We were already together—Magic, me, Ty, Marley, Shante—and we were doing such numbers as an independent that Warner Bros. had took notice. They wanted to get in on that. We were the first label to get a major distribution deal out of what we were doing. It was a blessing and a curse at the same time. They signed us on a good note, but then all of a sudden, the upstairs people didn’t have faith in hip-hop. You would always hear, “That’s not an art form. That’s not real music. It’s never gonna last.” This is what prompted me to do Play It Again, Shan. I took it totally to the left. When they seen that, it was like, “Oh my gosh!” I would take a bassline and play the bassline over, or I liked the strings from this song so I’d get the keyboardist to play it over.
So you were trying to demonstrate the versatility of hip-hop with that album?
I was just trying to be an advocate for hip-hop at that point in the game. They pumped so much money into the video for “It Don’t Mean A Thing.” They got a movie producer to produce that video. They took over the whole first floor of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel to do that. They put so much money behind it because, “Okay, we’ve got something that we can down to!” They had Carol Davis, who was one of the Warner Bros. executives' girlfriend at the time, singing on it.
My main regret on that little hip-hop battle thing is that Marley didn’t let me make another song. I was that artist back then that you couldn’t say nothing about me...and I gotta live with that stigma to this day that I didn’t come back with another song.
What set off the problem between you and Craig G? I took that “Even If I Tore It” as a response to him.
Hold on...Craig G? That was never done. “Even If I Tore It” was in response to the crap people were saying. That was just me being braggadocious.
What about the songs Craig G did about you? “Ripped To Streads” [sic] and “Goin’ For The Throat”?
You can’t believe everything you read in these publications. Craig G was called “The Son of Shan” at one point in the game. He was the next one up, he came in behind me, so Ty and Magic, they claimed him as that.
What about Cool C’s “Juice Crew Diss”?
Steady B’s first record—I wrote that for him. “Take Your Radio.” Lawrence and Dana couldn’t get their hands on me, because we broke off from them. They couldn’t get Shan to write no more stuff for Steady B. I was probably one of the first ghostwriters ever! They wanted the spot that Shan had so bad that they went and found a dude that sounded so much like me. When I hear a Cool C record I have to sit back and listen to it twice. “Hold on. Did I say that? Is that me?” That’s how close Cool C sounded to me!
Can we talk about “Kill That Noise”?
My main regret on that little hip-hop battle thing is that Marley didn’t let me make another song. I was that artist back then that you couldn’t say nothing about me. Make a record? I’ma do something about that. Marley would not make another beat for that, and I gotta live with that stigma to this day that I didn’t come back with another song. Marley thought, “It’s gonna make Kris famous!” “He already famous off the first joint!” To this day, if I’d have known what I know now, I would have said, “Screw Marley!” went and got another producer and did what I wanted to do in the first place, and it wouldn’t be a thing of, “Oh, you never came back with another record!” 'Cause it makes me look like an LL. LL didn’t respond to me, and then it looks like I didn’t respond to Kris, but that was Marley’s fault, and I gotta live with Marley’s bullcrap to his day. I wanted to do something else! I was writing things dissing LL through Steady B, and this was after I did “Beat Biter”! Any artist that was in the game at that point of time knew Shan was that dude that will keep on coming at you! But the world don’t know it like that. “Oh, you never made another record about Kris. Kris destroyed your career.” It doesn’t go like that.
The real story is after all of these years of dealing with Cold Chillin’, they jerking you. I produced Snow! So at that point I really didn’t have to deal with Warner Bros. dropping me. I went and found another artist so I didn’t have to deal with Cold Chillin’. They still had me signed for more albums—although Warner Bros. dropped me, Cold Chillin’ still had me. I wasn’t outta the noose. Before I was going to make more records with these characters here, I’m gonna go on tour with Snow. Screw that! I got out of the rap game for reasons other than people think.
Was the Livin’ Large label part of Cold Chillin’?
They couldn’t put it on Cold Chillin’ 'cause Warner Bros. still had Cold Chillin’ underneath their wing. So what they did is they made Livin’ Large—although Warner Bros. wasn’t doing nothing with my music, I’m still stuck with these bums. Why go through the trouble?
Did you record a whole album for them?
No, I just did “Don’t Call It A Comeback,” “Peenile Reunion,” and “Hip-Hop Ruffneck.” They gave me a video budget, and I did two videos for $15,000. I did “Hip-Hop Ruffneck” video and “Peenile Reunion” video with a student at a school. I can’t even find those videos anymore.
Have you heard all the remakes of “The Bridge”? There have been at least seven.
Wow, that’s another bootleg that Marley and Ty probably did. Nah, I thought there was just my version and then “The Bridge 2001.”
What was the story with the Juice Crew 3rd Generation?
That was Tyrone’s son. Fly Ty using the Juice Crew moniker to try and push his son into the game. But it’s too late! You done already crossed a whole bunch of people in this business, Ty. Russell and them take your calls on the strength, but none of them are gonna do nothing with you. It just didn’t work. Here we are 2012 and you don’t hear nothing about Juice Crew so-and-so. I was the last standout. Tyrone and me? Shan was his partner. Marley didn’t hang out with him. It was me, Magic, and Tyrone. Now it’s at the point where Tyrone stands alone.
Marley Marl was a crab. I already knew the steelo that when Marley makes a tape, it’s gonna become a record, and you’re not gonna get paid.
What can you tell me about TJ Swan?
He came into the crew through Biz Mark. Swan was the first crooner in hip-hop, and my record was the first hip-hop ballad to ever come out. After “Left Me Lonely” and “Nobody Beats The Biz” and all of that stuff, Marley was getting Swan a deal, and Swan’s deal fell through ‘cause of all the sucker stuff Marley was doing. Marley blew TJ Swan’s whole career. I don’t even know where he is to this day! TJ Swan right now is like “Where's Waldo?”
Why weren’t you on “The Symphony”?
Marley Marl was a crab. I already knew the steelo that when Marley makes a tape, it’s gonna become a record, and you’re not gonna get paid. After we was doing that photo shoot, Marley was like, “Yo, let’s go make this tape!” I’m lookin’ at them like, “Y’all can go make the tape! I’m not going ‘cause I already know what it is. It’s gonna become a record.” Ask any of them how much they made off the record? I actually think I won on that one, I get asked about “The Symphony” more than I would if I was on it.
What are your best memories of Mr. Magic?
I don’t look at Magic like everybody else does. Magic was my partner, he was my friend, he was a dickhead, he was an asshole, he was a fuck-up—excuse my language. Magic was running partner when we was on tour. Me and Magic bunked together all the time. Magic liked it hot in the room, I liked it cold. We were like night and day. Magic was the the craziest person I know. You give Magic a Budweiser? Magic was known for cursing people out. Magic was known for telling an artist, “Your record sucks, punk!” Look at it like this—the king can walk through the kingdom and smack everyone in the head and no one can say nothing to him. He wants a piece of your bread? He can get it. Magic was the king in this kingdom, and whatever he said goes and that’s the way he carried himself. But to me? He was a dickhead! [Laughs.]