“You Want to Make Sure You’re on the Right Side of the Truth:” An Interview With Sha Money XL

TE P. speak with the DJ/producer/executive about being an accomplished child pianist, catching two felony charges at 16 and the wealth of knowledge he has gained as a rap industry veteran.
By    July 14, 2020

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Sha Money XL is a product of a very specific place in time: a New York City that seems like a distant memory now. As a kid in Hollis, Queens in the 80’s, he saw Russell Simmons, Run DMC, and LL Cool J as physical and successful representations of this thing, this culture, this style, this all around new way of life that was taking over not just his neighborhood and borough, but the city as a whole. Sha gravitated towards DJing. A child prodigy who performed at Carnegie Hall, house parties became his new stage; producing soon grew into an obsession. After a friend lent him a broken beat machine and he tried to hustle to get a new one, Sha took his first real step into the streets, and eventually towards his purpose.

In upstate New York, he was transformed. The police picked him up in Albany after they were tipped off and found his two stashes. A bigoted judge tried him as an adult at just 16. The sentence was a year in prison, which wound up teaching him two crucial things. The first was that jail is a place for no man. The second was that hip-hop brought him to this point. If he was willing to risk everything for it, he could use it as a compass to guide him towards his dreams.

Following that year of pain and resolve, Sha landed an internship at Def Jam, and it’s here that he met his mentor, Jam Master Jay, who would serve as his conduit from DJ to G-Unit co-founder, to storied A&R. Jam Master Jay’s influence was instrumental to Sha. From their initial introduction to Jay’s untimely death, Sha continuously learning from Jay. If he wasn’t teaching him how to perfect his drum patterns, he was introducing him to up and coming artists — in particular, one fellow Queens representative with a similar mindset and a distinctive voice. At the time, a young 50 Cent was taking tutelage from Jay too. Where 50 brought a charisma and hunger for more, Sha offered an ear for talent and a conviction to make sure that talent won.

After that infamous shooting, a buzzing 50 Cent was catapulted from the guy who called out and “playfully” threatened every major rapper in the game on “How To Rob” to one of the most talked about artists in hop-hop. It was no secret that labels were scared of him, his signature voice had changed, and his body was literally in shambles. But Sha took a tremendous risk, leaned on his beliefs, and bet everything on the future multi-media mogul from SouthSide Jamaica, Queens. Out of this partnership G-Unit was born.

As “The Unit,” Sha Money, 50 Cent, Tony Yayo, Lloyd Banks, Young Buck, and (for an infamously short time) The Game owned the entire rap industry. 50 went diamond. Banks, Buck, and The Game all went platinum. And Tony Yayo went Gold on house arrest for God’s sake. It was all in some way, shape or form due to Sha’s innate ability to find and build the pieces into a well oiled machine, which earned him the title, “The Chain on the Bike.” When the road with G-Unit ended, Sha took the generosity that had rubbed off on him from Jay, the marketing and promoting skills he’d learned managing 50 and building G-Unit, and the deal-making skills shown by the late Chris Lighty, and brought it back to where it all started: Def Jam.

At hip-hop’s most iconic label, Sha gravitated towards those artists who had been underestimated and misunderstood. He brought 2Chainz and Big K.R.I.T to Def Jam. Later, he gave Yo Gotti and Bobby Shmurda a home at Epic. He began working with a largely unknown group of beat makers at a production conference he named, “The One Stop Shop.” Being its creator, its financier, and its overall ambassador for three years, Sha converted an Arizona weekend into a model of access. Everyone from Just Blaze, to Pete Rock, and even Nipsey Hussle all came together to learn from one another and build in a way that’s as hip-hop as graffiti and Gazelle’s.

After some 20-plus years of burnishing his music industry legend, Sha Money XL is finally releasing his debut album, Chain on the Bike. The project itself began while Sha was sitting in his home studio playing old files from various periods in his production career. Listening to old ominous vocal recordings from Prodigy gave him the itch again. With Chain on the Bike, he set out to take vets he loved and pair them with new artists. Features from Styles P, Domo Genesis, and a posthumous Prodigy, are aligned with the likes of New York-inspired, Houston-raised Tedy Andreas and North Carolina’s G Yamazawa. This project marks the culmination of a walk of faith that Sha embarked on a long time ago. TE P.

A good place to start is always the beginning. You grew up in New York City—Queens to be exact—in the 70’s and the 80’s. A lot of people don’t really know New York was like that time. Can you tell me about that?

Sha Money XL: The 80’s was the Crack Era. There was that line where there were a lot of zombies walking around. It was a dark time. It’s the Reagan era. I was growing up and Hip-Hop was the thing that kind of pulled me away from what I was seeing in the streets and gave me a vision in my head for what I could see in my future. Hip-Hop and the music just put me in a whole different world when I started falling in love with it. I used to go to school everyday and cross over Hollis. Whenever you do that, and look up the street you think about Run DMC, and you think about what this neighborhood is doing. It’s Russell Simmons, it’s Def Jam, and I’m like, “This is my hood doing this!” I grew up in time where the motivation was really in front of me and a space where you actually see other brothas doing it. You really saw someone drive up the street with a Benz just cruisin’ up. And you like, “Holy Shit!” It’s right in front of you. So, you see the Crack Era, then you see that, and it begins to motivate me for what my career would be.

You just touched on something that is very important. At the same time that Hip-Hop is doing its thing, there are certain figures in places like Queens that are influencing the culture. It’s a time where a lot of rappers were trying to be like the cats in the street. Can you speak to that energy where all of these things are aligning at the same time?

Sha Money XL: Yeah. Growing up in Hollis you’re seeing Run DMC and Jam Master Jay and that was the positive energy. That was all positive flyness with fly cars, fly jewels, nice outfits with nice Adidas on. So, it gave you that sense of doing great things and wanting great things for yourself. It brought forth that energy so it was before any of the gangster era or any of that came with Hip-Hop. This is the era where the blueprint is laid, and you’re seeing the first guys going platinum in your hood. So, you’re seeing great things happen and that gives you the vision. You’re starting off by seeing things really at a high level. You had LL Cool J chillin’ at the high school that’s right up the street from your house. He’s on top of the car. You had A Tribe Called Quest up there on Linden and all my cousins are up there on Linden. So, it’s like the motivation sets the energy where it was so amazing to see the growth and what people were doing creatively. And the changes that were happening from one block to the next. Then one area to the next—all the way to Queensbridge. Then it became the biggest thing in Queens. It was the culture.

You naturally gravitated to producing and being part of the process of making the actual song. What was it about that aspect of the music that enticed you and made you want to be behind the scenes?

Sha Money XL: It was two things. One, I was a DJ first. So, I was doing it since I was 15. I used to do it at Job Corps and after school parties. I would blend and as you DJ more and more, you pay attention to what the music was doing. Plus also played piano as a kid, so I would combine those two talents of knowing what the music was doing based on what I’d already learned, and hearing and blending this vocal with this beat and drums, it made me think deeper. And I was like, “I can make a beat.” I said that because I knew what was going on. I’m playing this and I’m like, “Holy shit!” So, it started coming to me naturally because I learned how to play music early and DJing. It’s the foundation for anyone. Whether you’re a producer or a rapper. That’s the biggest key and that part has helped as a producer and it made me say, “Alright. I’m going to produce.” it all taught me I could produce. That’s where it started.

As far as you being a prodigy in terms of the piano, what is your first musical memory or musical moment?

Sha Money XL: My biggest moment was when I was about 10 or 11. I was on 57th street and my Mom’s made it a big deal. I still have the paper to this day. It was my recital at Carnegie Hall. At that time I was so young I didn’t know what Carnegie Hall was. I didn’t know why she was making such a big deal of it. But for her, she was trying to show her family like, “Look. I’m raising my kids to be something too.” And she was really pushing me on the piano hard. And I hated it because I wanted me to play outside but she made me do it. I literally have the recital paper right here. I was just looking at it. And it was the main highlight of being in Manhattan before you even know what Manhattan is. You see all these buildings. It’s on 57th. It’s called Carnegie Hall. They’re making a big deal of it so I never forgot the name. Then when you grow up and you’re there working for Sony or in the city for something, you’re like, “Oh. That’s Carnegie Hall. I did that!” That was one of the main highlights. I remember there was this girl city next to me and my hands would sweat a lot. My mom pushed me to do it. It was a big thing. That was a big moment!

I saw in an interview that as you begin to make this a process and really want to get into the game, you had a little misstep in terms of trying to get some equipment. It ended up costing you some time. In that, there’s a level of ambition that many people lack. What did you learn going through that time that you used moving forward?

Sha Money XL: That process taught me a lot about myself and about how far I was willing to go for this music dream. You’re not really paying attention to it. You’re living in the moment. But I remember when none of the OG’s in my hood we’re giving out stuff or trying to help the little kids get shit. My man Gavin did give me a drum machine on time but it was broken and it didn’t work. So, I couldn’t do nothing with it. I remember being in Sam Ash on Queens Boulevard and seeing the price on that drum machine was so high. There was no way I could make that much money. But my boys were like, “We can flip some 8-balls. We can go to Harlem to grab a few 8-balls. Go upstate to Albany real quick, spend a few days, and come back.” And I ain’t never come back bro. I went there and my ass got locked up. I was a youth. 16 years old and a first time offender. I’ve never been arrested before. Here I am caught with drugs. They found two stashes. So, I got charged with two. Then I told ‘em the wrong name. I tried to say my name was Michael Smith and shot. Not even know that that’s a felony. So, I got charged with two felonies as an adult but I was only 16 years old. I was in a city I had no business being in. The city had a high conviction rate of young Black youths. Every kid that hit 16 was charged as an adult and he’s going to jail. Even if it’s for a week, they were putting you through the system. I didn’t know that. I went up there trying to do something easy and ended up taking a one year vacation after that one. I lost and took a plea.

They hit you hard. Here you are. A first time offender. They charge you as an adult when you could have been charged as a child. Send me to a program and I would have been. Nah—send me right with the big boys. I did my time and that shit changed me. It gave me a real sense of what I didn’t want to do the rest of my life. Once you get to see something that you definitely don’t want to do, it’s like knowing what you don’t like and know what you do like. I said, “Nah bro. I ain’t doing this! This shit right here?! Fuck outta here bruh! Hell no!” It’s no life that people need to live or want to glorify. It’s the worst situation of an alive human being especially based on the time that what you’re doing is not balancing out. I knew that wasn’t a lifestyle that I needed to live. And I focused on the music because that’s what I wanted and decided to do.

As you continue to progress on this path, you’re able to build relationships—one of them being with Jam Master Jay. Can you speak to your time with him?

Sha Money XL: I was an intern at Def Jam so I saw all the attempts that people made. Whether they were standing outside of 160 Varick, or get upstairs and try to get to the front desk, they were just trying to have a conversation with people. But you see after a while by paying attention that the ways some people approach the situation is not going to work. You have to take into account all of the ways people try to get on. So, I was like, “The five minutes that I get, whoever I get, I’m going to say who I am, where I’m from, what I do, and keep it plain and simple.” I never thought I would get Jay and he was the first person I got. I said I was willing to do whatever. I told him I was going to school and do marketing, and he saw the hunger. He saw I was from Queens too so he saw it. People can relate to energy and hunger. So, he gave me a shot.

Can you point to the biggest piece of advice or lesson you gained from him?

Sha Money XL: The biggest advice he gave me musically was the characteristics of my drums and the way I did my drums. I used to slack on that. I used to put little pieces of junk together and try to make it work. He was really treating it like a musician. So, he was like, “You’re going to be a drummer. Your kick and snare need to have a connection to each other.” It can’t just be random. I would be doing random shit and he would hear it. He was teaching me early that my shit was too random. I was just making shit up and letting it go. He was like, “Nah. Give it definition. Make it sound like a drummer is playing it. Really take your time to program.” I was all over the place with my drums when I first started. It gave me a really big sense of this. And I actually mastered it now to the point that I totally understand what he was saying back then. It used to take me a long time because I was always with the samples then and do everything else first. Then it was time to do the drums because a lot of people used break beats. I’m a programmer so it was important when he said, “Whatever kick snare you use, if you ain’t using a break beat you better mash them joints up.” And that’s been my thing since then.

It’s obvious he’s had a tremendous impact on you and it’s always a blessing when people like that come into your life.

Sha Money XL: Right? That’s why I always honor him and never let people forget his memory. He did so much kind shit. He was just doing stuff for people. That’s why I always make sure the compassion is there. I just saw it in him. Like, “This dude is so genuine. There ain’t no bullshit in him.” And it was no strings attached. He didn’t make no money off me. I did the Sweet Tee thing on his label as a producer. I actually made records for him. I came in as an intern and ended up making records for him. Even from the kid he ended up introducing me to and helping that guy get where he needed to go. It was all through Jam Master Jay.

As you continue this journey, it’s 50 who you’re introduced to through Jam Master Jay. This is early on in your role as a talent finder. What is it like not only seeing that talent but also having the conviction to rock with him after his situation and the industry turning their back on him?

Sha Money XL: I was rocking with him since the time Jay introduced me to him. What I was excited about the most—which I don’t think I’ve told people enough—is this is the time where most rappers were yelling. The Queens thing had an energy to it but what Mase was doing in Harlem was so smooth. But with 50, when Jay played his shit he was the only voice that had that calm but dope ass flow. Me hearing that, amongst all the aggressive shit that he was playing prior, it was smooth and I knew, “This was the one.” And then when he brought him over and we connected, and it was a good connection off the top when he saw what I was trying to do, he knew he could work with that and do what he did, so we rocked it out. That’s like me starting my A&R gig but coming in as a producer and saying to someone, “Yo, I got beats.” Then it ends up as I’m taking them to the studio and taking the trips to the city, I’m doing more than just being a producer. That was the transformation of what would become A&R, Executive, as well as a Management.

Your time in music and your career has shown you’ve pulled tools from different places as needed. I know a major part of that, as you’ve said, was 50’s trust issues and you assuming the role on the back end because he didn’t trust other people to do it. Can you speak to that transition from producer, to A&R, to exec?

Sha Money XL: The advantage of being an intern, or being in the industry, or even one of the buildings is you’re around a lot of people all day everyday. So, one day you could be around Jam Master Jay. The next day you could be around Lyor Cohen. The next day you could be around Mike Kaiser and Kevin Liles. There are all these people who are going to be great. Then there’s Chris Lighty who ends up giving me my first check for Cormega when I did “Angel Dust.” So, as I start building my relationship with Chris Lighty, everytime I would see him I’m mentioning to him, “Yo. I’m working with Fif. I’m telling you. He’s about to make a comeback.” And I would start dropping my little words to him. Chris would pay attention because he was in tune with the culture. So, he’s getting it from me who can get you directly to 50. Then he’s hearing it from other people that’s like, “Yo. There’s something happening right now in Queens.” He’s seeing the shit happen. Here’s the intern’s talking cool shit, and at that time I wasn’t one anymore, but he knew me for being that. He would listen to me because I’m out here. I’m selling these tracks. And I’m really about it. Eventually, that led to Chris being a part of the picture as well.

As you take G-Unit to where it is and it’s the biggest thing smokin’. As all of these things are in motion, when did you have that, “Holy Shit! I’m not only a part of but I built this movement that’s taking over the world,” moment?

Sha Money XL: For me a lot of the time I’m only able to to see myself when I’m away from the situation. So, it took me a long time to realize the things I was doing because I was just in a go mode. I was just such a fan of hip-hop. I seen all the stories. I read all the magazines. I read every Source and XXL article. I read everything you can absorb all of the ins and outs. The who got fucked and who’s fuckin’ who—business wise. I read the whole game of who’s doing what. I knew enough to keep going. I kept working with my head down and never looked up. And when you move away, you’re like, “Oh. The Chris Lighty thing—I brought him to this. And, Oh that dude. I brought that to the table.” Those are the things that create the machine. That’s where the whole “Chain On A Bike” comes together.

I actually put the parts together. Here I am and I know how to move ‘em because I would tell them, “Here’s this lawyer. He’s aggressive. Chris is a big OG. He’s gonna understand this and know how to move with us and boom.” And that’s what he did for us. Rest In Peace Chris. He was the perfect guy for that situation and for 50. I was able to put this team together but I wasn’t able to see that until later. In the time you just making the moves. You just trying to score and win. You not looking to the crowd’s cheers. You going back to other side of the court just to play defense. I was just head down. I didn’t look back until after I left. Then you hear certain things that he says and people try to put the value clamps on you and try to devalue you. Sometimes you have to reassess yourself and make sure. There are two sides to every story and there’s the truth. You want to make sure you’re on the side of the truth.

After this you’re able to start really moving through these offices. You built this indie situation from the ground up and now you’re that person who oversees these other artists at the label and start bringing in even more talent. What was that transition like?

Sha Money XL: What I did was from the ground up. I saw it, knew it, and understood the game. So, when I got into the label, whether that was with Interscope and getting to work with some of the greatest marketing people like Chris Clancy and Kelly Clancy, who were very smart in knowing what they were doing and knew how to market records; I learned from them. Then the art department, video direction, and the whole commission department. I was learning the ins and outs while working with other greats that were great like me, but in this part of their career path. It wasn’t all producers or all A&R’s. It was people who were doing their thing and next level with it. I was able to learn from them, spunge from them, absorb from them at Interscope. Then going to Def Jam and working with LA Reid, who’s one of the greatest record executives of all time, and being able to spunge from him. I was learning from different employees and getting a different vision of how they do things. Going from the small boutique label to the large corporation, there are a lot of things you see as well. There’s a lot of challenges but it was great. I was able to do it and I’m happy I was able to see it from all sides because you’re able to understand the game even more.

What’s so dope about your journey in doing that is you not only made the transition but you also continued doing what you do well. So, you have people like Big K.R.I.T., 2Chainz, Yo Gotti, and Bobby Shmurda just to name a few, that you are very integral in bringing their situations. A common thread in your time in the game is being able to recognize and champion talent. What is it that you’re looking for or what is it in seeing someone that makes you go so hard for them?

Sha Money XL: For me, it don’t matter where you’re from. Based on my track record, I signed more artists from the South than anywhere else. That’s the craziest part. I’m really into the voices. When I hear the voice, I hear the person in a song, and I hear what the person is actually saying, I ask myself, “Do I hear an album with this person? Do I hear another song? Do I hear another hit? Or do I just hear what I’m listening to right now?” I break it down starting with the voice. Then it’s the division behind this character and the voice that I’m hearing. Then when I match it up with what I see, “Does it make sense? Do I see it? Is it a poster on a wall? Is it that? Is he that? Is she that?” Whatever it is, I try to figure out how far this person is going to go. I’m not into the little hotbox or one hit wonders. I’ve never been the guy to chase that. I don’t even know how to do those research A&R type stuff. This is me seeing career artists, lifetime vices, and people who are really going to help the culture grow and shape. Trying to add artists to the game that contribute in some kind of sense. Not all be in darkness. Not all being in light. But having a point of view. And they all have good expressions like, 2Chainz from Atlanta, Yo Gotti from Memphis, Big K.R.I.T. from Mississippi, or The Game from California. We started with The Game. Young Buck was in Nashville. I brought him to the Unit. All of those. It was me A&R’ing. Finding the characters and different voices from different places that have a real expression that people could really fuck with.

It’s not this microwave music we have now where the idea is, “Let’s sign em. Get a good single out of ‘em. Put it on streaming. Let people stream it a million times. And we’re good to go.” It’s much different than that.

Sha Money XL: Yeah it is. It’s way way way different. This is real lifetime, career artists. These guys you’re always gonna say, “They get better with time.” K.R.I.T. is better now and standing stronger now than ever. You can really see he’s a legacy artist. And he’ll probably give you his best album in the future. Not behind him. This is the greatest part of hip-hop when you have guys like him that keep getting better.

And he just continues to grow.

Sha Money XL: Yeah. And he gives you the best artwork. I’m seeing his visuals. I’m loving the videos. And I’m not even a part of it no more but I’m the biggest fan of it because I’m seeing something that I knew was what Hip-Hop needed. I’m like, “YES! This is what hip-hop is about.” These are the expressions of the records on my wall and makes you think, “How do I become the guy that other people get to put those records on their wall?” That’s the real challenge. It’s like being a fan of a fan.

I like to say, hip-hop has a few pastors. He’s one of those pastors. He has one of those voices where you hear an organ when he talks. He’s one of those people. I hope he does, I hope he knows how much people do appreciate him.

Sha Money XL: He’s so one of them! And I think he does. I try to remind him as much as I can. But he’s going to hear it a lot from me because I be praising K.R.I.T. man. That dude, I knew it man. I put him on the pantheon with J.Cole and Kendrick Lamar. Those are like the 3 Kings for me.

In continuing this theme. Something that you made that doesn’t get enough credit or highlighted enough—period—in terms of the culture, the music, and movements is The One Stop Shop. You can go back and see footage of people like Just Blaze, Sway, 9th Wonder, a young Nipsey Hussle just being there and being present around people who are like minded. Can you talk about creating that and what that time was like?

Sha Money XL: At that time, G-Unit was so boomin’ that I was making so many new producers successful in a sense of selling their music, getting platinum records, getting publishing deals, getting opportunities because they’re on 50 Cent Records and G-Unit Records. So, it was boomin’ for me but all of these guys I couldn’t manage. And I knew that. I knew so many people and was doing so much stuff, right? So, I thought, “How do I help all these guys so that it’s not only me helping them?” Let me put them in a room where now that I’m in this game I can tell that guy that calls me from Atlantic, or the A&R from Def Jam, or the guy at Interscope, “Let’s all meet up in Arizona. Have a good weekend. Give these guys some game. Network with them.” I flew in all the top producers. Whether it was RZA, Q-Tip, Premo, and Pete Rock. I paid for their travel. I paid for their rooms. I wanted the legends. The people that I never got to spend time with and wanted to actually spend time with too. Here I am with money, now I can get people around these dudes and it was a way for all of us to absorb each other. Producers to me are the foundation of the music business. They don’t get a lot of credit for it. There are a lot of production houses that start from artists walking into this house or studio and their life and careers start happening from that moment on. Everyone walked into Queenbridge for Marley Marl. Whether it was Big Daddy Kane, Shane, Biz Markie, Roxanne Shanté—everyone from Juice Crew, even Rakim—they all went to him. Marley Marl wasn’t going to nobody’s studio. This was what it was about. So I got all the producers together so we can create a network, build with each other, feed off of each other, help each other, learn from each other, inspire each other; as well as, here’s some technology companies. Because we’re also using all of this equipment that I went to fuckin’ jail for. So, now I can say, “Akai, come give out some shit to these guys who don’t have any money.” So, we was giving out drum machines. We was giving out little new shit. We gave out the demo from Ableton. The fly new shit new shit from Native Instruments. They were coming out with a new drum machine. We helped them launch that there. It helped each other. It helped the culture. And it helped inspire so many different dudes. Now, S1 is top of the game. He did his first show there. I found his beat in an email. My boy, J Hatch, and all of these guys that were good, we teamed up with them because they loved the culture and we gave it back to them. And that’s what that was for. For 3 years straight. It was just giving back to the game. That was the best time.

It’s hard to do that now because of people’s approach to “networking.” Which is a word I hate. But they make it so transactional. It’s more of a, “What can I get from you?” Or, “How do I look like I’ll help you so I can ultimately get what I want?” There used to be a time and space where people were genuine. And they were willing to give before they tried to take.

Sha Money XL: It’s very hard. Even for me with an indie label. I’m watching the game as I went from it literally being and 50. All we had to do was hit the streets and it was an immediate marketing reaction. And now, every move or opportunity is a pay for play. There is no real marketing or organic approaches to the industry. We’re completely moving away from human contact where we were actually in the streets and the energy grew from there. It’s almost like, “It has to be online. It has to be ads.” It has to be in the sense of that. We’re taking it away to a whole different game. That shit is crazy man.

Let’s get into some music. Here we are at Chain on the Bike. For me, as I listened to it, it drew me to something that felt familiar. It made me think of something else. It made me think of Quincy Jones’ Back on the Block when he decided that he was going to go back, get a bunch of artists that he listened to that were moving up at the time, or artists listeners might not have even known, but he wanted to make something that feels good to him, it’s the music he likes, and the music that moves people. I felt like that’s what this project was for you. So, for you, can you explain in your own words what Chain on the Bike means to you?

Sha Money XL: Yo! That’s awesome that you made that analogy like that. That is fuckin’ crazy. I love Quincy Jones. I never thought about that. I never even thought that that was the concept of that album. Holy Shit! That’s what that was, huh? That’s fire. That’s a good one. The whole thing that I would like to say, when it comes to guys like Quincy, you see his path, you see the things he did, and you see the people they helped. With me, I could stand next to 2Chainz, call him, and say, “Let’s do something. And let me take a picture standing next to you.” I could do that with Yo Gotti. Or any of these guys that are made men that I helped get there. But for me, it’s the passion and the energy. The best part is the beginning. The guy that’s not known and you’re helping him get there. It’s like draft season. You’re really getting these guys ready for the game now. Here we are in this part of incubation where you see this talent and you see it before anybody else. I’d been so used to that part that I know that feeling that tells me, “This is worth it”. There are so many guys that I’ve worked with the past few years. People don’t want to give them a mention or give them any light until they do it for a few years. Or until somebody finally co-signs it. But here I am, where I’m like, “I want to work with these guys. I’m working with this dope guy, I make a song, then it’s like boom. I’m finding this song, then I’m like, “Hold on.” People were telling me, “You need to put out this album.” My boy was like, “You need to stop bullshitting. You really need to go hard!” So, I had to listen to everything I had, put it together the right way, and make sure all the guys I was working with that needed this light could use this to get ready for their releases. And I made it mesh together. And that’s what The Chain on the Bike is. It’s guys that I’m rooting for, guys that are all signed to my label. They’re guys I like producing with, producing for, and this is what the album is.

What was your peak of making this project? Something that, no matter how well the project does, it’s something that will stick with you and know it was worth getting to this point to make this?

Sha Money XL: I ain’t even gonna lie. The highlight was…I was in my crib. I’m making beats. My boy Capser came through. I’m going through some shit. I’m like, “Yo! Listen to this. I just found this in my drive.” This is during quarantine and I had a lot of time just chillin’. I had already revamped the song. When he heard it, he said, “Yo Sha! Bro!” I even had that feeling when it was done. I knew this was it. It was when I found the Prodigy vocals and revamped the song that I had did with him. That was the moment when I knew this was it. I felt we needed to hear new P. No one had heard any new P. It was God sent and divine time. That’s why it’s called, “Divine Time”. The timing couldn’t have been better. And guess what? I got some Queen artists. One of the artists who idolized him and wanted to be on a record with him since he started, it was just the time. It came together and that was it. I had the other records and the pieces. I was working with this guy and that guy. I’ve been saying I was going to do this but I was always doing the artists. I wasn’t doing me. I was always helping everyone else before I helped myself. Now this was for me. People needed some good music. I wanted to give that balance.

The thing that sticks out for me from all of this and learning about you is, at the height of G-Unit, you decided to go back and get saved. Something like that says so much not only about who you are as a person but who you are as a man. To find that conviction to show that’s what you stand on and showing that’s what you wanted to represent you in how you were moving forward in your life. To do that at the height of some of the wildest times, you wanted to make sure your soul was right. Can you speak to that?

Sha Money XL: I want to speak to that in the right way because people always say, “You always run to Jesus when you feel like you’re about to do or something crazy is going on in your life.” For me it was about really finding my truth. I knew myself and knew my mission was of God. It wasn’t some of the other stuff that comes with Hip-Hop that gets real dark and negative. That was not my path or my journey or nothing I stand behind. I’m all about the good shit that comes with the music from families to loving life. For me, it put me in a space that I knew I was separated from the rest because not everybody was taking that conscious path in life and recognizing the blessing that was in front of us. I actually came to terms with the fact that I was blessed and I wanted to show it in a way where it wasn’t a game. I was really taking it as a blessing and not playing with it. We was making a lot of money and doing great things, but you couldn’t front at that moment. You could be selfish but for me I felt that energy. It called upon me to take it to the next level and clear it up. Just being one with self.

It shows that we are naturally a spiritual people and being able to recognize that and stand on your peg is so admirable because it sets an example for those who may want to do that.

Sha Money XL: And if we lack compassion this is where the world will end up. This is why I feel so down today because my compassion goes out to every one of these brothers that keeps getting slain. From George Floyd to everyone. It’s like it’s this sequence now. There’s more than one name. You have to have a book next to you to remember because there are so many people. You can feel the connection to these people because you know that’s your cousin that’s you brother. That could be one missed turn or one wrong turn. That’s one wrong day. That’s one bad cop. But there is more than one bad cop. There are so many of them that feel that way. I just want to be with people that want to do the right thing. If you don’t I don’t have to do business with you. I’ll still respect you but there is too much good in life for us to be doing this to each other.

Even with the images. You want to stop looking but you can’t run away from it because you know that pain. The pain of a family who has that as the last time they see their family member alive. There’s this consistent conflict that they want us to have. They want us to be at war with ourselves.

Sha Money XL: It’s programming. It’s really being programmed. I’m not going to allow it. I’m not with it. I’m not supporting that. I’m not for it. I’m feeling everyone’s hurt right now and I’m going to express it. This shit is real!

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