Sam Scarfo first turned heads on the battle scene, ripping rappers apart through Fight Klub. Pretty soon after that, Sam was signed to Def Jam through Jay-Z. Unfortunately things wouldn’t continue moving as smoothly for the MC from the Garden State. Def Jam was hesitant to put the muscle behind Sam’s music and, to make matters worse, Sam’s group, Con Air, who was also signed to Def Jam, wasn’t moving either.
It took a long time for Sam to negotiate his way off Def Jam, but he got his release and a fresh start in the game. Once off Def Jam, Sam dissolved his record label that got him to Def Jam, Gorilla Pimp Records, and started a new label with his new perspective on the game. No longer searching for peer approval. No longer searching for radio approval. Sam is making the music he should have always been making, channeling his aggression and life experiences over dirty, raw beats. Our first glimpse of Sam Sceezy’s growth will be on The Package, his mixtape dropping January 11. HipHopGame caught up with Sam to talk about where he’s been, his new music, Def Jam and much more.
You’ve been quiet for a while but have a new mixtape coming in January. Where have you been?
Really I’ve been quiet because I was trying to get all the way out of my record deal. It’s just life, man. I’ve just been working really hard. The music thing wasn’t really exciting me the way it used to so I had to step back for a second.
And you’re talking about the Def Jam deal.
How hard was it to get out of the deal?
My group is actually still on Def Jam. It’s a process, but it took probably two years too late. But it’s cool because…actually, it’s never cool. It took two years too late.
Do you have any future at Def Jam with your group Con Air?
That’s another problem that we have in the music business. Half of Con Air is in jail. Shout out to Black Myth. He’s got two more years left. That put a big dent in Con Air from the beginning. We were real fresh off the street when we got that record deal so a lot of us were still halfway in the street and not taking our music career seriously. A lot of us wasn’t really ready for that chance.
From knowing you over the years, it doesn’t seem like you’re the type to replace group members just to get a record out.
Oh yeah. You know, it’s hard when you’re doing it with friends, man. We were all friends. We all grew up together from when we were young. It’s not like it was sole business and maybe that hurt us a little bit. But it’s hard to just kick somebody out the group. We built Gorilla Pimp Records together. They’re more than my artists. We’re all family. I can’t just cut someone like that to put a record out.
That’s commendable. Your new mixtape, The Package, is coming soon. How’s it coming?
It’s coming great. I’m not feeling any pressure and I’m not trying to fit in with anybody. Whoever is a Sam Scarfo fan, the music is for them. The music has definitely evolved because I’ve gotten a little bit older, but it’s not me trying to reach and do things that’s not really out of my realm. It’s really just me doing me. It’s cool. There’s no rush and there’s no pressure. I’m just putting it out.
Is this the first time you’ve made a mixtape with no pressure?
I’m not going to say it’s the first time I’ve ever done it, but I’m actually not worried about putting a record out to fit in and get a record on the radio or do a record this way to get a label to like it. It’s probably the first time I’ve done it where there’s been no pressure. I was locked up, came home and I was only home for six months when I got on Def Jam. It wasn’t like I was doing it before I was locked up. It kind of…When I say I was fresh off the street, I still had the gravel on me. I should have been a little more socialized. I was like a dog with no home training.
How would you describe your change in perspective today from when you first signed with Def Jam?
My perspective now is that you gotta keep a lot of loyal people around you and you gotta keep people around you that have your best interests around you. Your team is never gonna steer you wrong. You gotta keep people around you that you trust and that you can have in your circle. I would say my perspective now is to do it and try not to pull so many opinions from everybody and just do what you want to do. That’s really more my perspective on it right now. I made a lot of mistakes and I kind of want to do it right this time. And I didn’t really give people a chance to feel me out because I didn’t do my music business thing. I didn’t do my industry corny thing. I didn’t do all that! I mean, I went around and did my music and shout out to Mobb Deep. They put me on tour and shout out to Prodigy. He comes home in February. But I just wasn’t acclimated to being a music star. I think that’s something I should have strived to be but it was given to me. I didn’t grind for it. I didn’t stand in front of the radio station. I wasn’t doing a thousand mixtapes. It just was “Hey, you want to sign to Def Jam or Interscope?” (laughs)
That’s a great predicament to be in.
It was great! It was definitely a great predicament to be in. I didn’t chase the dream though. Like, you might see a rapper today who is trying everything he can to come out. He might have had a record deal at one time but he’s trying to do everything he can to come out. He’s doing south sounding records, east sounding records…He doesn’t know what he wants to do. That’s not the kind of guy I wanted to be. I wanted to be in my own space and make music for my own fans.
It sounds like you’re going to appreciate your success more this time around.
Oh, definitely. You can’t take stuff for granted because you don’t want to go back to the streets. I tell that to my group that’s locked up and still on the run. I got some that got hits put on them and they can’t really come out like that. We was just going on tour and going around the world and we have to just put the streets down and get back to our music. There is something about us that makes us special and we gotta focus on that and put that out.
What can fans expect on The Package?
Oh, man, just real. Just real. Just real. It’s still got that same Sam Scarfo energy, but it’s just real. I would say there’s a lot of watered down bullshit out right now. I’m not putting it on nobody, but it’s just that this music’s got a lot of substance to it. The beats are crazy. Everything is. It’s just a match made in heaven. I call it “The Package” because I look at it like there’s a lot of weak drugs on the street and I need to put something crazy out. When my package comes out, everybody’s gotta get on my package. That was the whole premises for calling it The Package.
Will that bring your name back to the forefront of fans’ minds?
Oh, definitely. I got those records that I’ve been holding back for years that I should have been put out. These are not old records, but a lot of times I would do records and not put them out. That’s probably something that hurt my consistency. Now I’m going to start putting out this hot music because it’s just sitting here for no reason.
Have you been in touch with Prodigy?
Oh yeah. I just went to go see him last week. We talk about the music all the time and how we have to get back to putting out crazy records. It’s a blessing to have a relationship with a dude like that because he’s a hip-hop legend and he’ll tell me what he thinks is corny and if he doesn’t like a record. He’ll tell me what records to pull back and all that. I’m not his artist but I respect his opinion because his catalogue is so crazy and so huge. Obviously he’s doing something right.
What does it mean to get that kind of respect?
It’s huge. And the cool thing about it is I always felt like my relationship with Prodigy always hurt my relationship with Jay-Z but I don’t think it should have because I was cool with Prodigy before I signed with Jay-Z.
Do you think you’ll hurt any feelings releasing your older Def Jam material?
I think some of the regime at Def Jam is so fucked up that they won’t even know the records I did when I was up there. There’s not somebody sitting up there talking about the Sam Scarfo records. You never know. Hey, labels fuck artists all the time. I’m not trying to fuck them, but the people that love Sam Scarfo deserve to hear that music the same way they deserve to hear the other albums that haven’t come out. I think that’s more motivation for me putting that out than anything else. Fuck Def Jam. I’m not making no money off the album. If I’m putting it out it’s so my people can hear it.
What do you think ultimately held you back at Def Jam?
I think a lot of it was haters. I think a lot of it was hate. Not to keep touching on this, but maybe I think a lot of people might have been offended that maybe I didn’t stand in line and stand outside with my CD and have to do all of that. I didn’t have to go suck a thousand cocks to get my record deal. I wasn’t signed to nobody and then signed to Def Jam like most artists are. My company, Gorilla Pimp Records, was the company that I owned and I personally owned and I was signed to myself and then signed to Def Jam. A lot of times you have to break that bread and when you’re not breaking bread, maybe somebody might not want to help you or might not want to put you on because they didn’t know I was a battle rapper at first. But everybody probably didn’t believe in the record making process but Jay-Z did. Shout out to Jay. He always believed in my work I think that might have made people look at it a little sideways. Everybody’s vying for that man’s attention. It’s like, why is he giving this kid from Jersey all of this attention? What did he do? He doesn’t have no song on the radio. What did he do? Why is he not looking at my artist? Why isn’t he looking at this guy? Why is his first artist not from Brooklyn? We got this Brooklyn rapper here and he’s super-hot! That hurt me a little bit, coming out of nowhere and when I say I’m coming out of nowhere and I said I was signed to myself, understand I’m not coming in with nobody holding my hand. I’m not coming in by myself. I think that right there might have slowed me down, not having all the relationships I might have needed at the time.
And that affects how the DJs treat you.
And that affects that. People don’t understand. I love Jersey rappers. They have to grind the hardest because they don’t have the radio stations or nothing. However they choose to get noticed is how they’re going to get noticed. If you notice, most Jersey rappers are battle rappers. You think that’s by choice? It’s not by choice that Lady Luck, Sam Scarfo, Serius Jones and all these guys are battle rappers. Every new rapper is a battle rapper because we don’t realty have that medium to come out and get popular. It’s a gift and a curse to get stuck in that battle box, but now people know what your name is and now you gotta figure out how to get out of that box and get your album out.
Would you ever get back into battling?
You know what? I would do it if it were set up right. But I don’t want to do it the way I was doing it before because I think I was one of the pioneers of battle rapping. I’m not going to start at the bottom and go battle up-and-coming battle rappers. I was just on MTV battle-rapping. I don’t want to go backwards. I would do it, but it’s gotta make sense for me to do it. For me to battle somebody, it would be big and I would like to think I was one of the dudes who started it. It would have to be something big or something monumental.
I was just talking to Serius Jones about this. People were saying how the world wants to see you battle again, even though you got dope records. The world wants to see me battle and if there was some money to do it, I know money’s not everything, but if there was money and it was set up right, because I never walk away from a battle without money, then I’ll do it. But I’m not just doing it to do it. I’m good.
What albums or mixtapes from Jersey artists that came out in 2010 did you enjoy?
That came from a Jersey artist? Let me think. Hmm. I like Rah Digga’s project that she put out not too long ago. I liked Serius Jones’ project. Redman just dropped something and I haven’t heard it yet so I can’t give it the super thumbs up but shout out to Redman, that’s the O.G. Hmm. There hasn’t been a whole lot of music that came out. I can’t really think of nothing. There hasn’t been nothing that’s been put out. I liked Lady Luck’s new CD too. It’s hot. She has a lot of energy and she’s real animated on tracks. She’s real dope.
What albums do you think define New Jersey hip-hop and what New Jersey hip-hop should be?
I think what actually represented it and people thought it was dope and it actually had people from New Jersey following it was Naughty By Nature. Naughty By Nature, definitely. It was a whole movement. When you have people going to high school with the jail suits on…I was a younger kid but I remember seeing them going to high school with the jail suits on. Being a rapper is more than having people like your music. That’s where a lot of rappers mess up at. You gotta make the kids want to talk like you and walk like you and until you become an artist where people are doing that, then you’re just rapping. You’re just rapping. If my son ain’t watching videos and asking me to get him the jacket in the video, then you’re just rapping. Treach and Naughty By Nature started a whole movement. Treach, Redman, that first Fugees album and the second Fugees album…Just lyrics. Usually people associate Jersey with lyrics so anything that’s real lyrical, I would consider a Jersey album and a Jersey success. Jersey artists are known for being lyrical.
What do you look at as your best moment of 2010?
My brother came home. My older brother came home from federal prison. He had been gone for 10 years. That was an amazing moment for me. I started a new label in 2010 too, Gorilla Music. To me, that was big, me starting a whole new company and dissolving Gorilla Pimp Records and just starting something new and coming with a new energy. Going back in the studio was a big moment for me because once you get caught up in bills and life and you’re just chilling…I’m not working a regular job, but not that there’s anything against that, I’m glad that I don’t have to go back to work but just being able to start my own company and go back in the studio and do this full time and just relax with a clear mind is like the biggest moment for me in 2010 because you constantly have people asking you to give them music and asking you why you stopped and I got tired of really giving people excuses and I was telling them I would do it in two weeks or send it later but really my mind wasn’t even on music so just me getting back into being a rapper again, that was a big moment for me in 2010. I gotta keep it real.
You’re starting off 2011 on a good note with 2011 and the Renegade album will drop. What do you need to accomplish in 2011?
I just need to stay consistent. That’s all. Once The Package is well-received, I have to come out with something else and just stay consistent and stay in people’s faces. That’s what I think is going to make me have a successful 2011. If you’re doing something you like and something you love, it never feels like work. Just getting back into it…I had lost my partner in 2009. One of my partners in Gorilla Pimp Records got killed and that kind of slowed me down. I don’t know if people remember the light-skinned guy in the Fight Klub videos but he got murdered behind this music and stuff like that turns me off from the music business. They were going after his Gorilla Pimp chains and some money that they thought he had in his house. That’s corny to me. My lifelong friend is dead. And my lifelong friend L, you know L, he got locked up when my studio got raided. Going through all of that makes you not wanna do it. Your whole team decimated, some of them locked up, some of them dead, it makes you not want to do it, especially when you came in the game with 30 people, but having the strength and the energy and the courage to do it again, that’s a huge moment for me because I was ready to say “Fuck this music shit.”
And understandably so.
Yeah. It was a struggle and it was hard. It was a real hard, emotional time but I think that took a lot of wind and a lot of energy out of a lot of good rappers. In 2009, when my studio got raided, they locked up 50 people. They was taking pictures of everybody in Gorilla Pimp jackets and then you got people snitching and then you got this going on and then you got that going on. You’d be surprised what can fuck up a multi-million dollar record deal. The little things.
But 2011 is a new start. We’re putting the music out again and it’s not one foot in the streets and one foot out. We’re really trying to get our business hats on straight and do it right this time. I have no C.E.O. Most rappers would be coming up to them and complaining to them about being jerked and losing money and I have nobody to cry about. I was signed to myself and signed to Def Jam. There’s nobody to blame it on but me. I know what not to do this time. I’m ready to get it moving.