MC Shan Compares Public Enemy To Malcolm X

Exclusive: Golden Era rapper MC Shan reflects on "The Bridge," one of the biggest records of his career, and praises Melle Mel.

MC Shan’s "The Bridge” single is widely regarded as the record that inspired the so-called "Bridge Wars," a 1980s feud between the then-up-and-coming KRS-One's Boogie Down Productions and Marley Marl and Mr. Magic's Juice Crew. 

In an exclusive interview with HipHopDX, MC Shan spoke not about the infamous rivalry that resulted from the record, but the song's message. Paying special attention to the last verse of his song, the Down By Law rapper explained what inspired him to create the music he made. 

"Things around me,” MC Shan says during an exclusive interview with HipHopDX. "Just the things that you see growing up in the ghetto. 'Dead dreams, bought and sold/ You got a try and receive your goal/ However you do it, however you may/ Don't ever listen to what nobody say.' You know what I'm saying? If you listen to it, it's normal everyday life. Things that go on in the hood go on everywhere. It's like, people try and pull you down all over the place..."

Apart from his own neighborhood serving as inspiration, he also attributed lines in the verse such as, "You should reach for your goals 'cause I'm reaching for mine," to his time on tour with Roxanne Shante.

"It was a lesson that I learned when I got out of Queensbridge," he said. "Between the time that 'The Bridge' came out, I might have been stuck in that same mind-frame. But in between, when 'The Bridge' came out, when 'Marley [Marl] Scratch' came out, when Roxanne Shante first came out and I was on tour with her and every week I was hitting a different city and different town, a different state, different country, a different this. That expanded my mind where I come back and I'm doing a Queensbridge song, that my brain can actually tune in and focus on something like that, 'Dead dreams are bought and sold.' 'Cause I went outside of the box and seen other things and found that there's other cultures and other people, like-minded, like you, outside of the six blocks that we grew up in known as Queensbridge. Where a lot of my friends, they wouldn't even travel beyond the next projects or across the bridge to Manhattan only unless they had to, so that six blocks was they world. There are some people that are still in that six blocks that I grew up with. Not trying to say derogatory things, but sometimes you have to move on and learn other things and expand or your just going to…You keep doing the same thing, you're going to get the same results."

MC Shan Likens Public Enemy To Malcolm X

MC Shan went on to discuss the importance of a message in Rap in general, and how that has changed.

"Social commentary was a big thing back then," said Shan. "Giving a message in the music, letting out plight be heard and things like that. Music was our way to get our message to the world, what was going on in the hood because before that, there was no outlets or media that really exposed what was going on in the hood. But when Hip Hop came about, it gave us a voice to express ourselves and express ourselves musically, creatively and we used it to our best advantages. Like, Public Enemy, bringing social consciousness to full blast on a record just the same way that Malcolm X did back in the '60s.

"...That's what our thing was, we was rebels at whatever we did," MC Shan continues. "Social commentary is not wanted nowadays. Anytime you try and teach somebody something, they don't want to understand. They don't want to listen, especially with the generation that thinks that Hip Hop belongs to them now. They are the worst. They don't respect they mothers, let alone respect their friends, respect their family. Let alone respect their neighbors. These are the same ones talking about, 'I'm going to go kill a mothafucka,' and guess who he just shot? His man that lived across the street from him that grew up with him from Day 1. There's no love, no compassion...But nowadays, it's no respect for no one, anything. Period."

MC Shan connects the lack of messages and positivity in modern music with radio programming and the styles of Rap that have become popular recently.

“That's where that ratchet shit comes in,” MC Shan says. "Nowadays, it's all about popping molly, sell as much drugs as you can. But that's all got to do with the overpowers. The people that are in control that make these things able to happen. Can't blame the little guy because the guy with the money is the one that says what's going on the air and what's not going on the air.”

MC Shan Praises Melle Mel

The music business environment was different when MC Shan recorded “The Bridge” in the mid-1980s. Rather than aiming for radio play, Shan says he was trying to match the material of one of his personal heroes and a pioneer of socially-conscious Rap, Melle Mel.

"If you would make that comparison of it being sort of like a Melle Mel type of thing, you are 100% right,” MC Shan says. "Melle Mel was my idol because Mel was on to something different with his rhymes. His was more wordy. Mel had the skills that--he put it down and that's why I listened to 'The Message,' all of that. Anybody will tell you. If you look back at articles, you always hear me say that Mel was one of my idols that I looked up to. So if there is a comparison to it, whether I did consciously or sub-consciously, if you took it as something that was taken out of a Melle Mel play, then that's what it is."

MC Shan also said that Melle Mel's verse last verse on "The Message” is particularly potent. 

"Do you see how intricately woven that is?" Shan says. "That you would not understand that Mel was one of my idols. My shit was, 'Dead dreams, bought and sold.' Mel's shit was, ‘All the number book takers, thugs, pimps, big money makers.' You see that...Difference in style, but do you see how Mel killed me on that? Why do you think Mel was my idol? I had to work my way up to a skill level that I can even, not say compete with Mel but even be spoken in the same sentence with that man."

Shan also praised Melle Mel for the imagery he was able to infuse into his rhymes.

"Something about lyrics that I can sit and listen to and clothes my eyes and vividly see it,” he says. "Everything that Mel said in that line. Those were the terms of the day. You knew what he meant when he said, ‘ aytag / Walk around like an undercover fag.' You knew. Yo, he talking about you being locked up on C-76 and you getting punked. So all of that right there just rolled out of your head as a visual picture as he said it...Although you can visually picture both, mine is more like a cartoon compared to a Steven Spielberg."

Shan is working on a new solo album which he says will be titled Fuck What They Talk About. He also has two songs out, “Every Body Wanna Be A Big Star Drive A Big Car!" which is on YouTube and iTunes, and "Let's Bring Hip-Hop Back."

RELATED: MC Shan Recalls Laughing At Rakim And Squabbin' With LL Cool J, And Exposes The Label And Producer Profiting From His Classic Material [Interviews]


  • My dick in ur fam

    INFORMER is a fucking idiot. Keep swaging in them skinny jeans boy.

  • Litheir

    my neighbor's half-sister makes $77 an hour on the computer. She has been out of work for 7 months but last month her paycheck was $19707 just working on the computer for a few hours. read the full info here,,,,,,,,,,,


    Who is mc Shan. Isnt he that commercial rapper who made that song with the fake white bob marley SNOW. Nigga stop acting if you so real and so hiphop, nigga go do a reunion album with SNOW informer, informer, informer real rappers didnt work with snow

  • dvs

    Anonymous: I respect your breakdown my friend, however, here are a few thoughts. 1. Hiphop was not simply rooted in party music in it's origins. Melle Mel was an originator and conscious day one. Moe Dee as well (a battler too) 2. The party music made back then was still tasteful. The joints today are classless. 3. the battles back then were strictly lyrical and did not end in death. 4. Hiphop music was made in response to gangs and violence and Reganomics. The music meant something. Today is full of Bullshit!!!

  • Anonymous

    I hate to say this but let's be real: No other genre of music is scrutinized about content as much as rap music. Pop music is 100% fluff and fun for you to dance to or hum along with and 98% of it is about the opposite sex. Why don't people expect Justin Beiber and Miley Cyrus to make socially conscious music, maybe they just want to make club music. Regge is rooted in consciousness so I expect that from that genre but HipHop music was rooted in party music at the lark jams an battle raps in the cipher and then it evolved into social commentary but it's roots are party music. Anti nobody asking a Blues musician to drop knowledge and ain't nobody telling Opera musicians to be socially conscious.

    • Anonymous

      You have no idea what your talking about. They want rap to be Miley Cyrus and Beiber. People singing about nothing. Rap was the last vehicle of music to actually support movements and your dumb ass wants the consciousness out of music. I also don't see any other form of music where 99% of it on the radio is directed mainly to a race to degrade your own women, destroy your community, and to kill Niggas. That's just how they want it and your Zombie if you fell for it. Your totally ignorant of the power music had in the 60's, 70's and 80's. Go learn your history. The video's are out there. Go learn Marvin Gaye's story. What Stevie Wonder did. The fucking Beatles. Do you know anything about the Vietnam war. I wasn't alive either but damn. How are you going to talk about the history of music and your knowledge goes back a decade. He mentions PE. You have no idea the power their music had. They are feeding you McDonald's everyday. SMDH.

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