“Music is my middle ground” (Interview with a rap artist)

SHAM

Bio:

SHAM is an independent Montreal Hip-Hop/Rap Artist with strong influences from 90′s hip-hop. He was born February 20, 1986 in Nigeria Jos Plateau State. Shortly after his birth SHAM left Nigeria and moved to Montreal, Quebec.

 

Releases: SHAM Street Tape, September 22, 2011. Produced & recorded by Beat Licka.

Free Digital Album Street Tape:

Song Do Not Resuscitate in ‘Atlantic Machine’ by Auto-pilot April 2012

Link to Do Not Resuscitate

Upcoming album by SHAM December 2012

Website: shamartofficial.com

Youtube: Sham Art

Facebook: SHAM/ART

 

 

Artist Statement:

 

My music questions what is there.

It speaks of the constraints we are tied to in a system of money and power.

I speak of love, hate, deception, anger and the unknown.

Music is my middle ground where I express the illusions of my twisted reality.

I need my voice to be heard. . .

 

Sneaking out the laboratory of  casualties

where life can be valued without fatalities

please excuse my imagination

in-my-G-nation

it’s running wild

like a momma lost her child

 

 

street tape album cover

Interview with rap artist, SHAM

(During the interview, Sham moves rhythmically with his body and hands, his voice modulating in volume and pacing, like he was following his inner song. )

 

[audio:new born.mp3] 

Lyrics can be found at the end of this interview.

 

Q. Why did you start to rap?

A. I’ve always been a kid who loves to perform, loves to dance, loves to sing, loves to act and at one point I found a love for hip hop, for rap. The first time I saw people doing hip hop, it was in an alley, a bunch of people in a circle, it was harmonious. You had people beatboxing, people rhyming and as soon as someone finished rhyming, then someone else would beatbox, then someone would rhyme and it would go on and on. There was this connection through everyone, a powerful feeling. It was hypnotizing, this love, it spoke to me in such a strong language and I knew that I wanted to do this. I didn’t take it seriously until later, but I always knew that I wanted to sing in front of people, that I wanted to be on stage with a microphone. I wanted to transcend something like the people I was listening to because it was amazing what it would do to you.

When I was younger, before I started writing, I wouldn’t rap because I wouldn’t necessarily say words. I would go off and make all these words in a rhythm. Sometimes it would be gibberish, but I would go off in a rhythm, a movement. Then I fell into hip hop and wow, I was impressed and that was something I tried to emulate and around Grade 5, 6, I was constantly writing in my little notebook, writing these verses and trying how to figure out how I could make them rhyme, make them sound cool. At one point I was hanging out with these older guys in high school, I was in Grade 7, 8, and I was regularly asked to freestyle and we would all hang out just beatboxing and rapping all night long in the alley as we drank. I never knew that I wanted to be a cop, to be a lawyer, or that I wanted to do a certain job, but when I did music, I knew I didn’t want to do anything else. It made me feel whole inside. We’d fantasize about it. We’d spend the whole night, just rapping, rapping, rapping, rapping, then saying it would be so cool to be on stage one day, it would be so cool to have an album one day. The fun part is some of those people are still doing music. We went our own ways but when we meet each other, we’re still on this road of this dream that we’ve chosen to take up. We’ve changed our ideas and we’re always getting better.

 

Q. What do you feel when I talk about heroes or heroines? Who does it make you think of?

A. I think of people with great powers and you don’t have to be a superhero to have power. I idolize musicians, like Bob Marley, 2pac, they have so many people that they’re out there speaking to, they’re communicating with, but they’re still being raw and real to themselves. Being put in that position, it’s not to say power, but such an opportunity, with such a big window of people to pass a message to or talk to or simply enjoy the night with. There’s power in that. When you have an artist that’s on stage, let’s say a heavy metal artist, and he says, okay, let’s see a mosh pit here right now and everyone starts throwing themselves to your music, putting up flags, jumping all over the place. That’s power.

They’re raw and real to themselves and what they want to express and they have put themselves into that position and they’re still being real to themselves. Bob Marley, with his beautiful universal language, simplicity just wanted to spread the message of love and he did it in such a groovy way and for me, music is a spiritual thing and Marley transcends that as 2pac who transcends his message and his view of the world and trying to explain his rage and pain instead of putting a blind eye to it. I find that impressive. It takes the type of courage only a hero or heroine would have. I find dark optimism beautiful.

2pac comes from LA, a rap artist from the 90’s who is one of the biggest rappers of all time. He came from a rough area, Compton, LA. He spoke of his life, his surroundings, some of the troubles he had to maneuver around, how he would like to live. Now you hear rap artists, telling you they made it through life in horrible conditions and turned around the outcome. That’s the wonderful part but when they pass down the message to say, you know how I made it, I just made it by selling crack and it’s okay because that’s what a rap artist is all about. But 2pac would say, I did these things, but I hope, I hope to open up your eyes enough so that you don’t have to do it. I hope to leave a better ground for the next seed to grow. Even as he went through it, he wasn’t glamorizing it, he was trying to explain why we do such things, while trying to decipher the system and all the crap inside. Nowadays a lot of mainstream Hip-Hop is glamorizing a dead end. My heroes are people who believe in creating a better world than the one we have today.

 

Q. In your song new born, how does this relate to your concept of hero?

A. I am searching for my identity, but I am also searching for the right or wrong, in influences I have been taught. I feel completely lost in this song, from the moment I say it, the moment I plopped out mommas womb and hit my head on the marble, giving an explanation, I don’t know what’s going on, I must be dumb struck. I’ve been searching for my barcode, what am I worth? I look at the T.V. and this is what’s good, this is what’s bad, how do I make my own truth from that? What are my values, my morals in this messed up world? What is right or wrong? And is there a right or wrong? When I’m looking for a hero or heroine, I am actually calling out the fact that what I thought was a hero is not a hero. On my last verse,

 

If I were ever lost

I’d probably be found

if I were ever found

I’d turn right back around

 

I’m searching for something but what? I don’t know and when I find that thing, what I thought it really was, it isn’t what it was, as if I have been lied to, as if I’ve been too gullible. Who has lied to me? School, T.V., corporate systems, it becomes personal. I am in constant battle with the vision of the way I see the world within myself. I’m my own judge, like when you are looking at the mirror on the wall. It’s a lot of what’s around me, what I feel, opinions that I have been throwing out. I reason it now. I used to not reason, that’s just the way it is. How can it be worse then this? Let’s make it better.

I have this anger that I have to fight, when I say, Its me against Hell yet I don’t believe in heaven, that’s the way I’m looking at it, yeah it’s negative, but then again, we’ll never reach the point of utopia that I want, the perfection that I want, so I’ll have to settle for something in between. How do I make it, when I’m roaming about lost and trying to figure out my hero, my idol, my identity, and how I feel. What is my meaning of life and how do I represent and express that? I’m tired of feeling like I gotta represent something that’s already out there but that doesn’t speak to me. When it comes to music I don’t have to play a role, I just rap.

Sometimes when you start out rapping, you just start saying what you heard, maybe you’re listening to all types of things that you don’t live, but that’s okay, you relate to it but for you to say something, because you’re rapping, you gotta be talking about money, you gotta be talking about a crime, you gotta be talking about bitches, you gotta be talking about guns, you gotta be talking about the ghetto. It’s the pressure of the game around you, it’s what’s put out there in commercialized press or radio. I love rap. I love hip hop. I don’t have to play a certain role for people to like what I do. I don’t have to be a certain way for people to say, oh that is rap. Maybe it won’t be that gangsta, maybe it won’t make you want to shoot someone today. Maybe you’ll be inspired.

 

Q. In your CD, street tape, which includes new born, what are the themes of the other songs in this album?

A. When you listen to it all, from A to Z, you can get the idea of where I want to go. The album speaks about this relationship I have with this rap world, with the streets, with the system, with the way I was looking at the world and living in it and I’m moving on, letting go and I’m trying to change my conception because I feel that my conception that I have right now isn’t working for me. I called it street tape because a lot of it is about the streets and its where I started this musical journey, in Point St. Charles, Little Burgundy, St-Henri and the rest of the southwest. Searching for yourself at that stage of life, finding out what to do, jumping from job to job, living this crummy life in the street style, not giving a shit at that moment. I got sick of living that. At the beginning of the album, I’m talking about rap and hip hop, about culture, there’s a lack of cultivation of culture inside the new hip hop these days, there’s not much meat to the bone. Where are we headed these days? We rap about how we’re so stressed out, paranoid, killing ourselves. I gotta let go of this vision. I gotta move on and as I search for my identity throughout the album. The poem, drowning fish, where I feel lost and I’m in a deep blue kingdom so it’s really blue, it’s really down, so this mixed tape was quite dark and I get angry later on and you can feel it. I’m talking about the fact that I’m pissed off and I’m living the emotion that I had at that moment as in my song banKurupt that says, I have no assets or saving, aspects on praying, born to die young like the kids that we raising that’s how I felt, it’s all crap. Lied to, born to die young. I reasoned with songs like move on, I have to let go of this conception and I can make it better. I can make anything better. And I don’t want to keep such a negative vibe inside me. I’m a person who needs to get burnt to feel the heat. I need to touch the bottom to go to the top. But it gives me something. I’m rapping in the metro right now. I know I’m no one. It’s okay. I need to touch the bottom to learn from the bottom and go through the steps and once I get there, it’s gonna build my confidence, build my security and make me a better artist and performer. The very first day I was rapping in the metro someone spat on me, but I’ve learnt to keep my cool and not to spit back.

 

Q. On street tape, which is your favorite song?

A. You can feel the finalization of my idea when I have the skit about the fantasy, everything’s a fantasy. I have a song about identity, yeah I know I look crazy, but at the same time I’m still in the street life. I don’t know what I’m doing yet, I’m still lost and I finish with nightmares and afrodepression. Nightmares is probably my favorite song. It’s different, it’s slow. In the end, all of this is a nightmare and if I’ve been living my nightmare for so long why don’t I start living my dream? The whole American dream/fantasy, the rage, conception that I had, I’m living in a nightmare because I want to protect my dream. The chorus, I’ve got blades under my pillows with bloody cotton from nosy sheep and my American dreams keep secret beneath my sheets, I’m ready to die to protect my dreams, but I’m still living in a nightmare because I’m not living the dreams. Dark optimism. It’s slow, it’s creepy, and is a different type of beat.

 

Q. How does this album street tape differ from your upcoming album?

A. Street tape needed to be there for the next album. Street tape is straight forward, black and white, it’s straight up. I feel more like a rapper on street tape than an artist. I now want to make a piece of work, an artist piece of work. street tape was a concept album, everything goes together, a story to tell. My new album is a theatre show and I have two, three songs per act. From the beginning to the end, it’s one story that we are chained to our conception of freedom. At first, I play an ignorant role, life’s cool, I’m just going with the flow. As the album progresses, I start to question myself, everything around me, the influences, the way I live, the way I conduct myself. Than I realize what things have been pulled over my eyes. I was just a pawn in the system. I feel lied to. I feel betrayed. You can be anything, if you pass all your classes and go to school, you can be whatever you want, even if your live in the middle of the Sahara desert you could play in the NHL. The lie is if you do this, you can fit in this box and you’ll be happy in that box and that’s all you need. It’s bullshit. I’ve never fit in the box and I always felt I was outside of the box. There’s so much more outside of the box and that’s what I want to explore. I never wanted to be a teacher, I never wanted to be working in a restaurant, but I did that anyways, flipping burgers, doing boring jobs or sitting with a tie around my neck, I wanted to be on stage, dancing and screaming and have a bunch of people screaming and dancing with me, rejoicing in love. Yeah. That’s what I want to do. A lot of the people around me expected something that was not me. Not me at all. And I tried to fit into these expectations to make people happy. I never made them happy because I never fit into those expectations. I wasn’t happy either.

In my upcoming album, I’m angry and after the anger comes out, there is a resolution. The beginning of the album you hear old school hip hop and it starts changing. I started playing on the fact of using electronics these days. I’m mixing them, as a transition throughout the album which goes from calm to aggressive, aggressive, aggressive, aggressive… The ending is an explosion, the breakthrough, an explosion of what I consider true and what I will act upon. The big difference betweens the two albums is what I choose to talk about. In street tape I talk about drugs, lots of money, the streets, having to move on. In this new album, I talk about outer space, religion, how I feel about this tasteless world. I always keep the ideas of the system but I’ve changed the conception. It’s not this heavy, negative feeling that I’m coming at you with. Not only am I mixing the hip hop with the techno beat together in one album, I’m also taking a different angle on how I’m trying to express what I want to express, which is still the idea of how we’re in the system. My first album, wow, it was a dream come true even though I worked really hard. I had to get it out there. My new album I have a more professional approach. I’m taking more time to analyze how to pass my message. I’m making more of a show, a movie, than just making a song with an impact. I feel more like an artist using rap as his voice. There’s always a message. I’m just sharing. I’m just showing a different way of thinking. I’m being raw with savage world.

 

Q. Who would you like to work with musically?

A. I would love to work with Stones Throw Records, MadLib, MF Doom. They have this new school/old school vibe. The beat is groovy, so soul, you listen to the music and you feel something. Their style is underground, like it’s coming out of a gramophone, like jazz mathematicians. There are other people out there who are doing something different. Who are not just sheep inside the herd. They don’t talk about chains, Big Golden Necklaces or money. Mf Doom, he’s talking about the mic, is this thing on like the fling with Mrs. King Kong, the imagery he uses is simple, what people don’t use nowadays, it has to be authentic, so ghetto, so grimy and MF Doom has a different flow. It’s dark but it’s cool. He does shows with a metal mask, non-glamorous feel, rugged trash feel, that I has always been a part of why I love hip hop. It’s never been about chains, Big Golden Necklaces and money. It’s because we’re kicking it in an alley in a rough style. They’re still trash, still raw, rugged in their own way, I’ve never heard someone rap like that, which makes it authentic. I feel like I am listening to a piece of art.

 

Q. On card, you have Support your local artist, why is that?

A. I do my promotions on my own. I am an independent artist. Other than booking myself into bars, I do my shows in the metro. I have these signs in the metro that say Support a local artist and I think that’s a plus. And they hear me and they think, he’s from around the corner and why not help out one another. A home touch base to base.

 

Q. Any last comment?

A. My first album has been a street tape, so I took a lot of old compositions, old instrumental compositions that had already been written and I wrote over them. In my upcoming album, you get to hear more of my voice, get to feel what I want to transcend. I’m pushing. I’m going to be out there.

 

street tape album cover

 

Since the moment

I plopped out my mommas womb

and hit my head on the marble

I’ve been searching for my barcode

in this land of hot-shots and models

Needles and bottles

whats a role model

when evil is the only role to follow

the road to hell

seems to be paved with good intentions

but success swells like sex sells

and rips love like C-section

Wagwan Bregin I walk on legends

cuz fallen angels live in heaven

I’m always slipping from a cloud to a crowd

just skimming the ground

I’m the future in the Now

the reason and the How theres a difference

Niggaz got neuro impotence

Penetrating insolence cuz ever since are innocence

W’eve been taught to think of Businesses

How you ganna make it kid

depends on what my options is

stepping out the obvious

the anonymous

Picture perfect Anthropologist

come and get your testament

I’ll show you where the Knowledge is!

CHORUS X2

Its me against Hell yet I dont believe in heaven

only time will tell but Im no better than he rest of them

I keep questioning? Where do I belong?

as I roam beyond the hard and the strong

long gone I was once, once upon

but Im still just a pawn drawn upon the wrong

but Ive been right all along

cuz Im still just a

…….

yeah Im still just a

and Ill never belong!

I’m ahead of my time

in the Unemployment line

begging for a dime

I got my mind on my money

and my money on my lines

time for nobody

I got bodies on the grind

I’m the nature in the naughty

the kill-in-illuminati

garb the body dump the body

now welcome to my party

cuz like any other bored kid

tired of being poor kid

living in a narrow vision

prestige or prision

Hello and good riddance

I push the scarlett red

tulip flower beds

to show the beauty of the mislead

cuz niggaz shit glocks and piss lead

oh sweet American dream whats in it for me

I was told my whole life best things are free

now you dont care now do you

who are you to blame all you know is half-true

all you see is pain

now you dont care now do you

who are you to blame all you know is half-true

all you see is pain

yeah Im still just a

………

If I were ever lost

I’d probably be found

if I were ever found

I’d turn right back around

I’m a poor lonesome Cowboy

the shadow left the boy

in a wild western world

oh my Lucifer lord

is it my fault my broke ass got nothing to live for

I slip lines to sick minds

like a dealer trying to catch time

I’m just trying to catch mine

its like fighting the wind

no matter how hard I hit

I aint ever gonna win

but I only fight to win

thats why in my mind they aint no judge for a sin

in this unfair morally just system

so when it comes to playing games I just assist em

since my 9 dark months

spent punching and kicking

I’ve been observing the plot thicken

emerging from foul kitchens

criticism of ghetto living got SHAM gon crazy

nigga dont blame me crack fiends are lazy

poppa cant change me and momma cant save me

CHORUS X2

Its me against Hell yet I dont believe in heaven

only time will tell but Im no better than the rest of them

I keep questioning? Where do I belong?

as I roam beyond the hard and the strong

long gone I was once, once upon

but Im still just a pawn drawn upon the wrong

but Ive been right all along

cuz Im still just a

…….

yeah Im still just a

and Ill never belong!