Sha Stimuli and DJ Victorious: Monthly Mosiacs
Even if the name doesnt strike you as familiar, Sha Stimuli and DJ Victorious are no strangers to the rap scene. To further cement that point, Sha recalled freestyling in The Source offices and going to meetings to get the demo across, and Victorious remembers hating the transition to CD. These are veterans in this rap game.
In celebration of their March on Washington [click to listen] and The Secret [click to listen], the duo speaks to HipHopDX about a little of everything, ranging from their mixtape grind, switching labels, and how they see the game for new cats.
HipHopDX: Three mixtapes down, and nine to go. How has the mixtape grind changed your process?
Sha Stimuli: It feels like I got a job right now, rapping is a job because I got an opportunity every month to drop these CDs. [The] funny thing is that I cant really call it mixtapes because a mixtape to me is a collection of freestyles or haphazard records to get you hot. These are more one single made into a whole CD; these are concept records we put together and real songs. The only difference is these arent full productions.
DJ Victorious: This has been a healthy process, because there is a deadline with the music but there is still quality.
Sha Stimuli: This has definitely been fun and exciting because there are times where everything isnt done. The artwork isnt ready and some songs arent done. We know its going to happen. Its definitely been an interesting ride.
DX: You said on a Super Tuesday blog on your Myspace that you were not political. Has Barack Obamas front-runner status and March on Washington stepped up your political Awareness?
Sha Stimuli: I read a little more and see whats going on. I am still the same old guy. I am more likely to talk about things I hear people talk about instead of the status of the election and things like that.
DJ Victorious: I really wouldnt call March on Washington a political CD. We hear something and we talk about is through our own personal perspective. Were not talking about it through a political perspective. Even dealing with the song "Black President," it hasnt dealing with Barack Obama, it's talking about if Sha were president. [We rap about] stuff that people see and live through everyday.
DX: Speaking of March on Washington, how has the response been for the mixtape?
DJ Victorious: People have been saying its the best mixtape they have heard all year, everyone loves it.
Sha Stimuli: It's been pretty strong, I think its a whole new idea, people arent really expecting an artist such as myself who is still deemed up and coming to put together something that is talking about politics and social issues, even a record or the title says something. Its the things that Im talking about which touches a lot of people. At the same time, it doesnt sound like I am preaching of the things that are out there, because half the time I am not aware. I really think people identify with that.
DJ Victorious: I think a lot of the topics we use on March on Washington, they have been done before, but Sha makes you feel liked your apart if it by not alienating you while entertaining you.
DX: So youre touching everything without being on a high horse?
Sha Stimuli: Thats the main thing, sometimes I beat up myself to get a point across. I talk about online blogging and what they say on my CDs, because they talk about how I can talk about violence in one song and nonviolence on something else. I think we all as human beings hold emotion for many different scenarios, and were never really one way. I think it's okay for me to say it on record. Artists themselves get caught into a box where you got to be tough or get marketed a certain way.
DJ Victorious: Watching firsthand I think Sha is growing with each CD as a writer and an artist. When we finish one mixtape, we have to go to the next title and the next concept we have 30 days to get it done from scratch. And even The March On Washington, fresh from Love Jones, there are things that we wanted to do he would research and bang heads to come out with a song, and I got to watch him elevate like that. By the time we hit the 12th one, it should be crazy.
Sha Stimuli: I was recently talking to J. Period [click here to read], talking about [how] mixtapes-made artists get hot. What were doing is masking an album in mixtape form. There are no freestyles, just songs, and we really put it out there to people and let them know that I define the word grind. I am showing that what I do isnt bullshit. Its definitely hard work but its showing people growth.
DJ Victorious: Some people dont put out that much music their entire career.
DX: The School Daze influenced intro and outro were added to the March on Washington version of The N Word Song. Why did you guys pick that scene with Samuel L. Jackson and Lawrence Fishbourne?
DJ Victorious: I was watching Youtube for things, I was looking for a Boyz n the Hood sample. I put in Spike Lee and Lawrence Fishbourne and School Daze came up with that scene popped up. I called Sha and told him about it and he was watching School Daze and we were in sync. The song pretty much is told in the perspective of the Samuel Jackson character.
Sha Stimuli: When we are performing it we get a really good response. An actual video is coming out soon. I saw a Boondocks video with it on Youtube. I like it when my work inspires people to put in some work as well. But a real video is coming soon.
DX: Youve been a free agent for a while now. How has the experience of being on a label changed your perspective on the game?
Sha Stimuli: First, starting off, you'll do anything to try to get to try to get to that point. To have the label status and having the machine behind you... to have people's nine-to-five getting paid to do your promo and marketing. To have that for one year, it was crazy for me. I got them to believe in me and everybody was going hard pushing for the record and to start to see you become the star. Although I knew Virgin wasnt one of the most powerful machines in Hip Hop, I knew it was better and stronger than what I had done to that point. Now taking a step back Ive refocused my game. At that point I was Stimuli, I was trying to make me hot and get it popping, becoming the next big artist. I didnt lose sight on how I started, but I wasnt that focused on the goal I was trying to reach. When youre in that major machine, the main goal is to sell records because they have to get their money back. Everything else takes a backseat. You got A&Rs telling you have got to put this record out or your thinking about how I am going to get hot. I feel like now I am at a place right now were I am refocused on getting jobs for my people and touching lives to put me out there for years and years. Its not about Hip Hop right now. I feel like I am hungry again, Im starving, but not for a deal, but to be heard.
DX: It seems youre using the internet as a real tool to promote yourself and your music. Some of the older artists and deejays seem to think the technology is ruining the game. What do you think the internets place in the game?
DJ Victorious: The Internet is a good way, the only way to get music out to hundreds of thousands of people right away. It couldnt be a bad thing. Its only when you think there is one way to eat off the music. If you get people to download 100,000 people to download for free, you can tour the country or the world with that. So really its not stopping anything. It isnt like Sha had anything to sale in the stores, so its not fucking with him. Hes coming into the game through that.
Sha Stimuli: The Internet is open for any artist to have the world at their fingertips. I used to have cassette tapes to hear what I was working with in the studio, back when Pro Tools was just used to master your recordings. When I first my grind, I didnt have it. Even when I saw other websites when they first started, I had no idea how to get my music on it. Now I can hit up HipHopDX and if they like it, now the world can hear it. Thats a blessing. I have a producer from France and he can send me a track online. I dont even know what hes saying.
DX: It allows the venues to get pushed back deeper into the world and get money that way.
DJ Victorious: Sales are down, but its like how game started. EPMD took 30 days to go gold, and that was a big deal. Now if you go gold, it's [worthy of] congratulations, you did pretty good. Its the saying like, what goes up must come down. Like when Hip Hop first started, they were mad at the Sugar Hill Gang. They were saying that it shouldnt be on vinyl, it should be in the club, the parties, and the rooftops. They said it was commercial then. When CDs first came out, I was mad a CDs, then I saw other ways. The money is out there. We're in New York, there is always someone making money. What we have to do is find a way, whether it be from clothing endorsements, writing rhymes, but someone has the money.
DX: Considering your exposure to Hip Hop, it isnt a stretch to call you both students of the game. Where and how do you see Hip-Hop in 2008 ?
DJ Victorious: I predict Hip Hop will be Sha Stimuli
Sha Stimuli: To try to predict the next stage in Hip Hop is kind of tough. Musically, I am a fan of Soul music. I do a lot of stuff that sounds like it came from somebody who cared about what they were doing. That is not a popular sound right now. What I would love to see is the diversity of the game come back, where you had everyone doing what they did, it wasnt a follow the leader type of thing. Nowadays you have Rick Ross come out with a hustler record, and 18 people follow. Everyone is afraid to be themselves, and is just trying to make money.
DJ Victorious: Its all about the quick buck.
Sha Stimuli: I feel like there is no quick buck in what I do. If I go to a label, they are going to put me under the microscope to see if I am going to sell records. They want to know if I sound like what the radio sounds like. I feel like it puts the artist in a position of trying to match what is out there. Hopefully, not the radio, but the fan, can demand variety.
DJ Victorious: It seems like dudes are running out of things to say. I dont know how because there is so much out there. They are running out of things to sample, running out of drum patterns to break.
DX: Ive noticed that there are samples Ive heard more than enough times.
DJ Victorious: Thats what we wanted to show, we can create concepts and excel with them. It is getting very easy for us. We could do 24. Thats why the albums are crazy because on Cinderella Man, we have one producer, J.Cardim. One thing you havent really heard recently is an album with one producer and has one complete sound.
DX: Lets talk The Secret, it sounds intriguing. What is the theme behind it? [click to listen]
Sha Stimuli: Cant tell you. [Laughter] It is inspired by the book and the movie. Also its inspired by life, I go through a lot of things people identify with a starving artist, where some days its great, you read a Myspace comment or you get recognized and you feel on top of the world. Every little thing counts, but at the same time, where your at in life doesnt reflect where you want to be. You go through ups and downs. I talk to a lot of people who go through life looking focusing on the down. You ever talk to somebody who is never comfortable, something is always weighting down on them.
I know a lot of people like that and I could tell them be happy, but it's another thing to do records about it. So this is my chance to spit my futuristic rap shit, where we say were going to do this forever, but at the same time Im letting you know that life isnt that bad. I got a song called I Live Like Im Dying and it's me walking around as if Its my last day on earth and there is no time to really complain about shit.
DX: Whats up with Thee Emotion Picture?
DJ Victorious: The Emotion Picture is going to be like a Marvin Gaye record. I am talking about old vintage Marvin Gaye, the range, the emotion, the passion it's going to be classic.
Sha Stimuli: I think we are setting people up with these CDs. We really want to give people is the truth. I am giving people my story but it can be anybodys story. We talk about life, death, love, hate, money, poverty, religion, rape, everything you can think of, but with real full production. I am not trying to downplay these CDs, but there is nothing to them, two or three verses, a concept, good beats and good rhymes. We arent meeting with producers and not vibing. With Thee Emotion Picture, we're giving my life story, were just trying to do something different. I dont know if I am going to do another album afterwards.