Big Shug: Street Champ

An integral member of the Gang Starr Foundation, Big Shug is still standing tall as he releases his sophomore LP, Street Champ (Babygrande). Mark his words, he is a battle rap champion. Shug is featured on two of Gang Starr’s most gangsta tracks; “F.A.L.A.” off of the 1994 Hard To Earn and “The Militia” from 1998’s Moment of Truth. On Shug’s follow-up to his 2005 debut, Who’s Hard, he reunites with DJ Premier and he also gets major assistance from rising producer MoSS, who has made beats for rap connoisseurs including Joell Ortiz, Ghostface Killah, and Sean Price. MoSS’ artistic talents contain the same intricacies as Premier and also pack the necessary punch which blends smoothly with Shug’s combative lyrics. The hulking emcee never points his finger at anyone in particular and does not encourage physical confrontation. Instead, Shug has a discreet way of showing his softer side; in “Walk Away” he raps “Since I spit from the heart, I’m Hip-Hop’s insider” and in “What U Gonna Do” Shug advocates right from the start: “One life to live, make good choices.” His subliminal positive messages are enough to change the bad reputation that battle rap has built itself upon. Any fans of Gang Starr, will catch a dose of nostalgia with Shug and Premier’s “Play It.” Preemo is at his finest; producing a complex beat featuring chopped strings and rugged drums. Shug reflects on the nasty turn that music has taken and doesn’t understand why rappers don’t let the music speak for itself. He pleads, “This year I’m not f*cking with coward cats/Who hide behind their raps and flash their Cadillacs/Scared of the battle raps.” On “It Just Don’t Stop” Preemo lays down somber chords and trademark vinyl scratching. Shug lays it down for rappers who forget where they come from after they sign a major record deal. Not Shug, though, he keeps it real.MoSS goes face-to-face with one of Hip-Hop’s greatest DJ’s of all time, DJ Premier, and proves to deliver at the same magnitude; though Preemo only produced three tracks compared to MoSS’ thirteen. The only question is whether or not Shug will have much more to say about battle rap after Street Champ. If not, he might just have to conquer another style of Hip-Hop.

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