The streets of New York City have always been some of the toughest streets in the nation, and the world. It takes a strong person to see outside of the box of the norm to see there are better and bigger things on the horizon. That’s exactly what Sha Stimuli did. Sha Stimuli (real name Sherrod Kaalis) is a product of the streets of Brooklyn, NY, but he’s not a thug or a street hustler as most would assume. You could call him somewhat of an intellectual in his own right. He beat the odds by getting out of the street life and obtained his college degree in Radio and Television Production from Delaware State University.
Sha’s music isn’t just more hip hop and bangin beats- he’s got a message in every one of his songs. Using music as a medium to convey his message to the people is the dream and the goal. Having once been wooed by the likes of Virgin Records and a possible partnership with hip hop great Jay-Z that ended up with Sha on the short end of the stick, didn’t stop him from continuing to deliver his message. Paired with gritty, hard hitting lyrics, and a flow reminiscent of the days when hip hop was really hip hop and had a meaning, Sha Stimuli is ready to take the world by storm. Fever caught up with Sha as he worked on his album. Check out the interview under the cut. I got a good idea where the “Sha” comes from, but what semblance does the word “Stimuli” bring to who you are?Yeah… Sha is a variation of my first name… somewhere in there. I always said when I got into music that if I wanted to do this full time, that I wanted to be able to get a response out of people. I wanted people to hear what I was doing and feel it more than just hear the words. I think I said the name Stimuli in a rap cipher when I was back in college free stylin. I went back to my room and looked up the word, and saw what it actually meant and I thought that it was pretty symbolic of what I wanted to do if I ever chose to be an artist full time. It’s really about the people that listen. I figure me being a rap artist, it’s not all about me being the best or spittin hot rhymes or whatever. It’s always been about making people feel what I’m feelin, or making songs about what other people are going through. That’s always been my mission.I see you’re not just a regular ol emcee or actor. You’ve gone out and gotten your B.A. in Radio and Television Production. How important is education to what you’re trying to accomplish in your career or even period.For me, education was always very important because it played a part in me learning about the business and for me taking time to really figure out what I wanted to do. I think for most people, by the time you leave high school you go through this point where you start thinking about what you really want to do with your life. For me, it took about three or four years to really hone in on my craft and realize that this is what I really want to do and to put in the diligence of learning about it. From reading books about the music business, to interning and just being around it enough to say that this was something that I could contribute to and treating it seriously and not just being able to say that I rap, or I rap on the block, but just really learning the craft and studying it and being around people. That was just one side of it. The other side of it was me educating myself as far as having a vocabulary and studying English and taking other classes and having something to really talk about and having seen the world enough to be able to rap about what I saw not just in the streets. I definitely feel that college broadened my horizons. I was in Iowa and Delaware and encountered a lot of different cultures, so it was an eye opener.So you played basketball in college? Yeah a lil bitSo do you miss playing? Do you still play? Would you have liked to have gone on to play pro ball?I still play every week. It helps me to not go crazy and hurt people (laughs). As far as pro ball, when I was in junior college in Iowa, that was probably my chance to go hard with it. I started thinking long-term and thought that if I actually made it to the NBA and really dedicated my life to basketball, the only thing that I would probably have to show for my success would be my money. I would have to find ways to give back to the community and find ways to reach people through my money. I thought that would be selfish of me to make it as a pro-athlete. Meaning that I wouldn’t be able to reach enough people to make an impact with just my money. I felt that through music, I could reach more people. Basketball just wasn’t in my heart enough as music was. Something was always holding me back from it.How did you get into acting? Have you ever taken any acting classes?My minor was theater in school. I’ve always enjoyed acting. It’s something that I don’t want to take for granted or take lightly. So with me doing music, I would like to use it as a gateway into acting. It’s always something that I figured that if I’m going to do it, I’m going to give it 100 percent. I love what Common and Mos Def are doing. From the films that they’re in, and the roles that they play, when you see them, you don’t just see them as rappers. Even Andre 3000, you don’t just see him as a rapper trying to act. Now they’ve evolved into actual actors. They can almost do music, pretty much when they feel like it and they can do what they want when they record. That’s a dream of mine as well. I think the movie money is better because you’re not subjected to every fans opinion and their dollars alone. I would love to be able to do movies full time and still do music and not have so much pressure on putting out a hit single and albums sales.We just touched on the rappers who are now becoming actors and here recently, we heard from actress Nia Long who kind of went in on Beyonce and her acting skills and how she feels about this topic of rappers/singers turned actresses/actors. There are several actors and actresses who believe that rappers and singers should stick to rapping and singing and leave the acting to the actors and actresses. What do you think about that?Well, it’s a double edged sword in my opinion. You have to think about it in terms of we may be taking food out of certain peoples mouths. They go to school for this. They study it and spend time training for this, but then you have this rapper or singer who is popular and who may put more bodies in the seats or the casting director thinks they’re a good fit just because of who they are. But then you have people like Ice Cube who is a natural in front of the camera, and who is now behind the camera and Queen Latifah. You can tell that they take this seriously and that they’ve taken the time out to study this thing. With Beyonce (laughs), you can see that her early roles were given to her just for who she was. I can see why Samuel Jackson was mad at certain people as well. But you have to think about it, as music artists, we’re on stage as characters all the time. We’re acting a lot. For me to get in front of the camera all the time, I don’t feel like doing it. I have to become Stimuli. Through the years, Stimuli and Sherrod have separated more and more. I have to put on this character and when I’m on stage I’m transforming. If you have two or three people within you, all you’re doing when they turn that camera on, is finding those people. A lot of times, directors and casting directors are finding artist that almost resemble who they’re going for. Later on, these guys are learning to step outside that box. Like you’ll see Ludacris doing bigger stretches. We saw LL Cool J playing a drug dealer. You can argue either point.How have the streets of New York influenced your rhyming skills?Growing up in Brooklyn… it’s a really big burrough and it was pretty dangerous when I was growing up. It made me want to search for some sort of outlet. When you’re going through whatever you’re going through and when you see people dying and going to jail, it makes you wonder how you’re going to survive through it all. Music became my outlet. I was always writing everything down. So it was either rapping or basketball. Basketball saved my life. It gave me something to do. I would see other kids in the park smoking or in gangs and doing their thing to survive while I was doing mine, which was playin ball or writing rhymes. I had a brother who was in the studio and doing it for real. So I got to see somebody who made a career out of it.What was that like for you? You didn’t just grow up listening to hip hop but you were actually living deep within it with your older brother already being involved in the game. As a kid, what was that like for you?It was a great experience! I gotta thank him for even bringing me along. A lot of that stuff he could have just kept me out of it because I was so young, but for him to bring me along for all that stuff was wonderful. Me being around the Juice Crew at such a young age and being at the video shoots, was all great. I didn’t speak unless spoken to. I would just chill and absorb everything. Being around Biggie and GangStar, man… I just really didn’t say much. But the best thing about it all was that I was around people who chose music as a career, and they were doing this thing for real. When you’re a kid in the hood and you see that you think, ok… this can really happen. This is something that I can really do and it’s not just a dream. Unfortunately, now, everybody thinks they can do it. Back in the 90’s, everybody wasn’t thinking that they could rap; you had to really be good and you had to really know what was going on. There wasn’t a Myspace where you could just jump on and post your stuff.Tell us about the time you spent interning for Roc-A-Fella. Did that time give you a stronger desire to get your own music out there?When I interned at Roc-A-Fella, I was a freshman in college and was thinking to myself that I needed to learn the music business from somewhere that I can see it start from the beginning. I was a big fan of Jay-Z and he was fairly new at the time, so I felt that if I jumped in early, I thought that I could get an A&R position or something. It was like you controlled how fast you moved up. I was all about learning the game. But then Biggie passed and I needed something to fill that void. I just wanted to do something to help out.So Biggie’s death really had an impact on you? Yeah! This was a person who, when I was coming up as a kid, I really believed in him. It’s weird because I didn’t have that feeling for any other artist. I liked Big Daddy Kane, and Jay, but with Big, he moved me. His stories, and the way he painted pictures with his words just seemed effortless and I was in awe of his talent. When he left, I felt like I couldn’t even be a faithful fan anymore. Jay was the closest person who I felt like I could be in awe of their talent. Like, with everybody else, I felt like I could do what they do. So as I’m interning at Roc-A-Fella and I’m learning the ropes and having an influence on certain decisions that are made, I was moving so fast with getting cool with everybody, that I was thinking that this industry job was easy and that I could be an A&R or even a CEO in no time, especially with all the knowledge that I had acquired.At one point in time, you were here in Atlanta, which is now becoming the hip hop mecca of the world for artists and aspiring artists alike. Everyone thought that title would forever remain in New York. Do you think we’ll see another city rise to such heights as New York or Atlanta?I’m in Atlanta right now. I think a lot of cities have had their time like New York, LA, Philly and Houston, so I don’t know. What I would hope for is a total shift in the focus on region in hip hop. It would help the music as a whole if we went back to reppin where you’re from and getting that equal love in the magazines and on the radio. I know in Atlanta, you’re bound to hear a lot of hometown artist- it’s like that almost everywhere but New York. New York is the only place where you probably won’t hear any of the hometown artists anymore.Really?Yeah! They’re trying to get back to that, but about 10-12 years ago, it became the thing in New York to be the first to break the new southern song. Breaking the new southern song turned into DJ’s battling to break the new southern song and then all of a sudden it became every southern song that was hot was on New York radio and in the clubs.Is it more so because there is a lack of good New York artist coming out?I’ve heard DJ’s talk, and what they say is New York artist don’t know how to have fun and make party records. They say that they could be in the club playing Soulja Boy or whoever and then a New York rapper will come in and want to hear his record and you’ll play his record and it ain’t got nothing to do with the club or it’s no fun. He’s talking about why he ain’t poppin or he’s mad and it’s not a fun record. I understood that though. But I do remember when there was a time when you played Nas, or Mobb Deep, or Wu Tang and these people weren’t mad at the DJ, they were just making street music. Now, you have artist such as myself that can’t get play and who are trying to do music that is true to themselves, now we’re going to get bitter and it’s going to come out on the record because ya’ll not playin us. We’re making real hip hop music, when before all you had to do was make a good song and it didn’t matter what kind of song it was. Your first single was what it was and people played it. EPMD wasn’t sittin there worried about how they would get spins in the club. I don’t know what did it. All I know is that it became funny when they would play Laffy Taffy and it’s still a little funny when they play Stanky Leg, but at the same time, it’s become the industry standard. This is the music that is becoming hit records. We have to think about the next generation; they’re watching reality shows, where we were watching sitcoms. They’re listening to this watered down music , where we at least had a choice. As much as I want to get spins and have fun in the club and pop bottles and all of that, somebody has to think about the next generation. It’s tough for artist now a days. When you’re in that booth, you have to think about where your music is going to play.You were once signed to Virgin Records and your first album on the label “Thee Emotional Picture” was ready to be released and then it all came apart. What happened with that situation?I signed to Virgin records with the same guy that I interned for at Roc-A-Fella, Lenny Santiago. About seven years later, God blessed me with a record deal from that relationship. About a couple of months afterwards, I got the whole label excited. When they initially signed me they was just like, alright we keep hearing about this kid, fine, lets get him off the streets whatever… give him a record deal. Then all of a sudden, they caught wind of what they really signed. It’s sort of like, you’ve never heard of an artist, you give them a shot, sort of like you. You checked out my bio and you were like, ok, this guy’s alright. Then all of a sudden, they heard music and they saw the visual and then they were like, whoa! Ok, this guy might actually sell some units… like, this may work. Then all of a sudden, Jay-Z calls and says that he wants Lenny to return to Def Jam. Lenny comes to me and my team and asks what thought he should do because this could be a great opportunity. So pretty much without me knowing, Lenny had taken the job with Jay at Def Jam. He threw it out there that he want to bring me over to Def Jam once he came and Jay-Z was like, cool, bring him over. I saw the emails back and forth, and was getting excited. People everywhere was like, yo, I heard you’re going over to Def Jam… congratulations and I’m like, yeah, it’s not done yet, but it’s gonna happen. . I think the lawyers had sent over the paperwork because I think I had spent around $200,000 over at Virgin. So Virgin just wanted their money back from Def Jam. So the next thing I know, Lenny was like, yo, Jay wants to hear the music. And I’m like Jay wants to hear the music? I’m like, Jay knows what I do. He’s heard the music before. What’s going on? Everything started stalling slowly. So now I’m going back over to Virgin and asking about the situation over there and at that time Jermaine Dupri had taken over and he was like, we heard you were leaving? Now they’re cold and they’re just like naw, you gone. I’m like wait a minute. (laughs) I didn’t say I was leaving. That’s just the word on the street. Lenny took the job and I had no say in it. So now I go over to Def Jam and I’m like, what’s up? I see Jay out at the club more than once. I’m talkin to him and ask what was going on. He’s like, yeah yeah, I got you! He asked why I didn’t want to stay at Virgin, and I just told him, hey, if you want me to stay at Virgin, I’ll stay. He’s like, naw naw, I got you. This happened like two or three more times. So now he’s putting it on Lenny sayin that he needs to play the music for him. So now I’m all confused. This turns into like six months and six months in the industry when you’re supposed to have an album come out when you were getting label push and on radio and now all of a sudden that stops and you’re in between. Def Jam didn’t want to pay the money supposedly, so now Def Jam is just waiting for me to get dropped so it could be a clean break. So now they’re like, naw, we’re not going to drop you, we’re going to hold you. Whoever is going to buy out this contract, which really wasn’t $200,000, is going to have to pay more. That turned into almost a years. So when I finally sat down with Jay-Z and the staff over at Def Jam to play the music, he told everybody that when I rapped live for him, that I out shined my music. We played two or three songs, and I felt like I didn’t even need to be there. I had the attitude like, why am I here. I was just like what am I doing all this for when you’ve already told me that you were bringing me over. I think Ty Ty told me to spit something, and I was like what? Are you serious? I’m not no little kid just meeting Jay for the first time. So when I started rapping, I was rapoing like I had a point to prove. I was stompin around the room and I was mad because I had a point to prove. People said that hurt me because they said I came at him a little bit. It could have all been avoided had he just said what was what from the beginning. People asked me if I blame Lenny, and I tell them no. I blame myself.Back in Jan 08 you vowed to drop one mix tape per month for 12 months straight. And now other people are trying to do it. I know Game did it and a couple of other people. Yeah. Unlike them, I didn’t have the publicity or promo team and all that. That was just me saying that I’m tired of people saying that they’re grinding and people asking me about what was going on. I was just trying to tell folks that I had a lot to say. I have these concepts in my head that will probably never be on official albums. I’m never going to have the chance to do a whole cd dedicated to Stevie Wonder, or to do a cd called March on Washington, or a cd all about girls. It didn’t take me much time, because as free as I write and as fast as I am in the booth; I said I was going to show these people what grinding really is. The toughest part was getting art work and cd duplication, but it was happening. I was getting it done. I think we slowed down around the 7th month and then I had to do like two in October and two in November. Either way, nobody can do what I did.And it wasn’t like you had like five or six songs on these cd’s. You had hella songs on all of them. It was crazy!Well I write a lot and I have to credit my boy DJ Victorious for giving me concepts and giving me ideas. It was like boot camp, it’s like training. I felt like, if I’m going to put out an album, which I’m doing this year, why would somebody feel confident about buying my album or why would they care about me if they didn’t know that I’m working. I mean even if you don’t like it, you know that this guy is putting in work. It’s not just something that he’s playing around with. I compare it to an athlete. You see me in training camp. I’m trying to get better for ya’ll. I’m not just sitting here chillin. The lyrics were time sensitive and I’m talking about stuff that was going on. I’m not using old raps or instrumentals. These were straight records.Out of all of the mixtapes that you’ve done, which one was your favorite?The Hotter Than July Stevie Wonder was my favorite because it was the most honest. With everything that I was going through, I touched on it all with that cd. It had no cursing so my mother could listen to it. And I think to me (laughs), that was the coolest. She’ll still hit me up with a line or call me with something she heard and I think that cool. I liked the March on Washington and Love Jones, but the Hotter Than July I touched on so many different things and with it being a dedication to Stevie Wonder, the music was my favorite as well.You’ve worked with artists like T Pain, Justin Timberlake, Anthony Hamilton, and Maino. Who else have you worked with?I’ve worked with Joel Ortiz, I snuck on a Janet Jackson record too. We weren’t in the studio together or anything but that was one of the biggest records that helped me get the deal with Virgin. She knew about it, so because she knew, I counted it (laughs). That was the “I Want You”. I worked with Punjabi MC, Smiff and Wesson, Corey Gunz, Memphis Bleek, and too many others to name.One artist you’d like to collaborate with?If I had to pick one person, I’d have to say Jazmine Sullivan. I really love her voice because there’s a lot of pain in it. I’d also have to say Andre 3000. That’s only other rapper I’d like to work with.What has been the best part of your career in the entertainment industry?The best part was signing the Virgin deal. To me that was like my childhood dream. That was like getting drafted… that was big. Getting the “Unsigned Hype” in The Source was big too! But the Virgin deal was almost like that dream come true. Being in there and signing that contract. Because I was going through so much with the label, and the manager, and I only had like 18 cents in my pocket. But looking back, it was probably the best thing for me because I probably wasn’t ready for the whole thing.A few get to know you better questions… cool?How do you spend your weekends?Basketball, sleep, a lot of eating. If it’s football season, I watch football. Sunday you’ll catch me playing basketball in the morning and napping in the afternoon. I try not to do too much work on the weekend unless it’s writing or arranging some things.College Football/Basketball?I’m college basketball all day. College football has gotten too crazy for me. I don’t know the people anymore. The teams that were great aren’t anymore.Blackberry/ iPhone?Oh I’m Blackberry all day since 2003Video games/Cartoons?I don’t think Spider Solitaire counts as a video game but that’s the only game I play. I’m pretty good at it.Heineken/Red Stripe?(laughs) I actually drink Guiness. But I’ll drink a Heineken before a Red StripeEwwww… Guiness is so nasty!!! Seriously?Yeah… ya’ll women always say that. It’s an acquired taste. It’s not for ya’ll.I don’t think it’s for anybody!!!Twitter/Myspace/Facebook?I rock with Facebook. At first I was anti all of them. Then I thought Myspace was the greatest thing ever created, then Facebook just seemed more mature to me, and I hated Twitter. Now I know how to use Twitter so I’m kind of cool on there. But I still don’t use it for too long because I find myself in a world that I just don’t need to be in. It’s funny because when you’re an artist people always tell you, “oh you need to do this”, or “you need to do that”… but dammit man (laughs) I wish I was above this stuff. I was on BlogTV.com today. One of my fans helped me set up a BlogTV site. I was live streaming while the fans are trying to talk to me. I’m trying to learn while the girl is like “click on this” … “click on that”, the fans are hittin me up asking if this is the real Sha. I just couldn’t do it. It’s too intrusive. I salute Joe Budden and all those other dudes that do it though.What’s the first thing you notice about a female?I look at her eyes. That’s the first thing. Then I go to the waist. Then I check out the whole thing to see how she’s proportioned. I go eye/waist, real quick. I soak it all in.Long/short hair?I don’t really have a preference honestly. I like change. If it’s long one day, then short the next, I’m cool. I think deep down inside the answer probably long.Thick/Average/Slim Goody?*Sigh*… see… that’s a tough one. If you’re talking about a one night affair, or something you want to hold on to, I’m all about the thickness. If we’re talkin long term, I need some room for error (laughs). I don’t like the slim chicks. I’m not a fan of the twigs or having to imagine what she look like with a baby. As long as she cares about her physique and her health in the long term, that’s what’s important.What’s up next on the table for you?Right now, we’re really trying to promote the album. It comes out October 27th and is titled, “My Soul To Keep”. As time goes on, I’m really realizing that a lot people don’t know who I am. It may just be an album to just get some sales history and get a larger fan base and reach some people with the music. That’s it.