Big Shug Interview
|Label:||Babygrande Records/Team Shug|
|Website:||Big Shug's Website|
It seems like every other MC on the radio talks about the streets, but only a few actually live there. Frequent Gang Starr collaborator Big Shug returns with his second solo album, Streetchamp, ready to drop verses and maybe even break some legs while he’s at it. In an exclusive interview with DJBooth.net, Big Shug talks to Nathan about how hip-hop has pulled him through some seriously hard times, who he’d bring in for the ultimate posse track, and the current state of Boston hip-hop.
Big Shug Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s up everyone? This is Nathan from DJBooth.net and with me today is unofficial Gang Starr member and solo artist, Big Shug. How you doin man?
Big Shug: What’s goin on man?
DJ Booth: Your new album’s called “Streetchamp” and it’s dropping July 17th, what makes you the streetchamp?
Big Shug: I’m not the only streetchamp, you got a few, but a streetchamp is a person who came through a lot of trials and tribulations , ups and downs, might of lost some friends, had to fight some serious battles, but you still prevail. It’s a never say die attitude. I’m strong, pretty much successful in the things I do, that’s what makes me a streetchamp.
DJ Booth: What are some of the trials and tribulations you’ve gone through?
Big Shug: A lot of things. I’ve dealt with incarceration, homelessness, hustling hard. My father passed so there’s family lost, friends lost, a lot of struggle. If I was a weaker cat I wouldn’t be here today but I came through that, all praise to God. Just perseverance you know.
DJ Booth: How has hip-hop helped you get through all those tough times?
Big Shug: One thing about hip-hop is you always have it. I’ve been around for many years, so even before the records deals I always rapped so I always had that with me. Even in the darkest times I was always able to rap or sing something, it’s always been with me.
DJ Booth: You got a track called “Spitfire” on the album with Singapore Kane and Dre Robinson that says “this is how you spitfire.” If you were teaching a class on hardcore rap, what are the lessons you would teach your students to get them to spitfire?
Big Shug: With cats who haven’t been through as much, of course they have to deal with some sort of sensationalism. Have your punch lines, have your storylines, focus on hustling and inner city things. Make sure those are strong. A guy like me I’ve been through a lot of things, so when I’m rappin it’s something that really went down, or close to it. If this was a class I would tell em’, if it’s something you know nothing about, leave it alone. There are so many other different kinds of rap. If you know nothing about it you will come off fake, people know that. So I would basically say be true to what you know; your delivery needs to be sharp, make sure your voice is correct so people can hear you.
DJ Booth: A lot of people probably know you from your work with Gang Starr. On “Streetchamp” DJ Premier produced three tracks, including “It Just Don’t Stop.” What message were you trying to send with that track?
Big Shug: A lot of people forget about Premier. A lot of big wig dudes from radio and magazines say “What’s up with Premier? What’s he doin,” but they don’t really get at him. They want to try to eliminate vinyl and all these other things Premier was a part of. Premier has done so many great things, he still does. He’s even stepping outside the box and doing the Christina Aguilera project, but a lot of other producers forget to make grimy beats for the streets. A lot of top artists like Jay-Z and Nas are shouting him out on tracks. I was saying this guy is still here, that’s necessary. When we get together we make bangers.
DJ Booth: The rest of the album is produced by the up and coming Moss, how did you hook up with him?
Big Shug: When I was working on my last album I was working with Dan Green and he said he had some beats from Moss. So he sent em’ and I was like this dude got some ill beats. It was kind of crazy; I was like I would do a whole album with this cat. On my last album he did “Militant Soldiers” and “We Gangsta” and the relationship was born. He sent me some tracks I used to go another direction with.
DJ Booth: What is it about his beats that you feel so much?
Big Shug: He’s got so many musical joints, some grimy stuff. I was just propelled to do my thing as I listened to these beats. It just worked. I might have even gotten more lyrical on some joints because his beats are unusual. It was just something that was meant to be.
DJ Booth: There’s another cut on “Streetchamp” called “Leg Breakers” with Big Twins and Sean Price. If you could assemble any posse you wanted for a group track, past or present, who would be on it?
Big Shug: Like how many people?
DJBooth: Let’s go with four.
Big Shug: I would say Fat Joe, Common, Redman, and M.O.P., both those dudes.
DJ Booth: That’s a really wide-ranging group; I’d love to hear Redman and Common on the same track.
Big Shug: It could happen, and the reason I say that is all those dudes I spoke of have done things together, toured together, been in the same place at the same point and every time I would see them they would stay true. As I was coming up in the game every time I would see them it was the same thing. No corniness. We could posse that up, and there’d be some smooth shit too, I can rhyme with the smooth cats too. For hotness, it’s be that one right there. Like Nas, he can do some smooth shit too. If it was something that was so gutter, you wouldn’t hear it on the radio or nothing like that, it would probably be M.O.P.
DJ Booth: Speaking of radio play you and Premier also host your own show on Siruis Satellite, how important are outlets like that for artists that don’t get mainstream radio play?
Big Shug: It’s very good because it gives a venue to get your music to somebody who might not know about it. That’s what you want to do, get people to hear your music. It’s very important, and shows like that and while the Internet grows more and more people are gonna be knowing. So I think it’s very important. You get your stuff and send it into shows or put it on the internet, that’s the thing right now.
DJ Booth: Let’s talk about a topic near and dear to my heart. We’re both from Boston, why hasn’t Boston hip-hop ever gotten national recognition?
Big Shug: Boston being so close to New York, we didn’t really have our own identity. A long time ago cats would come from New York and dudes would be jumpin’ on the jock, just giving them those extra props. Then Cali came out, and a lot of MCs were just emulating what was out, and they still do instead of having some originality. That’s another reason why you got veterans like myself and Ed O.G. and a few others that are known internationally out of all the rappers in Boston. Mr. Lif is also a known cat, and Akrobatic, those are all veteran people because they younger guys are all emulating and sounding like someone else. Until we get a collective sound it will always be like that. Like Common, Common comin out of the Chi, and some others, but Common is the one that’s mainly known along with Kanye. You can’t tell me there ain’t no other rappers up in there. You got Twista. Once you get your identity and get more original I think it could happen. Cats like myself are bangin’ full.
DJ Booth: I keep waiting for Boston hip-hop to get like the Red Sox and get it together and start battling New York and even beat em’ sometimes.
Big Shug: Plus there be mad haters too. Boston need to support each other, but a lot of cats don’t. You got promoters comin’ in, they want to pay you short money, they don’t want to treat you like they treat other people comin from out of town. There’s some corny shit goin’ on sometimes. I try to alleviate that and not get caught up in that bullshit so I don’t have to slap somebody on some stupid shit. I just don’t get caught up in that. But I’m internationally known and a lot of cats don’t have the pleasure of being able to travel abroad and be known that way. I try to help, I got my man Singapore Kane from Boston, so I try to do my part but until everybody gets on some help mode…it’s almost like sports too. You got dudes who come from the hood and make it but they don’t do nothing to cultivate other cats, other kids. They’re just thinking about their lifestyle and doing dumb-ass shit in clubs. In Boston we got to help out, and help the next cat get where we’re at. But sometimes cat’s egos are so big they don’t be trying to listen to you, but that’s why they still ain’t out.
DJ Booth: Growing up listening to WERS and hearing all these Boston MCs that are dope it’s frustrating to think there’s no national play for them, they never get any recognition or any love.
Big Shug: They still there. I heard these dudes a few years ago called John Doe and they had themselves a song called “You Gotta Believe,” that song was one of the greatest I heard in years. It played in Boston for a while and then that’s that. When we get more supportive I think it will be an all right situation.
DJ Booth: Well we’re coming. Why don’t you hit people off with a MySpace page or somewhere they can go to find out more about you and your music.
Big Shug: They can go to Big Shug at Myspace, and there’s a lot of me on the internet now so even if they just go to Google and type in Big Shug there’s a lot of different sites that will come up that I’m involved in and will update everyone with what’s going down. And get ready to get that “Streetchamp” album July 17th.
DJ Booth: Well I appreciate you taking the time and we’ll definitely be on the lookout for you reppin’ Boston hip-hop.
Big Shug: Well I appreciate you man, and all the people who are listening out there. I’m gonna continue to bring that good hip-hop and continue to do my part.
DJ Booth: Absolutely, thanks again, peace.
Big Shug: No problem, peace.