Band: Shaheed & DJ Supreme
Date: Friday, April 10 at 11 p.m.
Venue: Alchemy Tavern, 7 S. Joachim St., www.alchemytavernmobile.com
If you know where to look, Alabama is home to a rich and diverse hip-hop scene. However, the nation seems to turn a blind eye to the talent here. Rappers such as Gucci Mane, Yelawolf, Rich Boy and The Last Mr. Bigg have beaten the odds and achieved notice on the national level, but there are still many excellent MCs just waiting to be discovered.
Birmingham-based label Communicating Vessels (owned by Jeffrey Cain of Remy Zero fame) is investing time and money into two of the Iron City’s most notable hip-hop artists. Shaheed and DJ Supreme are two prime candidates lined up to be Alabama’s newest superstars on the national level.
DJ Supreme is known for laying down smooth, soulful beats as Shaheed’s verbal technique flows effortlessly in accompaniment. The duo recognizes the challenge in making themselves recognizable nationally, but it is a challenge both are prepared to face with an arsenal of rhythms and rhymes.
“Traditionally, Alabama is not known for hip-hop,” Shaheed said. “A lot of times, it gets overlooked, because of that. However, there have been a lot of groups that have come out of Alabama over the past 10 years — quite a few of them. I don’t understand that when it comes to preserving the culture of hip-hop, that’s one of the things that myself and DJ Supreme are always trying to put out there to the world, so it doesn’t go unnoticed.”
Both Shaheed and Supreme began their hip-hop journey in their younger years. Beginning in kindergarten, Shaheed’s mother required him to keep a daily journal. As he grew older, he grew weary of the task and decided to break the monotony by forming raps out of the entries. Along the way, he found muses in hip-hop icons such as EPMD, Public Enemy and KRS-One.
When he first heard Run DMC’s “Sucker MC’s,” DJ Supreme fell in love with hip-hop. The beats created by Grand Mixer Mugs, Dr. Dre and Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad led him to concentrate on the production side of the hip-hop game. Eventually, he got his hands on a set of Synsonics drum pads and began creating his own beats.
“It (drums pads) was real cheesy, but you could put real drum tracks on it,” Supreme said. “For me, that’s what influenced me to get into hip-hop and hip-hop beats.”
As far as Shaheed and Supreme’s artistic partnership, the story of how they joined forces makes it seem like destiny played a part. Back in the day, Supreme held an annual hip-hop event called “Eargasm.” Shaheed was one of the many local rappers who showcased his skills regularly. His vocal science made quite an impression on Supreme and eventually, a mutual friend introduced the two.
Supreme laid down a beat and Shaheed took on the hook responsibilities. The duo went on to record popular local tracks such as “Solutions” and “Spoken Word,” even though they were not officially a duo at the time. After taking a break from the rap game, Shaheed decided to come back in 2007 to a partnership with Supreme.
“He’s the best at what he does,” Shaheed said. “To me, he’s in the same class as J. Dilla or Dr. Dre. He’s very soulful, and he’s my soul brother when it comes to music. He knows what he is to me, and he’s the best at what he does. That’s how we became a unit. It was an appreciation of each other’s work.”
“We complement each other’s styles down to the letter,” Supreme added. “I couldn’t think of a better situation to be in. I’ve worked with a lot of people, but my relationship with Shaheed is so genuine. I can just play a scale and put a dope beat up under it and put Shaheed’s voice up under it, and I know it’s gonna be a hit.”
Shaheed and Supreme’s first effort on Communicating Vessels is “Knowledge, Rhythm & Understanding,” an album filled with Supreme’s trademark beats that embrace the listener on a spiritual level. Supreme’s rhythms are matched by Shaheed’s unmatchable poetic flow.
“Knowledge is one of the elements of hip-hop. Sometimes, it’s called ‘The Fifth Element,’” Shaheed explained. “It’s always gonna be represented in the music. The rhythm represents Supreme’s soulful beats and what he provides. You add those two together, and you get the understanding. That’s our music.”
Shaheed and Supreme are in the post-production phase of their next release on Communicating Vessels. The duo is calling this album “The Art of Throwing Darts.” Akil the MC and Chali 2na (both of Jurassic 5) have lent their verbal skills, as well as slug from Atmosphere. Supreme couldn’t pinpoint a release date, but suggested it would be soon.
Other SouthSounds 2015 artist profiles
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Cathedral Square Stage
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Saturday, April 11, 6 p.m.
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