Shabaam Sahdeeq’s been quietly killing the game for almost a straight decade, and that’s not even counting the work he put in with Rawkus and Raptivism in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Besides logging some highway miles with Sean Price and P.F. Cuttin on the Grown Man Rap Tour and hosting his own showcase, It’s Alive, in New York City, S-Dubs quietly released one of the stronger albums of the 2014 in Keepers of the Lost Art, an album that features cameos from the likes of Stimuli, Wais P, and Skyzoo along with production from Harry Fraud. When he’s not getting shouted out by Dave Chappelle or prepping for the Czech’s largest hip-hop festival, Hip-Hop Kemp, the part-time barber, full-time MC took some time to chop it up with us about Keepers of the Lost Art, his 2014 state of mind, the Shabaam Sahdeeq legacy, what’s been up with DJ Spinna, if a Polyrhythm Addicts reunion is possible, how often “5 Star Generals” gets referenced, his workout regimen, and much more in this insightful and exclusive interview.
Here are some quotes from the feature:
On where Keepers of the Lost Art is taking him:
I got the feedback I wanted, you know? As far as the reviews, shows that I wanted to get on, like Sway in the Morning invited me up. They played one of my songs on The A&R Room and it got good feedback from the callers and the people in the studio and it actually beat out Jay Electronica and Jay-Z’s freestyle or record, whatever they had out at the moment. So after that Sway and DJ Wonder invited me up to The Morning Show. I did an interview and then a back-and-forth freestyle with Red Alert’s son. He’s pretty nice. All the feedback’s been dope. I’m doing Hip-Hop Kemp next week with the ill lineup, KRS-One, Action Bronson, Ras Kass, Rasco, Edo.G, you name it.
On respect and why Keepers of the Lost Art is like his first album:
I feel like this project got the fair shake that I needed because when I was on Rawkus, things went haywire. And then when I finally got a release on Raptivism, then I went to jail, so this is like the album that I could drop that was the album. It was mixed. It was mastered. It was everything that I wanted it to be. Strategize was a bunch of rough demos that we put together and put out with DJ Revolution on the mix. It wasn’t like I planned that and it wasn’t top-notch songs. Those beats and that stuff, that was tapes that we had that we just slammed together when I first came home from jail. That wasn’t like a masterpiece and what I’ve been working on now. Even the ones previous to this album, they were more like a collection of songs. They were like digital albums, like collections of songs that I had. This one, conceptually, from the cover to the beats that I picked and the artists that I had on there, I had in mind for this. So in a sense it feels like my real first album.
On surviving as an indie artist in 2014:
It’s hard and it’s easy at the same time because if you cover all ground, you’ll make your money. If you got merchandise, you’re selling merch, you’re selling CDs, you’re selling hoodies, t-shirts at all your events, you got your stuff on iTunes, you got your stuff out there, you got your limited edition vinyl and your snapbacks, you’ll get your money. Your publishing is registered, you’re paying for your college promo spins and it’s getting spins, you’ll get your little checks. They won’t be super-big checks like the major label artists, but everything will add up if you do it right. It’s easy if you cover all angles. If you’re doing the overseas thing, you know, and doing your own release parties and you got people supporting you, you’ll make it.
On his motivation:
I came from an era where it was vinyls and CDs and the label was handling everything. You really didn’t have a finger on your fans. Now, you know, you got the internet and your fans can hit you up on Facebook. You never knew the impact you had on fans until now. I had people hit me up on the internet and tell me about this song and I didn’t know I was reaching that many people. You never know. I had Trag Khadafi on the new album and that’s another one of my favorite songs on the album and I feel like he’s super-underrated. He was one of those artists I was listening to when I was coming up. He was like the young’n of The Juice Crew. That’s what I was listening to and do joints with him, that’s official to me. That’s what I’m doing this for. I love to do this. I want to make quality with the people that I’m feeling. You know, you just keep it moving. You might feel like you’re unsung but eventually there’s people out there that love your shit and they’re not going to let you go.