The divide between fans of traditional Hip-Hop and fans of what’s been deemed “mumble rap” is not one of age, but of ideals. What moves you musically is what moves you – that’s fine, but what about the craft? Some members of the Hip-Hop community believe that skill still matters and one of those people is MC Shan.
Shan believes that lyrics matters so much that his first album in nearly 30 years is titled “Bars Over Bullshit.” The 22-track album finds the Queensbridge emcee rhyming over various forms of music, showcasing his versatility and reminding folks that he still has it. Shan is all about bars, not bullshit.
MC Shan spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about why there was a 27-year gap between albums, his battle with addiction, his beef with KRS-One, and his new album, Bars Over Bullshit.
TRHH: The title of your new album is ‘Bars Over Bullshit’ — what exactly is the “bullshit” that’s referenced in the title?
MC Shan: It’s just mumbling [laughs]. Songs are just mumbling absolutely nothing. That’s not a key phrase that I coined, it’s just something I identified with, with things I’ve seen on the internet. My man Prez had said it to me one day and I was like, “That’s a good title for the album.”
TRHH: What do you say to those emcees from your era or a little bit after who say, just let the kids do their thing, they’re making money and having fun?
MC Shan: Let them do their thing but at the same time there’s no substance to the music. This is what the kids are listening to. Yeah, let them make their money but don’t tell the kids to go do drugs. In my era I’m the last person to talk about doing drugs. I’m in the studio doing drugs but I’m on the record saying, “Don’t do drugs.” The glorification of it is be as thuggy as you wanna be. I can’t even say let them do it because that’s stupid. Ain’t nobody hating on what they’re doing, it’s just the message they’re bringing across — the dumbing down of America. Everything has got to be thugs, shooting, and you’re fighting over a color that nobody is even getting a dollar off. If that question was brought about to see if I’m a hater, I’m not hater. I just don’t like the message. Let them do what they do. My parents didn’t understand my music and I don’t understand theirs. That’s not the point. You aren’t saying anything.
TRHH: Nah, I don’t think you’re a hater at all. I’m with you 100 percent. I’m 41 years old. We’re from a different era.
MC Shan: If you think about it, if I don’t do what I do what are we supposed to listen to? Are we just supposed to be music-less? We’re just supposed to listen to nothing? Let them do them and we’re supposed to listen to that? I don’t have to listen to that. If you think about it people my age and your age, are we supposed to succumb to that? There is no more Public Enemy, Poor Righteous Teachers, there’s no more of that. Where is the uplifting of the community? There’s no more songs that say be a doctor or be a lawyer.
TRHH: That’s interesting that you brought that up because I interviewed Kane a few years back and he said he would never release another album and was content with his body of work, and a lot of guys from your era feel that way as well. Why was it important for you to release an album in 2017?
MC Shan: Just adding on to the legacy, that’s all. It’s not for me to make a million dollars. I just want to put some music out right now that has something to say. Each one of my songs stands for a different thing. I’m telling stories – things that people can listen to and identify with like, “Man, that happened in my life.” And I’m just spitting rhymes – freestyling – what I’m known to do. It’s a braggadocios type of thing. Hip-Hop the way Hip-Hop was originally formed and I don’t get it to where a youngster can tell me that I can’t do something that I helped create. Come on, what do you mean?
TRHH: I think it’s that idea that this is a young man’s sport, but I think that’s been debunked over and over again. It’s false.
MC Shan: I also think that’s false. I think that people say that to keep you blinded and blind-sided. They want to make you feel irrelevant because what you’re saying is way better than anything they’re talking about right now. If somebody gets a whiff of what’s real it’s going to start bringing up questions about your talent, what you’re doing out here in this industry and what you’re saying. You’re not telling the kids to do anything constructive. You’re just telling them to get killed by the police and go to jail. Sell drugs, go ahead, and be as high as you want.
Kids want to follow the rapper. If the rapper is doing molly he wants to do molly too. You’re sipping lean and got your Styrofoam cup and the powers that be are the ones that are really pushing that. It’s not so much now because the internet is out and anybody can do anything, which is still the powers that be. It’s just out there for people to soak up. The attention span is so short nowadays that if you’re saying anything that you have to think about it’s like, “I don’t wanna hear that — I just wanna rock to this beat.”
TRHH: This is your first official album since 1990. The album’s final track ‘Let’s Bring Hip Hop Back’ was released when I first interviewed you five years ago….
MC Shan: Right, I just put those back on there anyway. There’s like two of them that was put back on there. Let’s Bring Hip Hop Back, I just ended it with that one because it’s something that was out already. Some people might have heard it, some people might not have.
TRHH: Why did it take so long to release Bars Over Bullshit?
MC Shan: ‘Cause I just wasn’t in the mood [laughs]. I just wasn’t in the mood, period. It’s not like I’m sitting here starving or just trying to get some money. I’m cool. I get my royalties; I’m still getting paid off of Snow. I’m still living nice. I don’t have a house with a big U-shaped driveway and 90 rooms in it, because that’s impractical. Back in the days when I did have millions I had a four-story house and I wouldn’t go in some of the rooms in years. Sometimes I would just go in the rooms just to say I go in there.
TRHH: On ‘Wanna Be A Big Star’ you say, “All I see is a fake bunch of Ice Cube’s and G Rap’s.” Explain that line.
MC Shan: That’s another one that was out already. It’s saying that they just wanna be Ice Cube and G Rap. You’re doing gangsta rap but you’re not doing gangster things. You know G was a gangster, you know Ice Cube was a gangster, but these kids now they ain’t about that. They ain’t no real gangsters. They’re just out here following what the next guy is doing. They were trendsetters in that, these guys are just out here screaming stuff that they ain’t about. 99% of the time they get their chin checked by the street. If that’s what you’re saying you are the streets are going to test you.
I was just on the internet today watching about how many young rappers got killed in 2016. That’s real crazy. Some of them I never heard of but I’m looking at the content of their music and they’re pointing guns and playing that role like they’re really it in the streets. You ain’t really watching your head because if that’s how you’re moving you’re supposed to watch everything and the first thing that comes moving at you you’re going to hit it, period. You’re getting caught sleep. If you was really about that life ain’t no sleep, period. You don’t even let people know where you live at in that life. You got your money and put your house over here and you don’t take nobody to your house. The only time they see you is when you’re in the hood doing what you do. At night, nobody knows where your kids are at and where you rest your head.
TRHH: Did the issue that you had with KRS last year light a fire under you a little bit for this album?
MC Shan: Kinda sorta. Another thing is to just show the difference in my style and his style. We just don’t even match. There was never a battle between me and KRS. That’s one of the greatest lies in Hip-Hop ever told. Another thing is if you got a problem and that’s the way you think, when I’m in your face don’t smile in my face. We’ve been on stages together plenty of times and that’s never what comes out of your mouth when I’m in the vicinity. But when I’m not there it’s, “I took out Shan.” When I’m there it’s, “We’re cool, we’re cool, we’re cool.” The closest we ever got to do something head to head was the Sprite commercial, period. When I sit back and think about some of the stuff that he says, sometimes you’re just too much on your own. You just rattle off at your mouth. Acting like you’re the all-wise knowing Hip-Hop god of all gods. Come on, man. Go sit down and do your thing. Get your money doing your lectures or whatever.
Be the cult leader that you are. I mean, he’s very powerful with his words. He reminds me of a Jim Jones or one of these dudes that runs the occult. If House of Hip-Hop says jump off the bridge, they’re going to jump off the bridge. I just don’t believe it. Let him do his thing. That’s what ticked me on that one. If you listen to his album that he just dropped and you listen to mine it’s two different things. I do music to entertain. I ain’t trying to teach nobody nothing on there. If you get a lesson or a message out of it, that’s cool, but I’m not nobody’s teacher. And anybody who sits back and says they’ll let this man teach you, go do your own research. The same books he read is out there.
TRHH: There is a bit of an R&B flavor to the album, with some club music and a little bit of rock. Did you set out to make a musically diverse album or did it just turn out that way?
MC Shan: That’s just always been me. That’s why I could never be put into a category. If you go back to my first album and as we used to say drop the needle, the second song is different from the first song. Everything was always different. It was never a thing where you’re going to drop the needle and everything is sounding the same. I always did that, which is why I could never be put in a class of this, that, or the third. I’m either going to tell a story, do a freestyle, or do something totally off the wall. That’s just always been me – musically diverse.
TRHH: You have a song on the album called Her Name Was Cocaine…
MC Shan: That right there is a re-write of a song that I did back in the days called ‘Cocaine.’ It’s metaphorically telling a story about a girl. You don’t know that I’m talking about cocaine until the very end of the song.
TRHH: That song relates to your personal struggles, right?
MC Shan: It directly relates to my personal struggles, but not in 2017. It was just something that I wanted to reissue again. If you didn’t hear it the first time it was out, here it go again, re-done over.
TRHH: Who is Bars Over Bullshit made for?
MC Shan: It’s made for those who listen to that kind of music. I’m not trying to get new fans. If you listened to me back in the days and you want to listen to some Hip-Hop the way Hip-Hop was formed, that’s what it is. I’m not trying to get into the box of what these kids are doing nowadays. That’s the kids’ music. Y’all do what y’all do. But if you’re of my age and you want to listen to some good Hip-Hop, this is for you. Because there ain’t no good R&B out anymore, it’s being done by Autotune singers. Even the R&B game is not the same anymore. If some of those R&B singers came out with some new stuff there would be plenty of people interested in hearing what they have to say over the years because there’s nothing for them to listen to. Nowadays an R&B song is “bend over and let me fuck you from the back.” That’s the R&B of nowadays.
Purchase: MC Shan – Bars Over Bullshit