Say what you want about the Re-Up Gang but I guarantee that you won’t find a more lyrical group in all of hip-hop. The group comprised of The Clipse, Ab-Liva, and of course the Sandman have a cult-like following that stretches way past the United States. Sandman, along with being one fourth of the popular group is a legend in the Philly hip-hop scene. He has a history in hip-hop that would surprise most from being the first artist signed to Interscope after the death of Tupac to his near signing with Rocafella Records.
Known as a lyrical beast he has been compared to such greats as Jay-Z and Biggie. It’s not all about him though as he has put out several artists through his own company Cannons Inc. Sixshot.com caught up with Sandman to discuss the Clipses’ deal with Columbia, working with hip-hop legend Clark Kent, and what we can expect in the future.
You’re from Philly, which has always been a big city for hip-hop. How did you get into it?
I’m from Uptown Philadelphia. That’s my part of town. I was the shit since I was 9. I got introduced to hip-hop through my mother. I’d be doing my Saturday morning chores and my mom would be listening to Melle Mel, you know, ‘White Lines’.
All the exclusive records were on my living room floor. I seen the Anita Baker and all that but there just more hip-hop records in my household. I was a break dancing ass nigga. I grew up on Beat Street and Krush Groove. Hip-hop had always been my life as far back as I could remember. I was always a fly kid. My parents were fly and my uncles were hustlers so the shit was always around me pretty much. I started fuckin’ niggas up in the schoolyard and the lunchroom battling. I started poppin’ up in the clubs out here like Fever and Gotham and my name just started to get reputable.
I don’t wanna take nothing from the DVD rappers today but that shit gives you a false sense of pride. You spit one verse and you got niggas saying you’re the greatest and this could never be hate coming from me because I started on the DVD’s. My nigga had a DVD called Too Raw For The Streets. I hosted his two biggest DVD’s he ever had, which were Hell Up In Philly and Heavyweight Champs. I happened to be an MC with depth. A lot of these niggas who hop on these DVD’s do have one hot rhyme and one hot style. Before the DVD’s with my nigga Star I was rappin’ on the streets and you weren’t rapping for people you knew because you never knew who was getting off of work or who was walking by that bus stop.
You had to be an MC’s MC, and that’s what I became. By the time I took rap seriously I didn’t even care about it no more. I used to be on the corner making anywhere from 2300 to 4300 a day. I was just laughin’ at niggas who thought they was dope. Eventually I got with Clark Kent and he heard my shit and went fuckin’ bonkers. He told me he hadn’t seen that level of creativity since Jay and Big. I still own some of my rhyme books from when I was 13 so I was always good for my time. You grow with the game and I was always a nigga that was with the game on the outside. It seemed too far-fetched for me but I got with Clark and we cut the album. We got some beats from Timbaland and The Trackmasters.
I put on a lot of Philly producers that weren’t really making a lot of noise at the time. It was a crazy situation because Steve Stoute got fired and he was the one who gave me my deal at Interscope. I was gonna sign to Puff, I had a verbal agreement with him but that situation with the club and whatnot kinda threw us out of the loop. Stoute got fired as the president of Black Music which fucked all my shit up. Me and Clark needed each other. It wasn’t a situation where like Dre ran with Em. I was looking forward to making my old head a dominant name again.
So how did the agreement come about with Diddy?
Clark was Biggie’s tour DJ so there’s the relationship right there. Clark can walk anywhere and get a legitimate meeting because that man makes hit records. He’s done a lot and a lot of bitch ass niggas been frontin’ on Clark. He put a lot of niggas in the game and a lot of niggas turned they back on him. My personal opinion is that Jay-Z turned his back on Clark Kent big time. Clark would never admit that and he has his reasons. Big had him where he needed to be as his tour DJ.
When Big died Clark didn’t have a position in East coast hip-hop anymore. He wanted me to sign with the Roc but I wasn’t really with it. Damon Dash and me had a good relationship. I was fuckin’ with Dame and he put me in Death Of A Dynasty.
Who wanted you to sign with the Roc?
Jay was the one I had all my meetings with at first. I had sit-downs with Jay and Dame when they were together. After we started talking and all that, I didn’t like the bread that Jay-Z was offering me. I didn’t like the bread and there were a couple other little technical situations. You can’t argue with God’s decisions though. Stoute getting fired, Clark not having the legs to run with a nigga, I came out of all that and realized that I wanted to stay independent. Now my company is really a company, Cannons Inc LLC. I got 11 artists and I done introduced artists to my city and to the hip-hop world period. I’m just a nigga ready to go man. My rhymes are tight. My movement is official. We just had the Philadelphia hip-hop awards and I shut that bitch down, 100 niggas deep in uniform. Cannons Inc, that’s the conglomerate, we ain’t playin’ no games over here.
How did your situation with the Clipse come about?
Rosco P, Coldchain and Ab-Liva are both from Philly so I knew that. Liva and me knew each other before either of our situations existed. Rosco took one of my DVD’s on the bus and I didn’t know him like that at the time. We knew each other from the street but we weren’t tight. We both had respect for each other as MC’s. He was fuckin’ with that DVD crazy. Pusha ran it by Liva and Liva told him that I was one of the hottest nigga around. Pusha got with Clark and he called me up and said he wanted to fuck with me. We set a meeting in New York and it’s supposed to be Rob Walker, Pusha, and Pharrell. When I got there it was only Pusha but this nigga was holding four of my CD’s in his hand.I thought we were gonna have a meeting about me signing to Star Trak.
I look at Pharrell and said, “So what’s up”? He told me that Pusha was trying to start a label and I’m thinking to myself that I already got a label. The work that we put in on the Re-Up Gang, Sandman done put that in twice. I got three more Cannon CD’s than I do Re-Up CD’s. I never looked at Pusha as a CEO or anything of the sort so it was kinda buggin’ me out. Pharell said that he just signed Slim Thug and Snoop but that he was gonna be 100 percent involved in this and all that. We started talking about the game because I know there’s some sucka shit going on in the game and I wanted to see if niggas was there.
I left that meeting and one day Pusha showed up at my studio. I’m in there layin’ down my shit and everybody that’s somebody in the city is in the studio. When he came in he saw all the faces he seen on the DVD. I didn’t even know he was there so I go in studio B and I see him sitting in the dark. He told me was waiting on Liva and they were gonna come fuck with me. I brought him in the studio to hear the music and all that. He told me he can’t promise me nothin’ but he wanted to fuck with me. Two weeks later I fly down to VA. Pharrell was down there, everybody was down there. The first song I recorded down there was called “What The Fuck Is Goin’ On?” and that was featuring Fam-Lay. He a real hood nigga who roll out the red carpet for me every time he sees me, it’s nothin’ but love.
One thing that blew Pharrell away is that he never saw me with a pen or a pad. Clark will tell you too how I ghost brain it. A lot of niggas say they don’t write but there ain’t no proof of that. I do that shit around everybody. Pharrell told me that the last time he heard somebody like that was Big and I’m thinking that this nigga is too rich and famous to be lying. After that he’s running down the hall yelling that we need a group name so the Re-Up Gang was formed.
What’s the situation with the new deal that the Clipse got at Columbia?
When we first signed that deal it was supposed to be the Re-Up Gang album first, which it should be, because that’s what started the buzz. Hell Hath No Fury was a classic and it did what it did but We Got It For Cheap really made an impact. I thought it should be the first effort but from what I’m hearing it’s not. I’ma keep it all the way funky with you, I don’t know shit. My main concern is the Re-Up Gang album.
I’m a solo artist wherever the fuck I go. I’m just sitting back watching. I ain’t a shot caller here. I’m a CEO of 11 motherfuckers man but in this case Sandman don’t call no shots. When you’re used to making the decisions and rectifying situations and all that it’s different. It’s different going from being a boss to a soldier. Cannons Inc is always first and foremost just because that’s where I come from.
So when can we expect more material?
I was told that Koch picked up our mixtape or whatever. We might shoot a couple videos for that shit. We put in that work man, we spit that shit but it don’t mean nothing if you don’t keep your foot down on a niggas neck. We just had one of the hottest mixtapes ever drop. I got a solo mixtape coming out called Ginormous. I was just gonna throw it out in the streets but now that I see Koch is showing some interest in it, we’ll see. I got 4 or 5 producers under my belt that are crazy. You might see some surprises, I don’t know. One thing for sure, two things for certain you about to see some solo shit.
You were close to being in business with Puff and Jay. Do you still have relationships with them today?
Me and Dame good, me and Clark good. I haven’t seen Stoute in a while but he pops up every now and then. I’m not looking for a deal. I got into the Re-Up Gang situation because I figured we would be independent and make a lot of moves.
How’s the money independently right now?
Sand Cannon is cool but he ain’t where he wants to be. I feel like the game owes me right now. I was the first male solo artist signed to Interscope after the death of Tupac Shakur. They had a lot of big expectations for me but Stoute got fired.
Let’s say Stoute didn’t get fired, what do you think your situation would be today?
If Stoute didn’t get fired and Clark was rollin’ and all that I would say I would have a movement something like that Ruff Ryder heyday or possibly a Bad Boy heyday because the talent is incredible. I’m not the only spitter on my team at all. I got niggas that go in. For so long New York has been at the forefront of East coast hip-hop but they goin’ through some shit up there right now. I’ll always have niggas that I love from New York like Red Café, Skyzoo, Clark Kent, niggas that show me love. Like Styles P., I fuck with him hard but if a veteran can’t bring it back then what the fuck does it take? For a long time I was routtng for New York to bring it back to the East. Now I just feel like I wanna bring it back to the East.
Clipse Presents… The Re-Up Gang (2008) (June)
Producers & Guests: Swizz Beatz, The Runners, Scott Storch, Justice League, THX, Dame Grease, The Neptunes, L.E.S., Bink, DJ Khaled, Blade, Carvin, Ivan, Timbaland, Trackmasters
– Hate (Bink)
– Money (DJ Khaled)
Sandman – The Album (200X)
– What The Fuck Is Goin’ On feat. Fam-Lay (Neptunes)
Sandman – The Ginormous Mixtape (200X)