"Imagine somebody getting shot in your family and you don't have the funds to bury them or the proper clothes to put them in the casket with?" Sheppard says during an exclusive interview with HipHopDX.
The proceeds for the project are set to be donated to Chicago-based organization Purpose Over Pain, a charity that aims to find solutions to the damage caused to communities and families due to gun violence.
"For this album, I said, How can I help through music?'" Sheppard says. "Maybe if I can get artists together from the Chicago area and across the country and get them together to do an album to raise funds to pay for the burial and the funeral services and give dignity to these people and to help the families that are grieving."
Sheppard says the LP consists of hard-edged Hip Hop music but without the falsities that he says plague rap. The album will feature national artists Glasses Malone and DJ Battlecat, as well as independent and local Midwest acts.
"Each song on this album has no cursing, no reference to any positive aspects of gang life, any positive aspects to pimping," Sheppard says. "We had Glasses Malone do a single from the album. He has never done anything like this before. I reached out to him about this project and he didn't hesitate. He was such a gentlemen. It's a heartfelt song. People listen to it and say, 'Whoa.' Glasses Malone and these people aren't doing no watered-down shit."
Stan Sheppard Works Includes Projects With DJ Quik, AMG
Sheppard grew up on Chicago's Southside in the 1950s and '60s. His father helped create Vee-Jay Records, one of the first African-American recording labels. Over the decades, Sheppard has witnessed Chicago's vicious street culture up close.
"The South and West sides have been historically known as hot spots for gang activity, thats going back to the 50s," Sheppard says. "The whole city is on a war-footing right now. There's no structure yet. Everybody's in basic clicks now. Out of each click, you have trouble and you can run into another click. It's just wildness beyond imagination. It's not safe, really to go anywhere here."
Sheppard moved to California in the mid 80s to work with major R&B acts such as The Jacksons. His career as a producer, executive and A&R took him to Island Records, Motown and Jackson Communications. In 1996, Sheppard entered the realm of Hip Hop. Sheppard has worked with artists DJ Battlecat, DJ Quik, AMG and Mausberg.
Sheppard is now back in Chicago and he is putting the finishing touches on the Hip Hop project that he hopes will help the community heal in the wake of gun violence.
Sheppard approached Father Michael Pfleger, a South Side Chicago pastor at Saint Sabina Church, for support. Pfleger helped Sheppard link with the Purpose Over Pain organization.
"He is the catalyst of so many things in the community and the Black community is totally supportive of this man," Sheppard says. "He has an incredible rapport. That is the man that I first went to with this idea for this project and he was so appreciative because he said, 'Stan we need the help.' He told me about Purpose Over Pain, an organization comprised of parents who lost children to gang violence. They will interact directly with the families that lost children. They will interact directly with the families dealing with the hospitals and the wounded patients. They are an incredible organization. That's who we are doing this for. They will receive the funds."
Sheppard said observing the street environment in Chicago and Los Angeles has shaped his perspective. As part of his outreach, he says he regularly sits down to speak with people dealing with the street life.
"Overwhelmingly, I've found that these young men have no hope," Sheppard says. "They really don't expect to live. These guys dont think they are going to make it to 25. They are going to do whatever it takes to make money and if you happen to be in their way, you could be a casualty. Its as simple as this."
Sheppard says the need to heal Chicago is great because the problems are getting out of hand.
"Most of these gang members are mollyied up, drinking," Sheppard says. "It doesn't take much to fire up an altercation when you're in that state of mind. They're not even fighting over neighborhoods anymore. I don't even understand it. I talked to the gangs here. I talked to Black P. Stones and Black Disciples and Gangster Disciples and Vice Lords and nobody seems to have an answer right now. Even the gang members are saying, 'This is crazy.'"
Sheppard said it was important to raise money for the upcoming summer. Summer is historically a violent season in Chicago.
"We've only had a couple of days of sunshine in the past month and 130 people were shot," Sheppard says. "So imagine what's going to happen when it's hot. There are gang wars happening all over the city right now."