interview 0586 added 31.01.09 words:
SAS: FREE AGENTS!
In 2003 Diplomat Records welcomed Mayhem and Mega to the musical family, and were the first addition to the Dipset Europe movement. S.A.S ‘Streets All Salute’ moved out to New York back in the late 90’s when Mayhem received a basketball scholarship at New Dork High School, little did they know that it was just the beginning of a compelling musical venture. The aspiring MC’s became regulars of battling fellow MC’s which later grabbed the ears of Hip Hop’s finest Kayne West and the Dipset crew, which later led the boys into contracts with Roca-A-Fella/Diplomat Records.
During this time and despite having to move back to London, S.A.S gained immense reputation from various features, Euro Gang mix tape series, modelling and touring worldwide with the Dipset family. Mayhem and Mega went on to represent themselves, S.A.S, and their brand, Euro Gang, with various releases including the ‘Streets All Salute’ CD/DVD and the ‘Coming To America’ mix tape although many were oblivious of their independent status.
To date SAS are currently promoting their latest project, ‘Euro Gang Vol 1’, and although there’s been a media controversy around their current status with Dipset and Juelz Santana, Mayhem and Mega have set their goals and are reaching them. Despite media frenzies and politics with former label peers, SAS take some time out with Nina Carmela and discuss what they’re really about…MUSIC.
Hey guys where have you been hiding?!
Hiding? LOL we been travelling around the world!
What have you been up to?
We couldn't be in US from '04 till winter '06 (when we beat our cases) so we had to get our US buzz back to what it was in '04 when we were running round with Dame.
Where are you located right now?
We’re back and forth from UK to US, every few months.
The media are feeding on the latest rumour of you departing ways with Juelz and you’re now working with Cam’ron. What’s your current situation?
We free agents, and have been for the last year. The greatest misconception was that we've always been funded by the label since '04, but in actuality we paid for EVERYTHING out our own pocket even studio time (no advance, no deal). So when they all started to split, we stayed cool with everyone and didn't pick sides.
Are you still on bad terms with Juelz?
I wouldn't call it bad terms, he went his way, we went ours. That whole London incident jus made everyone involved look bad. From the beginning that show had nothing at all to do with us, yet we were the 1st ones to confront the promoters and angry mob and last to leave that hotel after Juelz left in a van with the police so we really can't explain the Judas stuff that came out on the dvds after. You'd really have to ask him, why he on a DVD talking about us with the same guys that came to take his head off?
What has he had to say about the current situation with Cam?
We don't talk to Juelz anymore so I couldn't tell u.
And what has Cam’ron had to say about it all?
We haven't spoken to Cam about it either. That's between them, Big Joe and the promoters now. We weren't booked so it isn’t our concern.
It must have been a difficult situation to be in trying to negotiate with these UK promoters on behalf of Juelz and then to get slated by him, would there have been another reason as to why he was quick to over react like that towards you? Like maybe it was just the excuse he needed to part ways with you?
That's what a lot of people keep telling us. We warned them in '06 and no one cared, but as soon as 40 people pop up it was left for us to go confront them. None of Juelz's goons came downstairs with us. The funny thing is we had 20 of our own people outside the hotel waiting for hours for Juelz to come down. Half of them left coz the police presence was a lot, but 10 more came after. Juelz and his entourage were in the rooms the whole time. We were vexed about him saying we left him but my people were there for hours and didn't see him but saw us. They calling him Judas Santana now coz they feel he sold us out to maintain street credible and not look like he was getting extorted.
Has this situation affected any projects you had been working on with Juelz and the Dipset crew?
Not at all, we were never reppin Skull Gang and we left Dip Set a year ago although we were still cool with everyone.
How has this experience opened your minds more to working relationships within the industry?
There are no friends in the music industry. It's basically what everyone can get out of each other. If everyone was really family like they say they are, why would it ever get to the point where no one is talking to each other? Family always fight but always somewhat work it out.
Having gained a lot of recognition through the whole Dipset movement, do you feel under pressure into making sure your projects are just as successful with or without Dipset?
None of our projects was with Dip Set, we jus used their brand and did our own thing from features, producers to marketing. The only pressure is making better music, being more successful and making a bigger global brand than the Diplomats did.
Being overshadowed for so long, did it ever restrict you from spending time on your projects and being more creative?
Always did. They never tried to put us on as far as making us successful like themselves so everything from management to budgets had to be handled by us. Even today we hardly are in the studio, we jus pop out 2 - 3 songs every time we have a studio session booked every now and then. Trying to focus on making the money to put back into music as we've always done has taken it's toll a little on the creative side I'm not even gonna lie. Then there's the hate we got for being associated with such a exclusive crew. UK DJ's stopped playing us on radio as soon as Dame stepped in, it's weird, it's like the industry was intimidated by the fact that we were gonna be the global face for rap in the UK.
What’s your next on your musical agenda?
Eurogang Vol 1 out now!!
It’s stated on your myspace under record label that you’re ‘FREE AGENTS-let the bidding war begin!’ what would be your ideal situation right now?
Any US major that could drop our album globally simultaneously. We always wanted a major coz we have a buzz in too many different countries to go indie. With the climate of music rite now, and numbers being so low, coupled with the fact that there has NEVER been a UK rapper that has been successful in the US, it might jus have to be a Indie so we can show them how we market ourselves. We've been told too many times, "it ain’t the music, it's taking the risk coz it's never been achieved before".
How does the UK Hip Hop scene compare to the US scene right now?
To us, there is no overground UK rap scene. There is a Grime scene, R&B scene, underground Conscious Rap scene and a small Road Music scene. The Road Music rappers are really in the street doing what their talking about and their whole appeal comes from seeming like they don't really wanna be rappers. Some of them have serious buzzes in the street but they usually all get hated on by radio or video channels and can't do shows due to Trident so their ceiling is ridiculously low, might as well say they doomed before they even start as far as UK goes. Now in US, their ceiling could be grossing 10 - 20 million with their own label signing artists, that's the difference.
Having toured internationally, how do the crowds take to British artists? Is there still a barrier?
There's never been a barrier with us. Put it this way, the last time Juelz performed in Canada the crowd was screaming "WHERE IS S.A.S?.......EUROGANG......OI OI LONDON BOYS" and we wasn't even there LOL! It's all in the stage presence and delivery. Whether they know the words or not, our confidence and energy is always thru the roof. As far as the UK scene, now is definitely the time for us to show them what we about. When u got Juelz's whole studio saying 'Bruv', 'Champers', 'Nah Fam' and 'Oi Oi', u know the US is ready for us.
How have you seen the industry change since you first started out?
It's changed drastically over the last 4 years or so. It used to be more about talent and longevity but now it's about hit singles and 1st week sales. Not to mention the whole Internet boom with downloads and ringtones. Decreasing sales saw the rise of the Independents, and I've watched some of my favourite rappers turn into execs.
What do you think is going to be the hardest obstacle that you will face from here onwards and how do you intend to take it on board?
Our biggest obstacle will be proving UK urban acts can compete with US acts on their own soil. We half way proved that with the buzz we have off mix tapes, but soundscan and BDS is what they really wanna see in the industry. That no 1 spot on the billboard 100 will solidify everything.
Overall, what’s been your most memorable musical experience to date?
When we got like 100 spins on a Special Delivery freestyle on Hot 97 during Funk Flex hours. We literally had the whole of the Tri State talking about us for 2 years straight. People were running up on us like we sold 1 million records there, and I ain’t even talking about the fans and consumers, it was people in the industry like Kanye, Busta and DJ Enuff. From then we've never looked back.
So from here onwards what’s the ‘SAS statement’ that will empower your musical motivation?
The real leader has no need to lead, he is content to point the way, Henry Miller said that. They can get the trophies, we'll keep the cheque.
DJ Allure & S.A.S. Present 'Eurogang Volume 1' is out now on S4DK, get it from www.myspace.com/s4dkallure and there'll be plenty more soon.