Big Shug - conducted by Todd Davis  

Big Shug: Second Time Around

July 2007

Long story short -- Gang Starr Foundation, alum, Big Shug, nee Cary Guy, grew up in Boston, MA's rough-and-tumble section, Mattapan, appropriately nicknamed, 'Murderpan.' After his mother abandoned the family with his hard partying father, the young and impressionable youth turned to the tough streets of 'Beantown' as an only means of survival. Along the way, he met a wayward kid, then, Keithy E the Guru, an aspiring emcee from the 'other' side of the tracks. Although Shug would soon catch a lengthy bid for his criminal behavior, Keithy E, who started going by the shorter stage name, Guru, persevered, and eventually went on to link up with a Houston, Texas based deejay that called himself Waxmaster C. The duo later became known as Gang Starr. After his release from jail, Big Shug first appeared on the Hard to Earn [1994] track 'F.A.L.A.,' a fan favorite, and talks of a solo project began. Two more favorable cameos followed, 'The Militia,' also featuring Freddie Foxxx, from '98's Moment of Truth, and "Capture (Militia Pt. 3),' which is taken from Gang Starr's latest, and FINAL, group effort, The Ownerz, both of which ultimately sealed the deal. By fall of '05, Who's Hard? , his solid, but commercially overlooked, debut was released. Fast forward nearly two years later and Big Shug has returned…

MVRemix: Ever since your whole inception into this business, a whole lot has changed; Gang Starr, as a unit, has split up for good. The Foundation, as, we, the masses have known it, is no longer fully intact. And, the industry, in general, has literally been plagued by the internet and virtually destroyed with music bootlegging and illegal downloads -- So, how has Big Shug withstood the test of time?

Big Shug: Not being rich. I mean, if you're not rich, you remain hungry. So, therefore, I know that I must maintain my position, and I must grow and be relevant to what's happening today, where people want to listen, which they do, which their support has been really crazy. So, I guess it's just the hunger. I still grind it out, and I still have other things in my life also where it's just not the sole focus, 'cause music is what it is. It's entertainment. And, life is a lot more than just entertainment. So, therefore, like, I get royalty checks for things that I've done, (for instance, the song) 'Militia' and such, (and) also everywhere I go there (is) always someone waiting for (new) music to come out, or things that I've done over the years, here and there, they know everything about it, so it just keeps me breathing in this sh*t. As long as I stay hungry, I'm gonna continue to be there. So, that must mean until I get a million dollars!! {Shug bellows out loud}

MVRemix: In 2005 you dropped your long overdue, 'Official' solo debut, Who's Hard? -- Were you content with the overall success of that record? And, do you think, commercially, it could've faired much better? If so, where do you think things went awry?

Big Shug: Well, the thing is, is that the guy that put the record out, Chris Landry, from Sure Shot (Recordings), he wasn't really into, like, pushing it to the maximum. He was more or less into making his quotas with his distributor, so therefore there (were) a lot of places that the album wasn't available. As I went overseas, and toured a lot of places, they weren't able to get the album like they should've been. And, then, he just stopped really promoting (it) at a certain point, I guess when he got to his point. So, that was disappointing but it basically set the table (for me) to do what I'm doing now.

MVRemix: You titled the project, Street Champ -- What does the name of your sophomore album represent, both, to, and for, you?

Big Shug: Uh, basically it represents the fact that, yeah, I've been through a lot of things in my life and in the streets and what have you -- Different trials and tribulations. And, the end result is I stand today as a champion because I was able to conquer a lot of things, and I still am a champion in everything that I do -- So, hence the name Street Champ.

MVRemix: How do you feel that Street Champ either differs and/or compares to that of your solo debut?

Big Shug: Basically it's a new work. On Who's Hard?, there were a few songs that were, maybe, eight and ten years old. And, (DJ) Premier probably, more or less, spearheaded that. With this album, it was solely me, and it's more to express Big Shug and show my different talents and my abilities. So, it's just more of a Big Shug album.

MVRemix: Take me back to your early beginnings -- When did you first become interested in music? And, how did it all begin for Big Shug?

Big Shug: Well, basically, I always sang as a young person. I was a member of a school of fine arts where I was able to hone the craft of performing in front of large crowds, whether it be dance or song or instrument, at a young age. As I got older, I always wanted to write poetry. So then, I met someone when I was about fifteen, and they showed me how to incorporate my poetry into music, and rap. I've always rapped for the majority of my life, and sang. So, I met Guru (some) years down the road, actually when I was sixteen, but I ran into him again when he was in college, at Morehouse, and we talked about taking rap seriously. But, first, I had to show him how to rap, basically teach him how to get the cadence, and what this rap thing was all about, being that we both came from two opposite sides of the coin -- Me being more privy street-wise, and in that sense, and then him coming from an educated family, as far as his father being a judge. So, we came together and we formed the group Gang Starr. The early group was him, my-self, and my brother, Suave D was the deejay. Being that I was entangled in things in the street and such, I tripped up a bit and I had to serve some incarceration. At that time, Guru proceeded to go on to New York and do his thing, and eventually met with (DJ) Premier. Upon my release, I had to get my-self ready for society, and to deal with society, so that was more of my focus than music itself…at that time. A year later, I was able to hook up with Guru, and then from that point on that's how I became involved in the Foundation and Gang Starr as we knew it.

MVRemix: How would you describe and/or define the style of music that you create and perform?

Big Shug: I mean, my music is just what it is. It's basically…It's, like, there's a hardcore rap element, but there's also a soul element and there's smoothness (to it). So, it's a combination of those things. If you go to see me perform, or you purchase my album, it's a multitude of things. It's a ride. It's a street thing. It's soul music. It's a lot of things. (It's) a little church. So, it's just entertainment. Any album, or anything you hear from me, could be called, 'The Big Shug Show,' because it will be a show, not just the same 'ol thing that people are used to.

>> continued...

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"I always sang as a young person. I was a member of a school of fine arts where I was able to hone the craft of performing in front of large crowds..."