^ Words + Photos by Antonio Hernandez.
Before Chuks could legally vote or buy a beer, he already had a clothing line, compilation project, and art show under his belt. Just two years ago, Chuks co-founded clothing brand Eternal DC, when he was only 15. A limited release of two hoodies blossomed into a line of beautifully-designed tees in a variety of colors and patterns.
This past July, Eternal DC curated and released the #PrayforSummer mixtape, featuring some of the area’s best lyricists and songwriters in and around the District, including Sir E.U., Kesari and Substantial. To celebrate the success of the project, Chuks co-curated the #ArtforSummer show, featuring performances and art displays by many of the featured artists.
Chuks discusses the origins of Eternal DC, the art scene in D.C and how #PrayforSummer came together.
Q: What have you been doing recently with your brand?
CHUKS: Recently, my clothing line Eternal DC decided to embark on a project that’s not only with music, but has a community aspect: to bring together the DMV rap scene, show more love, and bring parts of Maryland out to D.C., and parts of Virginia out to D.C., to bring a new culture to the rap scene.
“Even though our bodies may die, we remain eternal through our art”
Q: What made you choose the name Eternal?
CHUKS: Eternal was a name that my partner and I figured out. If you asked him, he’ll say he said eternal, but if you ask me, it was me. (Laughs) We wanted to make sure it was something about stamping our identity in the world, and expressing ourselves through artwork. Our motto is “even though our bodies may die, we remain eternal through our art,” through fashion, music and other things we create.
^ Chuks with DJ Limelight at #ArtforSummer
Q: What attracts you to the DMV scene, instead of going out to different areas?
CHUKS: I was really born in D.C., and then when I was a couple months, my parents moved to Maryland because my family was getting too big. All the successes I’ve had in my life, I can attribute to D.C. The D.C. culture and influence has done a lot for me.
I started out getting into the poetry scene, and then from there, it expanded. For as much as D.C. has given to me, I want to give back to D.C. New York, L.A. and Atlanta have it, but we can make it here too. In fact, we have it here. We just have to get everybody to look.
Q: What was one of the first things you did when you created Eternal DC?
CHUKS: The original mastermind behind Eternal is Jamal Franklin, aka DJ Limelight. We both had different ideas of a clothing line and then we came together. He was the artistic director for a long time, and he did a lot of stuff for us. The first thing we did was make these two hoodies, a black one and a white one. He designed them and they had the cherry blossoms on it and everyone went so crazy over them.
“We were so young, we were like ‘how did we do this?’ At that time we were 15. We didn’t have a website or anything — we were giving it out by hand”
At the time, we were so young, we were like “how did we do this?” At that time we were 15. We didn’t have a website or anything — we were giving it out by hand, but that wasn’t really meeting [expectations]. Jamal gave us a lot of the art and energy we needed. Our manager Nemo, who’s in Florida, really pushed networking and reaching out. When he left, it was up to me to take care of that and other things for the brand. Our first thing was to create as much as we can and fail as much as we can, so we can learn and come back as hard as we can.
The next year, for our summer collection, we had 25 shirts, and then we just kept going and going.
“I met all these artists, going to Whop shows and to Kool Klux shows; going to Public Theory shows; going to Electric Maid”
Q: Where did you find some of the artists that are performing tonight?
CHUKS: This show and the mixtape #ArtforSummer is really near and dear to my heart. I just graduated high school, so all this stuff has been my journey from middle school, sixth grade and then to high school. I met all these artists, going to Whop shows and to Kool Klux shows; going to Public Theory shows; going to Electric Maid.
Everybody we met on the way, we listened to. When we got the chance to show everybody our world, the world of our squad – which we call Young Detective Squad. We got everybody on the path to this point and then we did it, so it’s really nostalgic to me to see all this from my past to come together for one event.
^ Chuks with The Scumbag Boyz.
“Sometimes there’s a calling for things you have to do, and that’s my calling”
Q: Since you’re so young, what did your parents think of you going to the shows and everything?
CHUKS: My parents at first were wary about it. They were like “this part of D.C. is dangerous, you don’t want to go this show.” I just knew this is my city, and my city is going to protect me, and my God is going to protect me as well. Sometimes there’s a calling for things you have to do, and that’s my calling.
There’s been plenty of times where the worst thing that could’ve happened, happened, and the best things that could’ve happened, happened. I really have to thank all of our parents for giving us the chance to do what we need to do, letting us be young creatives and trusting the people here.
“They started seeing that their sons were doing something, and are doing something positive… it turned into a loving learning experience”
Mr. Powell is in here, he’s E.L.P.J.’s father, and he’s the OG of the crew. He really was the one putting us on to hip-hop, taking us to shows. Looking out for us, being what a real black man is: taking care of his children, taking care of his culture. They started seeing that their sons were doing something, and are doing something positive. At first it was a little wishy-washy, but it turned into a loving learning experience.
Q: Where will you be in 5 days, 5 months and 5 years?
CHUKS: In five days, I will be happy as shit that this is over! This has taken over my life in a lot of ways. People that I love have been angry that I haven’t been responding to text messages and calls, because I’ve been working on this. I’ll be kicking it with my friends are preparing to go to college and making moves off this.
“I feel like I’m in my lane, and that I don’t need to find myself anymore”
In five months, I’ll be at Marymount University, and hopefully working on #PrayforWinter and expanding the brand. In five years, I want to be the same person I am now, but expanding it to the fullest possibilities. I feel like I’m in my lane, and that I don’t need to find myself anymore. I’ll be strengthening the design and carrying that forth. I see my brother E.L.P.J. going out on tour, and Limelight designing pr and I see myself working on the scene and bringing more things together.
Thanks Chuks for the interview! Stay up on everything Eternal DC is doing by following the brand on Twitter and on Instagram. Their next event is Friday, Sept. 25th featuring performances and visuals by some of the best emerging performing artists in the DMV.