, than making something great.”
Not only is he pushing himself to make something great, but he is witnessing his friends build their own legacies as well. Eastwood reflects on the impact that Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book has made and knows that his friend is satisfied with it. He recently talked to Donnie Trumpet, who appears with Chance The Rapper at the end of Adult Lessons and the musician described how the fan love gave him affirmation.
“I thought it was really cool that he acknowledged that they, like most people, still do care about what people think of their work,” he says. “I do too, I think it’s silly to pretend you’re not concerned about what people think of the work you pour your heart and soul into. And as for the project I can guarantee that this is something that Chance put his heart and soul into, and everyone can feel that. I’ve told Chance that I truly think this next coming year after the drop of this project is going to be where he launches into the upper legendary status of stardom and I can’t wait for it to come true.”
With Chance making history with Coloring Book and Vic Mensa springing to another echelon of rap by signing to Roc Nation, Eastwood finds himself in good company. He sees that while there is still a lot of progress to be made, he has confidence that he is on the right track in making his mark.
“I feel really lucky in that way like I get to do shit I really love with cool people,” he says. “Now all that has to change is kind of the rest of the world.”