Shabaam Sahdeeq: Lyrical Lazarus


ust as the September 11th attacks attempted to shut down New York, Brooklyn-bred rapper Shabaam Sahdeeq’s career almost burned in the ashes. On the Sunday after the attacks, Sahdeeq, who had already been through conflicts with his former label Rawkus, was arrested and charged with armed robbery. While serving a three and a half year sentence, he saw his solo debut dropped from behind prison bars to an audience trying to “Get By.”

Since rejoining society, Shabaam is forced to rebuild a career that seemed so ready five years ago. As Rawkus’ downfall hindered so many fledging careers, Shabaam was the one artist most invested in the label’s success in When he’s not cutting hair up in Harlem, “S-Dub” is now spreading the word about his street meets backpack duality through two mixtapes, and a heavily assisted album in the works. While he’s one of the only folks that can say they worked with Eminem in ’96, Shabaam says he’s out to change his musical irrelevance. What have you been working on, Shabaam?

Shabaam Sahdeeq: Working on the album, it’s called The Outcome, and at the same time, I have two different mixtapes on the street. [Before that, I was] locked up. I was in jail. I had a three and a half year bid. What were you sentenced for?

Shabaam Sahdeeq: Armed robbery. As a matter of fact, XXL did an article on me right when I got locked up. It was under the radar, it was called “Behind Bars.” It was a robbery, and motherf**kas told on me. Did you rap while you were in jail?

Shabaam Sahdeeq: Hell yeah, I did. You can’t record in there, maybe if I was in a minimum security prison, they might have had the equipment. In medium and max [security prisons], they don’t want motherf**kas recording in there. I went to a couple of jails, the box a couple of times. I saw a bunch of motherf**kas, I seen Shyne and Hell Rell in Clinton. What do you think it’s been that has kept you relevant?

Shabaam Sahdeeq:S**t, I don’t know if I’m still relevant. People who know all the Rawkus s**t and the “Five-Star Generals” might know me, but I don’t know if I’m still relevant today. I’m really trying to get with the young folks right now. I cut hair, that is what I do when I’m not doing this rap s**t. I talk to young kids all the time and they don’t even know what A Tribe Called Quest is, so why should they remember my s**t? I know you’re a barber, if you could cut anyone’s hair, who would it be and why?

Shabaam Sahdeeq: What’s that n***a’s name? The dude that runs Interscope? Jimmy Iovine? Yeah, him. I’d see if I could get some love. Maybe he could throw me in the mix somewhere. Which album is being bumped the most in the shop this summer?

Shabaam Sahdeeq: S**t, in the barber shop mothaf**kas play mixtapes. I work in Harlem, so they be playing a lot of Dip Set. Dip Set is cool if you’re into that type s**t. Now they’re playing 50’s new mixtapes. All kinds of South s**t: T.I., Young Jeezy getting mad spin. What happened with your deal with Rawkus?

Shabaam Sahdeeq: Basically, me and Pharoahe Monch had the same manager. Rawkus was doing good at first. They put out a couple of twelve-inches from me, [plus] Soundbombing 1 and Soundbombing 2, and then they decided to do an album. With the album, I don’t think they had capable A&Rs that knew what the f**k they was doing, so basically I was doing me. I think that they didn’t know what to do with what I came out with. I guess it wasn’t backpack enough, you know what I’m saying? I didn’t fit into what Mos Def and Kweli was doing. My s**t was a little more street than that. Are you working with The Alchemist or Just Blaze these days?

Shabaam Sahdeeq: Nah, both of them blew up while I was in jail, and right now, I can’t get in touch with none of them. I ain’t mad at them, from what I heard and what I hear, they both went through a lot of s**t while I was in jail. When I was f**king with Just Blaze, he was in intern at Cutting Room [Studios] and there was a degree of hunger there. You’ve got two mixtapes out right now, “Lord of War” and “Strategize: The Mixtape Album,” can you come pare the two?

Shabaam Sahdeeq: “Lord of War,” to me, is put together better because we took our time and mixed it. There is a theme and that is basically the Lord of War movie from which we used sound bytes to mesh everything together. “Strategize” is more like a compilation of songs that I’d done at a time when DJ Revolution picked the best ones that he liked and he scratched them up and did his turntable thing with them. One is a mixtape-album and the other is more like a street album. I don’t consider either one of them a mixtape, because I only jacked maybe one or two industry beats. I’d rather rhyme over original beats than rhyme over radio s**t. What can fans expect in progressing to the album?

Shabaam Sahdeeq: Well, the album is almost done, you know what I mean. A lot of Thorotracks joints coming with that. I got Sean Price, I got Royal Flush, Cella Dwellas and I’m working on this G Rap s**t. What was it like dropping an album in the months following September 11th in New York?

Shabaam Sahdeeq:S**t was crazy, fam. I got locked-up the Sunday after September 11. Aaliyah died. Album dropped. I’m sitting on Rikers Island and I’m still seeing smoke coming up off the city. I was in Brooklyn House, and from there, you can see the skyline and the smoke. What is it that you think is missing in the current rap mix-up?

Shabaam Sahdeeq:It’s missing a medium. It’s missing Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito. It’s missing radio shows that still gives shine to a lot of different music. Halftime Radio is still there and Columbia Radio, but the rest is falling to the left. Some real, real backpacker s**t. What was it like working with a young Eminem?

Shabaam Sahdeeq: Yeah, that s**t was official, he was in the Rap Olympics and all that s**t. I invited him to get on the track and we did it at DJ Spinna’s crib in about 1996 I think.