Where The Hell Have You Been: Suga-T
Suga-T, proved in the early '90s that female emcees could hold a mic and represent the same as their male counterparts. With the support of The Click, which included brothers E-40, D-Shot and B-Legit, Suga-T proved that the storm that would make a dent in the Hip Hop industry, would need the flavor of a woman as much as it did a mans.
Since then, songs like 1994s "Hurricane" and "Sprinkle Me," have become Hip Hop classics and a precedent for women in the Bay Area as well as femcees all over the world, to spit, sing and embrace their positions in Hip Hop as qualified musicians.
This month, HipHopDX pays homage, while chopping it up with the totally reformed Suga-T, an unforgettable voice that helped create some of Hip Hops most unique tracks.
HipHopDX: Where did you get the name Suga-T?
Suga-T: Initially, I was in a group called Suga and Spice. When we separated we both ended up getting pregnant at the same time. She ended up going for the more domestic role and I went for the music route, in Hip Hop. Thats when my brother put me on, as Suga-T because my real name is Tanena.
DX: Refresh our memories on all past collaborations and projects that youve worked on, throughout your career...
S: Sure. Ive worked with everyone from Tupac to Ce Ce Peniston. I have a really hot song with her right now called, Im Moving On. Ive been working with artist by the name of Benino, who has a huge following overseas as well. Ive worked with Snoop Dogg; Ive been the [female] voice in anything doing with the group, The Click or any female voice youve heard on B-Legit, E-40 or D-Shot. I was the original voice behind all the hits, "One Love," "Hurricane" and "Family" and other endless tracks. I have a variety of soundtrack placements. Tales from the Hood, High School High, Pootie Tang, Obstacles, Phat Beach- just to name a few. [Laughs]
DX: With that, whom were your inspirations growing up as a female emcee/singer, outside of the people in your family?
S: It was Salt N Pepa and it was Queen Latifah, as well as Yo-Yo.
DX: Why those three women?
S: [Laughs]. I was a female advocate. I kinda pictured myself similar to the ladies. I liked what they were doing. As far as male emcees it was Run-DMC, LL Cool J and The Sugar Hill Gang. As far songstress, I liked Shalamar, the OJays, Vanity 6, Climax and um, Minnie RipertonMarvin Gaye, and my girl Whitney Houston. I cant forget Whitney Houston, thats my girl. Oh yeah, [she starts to sing] I apologizebelieve me I do and my girl Anita Baker.
DX: Word. When did you realize that you could spit?
S: When did I start thinking I could rap? Wow, interesting. I actually started singing at church, [on the alter] for the Holy Ghost [laughs] and singing in the choir. They always made me sing songs, because I wasnt scared. Originally, I recorded a full singing album when I was 15 and then I ended up getting pregnant. After that I started spitting with my brother.
DX: Then its safe to say, E-40 brought it out of you?
S: No, actually I think it was my destiny to sing and that was something I got from God, first. I definitely think my brother was a major influence [to rap]. I was involved in some street activities and an unhealthy relationship and my brother told me that he would take care of me and I could run with him. I started working at his clothing store that we had. My other brother D-Shot was a major investor, as well as a major influence spiritually and physically. We all helped each other out. We opened up opening a recording studio [right] next to it, and thats when I came in. All of my brothers were a major influence in getting me in the studio to record and produce.
DX: Your brother, E-40 is known for his creative vocab and slang. How was the creative juices and energy when recording tracks like "Sprinkle Me" and "Hurricane"? Describe the atmosphere in the studio.
S: It was great and Captain Save [A Hoe] was fun because I was in that moment, where I felt what he was saying. It was a cool vibe and an interesting video. With Sprinkle me, my brother called me like, Hey, come and do this track real quick. And Im like Ill be there in a minute. [Laughs] We did it in like 20 minutes. "The biggest brother and sister of Hip Hop that the world had ever created [according to] the Guinness Book of World Records.
"Hurricane" was a great situation. We were signed to Jive and we had the support from the label and it gave me a chance to showcase my singing talent. I also was able to give a female perspective of what Hurricane can do to you. [Laughs] Even with other tracks, like "Family" and its so many others, it was the same thing. Its sad because I cant even remember all of them. It was such a long time ago. [She starts to sing] Ohh nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, forty wodda, nah, nah, nah, nah. Thats what it was I dont even know what it was called. [Laughs]. Its so much stuff. It gave me a chance to showcase my singing skills without being judged as a singer. I was singing to give the songs flavor; I really wasnt singing to showcase that Suga-T could sing.
DX: What do you think The Click brought to he industry at that time?
S: Thats a good question. We brought family and family orientation. We brought out real situations that were laid out in a positive manner. It was positive yet it was still street, risky and bold. I think we also brought real musicwith major sounds. It was west coast and it was bangin. We had weird melodies that got peoples attention.
DX: Word. Describe the early to mid- 90s for all the people who missed it.
S: It was fun. It was street, yet an appreciation for messages that were empowering. Personally, I was what I was saying in the music. I was also raising children in the midst of it. I was developing a balance that worked for me as a teen mother and as a recording artist. I was in college and I was in school and on my way off of Welfare and Section 8.
DX: Wow. With that, do you think you've become a good role model for women, like you considered Queen Latifah, MC Lyte or Yo-Yo?
S: Yeah, I do. Im working on getting myself further out there. I think I cheated myself with publicity. I didnt understand the need. I never did this to be popular, which is really sad. I did it because it was really fun, my family did it and at times I even did it to get away from my kids. [Laughs] I didnt do it to be popular. I think I would have been a bigger role model if I wouldve understood the importance of publicity and staying out there.
Maybe it was good that I didnt though because I was a ruthless person, in a lot of different ways. It probably would have been unhealthy for people to hear, the other side of me. I think its a purpose for that. Now, I can be a better role model and bring a lot more to the table. This way, people can still hear my life experiences.
DX: With that ruthlessness, youve had the opportunity to turn everything around. You started a company called Angil Entertainment and you have an album called Allusionz: The Story Behind the Glory! What inspired you to do these projects and turn your life around?
S: Living the type of life that I was living, it wasnt healthy. The same energy I was putting out was the same energy I was getting back. It brought a lot of painful situations in my life that broke me inside and out. These situations in my life broke me emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually and mentally. I realized that my path was a little different from the path that the people around had.
When I would start to reach out for the answers to people around me, they didnt have any. They would respond to me in different ways out of love, ignorance and whatever else, but they didnt have the answers. I started to search inside of my spirit and built a relationship with God. I realized that my purpose was different from what I was going for at that time.
As I got deeper into that relationship, I started recognizing that what I was doing was hurting me and it was hurting other people; it wasnt as healthy as it couldve been. Stuff started not being as fun to me. I was a functioning alcoholic; relationships that were used to make me feel better werent working anymore. It was played out. It didnt help. Anger, violence, and the music didnt help and the only thing that did was my relationship with God. It allowed me to start working from a different perspective. Thats what made me change. I had a breakdown, a couple of divorces; I had come out of a very abusive relationship. A group of people around me hurt me they were killing me and didnt even know it. The fact that I wasnt in control of my destiny hurt me. By me being broke, it made me develop a relationship with God. That relationship with God made me understand that there is a bigger vision outside of alcohol, drugs, sex and violence.
Being that all the issues are [mainly] killing minorities in society: sex, money, drugs, and alcohol wasnt attractive to me. I didnt want to put it in my music to glorify, to have as a lifestyle, or to have for myself. Me being a parent to teenagers, I wouldnt want them to go through the same thing I went through.
Another thing that made me change is, five people I were dealing with all got killed and set up by their own people and I was suppose to be with each one of them, each time. That scared me too. That was an alert.
DX: Hmm, that being said, how do you feel about the music your brother makes?
S: I think its great. I think everybody has their time of recognizing different things. Its not for me to judge, if it's good or bad. I think it's real music, with real situations. With anybody else who makes that type of music, I have nothing to say. I have a responsibility for myself. As a mother, a woman, a black woman, a woman of God, as a CEO. I feel like its my responsibility to make sure that theres a balance, in our society.
DX: What stands out the most when you look at the last 16 plus years in the business?
S: Truthfully, girl, pain. Struggling as the only female in the family. Its challenging because a lot of the issues that I faced they didnt understand, because I was a woman. Struggling as a female artist, struggling with male chauvinist mindsets. Dealing with other females who are competitive, who are intimidated to work with you. Dealing with b.s. and management. Building a corporation and being a mother raising my children and going through challenging relationships, has all been hard.
Another side that sticks out is building a corporation and developing entities that allow me to share my life experiences and being able to make money off of it and sharing with others on how to make money.
DX: If you could capture a moment in Hip Hop in a glass jar, which moment would that be and why?
S: It would be traveling across the country, touring with my family and rocking the stage. Giving the people the music they love to hear, hearing them sing it, enjoy it and appreciate it. I could stay there for a little while and thats what Im trying to get back to. This time it would be bigger because it just wouldnt be me showing up doing my music, but me rocking a concert and then going to do workshops, that would change lives and develops our communities.
For more information go to: www.myspace.com/sugainspired and www.suga-tfragrances.biz