At one point in very recent history, getting a co-sign from a top American rapper was seemingly more important than charting for some British MCs. While Rodney P and his London Posse put an end to rhyming in US accents back in the late ‘80s, which was the norm for UK rap acts of the time (namely Slick Rick and Monie Love), that need for validation continued for at least another decade. It is understandable though: back then, there wasn’t as strong an infrastructure for Black British music like there is today, so rapping in an American tongue was deemed the only way of reaching certain heights. But fast forward to the millennium, and it would take for two guys by the name of Mega and Mayhem—aka S.A.S.—to shift the perception of British rap once more.
North London-born blood brother duo, S.A.S., are an act that seems to get forgotten about when discussions arise of artists that have contributed much to the growth of Black British music. The British-Nigerian pair had a dream of bridging the gap between UK and US culture ever since they packed their bags and moved out to Staten Island, NYC, to attend high school in 1998. And they quickly found themselves in the thick of things, battle rapping with some of the best in Brooklyn and Harlem, and creating an authentic buzz from the ground up. What makes Streets All Salute’s story even more compelling is that, despite their styles and flows catching an American twang, they still repped their Finchley sides to the fullest.
While they were solidifying their name on both sides of the Atlantic, a chance meeting in 2003 with Dame Dash came about after sharing that he and Jay-Z wanted to sign some fresh talent to their Roc-A-Fella label. S.A.S. were signed that year in partnership with Harlem legends Dipset, drama ensued in-camp in the years that followed, and they eventually parted ways. But by that point, they’d already done what they set out to do: show the birthplace of hip-hop that the UK played no games with the art of lyricism.
S.A.S. just released Oi Oiii Collectables (The Best Of S.A.S.), a 24-track collection of their finest cuts, featuring some of rap’s biggest names. We hopped on the phone with Mega and Mayhem, also known as Eurogang, to talk us through their top five favourite collabs on the project.
“So Free” f/ Cam’Ron
Mega: “Back in the day, we had a very talented in-house producer called Rephan who’d been with us since we moved back to London from NYC. Motivated by our Dipset situation, pre-Roc-A-Fella, he just started making brazy beats with the coolest samples. By the time Dame and R.O.C got in the picture, we had a bunch of tracks already done. That summer, Dame flew us out to NYC to stay in his Tribecca Duplex Trophy Loft, and we took our hard drive. Dipset coordinator Duke The God scooped us and took us to Juelz’s studio to record some songs for Diplomat Immunity 2, and the whole set was there. Cam asked us to play the song we wanted him on and sat down next to Juelz. Initially, we were gonna put Killa on ‘Ur In Da Army Now’ and Elz on ‘So Free’.”
“Ur In Da Army Now” f/ Juelz Santana
Mega: “We played ‘Ur In Da Army Now’ and Juelz’s eyes lit up. Then we played ‘So Free’, like, ‘This one’s for you, Elz!’ Then Cam perked up and said: ‘I really like that one.’ So we were like, ‘Cool.’ We asked Elz if he wanted to jump on ‘Ur In Da Army Now’ and he was like, ‘Hell yeah!’ They would have both been on that album—Cam literally recorded his verse within an hour—but Elz didn’t do his verse till weeks later, which was way past the deadline. He actually did the verse right before our flight back home and we put it on our Who Dares Wins mixtape.”
“Dungeon Party” f/ Nicki Minaj
Mayhem: “We were at Juelz Santana’s studio in New Jersey with our Queens mandem and all decided to watch a Come Up DVD. That was the first time we saw Nicki rap and everyone in the studio was hyping about her. My old friend, Bundy, he said he’d been working with her and introduced her to Fendi, so I told him to call her and let her know we wanted her on a feature. To us, it was a no-brainer that she was about to be the hottest female rapper in the game; only a fool wouldn’t be able to recognise that. Being that we had a buzz in the city for years, she was down with it and came to meet us at Bundy’s Fire & Ice Studio in Queens. She pulled up with her friend in her BMW, and we hit it off straight away. Her Mel B impersonation was impressive! Americans usually fail miserably at UK accents [laughs]. We took Nicki to Juelz’s studio and introduced her to everyone, recorded her vocals then came back to the Queens studio to drop her to her car.”
“The Rush” f/ French Montana
Mayhem: “We didn’t link up with French until we left Dipset because he was beefing with Jim Jones. Even though it was just music beef, we’re loyal and really didn’t have any business working with anyone the set had a conflict with. This feature came about after Harry Fraud reached out to us to send us some beats. After we picked one, he told us that French wanted to jump on it, if we were cool with that. French did a hook and verse and sent it right back for us to do our thing. We sent the vocals over and didn’t hear anything else until people started calling us from the roads saying we were on the new Coke Boys mixtape.”
“On Dem Roads 2” f/ Noreaga & Imam Thug
Mega: “GRM Daily released a mini doc-styled interview based on our earlier teen experience in NYC, and it made a lot of noise in the UK. I don’t think people in the UK realised how active we were on those NYC streets, or how much adversity we had to deal with being British in the hood in NYC. N.O.R.E. DM’d me saying he enjoyed the doc thoroughly and respected us for being men and not taking shit from no one. While we were on R.O.C as labelmates, we hung out and got on well when he came to London with Dame, but he wasn’t privy to our background story back then. He also told me to hit him if we need anything, so when we were doing the sequel to one of our classic bangers, we had to shout King Slime, the Yande himself [laughs].”
You can stream Oi Oiii Collectables (The Best Of S.A.S.) in full below.