MC Shan: Play it Again Shan

MC Shan’s albums vanished from record store shelves 15 years ago, and yet he is party to one of Hip-Hop’s most celebrated battles. When cousins Shan and DJ Marley Marl released “The Bridge” in 1986, they soon found themselves with a big slab of beef on the grill. KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions stood up […]

MC Shan’s albums vanished from record store shelves 15 years ago, and yet he is party to one of Hip-Hop’s most celebrated battles. When cousins Shan and DJ Marley Marl released “The Bridge” in 1986, they soon found themselves with a big slab of beef on the grill. KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions stood up with “The Bridge is Over,” but contrary to what some believe, MC Shan never sat down.

From his cushy couch in Jamaica Queens, the former Juice Crew front man revisits the distant past as if it were pictures on the mantle. This celebrated past includes his celebrated comrades Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane, and Biz Markie. Roxanne Shante, another crewmember, and Shan are considering creating a new Juice Crew, a mountainous goal indeed. The converted producer explains his absence, his work with White Reggae sensation, Snow, and even admits shame in his lyrical attack on LL Cool J. Regrets aside, Shan still has barbed words for KRS-One, his admitted rival/friend. While MC Shan’s three albums left the shelves ages ago to become eBay collector’s items, the Queens pioneer still hopes to give fans a fourth. What made you want to focus on production?

MC Shan: With the production, that is where we get into that third album, because that is where I saw the money was. I thought if I was going to get jerked on the artist side, I figured I might as well get it from the producer’s angle. I guess when you’re just getting jerked all around, it doesn’t matter in 20 years anyway. The producing just came out naturally because I used to be in the studio with Marley all the time. I learned how to work the equipment by f**king Marley up. For real, he’d be like “Don’t touch that,” and all of a sudden “BEEEEEEEEEEP!” and it was too late. When I ran into Snow, at that point I was getting slack from Warner Brothers, but I still had another trick up my sleeve. And now, people keep saying to me “How come you didn’t make a record since then?” It was because I didn’t need to. Is working with Snow a regret? A lot of people don’t know why you did that…

MC Shan: Man, Snow? Not at all, I worked with Snow not too long ago. But the song we did, he didn’t want to do it, so I took it. There is a song on my web space called “Dutty Grind.” See, me and Snow, we have a crazy chemistry. He’ll go in the studio and come up with these crazy melodies, but I’m more of the word-lyricist type thing. He’ll lay down the melodies and we call it deciphering hieroglyphics, we sit there and start throwing the song together. How did you first get up with this cat?

MC Shan: Truthfully, it was going to the weed spot right here on Jamaica Avenue [in Queens]. It was the greatest thing that weed ever did for me. This was all at the time when Cold Chillin’ and all of my Juice Crew members were dissin’, you know what I’m saying? Alright fine, I don’t need to do records with people like that. People think it was The Juice Crew, forget that, Shan was the one who was doing all his battling all by himself. It wasn’t The Juice Crew vs. BDP. I had to get all my props on just that alone, and I’m not no punk ass motherf**ker. In the beginning, they couldn’t scare me. I didn’t make another record about Kris, to set the record straight, ‘cause Kris, I would have blazed yo’ ass, and I still could get at you, you know that, you know how we do! If Marley didn’t say, “Shan, it’s going to give him a little popularity,” [I would have]. You hear the beefs nowadays where cats say they’re not going to respond because it’s just going to give them props. Well, that was my thing, you couldn’t say nothing about me then, don’t look at me funny if I made a record about you. At that point, do you think I was going to let a man do something? “The Bridge” was really groundbreaking —

MC Shan: –Hold on, before we get to the groundbreaking music and all that stuff, I want to clear up a few things. Battles of today are not like battles then. Because Kris knows how I do. I talk mad crap about him every chance I get to, just because I should of made that record about your ass! But me and Kris are cool as hell, when we see us in a room, it’s all respect, because that is how we got down. Now, in the [old] days, we used to do shows together. When we’re out of town, we’re away from New York period. We in the middle of South [Carolina], we used to look out for each other. If a promoter didn’t want to pay Kris, we wasn’t performing. If a promoter didn’t want to pay us, Kris wasn’t performing. It became that thing, because this is what we do. If we fight and argue and all of this stuff, we’re not going to make no money. We came to that conclusion early, that, ‘Yo, this right here is entertainment. We ain’t no suckas, but we’re going to keep talking this s**t.’ And I’m still talking s**t how many years later. Kris, you know the deal. Do you think the beef overshadowed the quality of “The Bridge” as a song?

MC Shan: “The Bridge” stands for what it stands for as a song. It’s a classic. Just like Kris’ “The Bridge is Over” is a classic. Classic! It was a groundbreaking record simply because nobody sampled stuff before then. Marley was the first one to ever sample [The Honeydrippers’ “Impeach the President”]. I’m just honored to say I was there when the first samples were made, and the first samples were on my record. That right there, was a tape in Queensbridge for years before it became a record. It was a Queensbridge cult thing. It played on a cassette, and if you didn’t have the cassette, you just wasn’t into it, you know what I’m saying? In terms of the Juice Crew, are you still messing with those cats?

MC Shan: G Rap is my man. Kane and them, we’re all cool. Everyone grew up. When we see each other, it’s alright. We got our beefs, and we can say whatever we want, but you can’t. I could pop off all the s**t I want about my Juice Crew members. Even if I had to battle BDP all by myself, f**k it, they’re my n***as. You and Roxanne Shante have been looking for a new Juice Crew. How could the new Juice Crew maintain integrity if they don’t come together naturally?

MC Shan: What do you think? Biz and us hung out and all that. It was like, everybody brings somebody else to the table. It was me and Shante. Biz came along and brought Kane and [TJ] Swan. G Rap came through me and Marley’s end. He was from Queens with us, but we didn’t hang out. I knew Biz two years before, one of my friends kept telling me I had to get up with him. We were the first part of the Juice Crew that came out on record like that. There was another part of the Juice Crew, and believe it or not, the Juice Crew was started in The Bronx by Mr. Magic, Love Bug [Starkski], Sweet G, and Sal and them at The Fever [major venue of the day]. There was a Juice Crew before us, that, I’d like to get clear. They don’t get enough credit either. Who were they exactly?

MC Shan: Like Mike C, The Fearless Four, all of them from Uptown and The Bronx. Lovebug Starski and them, that’s the real Juice Crew. That’s them. But see now, when It came to records, it was me and Kris, but who could beat Busy Bee and Kool Moe Dee? People don’t talk about your political side much. You had records like “Give Me My Freedom” and “Defend Ourselves.” Do you remain active today like that?

MC Shan: I’m definitely outspoken, but I got real stories in my s**t. What I have to say, a lot of people can identify with, you and the next person. I can, lyrically, rip these other cats to shreds because they’re just talking about their guns and their ice. I’m trying to say, these cats are fake, talking about their jewelry or how you’re going to get your click to f**k me up. People are probably asking themselves what has Shan been doing the last ten years?

MC Shan: Well, in the last ten years, that Snow record did me really well. So, I had the time to sit back and enjoy certain things that other people don’t, like raising and spending time for my kids, being there for them every single day when they needed it. I had the luxury of having my career being in music and having a studio in the basement of my home, where I could kick back and work with artists all the time. It might take me still a few more years, but I’m hoping that artists come through with the new Juice Crew thing. On the production side, who have you put in work with?

MC Shan: Rakim, the first record he did, I recorded. I did songs for Steady B. I used to write stuff for Biz back in the days. I’ve worked with Sum41, I produced some of their songs. Before they was Sum41, I was up in Canada working on Snow’s album. Me and Sum 41 did a Rock dub of the bridge. It’s called “Rock The Bridge.” You know, there is a song at the end of Spiderman that I produced, and I’m in there. I’m one of the writers and the whole nine. I’m in there. Every time they blaze on Spiderman, I get dough. A lot of artists that got their name out a while back, never mind have a tremendous impact on the game, have some quality lost albums locked away. What’s your overstock like Shan?

MC Shan: Yeah, and let me tell you why [I didn’t make more albums]. At one point, Cold Chillin’ was trying to make me sound like G Rap, trying to make me do things like Kane, that just wasn’t me. I have records, songs, where I’m talking about sticking up and shooting. Nah, that’s not me man, I know people that do that. I know motherf**kas that kill people, but I don’t kill people. Could you talk about LL and the “Beat Biter” situation with LL Cool J?

MC Shan: That one was a serious one. I said something I shouldn’t have said on record. Back then, we had consciousness. My Mom loved LL, she met him. I don’t know if he would remember, but she really loved the s**t out of LL. F**k the fact that I’m dissin’ him, I had to change that because of the respect he showed to my moms. He wasn’t scaring me or nothing either. Me and LL had one battle up in Syracuse. The night before, he met me in The Red Parrot, it’s a parking lot now, and told me I better not come to Syracuse. Not only did I show up in Syracuse, but I waxed you that night, n***a! He didn’t even come out on stage. I had Marley cutting back and fourth and I snatched LL’s record [“Rock the Bells”] off the table, and I proceeded to crush LL. Are you disappointed there isn’t much else of your work for the young hip-hop audience to get into?

MC Shan: Nah, but it’s like, I’m trying to do some whole other, brand new, s**t. People like “The Bridge” because that is Shan to them. Screwball and ‘Mega and them, that is where they know MC Shan from. It’s who I am. People and labels should know I have a new album I’m trying to get out. It’s a whole other story. <br