Shabaam Sahdeeq knows a little something about having his faith tested. After all, it was only a few years ago that Baam was prepping to release his solo-debut on Rawkus Records—then the bottom fell out. After Rawkus peeled wheels on releasing his debut, Baam decided to cut ties with the label that promised to make him a star. With a debut that included collaborations with Xzibit, Cocoa Brovaz, Kool G Rap, and production from Alchemist, Just Blaze, and Ayatollah locked securely in Rawkus’ vaults. Baam has regrouped and finally shaken the bent-razor guillotine with the release of his “true” debut, Never Say Never; which includes the controversial Rawkus diss track “Straight Like That.” On the eve of Never Say Never‘s release, Baam broke bread with us to clear the air about his stint at Rawkus, and to discuss his new beginning at Raptivism, a possible reunion LP with Polyrhythm, and an upcoming bid that threatens to keep him locked down for three-years. Peep game courtesy of S-Double!
HHS: Now that you have shaken the bent-razor guillotine, can you comment on what when down with Rawkus?
S-Double: Well, I felt like we (Baam, Sir Menelik, Kweli) was one of the first few artists to build Rawkus. In other words, they used us to build to their credibility, and then they jumped to some next-shit. Being that they started off as a 12″, and drum and bass company. Once they got a little hit here and there, they started running with that and forgot where their foundation was.
HHS: Would you say they are attempting to emulate Def Jam, or a mini Def Jam?
S-Double: Exactly! Soundbombing went from having new innovative artists, to having artists who were already shining (Beanie, JT Money). You did not see shit like that on the first SB, or Lyricist Lounge. But now they are trying to be a little mini Def Jam, but not even quite, because they are not working shit to their full potential. If they were like Def Jam, “Simon Says” would have been bigger then it was, cause Def jam is like a machine, and once they have a hit on their hands they know how to make shit jump off.
HHS: Or at the very least, the sample would have been cleared beforehand!!?
S-Double: Exactly, but really to me that’s management, that’s on Monch’s manager Omega.
HHS: Was the relationship with Rawkus a mismatch from the jump? Or was there a specific instance were the relationship was strained?
S-Double: It wasn’t a mismatch it was perfect! I was doing Indy records, and to do Indy records you need a certain amount of money to make records flip. That’s where Rawkus came in, they had that money to flip and they had the same vision that I had. So it was a match, it was just that after awhile they did not appreciate certain artists who brought shit to the table. I made like five 12″ with them, that each sold at least 20,000 units independently. I brought them a joint with Eminem before he came out. I brought em mad shit that helped them grow. It’s not just Mos Def and Kweli, there are other artists that helped their shit jump-off. I feel like I contributed a lot… I felt they should have given me my shot, and put that LP out.
HHS: You disfavorably reference your stint at Rawkus on “Straight Like That”, even mentioning specific Rawkus artists and label employees. Why did you decide to get so personally revealing?
S-Double: I felt like everybody had a part to play. Certain artist’s head’s got big when they got their turn at bat and shit went good. When shit was hooked up for us to go into the studio and do jams, certain artists ain’t show up. Five times I been in the studio waiting for motherfuckers to show up. If you don’t want to do the joint that’s another story, just tell a nigga. But its another thing when they say “yeah we gonna do the joint” and don’t show up cause you on some superstar shit; its bugged out.
HHS: Are some of those emcees you are mentioning the ones you referenced (Mos Def, Kweli) on “Straight Like That”?
S-Double: Yeah, you know I throw my little jabs. I throw my jabs, and heads throw they jabs at me. It ain’t really no beef that when I see them I want to smack they head off, but I throw my jabs (laughter).
HHS: I mention that particular track (“Straight Like That”), because allot of heads of are going to be thrown for a loop, because of your reference to Kweli and Mos as “fake bookstore revolutionaries.”
S-Double: I know I did it on purpose (laughs)!! I had to do it like that cause heads is on some their too righteous to rock with Baam, or they are too conscious or whatever. Like my shit wasn’t fully where they’re at, so I just threw that up in the air. You notice that bookstore is not there anymore! I thought cats were cool, but mad heads are getting real swell. So, that’s my little jab right there. If heads choose to jab back its all good.
HHS: Taking into consideration that some of the artists you mentioned (Kweli, Mos, Pharoah) got large during your stint at Rawkus, some are going to attribute this track to being sour grapes, or that you are playing the “frustrated rapper” role. Can you comment on that?
S-Double: Nah, it ain’t no frustrated rapper role. I just call it how I see it! Cause if I see Eminem in the club right now, he sold eight-million records, he still give me more love then certain other artists, who haven’t even reached a quarter of that!
HHS: With that said, does it bother you that some of the emcees you broke in with, and have collaborated with in the past (Eminem, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and Pharaoh Monch), have not reached out to you to give you any shine since experiencing that success?
S-Double: Nah, I ain’t mad, I don’t want nobody to put me on. I want to shine on the strength of my own self. It’s not going to be proper to me until I do it like that. I don’t want to be the man in the background. No disrespect to D-12, but I’m not trying to shine like that, I’m trying to be my own person and bring my own people in.
HHS: Since “Straight Like That” came out, another Rawkus affiliate (Evil Dee) has voiced his displeasure with the label as well. Do you feel this is just the tip of the iceberg?
S-Double: Yeah man look how they did Brace 4 Impak! I don’t see no promotion, any ads, or videos, that’s basically why I left. Because I didn’t want my album to come out like that, and that’s how I felt they were going to do my shit. Personally, I feel like Evil Dee, and Da Beatminerz contributed to what we call “underground hip-hop.” They started that scene with Black Moon, Smif N Wesson, and all those groups. They started that Indy type thing, so how can you front on them, when they already got fronted on by Nervous. You’re not supposed to do that. Plus, that LP [Brace 4 Impak] was better the last Lyricist Lounge album, so what’s the deal? Certain people get the full royal treatment, and other artists don’t? Why is Last Emp still sitting there, he already got shitted on by Interscope. Still sitting there! Is he going to sit there any longer, he has a whole album done! They gonna throw out whoever got that radio hit. It’s not about servicing the small college radio-station anymore. I’m not mad at heads for blowing up, because that’s the main objective, but you can’t forget the small people too! G Rap’s record was recorded when I left Rawkus! Look at that and he’s a vet!
HHS: You are now signed to a fledgling label (Raptivisim). Did the chance to be a major building block in Raptivisim’s future attract you to them? If not, what did attract you to them?
S-Double: Raptivism is not as big as Rawkus, or some of these other labels, but I felt like the two cats I was dealing with their minds were more stable and they believed in my shit. Plus, I did a joint on their compilation, “No More Jails”, and to me it was successful. It sold 60,000 copies of just raw underground consciousness, and there is no Nate Dogg’s on the songs, there’s no big time artists already getting shine on any of the songs. I felt if they could blow that up, they could definitely blow my shit up, cause I already had a good four-years set-up fucking around with Rawkus.
HHS: You entitled your “true” debut Never Say Never, and it obviously references everything you have been thru. Though the title bubbles with ironic implications, looking back, was there ever a time you doubted yourself, or the process of being a recording artist?
S-Double: For sure! Never Say Never is everything that I have been thru in the last two/three-years. It’s all feelings, its not just lyrics and beats and shit. It’s fully based on everything that I’ve been through. At this point I just want to be heard. I’m not worried about Gold, or Platinum! I just want as many people to hear it as possible. If it sells, 100,000, 50,000, or 20,000 units that’s successful to me, because that’s 20,000 people that heard my shit. I’m cool building off of that. I would rather have a foundation, then blow-up one day and fall-off the next!
HHS: You have undeniably encountered some hurdles, but overcame them all. Is it especially gratifying to know that you rebounded so quickly with Never Say Never?
S-Double: I’m trying to bounce back with everything! Anything that happened, that set me back, I gotta bounce back; that’s just my personality. If I fight and I lose the fight, I’m trying to get right for when I see that person again I’ma whup they ass (laughter). If I lose a battle, I’m trying to write like ten-times more rhymes, so I make sure next time I’m not going to loss that battle. Same thing with the album, the Rawkus album was dope, but now Never Say Never is fifty-percent more skills then what I was doing with Rawkus.
HHS: When comparing the material you recorded for Rawkus, do you feel that Never Say Never is a better representation of where your true artistic vision rests?
S-Double: Yeah, for sure! I’ve grown since I did that album. Plus, I went thru some hard shit, just life wise. I felt for a minute that it was not going to happen, so I wrote harder.
HHS: Some of the personal/relationship issues you mention are referenced on “Can’t Be Together” right?
S-Double: Yeah, that song right there went from relationships, shit I was dealing with personally, music wise, and court wise with some little troubles. That relationship really held me down thru all the bullshit. “Can’t Be Together” is a really deep song. Then “I Still Love Her” is a part of that too. I still love her, regardless, of the shit I been thru.
HHS: Speaking of “I Love Her Too” your adoration for hip-hop is really evident on that track. Besides, being your livelihood, how much does hip-hop mean to you?
S-Double: It means a ot! Because really I’m not getting paid from hip-hop. I’m not a teenager either, I’m in this forever, I’ma die trying to do this shit word up!
HHS: Do you have any plans on releasing the material you recorded for Rawkus, or are they holding the masters for a ransoms price?
S-Double: They holding the masters for a ransoms price, because they know some of the beats and vocals on there is real crazy. If I would have been able to use just three, or four cuts of those cuts on Never Say Never shit would have been crazy! They [Rawkus] don’t want that!! I feel that Never Say Never is better, but that old shit has some joints on there! I had some shit with some producers and artists I really respected. It seems like the producers (Alchemist, Just Blaze, Ayatollah) and emcees (Xzibit) that I was fucking with on the record, that was new then, everybody done blew up now. Even when I did the song with Xzibit, Rawkus was like, nah, X only sells 50,000 copies (this was before he did the shit with Dre & Snoop), why do you want to do a joint with Xzibit. I thought it wasn’t about that? X is hot to me, and was soon to blow. They really jumped on the track after X blew, and wanted to release it again. But I was like nah, what the fuck you gonna put it out again for? Same thing with the Cocoa Brovaz, why you doing a joint with them, Boot Camp Click ain’t hot no more, but now they signed them like a year later. Crazy!!
HHS: You worked with Tahir, O-Negative, Molemen, and a slew of new producers on Never Say Never. However, considering you have worked with DJ Spinna in the past, I found it surprising that he did not contribute any tracks to this LP. Will you guys continue to work together in the future?
S-Double: Tahir is going to be that next cat (Dead Prez & Black Thought). Spinna is my man, but I felt like I did so many tracks with him. I bombed on so many Spinna tracks, I just wanted to broaden my shit a little bit. I am going to do more shit with Spinna though, I may do another Poly album, but it depends cause I am going into incarceration in January 2002.
HHS: Can you comment on that, and is everything copasetic now?
S-Double: For the most part, I am out on bail. Raptivism bailed me out, and I already took a plea for a three-flat bid, so heads won’t be seeing me for a while. In the meantime, I am doing another LP, so it’s going to drop in the middle of my bid. So, it’s going to be like I am still here minus the shows.
S-Double: See, its fucked up! I’m finally coming out with my shit, and I can’t even enjoy it. I got a brand new child shit is fucked upâ€¦ I wish there was some kind of program where I could come out in a few months, but I doubt itâ€¦ But that’s not totally deading my shit, I got another LP coming, and when I come out, I’m going to drop another one. The producers I’m working with are dong me a solid, cause they are giving me tracks before they getting money. But, when they know when its time to wrap that up, they gonna see their money.
HHS: Baam, keep your head up dawg! Just know that our prayers will be with you and your family while your locked-down! Anything you want to add?
S-Double: I just hope people go support me, I’ma catch up right where I left off when I come out for real!!
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