Monotone Samurai: Chester Watson on A Japanese Horror Film

Prodigious talent can be an albatross. The pressure to realize the promise of your youthful work might weigh you down for an album or a career. 23-year-old Chester Watson spent the last three years crafting his debut album, October’s A Japanese Horror Film that is out on POW Recordings.

Though Watson released the 10-track Project 0 and an instrumental album (as well as a few singles) between 2017 and 2020, he felt the pressure of every blog post and article that forecasted swift success. Florida-raised and now Georgia-based, Watson is a skateboarding ballet dancer turned lyrical savant. He started rapping at 13 and racked up hundreds of thousands of YouTube views just two years later with “Phantom.” On mixtapes like 2014’s Tin Wookie, Watson synthesized his few influences (e.g., Earl Sweatshirt, MF Doom) and dropped introspective, weed-fueled koans over hazy boom-bap, his resonant monotone sounding at once wise and sleep-deprived. Comparisons to Sweatshirt and Doom (though not unwarranted) abounded. Instead of rushing an album to capitalize on the hype, he took time to rework and refine his sound for A Japanese Horror Film.

“I think that’s one of the reasons why I took so long [to release my debut]—I was put into a very wild category very young with a lot of really good people,” Watson tells SPIN, speaking via Zoom from the attic of his mother’s Georgia home. This is where he made Tin Wooki and much of A Japanese Horror Film, the time between measured by an even deeper voice and the height of his Basquiat-esque coiffure. “I think not feeding into that stuff and doing what I needed to do in my life to excel as a human being kept me on track.”

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