So honored Juice Crew legend MC Shan granted us an interview. He released two hit albums — Down By Law and Born to Be Wild in the late 80s. The Queens hip hop icon is best known for being a vital part of hip hop history. Who doesn’t remember the popular Bridge Wars between Shan and KRS-One who was reppin’ Boogie Down Production for the Bronx? If you don’t know about it, this interview will enlighten you. It was fueled at at time when hip hop was trying to be downplayed as a phase that would pass by radio and other non-enthusiasts. The feud sparked a big interest again in the game. MC Shan’s fearless bold approach to his craft made him the legacy he has today.
You love to hear the story, again and again,
Of how it all got started way back when,
The monument is right in your face,
Sit and listen for a while to the name of the place,
Party people in the place to be, KRS-One attacks,
Ya got dropped off MCA cause the rhymes you wrote was wack,
So you think that hip-hop had its start out in Queensbridge,
If you popped that junk up in the Bronx you might not live…
Not only did he create hits like it “The Bridge” which he also produced. MC Shan also holds a spot in The Guinness Book of World Records for his classic collaboration with Snow titled “Informer”. I had the most awesome conversation with Shan. He was very candid about his personal life. It was a blessing to speak to someone who was a part of the culture I love dearly. He let us know what’s really going down with the hip hop culture behind the scenes; then and now!
Who are your musical influences?
Melle Mel was a big influence.
What inspired you to start rapping?
Shante took me on tour. Me and Roxanne grew up in the same projects. I went on tour for six months. I was like, I can make money rapping. I was in. Not the type of money these new rappers making saying nothing. But we made money.
How did you become part of the Juice Crew?
The Juice Crew was already around. We were like the first to start making records. It was local and we took it worldwide. The Juice Crew was Disco Fever Moniker. We weren’t the originals. The originals were Kurtis Blow a lot of the Bronx rappers. The dudes who hung out at The Fever were Juice Crew. Mr. Magic was a part of the originals, but he decided to branch off and make his own faction of the Juice Crew which was me, TJ Swan, Roxanne Shante, Craig G, Masta Ace, Biz Markie, Marley Marl, and Big Daddy Kane. Nobody could take it to where Magic took it on the radio. WBLS wanted Magic to kill hip hop. They said, if you tell people hip hop is nothing, they’ll listen. Hip hop was Magic dream. He lived for the hip-hop. He wouldn’t do it. Magic was like, I’ll go back to my other station. Hip hop was a way for us from the hood to generate capital.
How did the Bridge Wars begin?
The Bridge Wars was the greatest thing to happen to me and Kris because if it had not been for that song, we wouldn’t be such a vital part of hip hop history. See, I grew up in a time where talking about somebody else wasn’t looked at as I’m going to kill you. It was like, “you talking about me? Let me get my pen.” And some days you win, and some days you lose. I came saying, let me tell you a story way back when talking about where we came from. I never said hip hop started in the Bridge. Kris knowing his history was like, hold up, and he was like, who can I talk about in this. So it went from there. It was resurgence in hip hop at a time when the powers that be considered it a fad.
Shan vs KRS (Sprite Commercial)
Who are some current artists you like?
I don’t listen to nothing. I don’t even cut on the radio. Nowadays everybody is a rapper. The ratio is off. There are too many people talking about I want to be a rapper than a doctor or a lawyer….something really beneficial to our future. Everybody wants to be a rapper. I think that’s really dumb.
Tell us what you think about the evolution of hip hop — Female rappers, Mumble rappers?
The powers that be try to keep us in a mental state of confusion. In Africa, they didn’t have written testimony, there were griots who studied and passed history down. We were the griots of our era. The new artists pass the wrong message: get high as much as you can. I can’t say nothing about them getting high because I’ve done more getting high than all of them put together. It’s just the point. I may have been high while I was on the microphone, but I wasn’t saying do what I do. I was saying do better than me. You can read it anywhere. I wasn’t the only one doing drugs. Drugs was a culture back then, but I’ll take the heat for it. Because I’ll never tell anybody else’s business. I was saying stop this crazy thing. I was trying to encourage the youth to be doctors, lawyers. I’ll admit I was the first to talk about weed in that reggae song I did. While the powers that be focus on preparing for aliens to come. Meanwhile we over here talking about your car ain’t this and you ain’t that. We are focused on the wrong things. The internet just exposes us to a bunch of idiots I wouldn’t give the time of day to. The generation before me was petty. I’m the first this or that. Forget what you did in ’79. What are you doing to propel the culture now!
Do you think technology and social media help or hinder hip hop?
With technology, everybody is a producer. Everybody who has a computer can create a song. The kid with an iPhone can shoot a movie and edit it on Final Cut. There is a person who paid thousands of dollars and went to school for 12 years to earn a degree in music and film, and the internet will give somebody access to pretend that they have the same qualifications as somebody who actually learned this as a craft.
Recently Juice Crew went on tour. What was it like hitting the stage again?
It was like we never parted ways. People thought Juice Crew was broken up, but we weren’t. We all realized as we became adults that there were plots put in place to separate us. We all began to analyze things as we grew older. Now that we know the truth, we’re all good. The record companies were telling us, don’t talk to her, don’t talk to him, don’t let him know what you’re doing… keeping us all scrambled. I’m happy for Kane. I’m happy for Shante. I’m happy for Biz. My goal is different. When they bury me, I want them to say, he was the best father he could be. Other than that, this rap stuff comes as an extra.
What’s the difference in the business dynamics in hip hop nowadays? Are record companies still pulling the strings?
Nobody is making money in this industry but the powers that be. You think you making money, but you fighting over crumbs. This industry is not ours by a long shot. It takes a lot to go triple diamond and you still get fed crumbs. If you want the check, you have to make music they want. Take Justin Bieber, he was hanging with the black guys when his career escalated. White counterparts got in his ear like, your music needs to sound more pop. You can’t be hanging with the niggas. Look at him now, typical white boy. He raped the culture and moved on. Not being racist, but that’s what happened. Iggy Azalea, Post Malone, they market those artists different from black artists. People talk crazy about Six9ine clothes, hair, but you see him giving out money in the community. Poor kids figure he did it, so he give them hope to get out of the hood. His lyrics don’t say nothing, but giving back is a good thing. When I started rapping there were only 25 of us top rappers. You had to be really good to make money. Everybody wearing $300 sneakers, but won’t invest in themselves or their career.
People say the hip hop industry is over saturated. What do you think?
It is. Anything over saturated becomes null and void.
Name five of the dopest hip hop albums you’ve ever heard
I don’t think we can say who the top five are until it’s over. Until the world blows. There’s going to be new artists that come out in the future that might be better than the person who came out the year before. Until everything is said and done, we can’t say who the top five are or who the best artists are. Not until the aliens come down.
Tell us about your ‘Bars Over Bullshit’ album
I just wanted to spit some bars. Let me do what I do. I’m notgonna follow the trend. Why would I follow the kids? The kids supposed to follow me. I’m not like these old cats walking around trying to fit in with this generation. That’s just not me. So I did the ‘Bars Over Bullshit’ project with rhymes the way rhymes were meant to be.
Stream/Buy Bars Over Bullshit – Available On All Digital Platforms
Much gratitude to MC Shan for granting Weekly Rap Gods an in-depth interview. This was such honest exchange of information. I really enjoyed speaking with this hip hop icon. He dropped so many jewels. He has a rich legacy that will always be a part of the cultivation of the hip hop culture. He garners even more of my respect because of the love and devotion he has for his family. Salute MC Shan for all your contributions to hip hop!