N.A.B. has reached out to Sha Stimuli, one of today’s “Unsung” hip hop heroes. We discuss his new release, his thoughts on the music business. and how being signed sometimes has its advantages and disadvantages. Sha gives you his intake on the game and answers the question, “Is his heart still in it or is the thrill gone?” Read and find out!
N.A.B.: Who is Sha Stimuli?
Sha Stimuli: A character a made up years ago. He’s supposed to be this arrogant confident rap guy. That, um, raps for everyone in the world. Takes other peoples issues, pain and stories and puts them into songs. It’s like the voice of all the human beings that don’t do music.
N.A.B.: We read on Wikipedia that your older brother Lord Digga would take you to the studio while he was working on Biggie’s Ready to Die. It says you were 14 years of age. How has that influenced the Sha Stimuli of today?
Sha Stimuli: Basically seeing people at a young age really doing it for real, and putting their heart into their artistry. It gave me a strong foundation. I didn’t come in and just see people make money off of it. These guys were struggling; they were serious about their craft. A lot of people were coming together for somebody’s dream. All of that stuff was implanted in me from the beginning. It made me a true fan of hip hop. And I think even Big not being here now is one of the reasons I got into it. Back then I was around my brother and I was around Masta Ace, the Juice Crew and all these other people. Hip hop wasn’t just a fantasy, dream thing for me. It was something that I thought was real and could be my career. It made me put my heart into it.
N.A.B.: Thank you for my official copy of your current album “My Soul To Keep”. What does the title mean?
Sha Stimuli: The title, I stole the title from a novel. I don’t read too many novels. It was a novel, My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due. It basically was about this dude that had a family, a regular guy. He sipped the blood of Christ; like many years ago. And he was immortal. His family didn’t know. He didn’t age, he didn’t get sick, and he’s been on earth forever. I looked at my first album as something I want to live forever. This is my gift to the world. I’m giving the world a piece of myself. So I can still be here, when my body is long gone. Also, throughout the industry and everything I’m going through, all the ups and downs, I’ve always wanted to keep my soul. So I put those two ideas together and came up with that.
N.A.B.: I heard you say that in your current project titled “My Soul To Keep” you didn’t “kill 300 *iggas & you didn’t sell 100 bricks”. Do you have animosity towards some of your peers that rely on that formula for success?
Sha Stimuli: I have animosity towards no one. I mean, I don’t love all artists. Everyone has their place. I would never have animosity towards them. I just think the hip hop fans and the people out there or even the kids in school; get clouded by the things that are not real. The things they hear in music, they think are authentic. I just let people know its okay to be who you are. If I’m not selling a bunch of keys and I’m not literally shooting people, it’s okay to talk about it. It’s okay to make an album about it. You know the mix tape stuff, the freestyle stuff, we exaggerate, and we talk our shit. That’s what hip hop is. There are a lot of braggadocio, bravado and whatever. I wanted to give an album that was honest. I thought it would be okay for me to say this is who I am, this is what I do. It’s not taking shots at anybody who feels they have to represent something that they not on record. Because people are making money being fake, wearing fake jewelry and stuff like that. That’s them, I don’t knock it at all.
N.A.B.: How do you map out your albums or mix tapes when it comes to concept?
Sha Stimuli: What you trying to make me do? Give away my secrets? Man (lol). I don’t know every approach is different. When I sat down to write for the 12 mix tapes, I would get into a zone and come up with ideas and just start writing. With the album I took my time. I figured out what I wanted to say and what message I wanted to throw out there. Everything is different; I don’t talk about the same. My technique in writing is different. I don’t say things twice.
N.A.B.: Do you see hip hop as a sport?
Sha Stimuli: I don’t see it as a sport. I see aspects of it that’s competitive and comparable to a sport. When I think about battling and things like that, it reminds me of boxing. You know you study your opponent’s weakness and use it against him. But sports have statistics and when we talk about records sales, it doesn’t always mirror someone’s talent. There is so much that goes into an artist selling records. It’s production, marketing, the team, its money and so many other different things. I could sit here and tell you I’m technically one of the best MCs in the world with putting words together. But if Kobe Bryant is dropping 30 points a night you literally see the 30 points. You don’t get to see how nice Sha Stimuli is. Someone has to have an opinion and say ‘yes he’s good’ and then someone has to go out to the store. And NBA player or NFL player doesn’t necessarily need his fans to get a check. So in that sense it’s hard to compare it to a sport.
N.A.B.: Do you look up to any of your peers?
Sha Stimuli: I don’t even know who I would consider my peers at this point. What do you mean, the up and coming rapper guys or just rappers in general?
N.A.B.: Rap artist in General. A Beanie Sigel, Freeway, Maino, Donny Goines. You know, your peers.
Sha Stimuli: I look up to pioneers. I look up to people like Andre 3000. I love anybody who has done things that I haven’t done yet. I don’t know if I look up to him but I’m inspired by him. Somebody like Freeway has made one of my favorite records ever. “What We Do Is Wrong” is one of my favorite songs and I’ve told him that. Single wise, I haven’t reached that plateau yet. So in that case I guess I do look up to him. Maino, with everything he’s gone through in the streets. Being able to put out commercial records and crossover without for a second changing who he is. There are a lot of people that inspire me. Especially people that I’m cool with, that inspires me more. I’m inspired by all the dudes in Slaughterhouse that came together to do what they did.
N.A.B.: Do you feel you have left an imprint on hip hop?
Sha Stimuli: I really don’t know. Hip hop to me is not what it was when I started. I’ve actually have fallen out of love with the actual genre. So the last couple of years, I’ve been more focused on making an imprint on life. I’ve been having this whole debate since the Waka Flocka dictionary rap comment. About what do people really want from music? People are saying they want to be touched, they want lyricism, they want to be moved but at the same time it feels like they just want to be entertained. So I haven’t really focused on leaving an imprint in hip hop. I’ve done a mix tape every month for an entire year. And people won’t care till I’m gone or the next Drake or something like that. My imprint has been when a father tells me the record made them call their son or a certain record got them through the day. Or my music made them feel a certain way and they had to reach out to me. That’s what has kept me going really.
N.A.B.: Out of all the mix tapes you’ve recorded which one is your favorite?
Sha Stimuli: I will have to say “Hotter in July”, the one I dedicated to Stevie Wonder. This is probably the only one I still listen to and not cringe too much, because when I listen to my own music, I’m always finding things I could’ve done better or different. To me that one was the most honest. I was real vulnerable on it. Every record was a sample from Stevie Wonder. It was real creative to take his records like “Overjoyed” and “Ribbon in the Sky” and turning them into my own songs, but yet, still have a piece of what he did and it was still musical. The topics were real. I think that is my favorite.
N.A.B.: Did you give up basketball to pursue a career in rap? Where’s your heart now, with music or basketball?
Sha Stimuli: Yeah, I kind of gave up basketball. I was in the Midwest, and at that time I had to decide to stay there and keep on going or come back East and attack music. I couldn’t do both. At that time I didn’t think I could reach as many people with basketball. Now that I look back on it, I kind of wish I would’ve kept playing to get the money to help fund my music. But I know I wouldn’t have been the same person today. So yes my heart is still with music.
N.A.B.: Are you scarred by your experience with Def Jam and Virgin to the point where you will never sign to a major again?
Sha Stimuli: I have not been that tainted. I’ve learned a lot from it. I never thought that I would go independent. If I ever do sign to a major again I’ll know how to better handle the situation. It is a beautiful thing to have a major company in your corner. People have to understand when you have people that are paid to be on your team, paid to call radio stations, paid to book shows and all that, that is a true blessing to have a major machine behind you. And I will never take that for granted. You have to be ready to have a machine like that behind you. You should know what the hell you want to do with the machine. I understand the game. You must have radio spins before you get that major. I’m not sure if they’re ready for an artist like me. I’m not sure weather the climate is right for artists like me. I think they’re afraid of what I do.
N.A.B.: I hear you talking about living life, writing books. I even hear you’ve started acting. Is that to expand the business mind of Sha Stimuli or is that a way out of hip hop?
Sha Stimuli: It’s not really a way out of hip hop. It’s extending me as a human being more. I think I’ve relied on music for everything throughout my life. Now I’m evolving as a person and there’s so much more I can do. I look at Common’s career and I would love to have something like that. So I don’t have to rely on music for bread. It’s not a way out of hip hop. I think I will always record and always write. There’s so much more inside of me, and so many ways to reach people.
N.A.B.: When and can we expect another album or mix tape?
Sha Stimuli: I’ll be dropping a mix tape sometime in March 2010. I’m working on my next album titled UNSUNG Vol. 1: The Garden of Eden. I’m in Atlanta right now working on it. It’s going to be different from My Soul To Keep. The music will be harder and it will still be conceptual. I’m overlooked in this game. So I’m making an album about it.
N.A.B.: Any shouts outs of last words for the readers?
Sha Stimuli: Shout to everybody that has believed, listened to anything I’ve done, downloaded, bought the album, heard about me, came to a show and everyone that has helped me out throughout my career; Stephanie Carnegie, DJ Victorious, Mr. Fame, Cheeba Music and all the websites. I want to say to the people if you have a dream don’t ever give up on it!
Interview by A.D. The General (N.A.N./N.A.B.)