Shabaam Sahdeeq Interview
You’re one of those MCs who stays working. It seems as though there’s never a dull moment with you.
Yeah. I feel like if I stop moving, then hip-hop is over. That’s why I put out this new song that I got called “Crank.” It’s kind of like the movie, where if you stop moving, then your heart just stops. If you stop moving, you die. I feel like I gotta keep going. I got some things to bring to the table that people should definitely check out.
Your new album, Relentless 2, has a KickStarter page to collect funds for marketing. That’s a great way to raise awareness and support.
Definitely. It’s adding marketing dollars. I could use those things towards different things, little radio campaigns and all that. I put things out with my label and in conjunction with other people, doing the little digital stuff. But I’m just trying to combine the old ways and the new ways also. Because some people, they concentrate just on the ‘net and the free downloads. I believe that if you combine both forms, if you still make hard copies, if you still concentrate on merchandise and shows and you still do stickers, like back in the days, and just combine the old and the new, it would just make more of an impact. I was just looking for people to contribute marketing dollars. I don’t think I gave myself enough time. I only made it 30 days. I should have made it 60 days. And I probably should have made the money lower, too, so that I could definitely use it towards something. But it’s worth trying. Everything is worth trying. If you don’t try, then you’ll never know what could happen. This year, I’m trying everything, as long as it coincides with what I’m trying to bring to the table. It’s all good. It’s definitely a way to, just like the name, kick start a project. All the people that hit me up on the ‘net for verses and other stuff, somebody should be able to contribute $5, $10, $15, whatever. But the people want what they want and they move when they want to move, so you just move with it.
It’s gotta make you feel good to see some support from KickStarter.
Yeah. I’m definitely trying to raise awareness because I run into people overseas and they’ll tell me they didn’t know I had all this out and the last thing they remember is Never Say Never or wherever they stopped and at what point they stopped hearing my stuff. It’s really about raising awareness that the stuff is actually out because that’d be the thing. A lot of artists, they have mixtapes and they have songs out but other people in other places and countries don’t know if it’s out if it’s not being promoted and for an underground artist, there’s only a few ways. There’s the internet or you’re touring. There’s only a few ways and you gotta try everything to get it out there.
How is your next album, Relentless 2, coming?
The project is done. The project is done and mastered. I’m just trying to figure out new, creative ways to promote it. I have other mixtapes out and they got good responses and they got good downloads and people supported it, but every project, you’re trying to do at least a couple notches better than the last one. And I want more people to know that it’s out, so even things like SXSW, even if I’m not in it, I’m gonna go this year with merchandise and go to different festivals and just show up with my merch and just raise awareness. The response for Relentless 2 has been good. I put out a few leaks. I put out the leak with Rock from Heltah Skeltah. I put out another one, a video called “This Is” and another song called “Crank.” The response has been good on all three of them. So now it’s just about bringing it all home. I got a few shows up and down the East Coast and I’m doing Europe at the end of March. Everything should be good. Everything’s going to be tight. I’m just trying to get it warm because I have another album that I’m trying to drop at the end of summer called Keepers of the Lost Art. Relentless is the appetizer for that.
You’ve done so many guest appearances that you were able to compile them into a compilation, The American Classic. Is it easy for you to collaborate on your own projects when it’s time?
Everybody looks out, for the most part. There are some people, where their schedules are so hectic, that it’s hard to get them to do it if they’re not getting paid, but for the most part, everybody that I’ve done stuff for has returned the favor. That’s the current climate right now. If you got a name that people check for, you could barter. You trade services. Sometimes I do verses and songs for different producers and they hook up websites or artwork. They trade. Same thing with the MCs. I might hook them up with a video producer and they hook me up with a verse. It’s a community. The more we stick together, the better things look.
For the most part, the people you see on my project, I know them and I’ve sat down and had conversations with them and built with them. It’s not like an internet thing where I just hit them up and they magically just do a verse for nothing. I know the people, aside from maybe one or two people that we caught a vibe on Facebook or something. For the most part, I know them. Sadat X, Steele from Smif N Wessun, Hasan Salaam, they’re all friends of mine. That’s what makes the music real to me.
What is it about you that allows you to pull off so many collaborations and have them work?
I don’t know. It’s a couple things. Artists might look and say, “Okay, if I do a joint with Shabaam, he’s gonna promote it and he’s going to make sure he does what he can to make sure it gets out there. It’s not like we just did a song that I’m going to play for my friends. It’s going to get out there somehow.”
People respect the grind and I respect other people’s grinds too. You might see me at a show and talk about doing a joint and if I respect your grind and I know that you’re doing your thing, I want to be a part of it and I’m not going to charge you nothing, especially if your name is up. I want to be a part of your movement and I want you to be a part of my movement. We each get a piece of each other’s fanbase. And if I’m on your CD, I’m going to make sure I promote your shit too. I’ll let people know I’m on this. That’s how I get down. I’m fair. Whoever’s on my project, that’s who I’m cool with.
Do you still have fans mentioning your older music and following your older stuff?
Yeah. There’s a lot of fans, they get familiar with my new stuff and they check for my older stuff. There’s some fans out there, they just want to hear the retro sound and they just want to hear my older stuff. It’s crazy, because at the time, I didn’t think of it like that. I didn’t think that people would still be excited about it, like 10-15 years later, but I feel like some people are more excited about it now than they were when it actually came out. But it is what it is. I’m fortunate to have come out in the Golden Era and I’m still doing it now. Some people gave up. I don’t know. I guess ‘cause they couldn’t see the money out of it.
But I love hip-hop. Some people got pottery, I got hip-hop. (laughs) Whether I’m working a job, because I’m a barber and I go to school. I work at a hotel. I do different things, but I always juggle it and I still do my hip-hop too and I make a good amount of money. It’s like, if you love it, you’re in it for the long haul. It’s like jazz. It’s the same thing as jazz.
Before there was an age boundary with rap, where it was a young man’s game, where once you were out of your 20s, people figured you should stop rapping, but realistically, how can you put an age barrier on rap when people have been listening to rap for, like, five generations now? That’s five generations of hip-hop listeners. There’s people’s grandparents that were listening to King Tim III. You can’t really put no age barrier on it. That’s why I named this series Relentless, because I’m not going to stop. And every year I learn more and I learn better the aspects of the business part of it and not just the music. So you know, hopefully it’ll be like jazz. We’ll still be touring the States and Europe and wherever they like it.
My aim is just to make timeless music that people will be able to check out years from now and be like, ‘I like this.’ My demographic is 29 to, like, 35, but I could appeal to the younger people too because it’s like, I don’t think there’s really no age barrier. I just don’t make childish music. I don’t make music to get silly to. It’s more thinking music, it’s more driving music. I’m really not too much on the party side. I could make party records, but I’m not in party mode 24-7, so I appeal to the people who like to think and the street element also.
Besides Relentless 2 and Keepers of the Lost Art, you’re working on some collaboration albums. Can you give us some insight into those?
I got a limited edition 45 that I’m coming out with DJ Spinna. It should be out in two, three weeks. I’ve been messing with Spinna forever. That’s like my brother. My vibe and his vibe are just trying to keep it classic. He did “5 Star General” with me that had Eminem on it and he did a lot of other classics. We did the Polyrhythm Addict album that came out in the ‘90s and the one that came out in ’07. We’re trying to continue that and we might be dropping an album called Midlife Crisis on BBE. The 12” is kind of like the lead-up to that.
And I got another project that I completed with a new artist named Eddie B and another guy called H Fraud. H Fraud really does a lot of production for French Montana and Lil’ Cease and a couple other artists that I like that are more mainstream. He kind of reached into his other element to do the album with me and his artist, Eddie B, who’s an ill lyricist too. Our album is Crossfire. We got Maffew Ragazino, Poison Pen and the Incomparable Shakespeare. More newer cats. We got Chace Infinite from Self-Scientific. It’s a different album. It’s still that underground flavor though. Straight lyrics. Something that you pop in and smoke to and drive to and listen to and rewind it, “He said that.”
I got a couple other projects, like The Closers, with Red Eye and the two producers in Thoro Tracks. I’m just trying to stay busy. I’m going to keep some of them under wraps but The Keepers of the Lost Art, Relentless 2, the album with DJ Spinna and Crossfire with H Fraud and Eddie B.
What’s it like working with Spinna today?
Spinna is a rare, rare dude. He’s really a DJ. He’s the essence of what I think about when I think of a DJ. That’s who I think of. His house, where he lives in, he has a whole ‘nother different apartment that has wall-to-wall records. Shelves, actually like rows, like you could go down rows like a supermarket (laughs) of records. He’s a producer and he’s a DJ. Working with Spinna is like working with a hip-hop Simon. You mention a sample and he’s going to go find it. It could be an accapella and he’ll run down the aisle and find it. He might have the test press of it! Working with him is definitely classic, classic material and the project with me and Spinna, I’m going to be telling more stories than anything. Definitely more story-oriented because I feel like that’s missing in hip-hop too.
But the 45 that we got coming out, there’s a song on one side and there’s a story side called “Motion Picture.” We cut up that Royal Flush record and he’s killing it. There’s definitely a lot of scratches and a lot of fly shit in there! (laughs) I’m excited for a 45. I never had a 45. It’s a little baby record with the cover and everything. Collectible! Only 500! Only 500 are being made! If it was done in time, I would have offered that on KickStarter as one of those incentives, but KickStarter is basically a test for me. I wanted to see if it could work and it worked for some people but what works for others might not work for you. Now that I put that up, I see other people wanting to go to KickStarter too. Hey, whatever. I’ve seen it work for Ras Kass though. Ras Kass, he turned up a lot of money. That was good.
Do you think you’ll do another Polyrhythm Addicts album?
I want to do a reunion album but it’s hard to coordinate five people. Apani is a mother now, she just had twins. Same thing with Tiye Phoenix. All our kids together is like a whole football team with subs! (laughs) It’s hard to kind of coordinate five people, me, Spinna, Complex, Apani and Tiye Phoenix. That would be a fly album. With all of us, that would be an incredible album, but making it come together is harder than it seems.
Are Tiye Phoenix and Apani still rhyming?
Yeah, they’re both still rhyming, but after you’ve been doing this for a certain amount of years, some people feel like they get to a crossroads and they either stay focused on rap or they focus on work and mouths to feed. Me, I’m in a different zone. I still do my grown man business. I still got two jobs and I still go to school. I just finished school. I just feel like I could handle it. I can’t give up on hip-hop. There’s people out there that still want that real shit so I’m going to keep going. As far as them, I don’t know what their plans are. They’re both still rhyming. I just don’t think that it’s a priority for them to come out with stuff regularly. It’s on them. They’re my sisters and Spinna and Complex are my brothers. Whenever they’re ready, I’m down. There’s not going to be any blockage from me.
How do you hear your music evolving as you keep recording?
Well, it definitely is changing, because, as you become a parent and you get older, your topic range changes a little bit. Your whole perspective changes. It should change. I see myself growing as far as getting more with the business aspect of it and rhyming in my age bracket. (laughs) It’s less wilding out and it’s more grown men business on it. I still got that street element to my music, but it’s not about wilding like before. It’s more contained. I’m open to describing other, different topics. I’m going to get more into stories because I feel like that element is almost gone.
Are you hitting the road soon?
I should be out in Europe in March for a couple festivals. I’m doing an East Coast tour. I think touring is important for artists because some people don’t realize what you have going on until they see you rip a stage. Last year my appendix burst and I could hardly walk in Europe. I was dragging my bag around the whole tour. I had 175 stitches. I had to clean it, change the bandage, rock the show, go back to the hotel, take mediation. I’m in this hip-hop shit for the long haul.