Out of Chicago, US, comes an fresh voice that calls himself SB and he has a very focused and organized mission to change the world through his hip-hop music. We interviewed the man behind the initials and learned about the Chicago music scene and what sets his music apart from the rest.
For those not familiar with your music, who is SB?
I’m an artist first and foremost. Most people know me as socially-conscious hiphop recording artist but I’m actually a multi-media artist, music is one of the many forums I express through. I also draw/illustrate, write, paint, act, etc. My main goal through all expression is to bring people closer to God and in alignment with His purpose and will for their lives. I see my role as an emcee as a derivative of the griot tradition of West Africa. The griots were singer/musician/historians that passed on the morals, values, ethos and history of the people through the oral tradition. I look at my role as an emcee to be one and the same.
“Things really took off when I had a chance meeting with Bushwick Bill… He said I had the “skills to make mills”.”
How and when did you discover you could use music to get your message across?
As a teenager. Growing up I spent a lot of time listening to my parents’ music collection. Listening to artists like Bob Marley, Curtis Mayfield, and Marvin Gaye (circa “What’s Going On?”) showed me the impact that music could have on people for good and really inspired me to do the same through hiphop. Things really took off when I had a chance meeting with Bushwick Bill from the legendary rap group, The Geto Boyz. He was staying at the same hotel where we were holding our annual family reunion and one of my cousins invited him to join us for dinner. He ended up hearing me freestyling with my cousins as we always do at family functions and urged my Uncle Gill to get me into a studio to record a demo as a solo artist (I’d recorded a demo before as part of a three member group). He said that I had the “skills to make mills” and I figured since he was in the industry and had built a great career for himself, it would probably be a good idea to take his advice.
Describe the hip-hop scene in Chicago at the moment? Is it very socially conscious?
I’d describe the music scene in Chicago as very diverse. It’s very much a reflection of the people and always has been. Some are socially conscious individuals and so they express that social consciousness through their music. Others are not and so they may speak more to doing what they feel they need to do to improve the their lives and the lives of their loved ones. But the common thread is that it’s all politics. It’s all tied to to the human struggle. And that is universal. That being said, Chicago has always had a rich tradition tied to social consciousness so I think there will always be a strong element of that in the not just the music but in all art forms as it is reflective of the culture here. For example, Chicago has always been very much a paradigm. On one end, it is a city that was founded by a black man, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable. But the majority of Chicagoans are either unaware of this fact or fail to acknowledge it. It was a city that promised hope, job opportunities and freedom from the outright racism prevalent in the South. But many of those that migrated from the South during the Great Migration found that they’d left the South only to have to fight the same battles against the ugly reality of racism in the North. The history of the struggle for equality goes way back in Chicago so it most certainly reflected in the culture.
“I believe music is one of the most powerful mediums we have at our disposal… And I believe that with power comes responsibility.”
Your latest effort is titled REVOLUSEAN. Has your work always been a fire to start a revolution?
As a solo act, yes. When I was part of a group it was more about showing skills and being as unique as possible. But when I decided to leave the group and go at it solo, it was very important for me to make music that would inspire positive change. I believe music is one of the most powerful mediums we have at our disposal because of it’s ability to influence people physically, mentally, psychologically and even spiritually. And I believe that with power comes responsibility. When I look at the world, I see much that we need to change for the better, not just for ourselves but for future generations. Music is my main forum of choice because I believe as the great Fela Kutionce said, “Music Is the Weapon”.
How important is it for you to use the right political words versus the words that make a good flow, rhythmically? Do you find it hard to make that balance when writing your lyrics?
I think it is extremely important. And it’s certainly more challenging. But I think it’s worth it. In my humble opinion, rhyming for the sake of rhyming isn’t a difficult thing to do. We all grew up reading Mother Goose rhymes when we were kids. But expressing one self with skill and substance is different….it takes mastery of a varied skill set. So I definitely think that artists that strive to strike that balance with their lyrics should be honored as part of the upper echelon when we are evaluating lyricism.
You mention on your Bandcamp page that your music is different from other hip-hop music. What makes it different and how do you feel your peers in the scene are taking your music?
First and foremost, my music is different because it is very much gospel driven. I don’t label it as gospel music or gospel hiphop but if you listen to it, that’s what it is. It’s based very much in leveraging gospel lessons, values, etc., and applying it to our lives. Secondly, it’s profanity/vulgarity free. Which means that all generations, kids, parents, grandparents, etc., can listen to it at the same time and enjoy it. I think these characteristics make it not only universally appealing, but even more commercially viable than the music that is typically marketed and promoted. A good example, would be much of the content that Disney produces. Their content speaks directly to audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Hence, when people go to see a Disney movie, they aren’t going by themselves or simply with a date. It’s usually a family event where multiple generations are present. Not only is that a beautiful phenomenon to witness and partake in, it also quite profitable.
What are some of your favorite political musicians, current or not?
Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye(circa the “What’s Going On Album”), Lauryn Hill, KRS ONE, Public Enemy, Common, Yassin Bey (Mos Def), Talib Kweli, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Andre 3000, Erykah Badu, Amel Larrieux, Dead Prez, Lupe Fiasco, The Fugees, Tupac, etc.
What do you hope to achieve with your music?
I hope to motivate and inspire people to be aligned with God’s purpose for their lives. I hope to inspire people to be agents of positive change not just locally but globally. I hope to get people to embrace their global citizenship and by doing so, be better stewards of the world. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Oppression anywhere, is a threat to freedom everywhere”.
Do you take part in any activism outside of the music?
I do. In many ways I live it. Sometimes I speak in public forums and lend my words and public profile to causes. Other times, I may march in solidarity or petition. Most often though, on a day to day basis, I think my activism is rooted in where I choose not to put my dollars. For example, I strive to commit to a vegan diet and I’m very committed to purchasing organic, non-gmo foods. So certain businesses will probably never see a dime from my hard earnings. I think with most businesses, organizations, and even individuals, the strongest messages you can send involve where you choose to put your dollars and where you choose not to put your dollars.
What is on the horizon for you? Any live shows outside of the US for your international fans?
Right now I’m working on a trip to S. Africa that will involve performances, collaboration with local artists/musicians and a documentary capturing the experience. I’m also working on a LOT of new music and looking to start touring globally soon, God willing. So lots of good things on the horizon!
Thank you so much for participating and for the music you make. Anything else you’d like to shout from the rooftops?
Thank you so much for reaching out to me and for providing a forum for artists like myself! As for shouting from the rooftops, please share this verse with the people for me: “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”