Sha Money XL: The Past, Present and Future of G-Unit
You played the piano at Carnegie Hall at the age of 11. When did you first realize you were musically inclined?
I was nine years old. My mom put me in piano school to keep me occupied, and I just knew how to play At the time I didnt like it, but it was a big day for meit felt good. But after that I started getting more involved in the streets and I started thinking that it wasnt cool to play the piano anymore. Like, fuck the piano. So I went into the streets, playing ball, running around, smoking weed I just had a lot of different influences. I was running wild, so I left the piano stuff alone. Then at 14 I started DJing, buying equipment and got back into music I wanted to get an MPC but that shit cost like 2 Gs, and I didnt have no money, so I went back into hustlin. As I was doing that I got locked up. I got caught with some shit and I had to do like eight months in jail. I did my time, came home, got right back into the music, started back on the hip-hop scene running through the underground this was like 93-94. Got my shit together, got my GED, went to College. After a while I started making some money from selling beats. I had every artist that rapped out of Queens, theyll all tell you they worked with me I had a chance to get out and say I aint gonna do hustlin. Thats not my thing. Ima make this music shit happen. I went to NYU. I used to always be up at the radio at night, so I got to meet all the underground MCs. I started putting out independents myself, had artists that I was putting out. I even started pressing vinyl myself, doing everything from produce it to press it to put it out and promote it. Thats when everything changed because I surrounded myself with people who were really striving for this and were in it. This was around the time of Rawkus: Mos Def, Medina Green, Talib and all them it was like everybody was comin and it was fun. Then I got an internship at Def Jam through NYU and worked under Julie Greenwald and Heidi.
Is that how you came to work with Jam Master Jay?
I caught Jam Master Jay in a room at Def Jam. Were both from Hollis, and I told him, Im from Hollis man, Im here as an intern, yo I do beats, Im Hollis ni--a, put me on, let me rock. He just felt my energy, so he let me rock. From that day on, if I wasnt in the backseat of his car, I was in the studio and he was letting me make beats in his spot. At the same time, I had made this Cormega record, Angel Dust, that started smashing the underground. We killed it with that, so my name was starting to sizzle in the building, like I had some things under my beltso I was coming up. They were feeling the energy of the little dude. And I started meeting more people, like Onyx. One day I was on Snake Road, in Far Rockawaythere was a studio that Jay had there in the basement, and thats the day I met 50.
What was your first impression of 50?
Yo I mean I was in full producer mode. Jay had me producing for everybody he was working with. So I done seen some crazy rappers, some dysfunctional ass ni--as that he had with him. Then I seen this dude hop out the Jeep and he had this chain on with quarters and nickels in it and it was in the shape of a cross. And I thought that was differentlike this dudes got the image. And I heard his music cause Jay kept playing it for me. And before he came and pulled up that day I was like, Jay you gotta let me work with this kid because he was hot. Jay would say, alright, Ima let you work with him. Its something Im working on.
Then you went on to work with Trackmasterz, right?
Yeah, that was the next phase of both of our lives. He parted with Jay and went with Trackmasterz. This wasnt something that I was doing with him at the same time. On my separate mission as a producer I connected with Steve Stoute, who I grew up with he lived one block away from me. I got into Sony, he took a meeting with me, this is when he wasnt really fucking with nobody from the hood no more, but he let me come in and holla at him. I played him some of my beats, like send me there please. Just send me to Poke and them. They already seen me around and know who I am. Just tell them Im here to play beats. He made the call, Poke said cool. I drove by myself. That was my mission: to go see Trackmasterz. Theyre upstate in Bearsville, where they got a studio. Youve got all types of people in there: Allure, Nore, Nas, Slick Rick When I walked in, the first person I seen that I already knew was 50. I was like, yo - you here? Whats going on? He was like, yo, I left Jay, son. Im with these ni--as. So I played him my beats and he rapped to like two of them that night. He searched through all my beats trying to find ones that he could rock with. I just kept staying up there, even if I wasnt doing tracks just to kick it with him and chill. Everybody else would be in a rush to go home other artists that were there that aint even poppin right now and Im just watching them thinking this dudes energy is crazy. He did like 18 records in 9 days. He was killing it. He just kept going and going. I stayed there the whole duration and he just banged out a whole album. We fell back in the hood and I would still connect with him in the hood, check him out at the crib, so we just gained a friendship.
So at what point did you guys decide to start G-Unit?
That wasnt until after he got shot. We came back from Bearsville, his album was tight and Trackmasterz finally had this record that he did with Destinys Child shit was poppin. He was getting close to releasing the record and doing the video like this was gonna make him. And right before that he got shot. It was fucked up. He rehabilitated, and when he got back I got this call and I was like, who this? and hes like, its the kid. I was like get the fuck out of here. Id been calling his grandmother, Mrs. Jackson, whenever hes back can you tell him When I first met him, I was still living at my house, but then I got some money off of this deal I did with Jiveso I moved out to Long Island and bought a house. I was still working to pay the bills, but I had my shit. I told him, yo, Im away from the hood. You can come to my spot any time. Aint nobody know where I live or none of that shit. He came once, and we did a song that same day. He went home, then came one time again. You know, he would come every day of the week From Monday to Friday, me and 50 would be rockin in the house from about 10 in the morning to 10 at night... He would be getting records done, then we started doing the mixtapes. That first G-Unit mixtape was without a DJ. I put that together from all the freestyles that we did. We put that out and we also put out that independent Guess Whos Back? I had done this independent deal this is from me knowing all the independent guys and Bob Perry was the one poppin at the time with Landspeed, and he worked out this deal with me for $4 a record. And this is right when ni--as wanted him, and we put it out. That shit went crazy. And thats the CD that Eminem got. Thats when we got the call to fly over and meet with him and Dre 50 was seeing what was going on and how people were loving them, so every three to four months wed drop one We started something that changed the whole mixtape game. Working with him, I got to see every aspect because there was a point where I was the engineer, the producer, the musician It started from that, then turned into manager and all types of shit. I learned how to really be a functional person in this game and know how to do business and whats good business and whats bad, and deal with everyone of every level from producers to artists to managers to labels and promoters. I dealt with them everyday because of the shows, from being on the road with 50 every day for two years straight. Right during that whole run when it was realtheres still beefs going on and shit, but it was a point where it was real intense and we couldnt go without the best we was just militantwe made sure just watching his back that everything was straight.
Talk about Sha Money Management.
I got a crew of producers I manage. Im stepping heavy into management right now. I got the best producers right now. I got the new Kanyes and Just Blazes thats laying out all the hits for G-Unit: Chris Styles who did Window Shopper, Disco Inferno and In My Hood; Jake One; Nick Speed; Black Jeruz; Chad B; Scram JonesIm working with a lot of producers heavy and making sure theyre here giving me the hits. I co-managed 50 up until we formed G-Unit, then I moved on to running the company and maintaining the management on Banks, Buck and Yayo. And we just got it a tight way where 50 is definitely the boss and he has a great vision of what he sees and what he wants and we all follow through, comment on things and make shit work together, and its been successful.
You guys have your hands in so many things now from book publishing to vitamin water, to apparelhow did all these sub-ventures come to be?
I mean, 50 is a marketing genius. He has marketed himself from day one and knew how to do it. Thats something that no one can take credit for. He knew what he wanted to do, and what businesses he wanted to get into. G-Unit clothing: The kids are loving it. These even some nice girls stuff going. The sneakers we sold over 2 million last year. Were killing them with the sneakers. Its a brand now and were selling a successful amount of units. And now that 50 doesnt drink alcohol or smoke weed, so hes a health guy. He drinks water, so thats what he did. And Vitamin Water loved the idea and brought him on and partnered him up, and its working.
Speak on the fuck the hood comments you made after the whole barbershop situation.
Its like this: I love my hood. Still to this day I run through there. Just the vibe me walking in those streets and knowing the pain that come from comin from there. It made who I am. It made me know I wanted to get out. I got a lot of people employed for me that are from the hood. But you cant take the whole hood. Black people: Theres a lot of us in the hood. I know everybody from my hood I wasnt one of those dudes that was there but wasnt active. I was out there selling drugs and doing everything they were doing. It wasnt like I was some chump that just blew up and left. So that one day when I went back I had my homie Smack, who Ive known since first grade he does Smack DVDs. Hes from that hood, but he didnt even want to come out and do nothing for them ni--as. I was like, yo, son, come do this for me. Give these ni--as a shot. These ni--as wanna get on, let them prove to the world who they are. Lets help them. So we went to the hood. In between all of these times, you have people around you that you thinking are cool and they arent. Theyre scheming. You got people asking you for jobs, and Im the type of person who will say, Theres nothing poppin off or open. Theres nothing I can do for you. Im saying no, without saying no, and theyre not wanting to get that. So theyre gonna still try So everybody I havent seen in four years because Ive been on the road doing my thing and not sitting around with these ni--as, you see them come out and the next thing you know, these ni--as done called some other homies from out the hood, like yo, I got food for you to eat man. These ni--as are all in the hood, and I dont understand how none of them got any toast. Im fucking with these ni--as trying to do something for them... They just disrespected themselves by allowing that to happen, because now who is the ni--a that they can say is gonna try to help them again thats from that environment? That done came out and prospered with the right blessing? My blessing is clear. Im paying a karma debt to the hood by coming out on Easter Sunday to your Barbershop with my ni--a that didnt want to come, with a camera, to shoot a video for yall. I get in the barbershop, theres like four gunmen in there. You got kids in there trying to run out, and theres a gunman at the door backing kids up, saying dont even fucking move. And theres a kid on me, who busts off immediately - shoots off. So Im like, all right, instead of a ni--a letting his life go over a chain I mean, thats just the hood. I was out of there safe. But now its fuck the hood. I done tried to help yall, but yall ni--as cant help yourselves.
Tell me about upcoming projects.
We got Banks coming in July. Then Young Buck and MOP right aftertheyre at 50s house. Theyve been up there for like three months recording. Theyre having fun, living in luxury, recording, eating good.
How come Olivias album never dropped?
Because we didnt want to drop the album just to drop it. We want to drop a successful one. And we got a certain blueprint that we follow to make sure we know that the artist is fully, fully seasoned. And shes coming to that point, so her album will be dropping this year too.
Theres been talk of you guys scooping up Keisha Cole. Any thoughts about doing that?
No. Shes cool. Shes definitely family. I love her music. But no, not at this point. We do love her and support her. Its all Interscope, so she cool.