Some may have read this, but I came accrossed it today.
30 Rap: Having parted ways with Tech N9ne’s Strange Music, Skatterman and Snug Brim get their grown man on.
By Nadia Pflaum
Published on February 24, 2009 at 1:14pm
As rap divorces go, this one is pretty amicable.
After five years with Tech N9ne's label, Strange Music, rappers Skatterman and Snug Brim are cutting the cord. The marriage of Tech N9ne's painted persona with Skatterman and Snug Brim's true-crime gangsta swagger had been an odd fit from the start. The duo released two albums and rocked more than 300 stages on tour with Strange Music, but it was getting chilly in Tech's shadow.
For example, when Tech released his latest album, Killer, last July, billboards depicting Tech lounging in a white straitjacket, mimicking Michael Jackson's Thriller cover, sprang up along U.S. Highway 71. Posters of the same image climbed electric poles downtown. One month later, Skatterman and Snug Brim's new album, Word on tha Streets, dropped — to zero promotional fanfare.
"They had tunnel vision," Skatterman says of Strange Music's leadership. "All they saw was the red-headed wonder."
Travis O'Guin, president and CEO of Strange, implies that his label promotes all of its projects equally.
"We have that never-satisfied mentality — we always want to do bigger and better," O'Guin says. "That goes for every project we've done in the past and every project we're working currently."
O'Guin also says Skatter and Snug's departure was on good terms: "The reality here is there's no negativity. They've fulfilled their obligation to us, they're going on to do bigger and better things, and we truly, genuinely wish them the best," he says.
Skatter and Snug (born Stacy Landis and Aaron Henderson, respectively) are kicking back at Studio City, an incognito recording studio at Sixth Street and Cherry, and recording drops, the personal shout-outs that precede an artist's song on a mixtape.
Bigga Rankin, a Florida DJ, and Dutty Laundry, a DJ with connections to Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, have agreed to include Skatterman and Snug Brim's singles on their latest mixes, so the drops will introduce their names to a new audience. It's a market that the duo has yet to tap, and they're ecstatic; Lil Wayne and T.I. are proof that the most successful rap artists of the past decade have come from southern states.
Skatter and Snug have also started recording songs for their upcoming mixtape, This Is Kansas City Volume 1, hosted by DJ Spinstyles. The title is a jab at Tech N9ne's fame. Skatter and Snug want to make it clear, for out-of-towners who associate Kansas City with Tech, that KC's hip-hop scene is much bigger than one rapper.
Freedom has come at a price, however. The duo must forfeit the rights and royalties from their first two albums with Strange Music, 2004's Urban Legendz and 2008's Word on tha Streets. Starting over in the rap game at 30 will be tough, but the duo is undaunted.
"It's grown-man music, right now," Snug says.
Skatterman's flow is reminiscent of old-school, West Coast O.G. rap — think of the smooth, head-bobbing pronunciations of Dr. Dre. Snug, by contrast, has a roller-coaster delivery, storytelling with an audible smirk. On Word on tha Streets, they rap over bass claps and dramatic, symphonic crescendos, courtesy of several producers: Soundman, from Chicago; Seven, a KC native now working in Los Angeles for Dr. Dre's Aftermath Entertainment; and David Sanders II, from Alabama. Bar None, a producer with Young Buck and Cashville Records, made the beat to the song "On My Feet," which features rapper Paul Wall.
On This Is Kansas City Volume 1, as with most mixtapes, Skatterman and Snug Brim rap over industry tracks from the likes of T.I. and Lil Wayne, but the pair also recorded four original songs. In the lyrics of the new songs, Skatterman says, the duo focuses on how they grew up and what has shaped their mentality.
"People see us, and everybody think we real rowdy. It ain't like that," he says. "You can take it there if that's where you want to go, but we both got children. We both get up on some Mr. Mom shit."
"They first," Snug says of his kids. "When we get up, our first thought is to take care of them, then us. That's the difference. Motherfuckers still think we're in the street."
"Like, still on the corner with a rag in my pocket, gangbanging," Skatterman says. They laugh.
"It's crazy," Snug continues. "Right now, we're trying to school these youngsters, for real. That's our main goal."
The pair's raps are cautionary tales about life on Kansas City's East Side, along with the dos and don'ts of the music industry. Sometimes, they rap about their kids.
"One of my most realest and most fucked-up lines was, Change my daughter's diaper in a dope house with a pistol on me," Skatterman says, referring to a song called "Trying to Get My Life Right," which appears on friend and fellow rapper Krizz Kaliko's newest album. "I'm 19, not really knowing, still doing what I do. ... I got my daughter, you know what I mean, but I still gotta get this money. I'm not telling anyone to do it, I'm just saying I'm fucked up because of what I've been through, and in my fucked-up mind, I feel like it's better to do it this way than to be no dad at all."
Deadbeat dads are a sore subject. "We hate 'em," Snug says. "We men first, and we got to take care of our kids — that's our main thing."
For these two rappers, being good dads means raising kids outside of the troubled neighborhoods where they grew up. Snug now lives in Blue Springs. Skatterman lives in Leawood.
"We both were raised by good people," Skatterman explains, "people who wanted you to do right. But your environment — you can walk out the door and step in shit. You can only jump so much before you're right in it."
They credit street smarts — and a lot of luck — as the reasons that they've made it past the treacherous 20s. Snug Brim is 29; Skatterman is 31. Seeing kids navigating the same obstacle course that they survived, however, is painful.
"That's why I think we're gonna be in this game for a minute because poverty is never over," Snug says. "There's always going to be poverty, and we've been through that our whole life, so we'll never get tired of hearing that. It's always going to be relevant."
Though the pair says it's "all love," some saltiness remains after the split with Tech. They note how they invited Tech onstage when they opened for Ice Cube at the VooDoo Lounge last fall, even after they were left out of Tech's performance in front of a crowd of 3,000 at Capitol Federal Park at Sandstone last summer.
Still, being on tour with Tech made for some unforgettable experiences. There was the outdoor performance off a dirt road in Chico, California, where locals slaughtered a cow and served up fresh barbecue to the crowd.
"It was fresh. It was not the process that it usually goes through to get to you," Skatterman says. "They cut out the middleman. I didn't want to eat it. I just wanted some McDonald's, you know what I mean?"
Then there was the time in Dallas when Tech's crowd, many of whom also are fanatically loyal to the Insane Clown Posse, bestowed their trademark chant upon Skatter and Snug's set, yelling, Fa-mi-ly! Fa-mi-ly!
Skatterman says that in their latest phone conversation, Tech sounded down about the split. "He feels like he failed because he brought us in and it didn't work.... We real happy like, 'Thank you for giving us the shot. You showed us so much shit we didn't know. We'll always be grateful to Strange, the whole organization. Good luck to you — stay the fuck out of our lane.'"
The plan is to jog their fans' memories by offering This Is Kansas City for free when it comes out March 15 — 100,000 copies of the CD will be available at 7th Heaven, Streetside and at some area Best Buys. An MP3 version will be downloadable at myspace.com/skatterandsnug and at biggshot.com. After a quick tour in March and April, they'll get back to the studio in May to record Perseverance, a full-length album scheduled for release September 1.
"We want a headline in the Sprint Center," Skatterman says, and he isn't kidding. "No more small shit. Every day is going to be press releases, sending music to DJs and just working. Our project has never been worked, yet each record we've put out got national recognition. Imagine what we could do if we start operating on more than 10 percent."