Interviewed by Darin Gloe
Big Shug has had an illustrious career thus far. Being associated with Gangstarr Foundation and the one and only DJ Premier never hurts. It’s been 2 years since “Who’s Hard” and on July 17th Big Shug is back with “Streetchamp” dropping on Babygrande Records. If you are expecting a Gangstarr album you might be disappointed, but according to Shug you won’t be. With producer Moss handling the majority of the album Shug has crafted a more well rounded album and will garner some new fans from this effort. Being a huge fan of Gangstarr and the DJ Premier sound, I was thoroughly impressed with “Streetchamp”. On that note let’s get to the program.
HHS: Shug, what’s good with you man?
Big Shug: Good, good yourself?
I’m good, always looking for anything Gangstarr affiliated.
No question man, as long as its quality it’s cool.
Definitely, I was hoping for a full on DJ Premier produced album, but from what I heard Moss is impressive as well.
Primo has his followers, but we all have to be able to stand. You know. I just tried to make a quality album unlike some of us have done in the past.
(Laughs) Oh yeah?
Yeah, I pull no punches on that one.
You need no introduction, so let’s jump into it. “Streetchamp” drops July 17th on Babygrande records. Why do you think the world needs this album?
Basically it’s the difference. There is so much of the same sounding shit out here man. “Streetchamp” is a hip-hop album to the core. It’s original, I don’t sound like anybody, my topics are original and relevant, and even the style of the album is different. It’s a straight hip-hop album. I feel like the world needs the album for balance, you have to have a little something different every now and again.
I haven’t seen the reviews yet, but would you say to a critic that would call it a “throwback” or a “backpack” sound?
It can’t be. If you listen to the album you can’t say that. First off there are no R&B type tracks and if you really listen to it the topics themselves and the different flows and different deliveries it doesn’t sound throwback at all. Some critics may say its backpack without really listening to the album, that’s because they are being stubborn and they are locked in the pop state that hip-hop, is in right now. If they want to criticize based on that, so be it. It’s very relevant and a true listener can see that. Here’s the deal, it’s not a Gangstarr album period. We’ve got 3 Premier tracks but the majority of the tracks are produced by Moss who went several different directions which allowed me to go several different places. The album itself is a few steps above the last album. Nothing against the Premier, but Premier’s sound is Premier’s sound. I had to get outside of that in order for me to stand as Big Shug. It’s a good album, me as an emcee and I even do some singing on some hooks. We got this joint “Lost” that touches on real live shit about how people have to work and dealing with life issues.
Premier lends you 3 tracks for “Streetchamp”, are we ever going to see a full album of you and Primo?
It’s possible, we have talked about that. You probably will hear that before another Gangstarr album.
You also tap MOSS for the majority of the album; tell how you guys hooked up and why he is all over “Streetchamp”
When I was doing “Who’s Hard”, Dan Green from Clockwork Music sent me mad beats. So I get the Moss CD and I’m like “if I didn’t know Preme I would do a whole album with this dude”. He did a couple of joints on the last album and he had all these other beats that went so many different directions and really pulled up some crazy shit in me. It was like it was just meant to happen. It is just the first of many; we did 35 or 40 songs and only 17 made the album. It’s not that those were the 17 best, a lot of them are good but it’s not like I’m going to put 40 some songs on the album.
The track “Spitfire” who is produced by Kid Karnage, who is Kid Karnage?
That the one thing about this album. Most of the people involved are unheralded. That’s how you make stars, I’m not selling a collaboration album, this is a Big Shug album with a few friends. I have this studio in Massachusetts with my partner Justin and kids come in there all the time. I heard the “Spitfire” track and was like let’s do this. That’s how he fell in the picture, he had a raw track but he allowed me to spit fire so to speak.
That’s a great look for him as an up and comer.
That’s how I am; I just met the dude one time. If it fits in with what I’m doing I don’t need to know him for years, I think he’s only like 18 or 19. He’ll be somebody to reckon with in the coming years.
Babygrande is taking over the hip-hop world, they are the new Rawkus. What made you put this album out through Babygrande?
I had a few labels interested in putting out this album. I made this album and my man Dan started shopping it. In this day and time it’s not about who can give you the most money. It was like that back in the day, but now it’s about who is going to give you the best promotion and the best publicity to work your project. Babygrande ended up having the best situation for us and so we moved forward.
The single is “Play It” and then the b-side is “Legbreakers” are we going to see a grimy ass New York style video to go along with the single?
Most likely, we are going to do a video for both of those joints. We have our connections so we are going to make sure we get airplay where we need it up at BET.
BET needs some hip-hop, Rap City isn’t what it used to be.
A lot people were surprised that they ran “Do Ya” and people asked how we got them to play that. We have inside people that help us get in there and will help us with the looks, it is what it is. To watch the videos (on BET) and how they are now with the girls and cars, and then see a video like “Do Ya” get played was crazy to most. But on this next set of videos we are going to step it up even more and get it done.
Since Gangstarr broke up, how is your relationship with Guru, still cool?
Neither Premier nor I have spoken to Guru for like 3 years; he took off and does his thing with that dude he’s been rolling with (Solar). I don’t have any hate for Guru because he’s like a brother and sometimes even your brother has to go off and find himself. In time he may come back but I haven’t spoken to him in like 3 years, so it is what it is.
With all the talks of NY falling off, what do you hope to accomplish by putting out “Streetchamp”?
First and foremost you know I’m from Boston and I think cats need to come with originality. Cats need to come out with albums like “Streetchamp”. Nowadays you have east coast dudes coming out with screwed songs or songs that sound like they from down south like “This is Why I’m Hot”. It’s almost like people think they need to do this so I can get the listeners. Instead of like before where before people would do their kind of music and let the pendulum swing. If you just jump ship and change your style and do something else, what it’s going to do is just kill itself off. That’s how the east coast will come back is having the right label and having them believe in what you are doing. That’s how it’s been with “Streetchamp”; we have all the support we need. I hope I am what of those artists that help bring it back. Plus, I have other things coming with my artist Singapore Cane and my son Little Shug. We can get it back together but when I put a record out it doesn’t just go on the east coast it’s international. I think we just have to stay original and keep bringing the bangers.
Talking about bangers, “Militia” is one of my favorite joints of all time and the chemistry between you and Freddie Foxxx is undeniable, are we going to see more from you and Foxxx?
That’s something that could be possible down the road. Everybody is doing their thing right now. We have spoken on it from time to time and if we sit down and get that done we know that’s something that world would be clamoring for.
We know the album is full of bangers, but is there one particular song that everybody needs to check for?
There are quite a few, but cats definitely need to check for “Hood With That” which is a joint about things we do in the hood and how things go down. All DJs need to check for “Play It” because it’s talking about being a DJ and being diverse and playing different records and not just following trends so we can have that balance.
All I have to say is on July 17th pick up the “Streetchamp” we are going to keep moving forward and representing. There are going to be plenty more from Big Shug and Team Shug in the years to come.
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