To most R&B/Soul music fans Unsung is the name of the critically acclaimed TV One series documenting the rise and fall of notable singers from the ‘70s and ‘80s who, due to a myriad of personal and professional missteps, never quite reached the commercial success they seemed destined for in the early stages of their careers and subsequently faded from the spotlight (or in some cases met an untimely death).
To most regular readers of this website Unsung is the title of the forthcoming street album from Sherod Khaalis, p.k.a. Sha Stimuli, an acclaimed artist in his own right who unfortunately knows all too well what it is like to have witnessed his shooting star come crashing down to earth.
After leaping over career hurdles (that included a forfeited debut LP on Virgin Records and a subsequent Def Jam deal dissolving due to some miscommunication between Sha, his A&R Lenny S and Jay-Z), Stimuli finally emerged from the mixtape scene last fall with his first barcode-baring project, My Soul To Keep. After trailing that slept-on gem with its impressive mixtape extension presented by 2DopeBoyz.com in May, Overtime, (which recently received a retail release via Chamber Musik/Fat Beats Records), the Brooklyn emcee is now preparing to once again provide a much-needed dose of introspective lyricism to the Hip Hop masses, this time via his TV One-inspired offering.
On Monday (September 13th) Sha Stimuli spoke to HipHopDX about Unsung Vol. 1: The Garden of Eden (tentatively due in late October) and just what will be the direction of that online release (being presented in conjunction with Coast2coastmixtapes.com) that will set the stage for Sha’s official sophomore full-length in 2011. One of the generous contributors earlier this year to DX’s Hip Hop Helps Haiti relief-aid mixtape also revealed if the ironic title-track from Unsung is dissin’ Drake. Stimuli further explained why he recently apologized for a lyrical examination of Jay-Z but refuses to do the same for a recent critical comment in song about Wale.
HipHopDX: Before we get to the obvious questions I have about “Unsung” , I wanted to ask about arguably the dopest song you’ve put out so far in 2010, “123.” When are we getting like a viral video for that so more folks get put on to one of the most slept-on joints of the year?
Sha Stimuli: You think “123” is one of the best joints? Get outta here. [Laughs] I ain’t even mean for that to come out. Like that…that’s crazy. I actually took them lyrics and put ‘em on something else – some of ‘em, ‘cause that’s an old record. That’s crazy.
DX: The lyrics are old or the beat is old, or both?
Sha Stimuli: Everything is old. I never expected it to come out, my man said he needed a joint for a mixtape one day and I just…sent it to him. But, people liked it, wow. I never know what people are gonna like, man. That’s crazy.
DX: You went all simile-crazy on there; I think that’s the most times I’ve heard you say “like” on a track before. [Laughs] Was that purposeful? Did you go traditional cocky-rapper style to remind folks that you’re not all concept records and storytelling – that you can lyrically murder mofos too?
Sha Stimuli: Yeah, sometimes I go back there, man. Like, I ain’t gonna lie, I’m bored with that like rappin’ about myself, and the whole “look at you, look at me” thing, but people need that. It’s like they just…I dunno, I [guess] they need to free themselves from the everyday concept, or just listening so hard that they need you to spit shit about you being better than everybody in the world. So, yeah, sometimes I flex that muscle, ‘cause that’s where I started, so it’s easy.
DX: Now…let’s get to “Unsung.” [Laughs] How can anyone be so clueless to not get that you’re being ironic on that joint? [Laughs]
Sha Stimuli: It happens, trust me. The first comments that I got were like, “Yo, what are you doing?” People were really [taking me seriously]. I saw some “smh’s” online, which to me is one of the most effeminate things: for people to “smh.” But, yeah, like…it’s crazy. I dunno [why some people didn’t get the irony].
DX: And I understand that radio stations in New York are taking Smally Biggs seriously? [Laughs]
Sha Stimuli: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah, some people was playing it. I want them to keep playing it. I don’t care. Power 105 was bumpin’ it. I don’t know who [all] played it…but keep playing it, spread the word. I just want everybody to see how simple we are as listeners, what we like. ‘Cause some people really like enjoyed the record [without knowing it was meant to mock]…which I want it to be entertaining. But, if you enjoy it, that just says a lot like, this is the type of stuff that you’re feeling right now. It’s okay. But it’s just easy for me. If you want me to do that [type of music], I can do it.
DX: And you know I gotta ask if this song was intended to specifically mock the stereotypical southern rapper with its stereotypical southern beat and lines like, “My name’s Sha, that’s with an A/I’m from NY, but I be in the A”?
Sha Stimuli: I didn’t have any one human being in mind [that I was mocking]. People think I was coming at a certain rapper or whatever…[but] honestly I did this in my living room, it took me about eight minutes… I got a CD coming out called Unsung, so I figured what better way to promote it than to do something simple and just continue to say “I’m unsung” in the joint? So, I wasn’t really coming at south rappers. Yeah, I had a little accent, but my family’s from Miami. Everybody in my family’s from Opa-Locka, [Florida and] North Carolina, so…that’s in me. It wasn’t like a jab or a stab, it was just having fun on a joint.
DX: You know I also gotta ask, it’s just mandatory, if the “I can’t sing, so I bust guns” line from the chorus was a diss to Drake, to fake-ass gangstas, or both?
Sha Stimuli: [Laughs] Nah, that wasn’t – I swear I had nobody in mind, man. I had one line [originally] where I mentioned a rapper by name and I had to take it out. But, nah, I wasn’t coming at Drake. Drake can sing, right? Can’t he sing? I don’t know, I think he taking singing lessons. [Laughs] I dunno, man, I ain’t coming at nobody. Like at this point in the game, it’s just um…I’m having fun with it, man. For me to really sit here and worry about what other people are doing – This is more about the fans. This is more about the things I hear all the time like, “You need to dumb it down,” you need to do this, and…I just give people what they want. Like, alright [here you go].
DX: Now, this new joint you just dropped, “The Title (I Wanna Win)” is like “Unsung” in that it sonically doesn’t sound anything like traditional Stimuli. Are you really so “tired of being unheard” that you’re really gonna take it to the clubs, or is this a bit of sarcasm like “Unsung”?
Sha Stimuli: No, it’s not sarcasm. It’s um…it’s definitely a change from the soulful and the sample stuff. To be honest, I’m a little tired of doing that type of stuff. Like, I still want music that moves people, but um…I’m not making any attempts, if that makes any sense. I’m just doing what happens naturally. I did that record early this year, and [so] I didn’t know when the timing would be to drop it. On this Unsung CD there’s no singing on it, [and] it’s more of the braggin’ Rap that wasn’t on My Soul To Keep.
So [“The Title”] kinda just fit in that realm. [But] I’m not running around the clubs with a CD [of the song] in my back pocket like, “Yo, play this joint. This is what y’all really want. This is what y’all been waiting for.” Nah. It was just…I said I was tired of being unheard, and I talked about wanting to win this year, but [there’s] no compromise in the record. I think everything I did just felt right. It’s not a spoof, it’s not a parody, but it is something for me to say that I’m not gonna take the same musical direction as always.
[With Unsung] it’s back to me just rappin’… I [still] snuck some concepts on there… That’s why the subtitle is The Garden of Eden, because it’s like at one point I think about being unsung and I kinda want more notoriety in the game… [But then], you just start to view the position that you’re in, and you realize where you were before [is] the place that a lot of people wanna get to. You know, I’ve had the record deals, I’ve been around a lot of big-name artists, I’ve had the potential and the ability to reach folks through music, and that’s nothing to really laugh at. It’s a big thing, being able to touch people and do shows… I can’t really take it for granted. And if I keep looking towards the next thing, or I keep wanting radio play, or I wanna sell records, [and] then you want an award, then you wanna win an award again, it’s like you never really get [content] and happy… So [with] this CD I’m talking shit, I’m talking still about relationships, and got songs on there that do deal with some things, but basically it’s in-ya-face music, I would put it to you like that.
DX: And you’re saying [with] that subtitle, The Garden of Eden, you mean like back to the beginning…?
Sha Stimuli: Well what I mean is for Adam and Eve to realize that they were in paradise they had to leave. So, this unsung state that I feel like…I don’t wanna be in a position where I’m not doing music anymore [and then] to look back and say, “Aw man, I was The Source ‘Unsigned Hype,’ or I was on Virgin Records. I had this many Facebook friends and Twitter followers and people that were fans.” I don’t wanna walk away from it and look back and say I didn’t appreciate it.
DX: I understand you were gonna put “I Apologize” on Unsung but decided to purposefully put it on your recently-released Overtime mixtape instead?
Sha Stimuli: Yeah…that was [my deejay] [DJ] Victorious playing A&R. [He] basically told me that it was – I don’t know if he said it was too negative or it was just… It was just some topics on there that we wanna just kinda close the door on. And that was the whole point of that [song]. Like, when I did it…I love the freedom of being able to get into the booth and just vent. So, just for people to care at all [about my venting] it’s like…so much of a blessing, man. So I was just like, let me just put this on the Overtime thing where I’m already doing long verses…
DX: I noticed with “I Apologize” you basically retracted everything you told me last time we spoke. [Laughs]
Sha Stimuli: [Laughs] Yeah. You live and you learn, man. Once you step on the court you gotta deal with what the referees call. [But], I’m still here, so…I’m not mad at nobody, man.
DX: Just out of curiosity, did anybody from like [Jay-Z’s] camp, or anybody around Jay, holla at you after they heard [“Follow The Leader” ] or read the interview…?
Sha Stimuli: Nah. I went to check Lenny S, and he basically…he didn’t say much. He said he heard it…and that was it. I don’t know too much. I’m not really in that circle like I used to be. I think that’s kinda helpful for me as well, to be out of that circle.
DX: And I gotta ask if your apology to Wale is coming soon for “Thinkin’ Out Loud” from Overtime? [Laughs]
Sha Stimuli: No, I’m not gonna apologize for that, because that’s really just my ignorance. I’m not saying anything bad about [Wale]. There’s a lot of rappers that I don’t get their buzz, and I will tell you this and you can print it because it’s me being naïve to the game. Like, at one point I ignored marketing for about five, six years and just thought that Rap was gonna get me fans and notoriety and all of that. And for some people it worked. [For] people like Joell Ortiz, and I’ll even say Joe Budden, rapping just worked. But, [with] people like Wiz Khalifa, Wale…like, I’ll go on YouTube and I’ll [listen to] some of their rhymes or [watch] their videos and just see if I’m buggin’ out. Because I don’t hear lyricism, or I don’t hear nothing ill, that makes me say, “Oh shit, why does this person have a 100,000 views for this [song]?” Like, it doesn’t translate to me. So, that’s me not understanding. Straight up and down, I don’t get why [certain artists are buzzing]. And it may be a person’s look, or where they’re from, or their tattoos, or whatever, I don’t know. But I’m sure that there are a lotta people out there like me that don’t get it. And there’s people out there that don’t get me. There’s no reason to apologize for that.