With the release of Shazzam’s solo debut album “Micill Shazzam Write”; I thought it would be a perfect time to interview a prairie hip hop legend. I have had the opportunity to build a friendship with Shazzam over the past seven or so years and I really wanted listeners to share in a glimpse of a man I respect and admire. Here is what transpired…
Introduce yourself, crews, affiliations, etc…
Micill Shazzam Write representing Frek Sho
How is Micill Shazzam Write different from Shazzam and why the extended name now?
The name has always been there (since People in your Neighborhood), but because it is now my time I wanted all who may not know to know. In 1995 I had a freak accident. After writing one of my lyrics, I got up to get a drink of water, tripped, and the pencil I was holding stabbed me in the arm. After little success taking out the lead, it melted in my blood stream. This caused a serious problem for me. Now, as I started to rap my lyrics, my vocals would change and I would tend to use more sarcastic punch lines when delivering my message. To make a long and complex story short, I learnt how to deal with this disease after many years of fighting it. I’ve accepted this outcome, finding a balance between the two mentalities.
Why has it taken so many years for a Shazzam album to surface?
I felt I had to pay some dues. I worked on Frek Sho projects and I was fortunate to be asked by other artists to do some tracks with them. As all of this was taking place I was writing my first solo album. It has taken me seven years to put together this album.
What does it mean to you to be in Frek Sho and how has this affected your musical career?
I am Frek Sho because I am one of the founders of the movement along with Sunil and Gumball. This movement has taught me about responsibility in my own life and has given me the strength and guidance to create anything I want when doing Hip-Hop cultural music.
How did Frek Sho and Shazzam come to be what they are today?
Ten years of trust, settling differences, and the fight to preserve Hip-Hop culture and Canadian Hip-Hop culture.
What are the biggest changes from the first time I saw Frek Sho in 97 to 04?
Sunil has moved to India, and we’ve aged 7 years.
What happened to the elaborate and fun live performances that used to be so captivating?
For example all the members of Frek Sho wearing masks on stage like a wax museum and coming to life when it was their turn to rap or the crazy wrestling moves. Those Sho’s I still do. You didn’t have a chance to see my complete show because it was in a small coffee shop. My theatrical shows I usually do on the big stage.
If you could change anything that has happened over the past 7 years what would you change?
Nothing, it was all meant to be.
The new album has what I would call a classic Frek Sho sound what would you say to that?
I think the reason it sounds classic is because some of the songs are 5 to 6 years old (i.e. Count Angloblackson, Murderher). Some of the beats are old Sunil beats and Kutdown’s production helped fit the sound I was looking for. It does exist.
What are your likes and dislikes?
I like an honest effort and I don’t like selfish people who believe in their own hype.
How would you describe yourself to the average hip hop fan?
To the Hip-Hop fan I am a small example of what used to take place during the mid 80’s and early 90’s. Many poets separated their personal life from their art. They stepped into to their B-boy shoes and transformed in to something totally different to who they were outside of the culture. Not all Hip-Hoppers did this, but I enjoyed the ones who did.
What is it that you truly love about hip hop and what inspires/motivates you to keep rapping?
I love the whole B-boy mentality. This is something you can create for yourself and feel good about. What keeps me writing is the ability to paint pictures using words then sending the information to the listener so they can envision your vision.
How many Sunil beats do you guys have left?
Lots. He is coming home to make more.
Is he moving back or is he just coming back for a visit?
Coming to visit
You have a track on the new album called history, that traces some of your lyrical stylings over the past decade or so how would you describe the journey?
It’s a growing process. When you start you sound one way and as you continue to develop you begin to steadily master what you are trying to send to the public.
My favourite song on the new album, Micill Shazzam Write, is Man (trusted by millions) featuring Gruf the Druid. What is your favourite track and why?
I love all my work. When I completed the album I listened to Living Hell a lot, then I played Micill Shazzam Write a lot because the message is personal, then I bumped Lip Bomb because the lines are the bomb to me. Trusted by Millions is an excellent track. I planned it with Gruf about 5 years ago.
The cover of your album is very interesting!! What does this picture say about Shazzam?
It’s for you to see in many ways. I think it complements the music. The oil & being positioned under the car represents Shazzam and the writing shows the concentration by Micill Write. In the end it is just a visual presentation of my art.
We have had some interesting conversations over the years, a couple that stick out in my mind are the one we had about Common and his show changes. Another one is about seeing your boy hood heroes rap ten years after the fact and having the experience rip your heart out. Would you care to shed some light on these conversations for the readers?
I saw a well respected poet from New York take the stage one evening. He had the crowd at his mercy because of his status and the way he was rocking the mic, but then on a couple of songs he started dancing (the shoulder dance) This kicked me in the nuts because I have never seen this guy dance in all of the years I followed his career. He was always cool, calm, and collective in his videos. I was shocked! I guess because I wanted to see what I grew up watching when this rapper showcased his Hip-Hop.
If I said you were a Canadian Murs or Murs was an American Shazzam what would you say?
I have never heard this man’s music before, but I do remember you telling me about him.
You definitely have to check him out! There is a similarity in your music and personality.
What is the largest problem facing Canadian hip hop artists in the prairies and beyond?
Money, Money, Money. And the lack of Canadian listeners listening to Canadian Hip-Hop.
I know we both grew up playing hockey and played at the AAA midget level, the only differences were I was a white defense men and you were a black goalie. I quit hockey to start djing. Why did you quit and what affect did this have on your hip hop career? What was that experience like? What would it have been like if we both played on the same team and I got beat on a 1 on 1 and the player scored the winning goal in the Air Canada cup?
I quit do to the race issue. Not that it was verbal but how it was done silently. Being the top goal tender in Manitoba at my age was something I worked hard for all my life. Being replaced in my first year junior for no apparent reason was enough for me to leave the game. I worked hard during my career and gained a lot of respect from players, fans, and the hockey community. I decided to take a year off to start Frek Sho, but in the end that one year never ended. I now play for fun with my old AAA and childhood buddies.
My answer to the second question is: If you were to get beat, I would stop him from scoring. We would win the game 3-1 (the third goal scored on the empty net. And you assisting on the second goal off a beautiful pass from the point to the right winger busting to post for the tip.) I am the last Purolator Cup Champion. 1991 Winnipeg Monarch’s. Losing big games came like snow in July.
Who is your favourite hip hop artist and why?
I have lots of favourites. I love Busta because he could drop on a new track and sound totally different from the last time you heard him.
What is your favourite hip hop song and why?
I love a trillion songs. Ahhh… Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos by P.E., High Rollers by Ice-T, 20 Minute City by Frek Sho and many more.
What makes Shazzam happy?
Myself and watching kids dance.
You have toured this country extensively. Is it still the same as it was when you first started out? If not, how has it changed?
It’s a little of the same because underground Canadian Hip-Hop is not something everyone is willing to take the time and go see. The only change I’ve seen is the faces, different time different crowd, and now everyone has a rap group.
What is the craziest thing that has happened on tour?
On the Hip-Hop explosion tour in Kelowna, BC. Sunil had too much to drink before the show. When we hit the stage he was over the top when all of a sudden he turned his head away from the mic and threw-up on the stage. It was the best shit ever!
I heard that the jacket that Ismalia is wearing in the Patience video was stolen from a store in Thunder Bay while on the Rap city hip hop explosion tour. Is this fact or hip hop folklore?
Call it Hip-Hop folklore.
Who would you like to work with in the future and what does it hold for Shazzam?
I’m not sure about who I would like to work with right now, but I do know that I have a couple of albums I want to do in the future. They are already planned.
What happened to Gumball?
Gum is low to the ground. He is working on his own production.
What is the best city to play in Canada?
All the places I’ve seen are cool, but I have a crush on Vancouver.
Does hip hop rule or what?
At its purest form-it is a god given stimulation.
How many records have you signed for me? (This is the bonus question)
I remember two, I think Patience and Papercuts.
If you have any last words shout em out now or save them till the next time we talk!
Thanks man! It was a pleasure answering these well written questions.