An Informal Introduction: Shade Sheist

Shade

Would you leave a faithful woman that’s fine as fu*k and still rockin with you for a one-night floozie? Well, I wouldn’t. G-Funk made me.. G-Funk made all these “rappers” whether they wanna admit it or not. I can’t bring myself to make that shxt they call music today.. I just can’t do it. I turn down business just to stay away from that sound.. it’s that real. Keep it funky or get the funk outta here.. this is the WEST and we have a signature sound. If you wanna sound like them, you should move there. -Shade Sheist

Sometimes my mind drifts. As of late, with my 24th birthday just hours around the corner, mental navigation mostly leads me to reminisces of the past. You know, the time when bills, rent, and gas were foreign words that a thirteen-year-old had no use for. One of my fondest childhood memories is that of the summer of 2002. On Sundays, after church service had ended, I used to pilfer my mom’s keys out of her purse, greet a few of the fellow members, sneak off into her car and turn on the radio. Mind you, this was back in 2002 B.I. (Before iPods) and the radio was a big deal. If I was lucky, I’d get a chance to listen to whatever the “jam” was at the time before my mom finished chatting with the old folk, regained control of the keys, and popped in her gospel records. Back then, the jam at the time was “Where I Wanna Be” by Shade Sheist, and I couldn’t get enough of the song. It was, and continues to be, the perfect summer anthem.

Although I am a fan of many genres, there is no music in the world like G-Funk when it is done correctly. My first introduction to G-Funk came at a young age, when I stole (excuse me, borrowed) an old CD from my brother’s room. The first song on that “borrowed” CD was called “Regulators”, and of course, penned by none other than West Coast Hip-Hop legends Warren G, and the late Nate Dogg. Like “Where I Wanna Be”, I couldn’t get enough the song, repeatedly playing it a ruthless dedication bordering on unhealthy obsession. When I saw Nate Dogg for the first time on TV, he was wearing a black Zorro-type hat, so I used an old Hamburglar toy that I had to stage my own rap concerts in my bedroom, with Nate as the Hamburglar of course. I later learned that the appropriately titled album, Regulate…G-Funk Era, was a classic from start to finish.

From listening to Warren G’s album, I quickly became lifetime fans of all the other West Coast Hip-Hop legends, you know…like the Eazy Es, Ice Cubes and D.O.C.s, the Snoop D-O double Gs, and the group that said motherfuck the police, among others. I remember a stint during the time when I was first discovering the music of 2pac, in which I literally put no other disc in my $20 Wal-Mart CD-player other than 2pac albums for two straight years. I remember when I made the tragic decision to leave said CD-player in the living room, containing the unedited version of Dre’s Chronic 2001, which was ultimately discarded in the trash-can by my mom. I remember having $15 in my pocket, spending hours at the local record shop trying to decipher between all the albums I wanted to buy. I remember finding Tha Dogg Pound’s Dogg Food used for $7.99 and feeling akin to the way to the Pilgrims probably felt when they landed on Plymouth Rock. Back in the days when I was young I’m not a kid anymore but somedays I sit and wish I was a kid again.

And like Ahmad will tell you, things ain’t what they used to be. Nate Dogg, the man so responsible for some of the most memorable songs of my childhood, tragically passed in 2011. The other D-O double-G is making reggae music. Dr. Dre’s looooooong-awaited Detox is currently nothing more than a collection of wack-ass songs. I’m sure there are a lot more poetic terms I could employ to say this, but in truth, the West Coast fell off and hasn’t fully recovered.

But there’s hope. Kendrick Lamar’s first two albums, Section 80 and good kid, mAAd city are some of the greatest records to come from the Best Coast (no Bethany) in years. Not to mention, Kendrick’s Black Hippy folks (Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock) shouldn’t be slept on either. With the release of the solid Jesus Piece last year, The Game is still doing his thing, when he is not beating the shit out of fellow West Coast rapper 40 Glocc. Nipsey Hussle and Dom Kennedy are other qualified names on the rise. I’m even starting to fuck with the Odd Future camp a little bit. Even so, it’s difficult to imagine that the West will ever reclaim the glory it has lost, and a lot of people are under the impression that the G-Funk era died the same night Nate did.

Recently I got a chance to speak candidly with West Coast/G-Funk legend/Inglewood native Shade Sheist on his thoughts about the past, the present, and the future G-Funk era:

Let me start by saying that I was, and continue to be, a big fan of your music. I appreciate you taking time out of your schedule to speak with me. As a child prodigy, what were the records and artists that inspired you to get into the game?

SS: It’s all good.. Initially, it was R&B and Funk legends.. obvious names like Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Roger & Zapp, Smokey and most of Motown. Then I started to catch on to modern Hip Hop that came from my age group, groups like Kriss Kross and Another Bad Creation. Not too long after that I heard DJ Quik’s Quik Is The Name and that just changed my life forever. Then I discovered NWA which put me onto Dre, Cube and Eazy.. who introduced me to Snoop, Warren and Nate Dogg.. and it just keeps goin.. E40 and Too Short.. I can just keep going. And then there’s that Legend named Tupac who gets his own category of inspiration.

You made a brief cameo in 2pac’s video for “So Many Tears,” can you describe that experience?

SS: Surreal, really. It was actually the second 2Pac music video production I was a part of (the other was “Dear Mama.”) I didn’t know that day I would speak to Pac over the phone. I didn’t know that the engineer of that record would eventually move on to become my engineer and help me produce the majority of the music I am now famous for. I didn’t know I would meet E-40 on that set that day and later collaborate with him on tour. It was almost like a preview of what was to come for me as an aspiring recording artist, while at the same time paying homage to the greatest to ever do it.

The first time I heard you was on Ja Rule’s Rule 3:36 album. How did you hook up with the Murder Inc. crew?

SS: In the beginning of my professional career, being business partners with Damion Young (Damizza) allowed me to rub shoulders with a lot of greats in this industry. He would get me in the same room with other musicians, let us vibe and see what would come of it. In this case, Irv Gotti heard some of my work and loved it.. wanted to use it.. and wanted me to make more for and with some of his artists. The rest is history, in the form of Gold an Multi-Platinum releases. I actually have to give credit to Irv Gotti for putting me on.. he put me on my first commercial retail release ever.. and my first gold plaque.

Your song “John Doe,” featuring West Coast legend DJ Quik, continues to get play in my whip. When your debut album dropped, Informal Introduction, a lot of critics compared it to Quik’s Safe + Sound. How do you feel about all the comparisons you get to Quik?

SS: To say I’m honored wouldn’t be enough to describe the feeling. As I mentioned earlier, Quik was my introduction to Gangsta Rap. If you were to tell me back in 91 while I was still in elementary that a decade later I would be at the top of the charts with this supremely-talented musician I was listening to, I would’ve surely thought you were talking crazy. Safe + Sound is Quik’s next best classic next to Quik Is The Name and I’m sure I put just as much effort into my debut album as he did on both of those releases. Even with the release of my recent single “Back N The Building” I’ve seen the comments about me sounding like Quik on the beat or that Quik should be on the remix.. I like that kinda talk.

Casual fans mostly know you by your songs “Wake Up” and “Where I Wanna Be.” Is it frustrating that many people define your career by these two classics?

SS: Yes and No. It would be dope to rightfully be regarded for my work as I have achieved 5 Billboard-charting singles and that’s no easy feat, especially considering the era I debuted in and all the craziness going on in our nation at the time. On the other hand it’s like.. I know what I’ve done.. and apparently most of the world does too, since I’ve been fortunate enough to travel it because of those hits. Maybe I would care more if most of my own favorite artists weren’t also underrated. At the end of the day and at the least.. I’m a 5-Hit wonder.

Can you describe your first experience meeting Nate Dogg and how it happened?

SS: Nate Dogg had signed to the label I had recently signed to and threw an album release party for his debut album in Beverly Hills. I was introduced to him by Damizza at the party and we toasted to being labelmates. It’s crazy how nothing really went our way with that deal and then we linked up again later for “Where I Wanna Be” and shared our first #1 single status.

A lot of people, myself included, feel as though the classics you and Nate made together surpassed the songs that Nate collaborated on with other artists. This is a big honor, considering the great amount of classics that Nate made with other artists. I remember even hearing rumors of a collaboration album when he was alive and well. Although I know Nate was a close friend of yours, and I’m sure you’re more upset about his actual death more than anything, how disappointed are you that Nate isn’t around, strictly in terms of how it has affected your career thus far?

SS: The reason they feel that way is because Nate genuinely loved working with me and it showed in his performances. Nate wanted to keep damn near every song we did for his own projects! Maybe it was because Mizza and I were the only cats still stuck on that Funk that he liked to get down to.. I’m not sure what it was, I just know Nate came around more often than anyone and that’s probably why I have more songs with him than anyone else. Those collab album rumors weren’t really rumors. I miss my big homie and I think of him every time I get in the lab and lose it. His impact on the industry can be seen through the lack of soul in these modern records. They just don’t have that energy that Nate Dogg brought to a record. He will be greatly missed.

One of the reasons why Southern artists continue to dominate the mainstream market is their willingness to collaborate with each other. Nate even touches on this in your song, “Where I Wanna Be” when he describes what he learned from his “little trip down South.” Although recently I’m noticing more collaborations between artists from The Bay and those representing SoCal, would you like to see more collaboration among West Coast artists?

SS: Sure.. but how long have I had that dream? It’s getting old. So old that now I’m just working on doing my part to keep my name, my label, The West and the genre of G-Funk alive and well. Once the rest of the coast wakes up.. I’ll be right here, ready to collaborate. The irony is I built a name off of epic collaborations but these days I’m getting praise for my records only featuring myself. The industry is funny like that though.

A lot of artists from LA have changed up their original styles to stay in tune with the tastes of the mainstream, for instance, featuring more Southern-influenced beats on their records. Judging from your latest studio album, “Movin Units,” you have no such plans. Even your single “Queen” has that old-school g-funk sound to it. What keeps you faithful to the West Coast and the West Coast sound?

SS: Would you leave a faithful woman that’s fine as fu*k and still rockin with you for a one-night floozie? Well, I wouldn’t. G-Funk made me.. G-Funk made all these “rappers” whether they wanna admit it or not. I can’t bring myself to make that shxt they call music today.. I just can’t do it. I turn down business just to stay away from that sound.. it’s that real. Keep it funky or get the funk outta here.. this is the WEST and we have a signature sound. If you wanna sound like them, you should move there.

What do you think about some of the West Coast artists that are currently getting some shine, like Kendrick, Berner, The Game, Nipsey Hussle, the Odd Future dudes, etc. for instance? Do you listen to any of them?

SS: I bang the fu*k out of that “Money Trees” by Kendrick and I love that “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe (Remix)” with Jay-Z.. I think Kendrick is on an incredible comeback and that shxt is inspiring. I don’t listen to much of anything that isn’t from The Golden Era though. Just keepin it real.

In your eyes, what’s the greatest album from the West Coast to date, and why?

SS: DJ Quik’s Quik Is The Name. You can play it from top to bottom, it is the epitome of West Coast’s signature funk and features authentic narration from a true SoCal hood native. Not to mention that small detail of Quik producing and mixing every last record on the album. And it features the #2 greatest West Coast single of all time, “Tonite.” That alone should be enough, in my opinion.

If you could change one thing about the rap game, what would it be?

SS: I would take it back to when talent was held in a higher regard. Marinate on that.

Can you talk about any recent projects you have coming out? Is another album or tour in the works?

SS: I’m currently working on a new solo album called “BLACKOPS” and so far I have dropped three dope singles from it.. “I Still Luv Her,” “Back N The Building” and “You Already Know Who It Is.” I hope to be finished with the album by the beginning of Summer so I can provide the soundtrack to the season my music has become synonymous with. After the drop I have plans to tour the world again and spread some of this funk into countries I haven’t blessed yet. Stay tuned to my official website http://www.ShadeSheist.net for more info.. and as Pac once said, “Expect Me.”

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