Producer's Corner: Sha Money XL
Famed for discovering, nurturing and supporting the rise of Curtis Jackson, Sha Money XL was involved in this Hip-Hop shit way before we were familiar with his management skills.
Stepping out of the boardroom and back into the studio, Sha has never been more comfortable in his world. Music is his love, he makes it his life and with a list of top notch producers to watch over, the curtains havent closed on his stage just yet. If anything they are just opening.
Talking how he got started, where his comfort zone is, Sha also breaks down some of the misconceptions surrounding getting started in the game today. He talks about his way of giving back to Hip-Hop and that extensive roster of producers who are benefiting from his Money Management.
HHDX: So how did you get into producing?
Sha Money XL: I got into it real early. My mother put me in piano school. So when I was 10/11 years old that was my choice. I didnt want to play sports so she put me in piano school. Next thing you know from piano school I am playing in recitals, Carnegie Hall and that kind of thing. I left piano because I thought it wasnt cool and I started to get into the streets. Took some time off and went to the streets and then when I was about 14 years old I woke up and wanted to be a DJ. I scraped up whatever little money I had and I went to Jamaica Avenue and I bought a lot of equipment. Not a lot of equipment but enough to do what I had to do. I did that and from then on I went on to DJing around my way for local rappers. Then I realized it wasnt for me and I got into production when I was about sixteen. I made my first beat when I was 17. I went to jail for trying to get money to get an MPC 3000 and I got caught and had to do six months jail time. As soon as I came home from jail I booked a studio for real cheap; took my records with me and I knew the concept from being a DJ on how to make music. Took that with me and the next thing you know I made my first beat.
HHDX: Do you think it is a natural progression, as we hear it so much, to go from DJ to producer?
Sha Money XL: Yes, just about as you are blending records, you are hearing drums, what sounds good together and it really works out.
HHDX: You studied the piano, do you think producers need to study music to understand music?
Sha Money XL: Yes, absolutely it is important. You have to study that. Right now I went out to a guitar center and bought a book of scales for production. You know once you know your scales you can pretty much play everything. I am just learning all those and retraining my mind on all of the things I have forgotten, from when I moved away from piano school.
HHDX: What makes a good producer?
Sha Money XL: Someone that is creative. You have to make sure you are creative and have those juices flowing so people know this guy can turn tinfoil into a drum. Like Timbaland is real creative.
HHDX: Just mentioning Timbaland, big producers often become categorized by their sound. Do you think producers coming up should try and develop their own sound from the jump?
Sha Money XL: Yeah I think it is by no choice that it happens. Like when you are shopping for records and you are searching for good drums or you are a tech head and you know how you go and buy all those synth sounds. So it depends on how technical you are, but I do think it is good to have somewhat of a sound, yeah.
HHDX: What is the biggest misconception producers have?
Sha Money XL: I think the people that produce sometimes dont go around their neighborhood enough to feel out if they are good or not. Because it is their own craft they automatically think they are good. You know I have a friend who I have known for so long and he is making music now and he just started making music a couple of years ago. Mind you he is 31 right now and just because he waited until he was 28 to be a producer; that doesnt mean because you want to be it you are going to be hot. People have got to start going around their neighborhoods and get all the rappers and whoever they know in the industry to feel their craft. Study the craft too. A lot of producers dont even listen to other production out there or dont listen to the radio. They get in their own zone and making garbage.
HHDX: Because of your break from G Unit is this why you are more involved with production now, you have more time?
Sha Money XL: Well for me, I went from DJing to wanting to be a rapper, realizing I wasnt hot to being a producer. My first beat I sold was to Cormega and that was me being a street team member for Nass It Was Written campaign. I didnt even hand him a beat CD, it was a beat tape. I was reading books and learning all about the business. Reading Puffys story and how being an intern took him to where he wanted to go. I put myself in in an internship through NYU and got myself into Def Jam and just positioned myself. But not everyone is that smart to do that. I had a clear vision that I really wanted to make it and I really was determined. I would use any of my time. There were guys around me rapping that were better than me and I was just so more focused and so determined to go to radio stations at night, on the underground scene, those Lyricist Lounges, position myself and put myself where I would either learn or someone was going to help me. I did that whole thing because a lot of people aint going to do what I did. Everyone wanted me to manage them, so I made that big transition from producer to business man to management and I said I was going to give back. It was for me, I was giving back to Hip-Hop, I am giving back to the following of people that are just like me; producers who need the knowledge and the education, need the know how. Where they have the talent and can be put in a room and meet everyone who can help them get to where they want to go and I feel fulfilled by giving back. I think it is just like something Rene McClean did with the Mixshow Power Summit, that is for the DJs. I wanted to be one of the first pioneers to do something for the producers; something that goes down in the history of Hip-Hop.
HHDX: Is this going to happen every year?
Sha Money XL: Yes absolutely. I am already getting ready for part two. I am getting all of the sponsors lined up. I have Definitive Sounds who did my new production video game where you can do beats. Microsoft are going to jump in with Zune and this is going to be even better than last year. More new guys, its hard for me to top the guys that I had this year as I had Swizz, Alchemist and Havoc. But I am going to reach out and get a good crowd this year. I am going to make sure I get DJ Toomp this year, he is one of my favorite guys; Just Blaze and keep this thing evolving.
HHDX: Your grind has obviously never changed from back in the Def Jam days.
Sha Money XL: My grind, my positioning, yes. I mean things change and the networks are different. There is no more real underground scene. You wont believe me coming from G Unit and being around the biggest thugs and killers around America, my taste beyond the talented crop of guys that I work with are the Mos Defs, the underground scene that just has that kind of vibe. I just got Commons new album and I am excited about it. Those kind of albums with real music production, real quality, a real good feel, that is what I am into. I like to listen to a record and find out who made a track better than I did, what they are doing, the drums. Kanyes beats and Preemos beats, I will buy albums just for that.
HHDX: Producers dont seem to dwell on ego per say, you can respect each others hustle.
Sha Money XL: Yeah there is none. Producers are the most calm natured, willing to learn, willing to expand, willing to better themselves; they are those type of guys. I cant explain to you, producers are just different.
HHDX: Well you can give props to your peers, that says something.
Sha Money XL: It is not a rapper kind of thing where we say we better than you. Of course we want to be better than the next but it is all a creative juice. Me and my guys exchange drum sounds; we are not stingy with each other. Even me, I get drums from Dr. Dre. Producers are very special kind of people.
HHDX: Now what producers are you managing?
Sha Money XL: I got Hi-Tek, Jake One, who is doing an incredible job. He is from Seattle and there is a lot of talent in Seattle. I got him, Vitamin D, The Bizzness, which is a duo made up of J Hen and Dow Jones, they produced on 50s new album. Dow is the mixtape guy and a marketing guy. They are my Seattle guys and I call them Seattles best. Then I have Hi-Tek in Cincinnati, I have Black Jeruze who has been getting busy on a lot of G Unit records.
HHDX: You are working with a solid roster there.
Sha Money XL: Yeah and I have got Dangerous LLC, Chris Styles who is someone who carries himself real good.
HHDX: So while managing all these guys, when do you have time to produce yourself?
Sha Money XL: Thats a good question and right now I am doing that. I am out here at my house in Arizona and this is the only time I have to produce. When I am in my New York home I, for some reason cant catch a creative vibe to save my life.
HHDX: Why do you think that is?
Sha Money XL: I dont know; maybe the vibe of the house or maybe that when I am home over there I just dont have enough time. Coming from meetings and studios, the only time I make a beat when I am in New York is when I am in the studio. When I am in my house it is probably just collecting sounds and putting my catalog together and in order. But I am not the best guy when I am in my home in New York. Arizona is my only place that I can come and make good beats.
HHDX: What are you working on right now?
Sha Money XL: Right now we have Talib Kweli, two joints on the Ear Drum project. We are on the up and coming Tupac project, my company has about six tracks on the new 50 album coming out, Young Joc, I can just keep going, the G Unit album, Kymani Marley, Beanie Sigels album, Freeway's album.
HHDX: Yeah I heard the Sigel album is crazy.
Sha Money XL: Yeah it is crazy. Then there are a few other things with Bloc entertainment going on.
HHDX: So obviously keeping busy. Are you happy?
Sha Money XL: I am way happier than the last time we spoke.
HHDX: Yeah last time you said you were searching for peace.
Sha Money XL: Yeah and I am pretty much at that point. I have been doing a lot of fasting and hiking mountains, fitness that keeps your mind clear.
HHDX: Is this just the aftermath of being around such a high profile nucleus of artists?
Sha Money XL:Yeah I mean because my life became theirs. I put them before me and it kind of tortures your brain as you are just technically thinking about making someone else better all the time, which is a good trait. It is important for management to be able to do that. At this point I realized I am not a celebrity but a person of value and I had to turn it around and kind of do things for myself, like this video game. Just do things that make me as big as these guys are and brand myself, take myself and diversify myself.