Moving on to our next Verge Campus 2017 Boston Breakthrough Artist, we meet another hip hop storyteller, Chris Borelli
This isn’t the first time I’ve chatted with Chris Borelli about his life and career as an artist. Last year, I had the chance to hear his story and share it with the Verge Campus community. It’s a success story that has been an integral part of who he has become as an artist and as an individual.
This time when I chatted with Chris, we did re-visit his past again and how that has played into his identity as an artist, but right now he’s at a unique point in his career that has the potential to be a game changer in the coming year for him. But before we get into that, let’s get to know Chris a little more.
Chris was born in Salem, MA in 1992 and lived for part of his youth in Framingham, not far from Boston. When he was 11, he was taken out of his biological home and placed in foster care. At 14, he was adopted by the Borelli family, and that’s when music came into his life.
His adopted family had a piano in their house and Chris simply sat down one day and started playing and instantly felt a connection.
“I just started playing it like a video game, and it became my first love,” Chris said.
This lead Chris to pursuing music all throughout middle school and high school. He explained how he became “that John Legend cat” for a short time, writing and singing love songs and other slow ballads. He did not start rapping until he got to college.
After high school Chris was accepted to Stonehill College in Easton, MA on a full scholarship, something he describes as one of his favorite memories. He told me that it was a major milestone for him due to the fact that many people from the lifestyle he comes from do not have have college as an option.
“That in itself was a really exciting way to know that I’m beating the odds and defying everybody’s expectations about me and people like me,” Chris said.
It wasn’t that long into freshman year until hip hop found Chris one day through a good friend. His roommate, Rex Mac, another Boston-based hip hop artist, encouraged Chris at the time to try out writing hip hop lyrics.
After impressing his friends with the lyrics he came up with, Chris decided he would take hip hop seriously. Some of his initial shows were on Stonehill’s campus, and Chris said they were fun but also laughable.
“They were hella awkward,” Chris said. “I remember my first solo show at Stonehill: I wore shades on stage indoors and this t shirt and ripped jeans and busted Adidas, it was so lame.”
But he also described these early performances as experiences that he needed to go through to find out who he was as an artist. At the end of the day his music and lyrics were resonating with those around him, and that’s what he found most important.
By his junior and senior year, Chris was getting booked for larger and larger shows. He graduated in 2014 and has been living and working full time in Boston since, but is continuing to expand in Boston’s hip hop scene.
His most accomplished project to date is a mixtape he released last year called “Passive.” Chris describes it as a very personal collection of songs. He told me that the majority of his music and lyrics is socially charged, self empowering, and always honest.
Currently he is working on a new album called “Selfish” expected to be released on all platforms including Apple Music and Spotify in late spring. Like Passive, this is a deeply personal record, but Chris explained he wants to tell a story about all types of relationships in his life and how they have affected him and others. Check out a recent single from Chris, “20s,” in anticipation for his next album.
A big part of “Selfish” is Chris explaining that he is selfish in good ways and bad, something that he believes is prevalent in all of us.
“If I can admit something like that through music, not only am I creating good music that emulates that emotion but I’m kind of putting myself through a baptism of sorts by just putting it out in the open.”
If there is anything that stands out about Chris’ creative process as an artist is that he does not create a reality that does not exist in his music and lyrics. He’s honest with people about himself, and wants us to know that inherently we’re all the same.
Chris is also on the forefront of Boston’s blossoming hip hop scene. Especially with the high population of college students in the area, Boston is already a Mecca for up-and-coming young artists.
“It (Boston’s music scene) means a lot to me and I hope I can be one of the pioneers that takes it to the next level,” Chris said. “A few people are doing it right now but I think there’s room for people like myself and a lot of others like me.”
With many aspiring student artists in Boston, Chris has a few words of advice due to the fact that he was in a similar spot just a few years ago.
“When I first started out, I thought my Stonehill fanbase was the whole world, and I wouldn’t have admitted that to anyone when I was at school,” Chris said.
Chris explained that it was great to be known on campus as ‘that dude who does hip hop and will go somewhere with it,’ but that it’s a total change of perspective once you graduate.
“You don’t realize until you leave that there’s a whole world there that you also have to impress with your hip hop,” Chris said.
Chris said that it’s important for student artists to live in the moment and enjoy college but at the same time push hard to get your music to as many people as possible.
“My biggest advice would be to continue to branch out and don’t limit yourself,” Chris said.
Chris does not look back with any regrets though, and is anything but grateful for the opportunities he had in the early days of his career as an artist in college.
Five years from now, Chris hopes to be doing music full time. He’s hoping this next album, “Selfish,” will help him get closer to that goal.
“I really hope I’m doing it by then,” Chris said. “I want to be traveling the world doing shows. I love performing, I love performing more than I love getting paid to perform, I love seeing people’s reactions to my music.”
One of my final questions for Chris was this: What are you on the verge of? He had this to say:
“I’m on the verge of manifesting my success.”
In this day and age the music industry is oversaturated with egos, entourages, and people doing whatever it takes to make it, even if that means going as far as altering their artistic identity. I will say right now that this will never be the case for Chris Borelli. No matter where his career takes him from here on out, he’ll always be the Chris Borelli who defied the odds, persevered, and told insightful stories through music. With that, I’m going to end this with a quote from my first piece on Chris that has resonated with me and hopefully any other artist who reads this.
“No matter how much the industry changes, as long as you continue to tell your story and stay true to what you are and how you convey it, I think people will always respect it, especially when they can rock to it.”
Check out Chris Borelli’s official website for the latest updates on his music and shows.