Growing up in Boston's ‘Murderpan' sector, Cary "Big Shug" Guy has seen his share of struggle. At 14-years-old, Shug's mom split, leaving him and his siblings under the care of their father, who at that time cared more about drinking than raising a family. Like most teens faced with tough times, Shug hit the streets doing whatever he could to support his family.WAIT... THERE'S MORE STUFF
Fast forward to the late ‘80s, when Shug hooked up with a young Guru and started rhyming in a duo they called Gang Starr. But still heavy in the streets doing stick-ups and such, Shug caught a bid landing him in Walpole Correctional Facility and left his rap dreams shattered. Eventually Shug would be released after serving roughly three years of his sentence, and would hook up with Guru and Premier. In ‘94 Shug rocked a guest spot on Hard To Earn and dropped his own first single, "Jig Is Up." But it wasn't until '98, with the opening verse of "The Militia," that Shug's place in Hip-Hop history would be forever embedded.
Now set to release the follow up to 2005's Who's Hard?, Shug is ready to prove why he's still relevant to the youth of today. He recently took some time to let AllHipHop know why Big Shug is truly for the children and how there's really no replacement for the boom-bap of DJ Premier.
AllHipHop.com: It's only been a couple of years since you dropped Who's Hard?, but that was a long time coming in terms of how long you've been in the game. What made you want to get working on the follow up to it right away?
Big Shug: Well, one of the main reasons is you gotta keep your music relevant and stay relevant in the game. That's number one. And also I know I offer different music, you know a different sound from everything that's out here. And another thing on top of that is the fact that I had a few joints on Who's Hard? that was like probably eight, 10 years old. So I had a lot of growth within me that was actually on a lot of joints, but some of those songs were for that time. So when the day came, that's why we still used ‘em.
AllHipHop.com: Now you're a dude that's known in the industry for his knuckle game, and I know you're not afraid to advertise your hand skills in rhymes. You ever get dudes stepping to you on that level in the street?
Big Shug: Nah, because at this stage of the game from handling myself correctly, I'm respected, you know? So people don't step to me in that fashion. It's more on a respect level.
AllHipHop.com: So is self-defense something you've been into your whole life?
Big Shug: Mostly when I was younger, as a teenager I took Korean karate, I took some Kung-fu and incorporated that with street fighting as I grew up. So that's something I've been pretty adept with.
AllHipHop.com: How does that fit in with your everyday life? You got some type of training regiment that you try to follow and stay in shape with?
Big Shug: Not really. The way I stay in shape is I play basketball in a league I've been in for about five years. And I coach kids, you know so I'm always running. I do curls, and I lead a pretty hectic energetic lifestyle in that regard so it keeps me in shape.
AllHipHop.com: You're big into youth sports, can you talk a bit about what you've doing in that realm?
Big Shug: For about seven or eight years, I've been coaching youth football and youth basketball. My nephew was also one of the kids I coached a lot, and he'll be going to Boston College next year on a four-year football scholarship. So it's always like a development man, you know? I'm a real good motivator and teacher when it comes to sports, I play football myself so it's just a drive. And some kids who haven't even been that great, I've been able to pull things out of them to make it enjoyable for them. 'Cause sports is not just playing, there's a lot in sports that relates to your everyday lifestyle. So in the past I've been working with kids, and I'll continue to work with kids in sports as time goes on.
AllHipHop.com: No doubt. Now back to the album. This time around you've chosen to go with only a few Premier beats, and the majority of the album is being handled by up-and-comer MoSS. How'd you guys link up?
Big Shug: What happened was my man Dan Green of Clockwork Music, when I was making songs for Who's Hard?, he was sending me a lot of beats. And I was like "This kid here, he has some nice beats. If I was to do an album outside of Premier, I'd f**k with this dude." So on the first album, he produced a song called "We Gangsta," and he produced a song called "Militant Soldiers." And I was always constantly getting music from him anyway, so therefore we had something planned where I was doing like two songs a week to the point where we had like 50 songs compiled, and I trimmed it down to a few, and I always had to leave that room for Preem.
AllHipHop.com: I was actually talking with MoSS the other day, and he was telling me he was not only impressed with your overall understanding of music, but knowing the importance of consistency with each song and making an album. Is that something you feel you improved on?
Big Shug: Well yeah. Who's Hard? was kinda like me and Premier, and a lot of stuff I let him lead on. But Street Champ was more me, like totally me really going in the direction I wanted to go in and just lining things up correctly in a way that was gonna represent Shug more. And of course, you always improve in this game. If you stay hungry you're gonna improve with growth through lyricism, showmanship, everything. It's just a natural process so to speak.
AllHipHop.com: On the first single "It Just Don't Stop" with Preemo, you've got a few choice words for a few unnamed MCs. Is there anybody specific you're getting at with those lines?
Big Shug: I mean, it's pretty clear! 'Cause what I'm saying is, Premier is always known to work with Nas, Jay-Z, and of course Guru. So the thing with Jay-Z, he's a corporate dude and I respect him, everything's still love and everything. But the fact is, he went away from doing joints with Preem, for whatever reason. Even though I think they about to get back on some stuff. Anyway, he was on the radio one day, and somebody asked him "You ain't doing joints with Preem, you ain't have no joints on the album?" I think it might have been Marley Marl that asked him or somebody. And he said, "Well Just Blaze is like the new Premier." So that's why I say [on that track] "Some say they got the new Preem," but that ain't the case, you know what I'm saying? [Laughs] And then with Nas, he was supposed to do a whole album with Preem and they had a whole interview on that [in Scratch magazine] and everything. And that never took place. But as we know, Nas is mad creative, he does a lot of dope s**t. But still, he makes ill ass joints with Premier. And Guru, you know, well...we know how his work's been without Premier. And that speaks for itself. So ain't nothing underlying really, we got a lot more of them dudes, but it is what it is.
AllHipHop.com: I was reading somewhere that you mentored Guru when he first started rhyming way back in the day. Is there any particular reason you didn't get him on a cut this time out?
Big Shug: Well, number one. Guru be always saying that I mentored him, but I never mentored Guru. I taught Guru how to rhyme. When I met him he was already a man who didn't know how to rhyme. So I had to nurture him. And it's a fact, a lot of years I just let him roll on all that "mentor" s**t and all that, but that ain't the case. So that's number one. Even though he's older than me, I still schooled him on that. Number two, he took off to do his own thing, so Premier and I haven't spoken with Guru in about three years. And that's both of us, so it's not I'm getting him on a cut or nothing. It's about we haven't spoken in like three years. He's doing his thing with his man, umm...I think his name is "Clown Solar" [Editor's note: Guru's present-day partner is Solar] or something. I don't know, but that's what he's doing right now, so it ain't about getting him on tracks or nothing. I still got love for him, that's my man, but that's what he's choosing to do right now.
AllHipHop.com: Word. So most people know you for the hard rhymes, but you've got a pretty good singing voice behind you too. How much of that can we expect from Street Champ?
Big Shug: There's more, because even when Guru and I started out, we'd do rap joints and singing joints. When I was locked up and he went more straight into a hardcore mode so to speak with Premier. But we were always about singing and rhyming even though I was really the true singer. So I always could sing, from being young and being in church and all that stuff. But my album's not just a rap album, it's a theme, man, it's a street theme. You know, sometimes in the streets, in clubs, or in music itself, you want to hear bangin' joints, hard joints, smooth joints, maybe even a song or two. There's one total song on Street Champ that's called "Lost" where it's a total singing song that really touches on day-to-day s**t that deals with people, men and women. You know, they gotta go to work, they gotta figure out problems they might be having, a lot of s**t like that. It's a raw Hip-Hop beat, but it's a straight singing joint. Then I've got a few joints like "Spit It Real," that has a real West Coast feel, a Cali-type feel, where I'm singing the hook. There's a couple hooks in there, and everybody's gon' come to appreciate it. I mean I've always done it, on Jazzmatazz and everything I've always sang, but now I can do it in straight Shug mode, you know what I mean? So it's a good album, meaning it's just not one way. I think a lot of people are gonna get caught off guard with this one.
AllHipHop.com: Sure thing. So what's good with the Shug street-team, T-Wes and Singapore?
Big Shug: Right now T-Wes is doing his thing, I'll probably have him on some things later, he's not on the album. But Singapore's in full effect, on "Spit Fire" and "Streets Move," and we're working on his project. Also I have my sons, Lunchbox and Lil' Shug, and those two dudes will be coming out probably within the next two years, so I'm just keeping it moving, man.
AllHipHop.com: Finally, I know the Internet is gonna be blowing up with haters saying "Big Shug doesn't deserve the Premo beats, and blah blah blah." So you got any words to address all that?
Big Shug: I'ma tell you like this. Anybody that knows me, knows what I'm about and knows where I came from. I came from the streets, I been rappin' for years, the culture cultivated my style. I'm not an MC who is dealin' in fascination. My rhymes are 97% of stuff that I lived through, and the other 3% is hooks. I'm true to the game, I always have been. I ain't never tried to be nothing I wasn't. I've always just tried to get the world to listen. And Premier was in the group with Guru that was basically started by me - the whole Gang Starr movement. So what happens it evolved itself, and me and Premier got chemistry. It ain't even about what you deserve or whatever. It's about we grew into that. When I first went to New York, I wasn't doing songs with Premier. I sat by as he did songs with Jeru, and with [Lil'] Dap and Group Home. I was there the whole time. So if any of them deserved it, I know I did, know what I mean? [Laughs] But I had to wait my turn, and here we are. There's gonna be haters in everything you do, but I don't subscribe to hater magazines.
MTS Centre, Winnipeg - May 26, 2008
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