Slidin’ Thru: Shawn Smith

November 6, 2018

Read the full interview on YoungCalifornia.com!

With the state of hip-hop forever fluctuating, Shawn Smith arrives just at the nick of time. Hailing from Philadelphia, the rapper formerly known as Young Savage arrives poised, knowledged, and ready to prove his worth. With the name change comes real bars and punchlines, and the ability to touch listeners across the world with his words. Read more…

In addition to opening for hip-hop elites such as Rick Ross, Jeezy, DMX, Juelz Santana, and Ice Cube (to name a few), Shawn spends the majority of his time in the lab perfecting his craft. Establishing a loyal fanbase organically, Shawn proves you don’t have to sell out to be heard or seen. You just have to work hard, work smart, and put God first.

For those who don’t know, who is Shawn Smith?
Shawn Smith is a young but passionate artist from the Southwest side of Philadelphia, who speaks for the people.

Where do you fit in the realm of R&B and hip-hop?
I truly respect and appreciate the art of rap and the art of storytelling. Being able to connect with the people and bring them lyrics, and making sure that lyrics are an important part of my music. Content that kind of started rap. Content about the people, our culture, us in urban neighborhoods or anywhere, if you go through the same type of struggle that we go through — I’m big on that. The things that really started hip-hop.

You’re from Philly, how does that play into your life and career?
I feel like Philadelphia has some of the best rappers of all time. Even the best musicians of all time. I grew up around a lot of talented rappers and I watched them all my life. They really set the bar high for me, I think that’s why I’m able to rap so well.

I always think of Meek Mill. Who are some artists that you grew up to?
Well Meek is a big Philly influencer. We’ve all been listening to Meek since we were really little. We still do.

Like battle rap Meek?
Yeah, even before the battles. Just the couple of Youtube videos he put up, we listened to him heavy. I’m heavily influenced by Lil Wayne and Jay Z also.

How important is it to come to LA as an up and coming artist?
I had so much respect for LA hip-hop. I’m a huge fan of LA rap. Dr. Dre is one of my favorites of all time. N.W.A., I’m a huge fan of. Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Tupac, of course. Everybody, there’s many more to name. LA has such a G-Funk sound that I love, it’s so original. Ya’ll like family over here. Ya’ll stick together. Ya’ll really ride for the West Coast, and I admire that.

At what point did you realize this music thing was forreal?
Probably when I was 16 and I uploaded my first Youtube video. It got like thousands of views. I don’t know how it got so many views, but people just gravitated to my skills. I knew from then on that I would be doing rap, no matter how long it took.

Why the name change from Young Savage to your real name?
I just want to give the people something realer. You know, my music was a lot realer. I grew as a person. I feel like the name Young Savage wasn’t a proper representation of what I was trying to create for myself.

I love your record “Heaven.” Talk about your mindstate in creating this record.
Thank you. The record was produced my Logic and so many other great people. “Heaven” is for the people. It speaks on the social awarenesses of the injustices that we go through today, just us as a culture. It’s really for the people. It talks about a lot of different things but at the same time, the lyrics on there are very, very powerful. I feel like I’m bringing new bars that have never been said direct in rap, and the people are appreciating it. It’s one of the best verses that you could ever hear in your life.

“No Heart” freestyle is actually directed by the homie Chase. Talk about your vision with the record.
I went straight to Chase when I had this, and I knew I wanted to do a video for it. Well he actually hit me up, but I hit him back like, “Yo I got something for you right now, you’d be perfect for it.” I knew that going to him would be great, he really painted the visual. Working with him is always amazing. While we’re shooting, he always tells me exactly what he’s going to do and how he’s going to edit it. And he does it, which makes it so amazing. He’s like, “I’m going to try this,” and it always comes out dope. He killed that visual. It was a fun collaborative process.

How’d you guys link?
Shout out to Rec Philly. They’re an organization in Philly that really puts on for the Philly artists and represents. I met Chase through them and my guy Will, he shot my other video “Drift.” That was my first time working with him, so shout out to him.

You have a line that says, “You ain’t really saying shit in your raps.” Talk about putting on for real hip-hop.
People that don’t necessarily have such lyrical rap, I’m not one of those guys who’s super against it, but I do like to listen to rap that has content. I feel like I have content because I really care about how the listener feels when they listen to my record, and I really care about what they can take from it. It’s a time and place for all kinds of rap. I don’t just want to hear lyrical rap all day, it’s just that nowadays, it’s super saturated with not enough content. That’s when it becomes an issue, when no one is doing it. I just expect to be that voice. And not to diss anybody that’s not doing it, but just to be that change that I want to see.

What can we expect from your new EP at the top of the year?
It’s going to be amazing. I have a really great idea and a point that I’m trying to get across. I hope that I get it in on time. If I do get it in on time, the story is going to be great. The records I’m working on are great. I’m very excited to contribute these songs to hip-hop. I hope ya’ll are enjoying the “Heaven” single in the meantime.

Is there a name yet?
No, I’m bouncing back and forth between some names. I’ll have one soon though.

Any upcoming collabs?
Not at the moment, but you know, it is what it is.

Talk about the BET Cypher you did with Reason & Phora. Those are the homies.
Shout out to BET, everybody over there. Shout out to Jesse Collins too. I met him, great guy. Thank you BET for having me a part of your platform. It was a dope experience. It’s always been my dream to do the BET cypher. I rapped alongside the homies Casanova, Flawless, Phora, and Reason. All dope dudes. I just got there and gave it my all. I had a really long verse because that’s kind of what i’m known for. I’m known for going in there and giving my all. I got like a 20-minute freestyle of Youtube where I just kept going. It’s dope.

What is it you want fans to get from your story?
That being God-fearing is cool. There’s nothing wrong with being God-fearing and putting God first. I want fans to know that sink or swim is for the people, and it’s all about controlling your destiny. I got a lot of homies that came home from jail and they can’t get the careers they want. They giving up on themselves, but I told them to look in the mirror and ultimately tell yourself, “you can either sink or swim.” With knowing that, you can control your destiny. You could be anything you want to be, as long as you put God first.

Congrats on Roc Nation, talk about that journey.
The experience is amazing. I want to thank Jay, Biggs, everybody over there that made Roc Nation what it is today. That laid the foundation that I’m happy to be apart of. Benny, Nate, Orlando, Earl, Rell, everybody. All of my peoples over there, I be naming all day. But it’s an honor to be apart of a platform that really cares about the culture and sets the culture up. Sets other rappers to have ownership in this culture and keep it alive. I feel like I could really rap there, and they can appreciate the type of content that I can bring. It’s just an honor. I hope that I could contribute something half as great as what Jay and all of them contributed.

Have you met Jay Z yet?
I haven’t got to meet him yet. Every time I go to meet him, he just left or I left. But that’s good because I really only want to meet him when I’m really making my mark in the game. I kind of don’t want to be just this new guy, like “oh can I shake your hand?” I just really want to shake some stuff up, and then meet him at the proper time. So it’s no rush.

What is your take on the music industry?
As far as the business side? It’s all about great relationships. It’s all about working hard, keeping your word, keeping great relationships. Staying free of the bullshit and just doing your job. That’s all. As long as you do your job, stay low key, working, and keep great relationships, you can move around in this industry. A lot of people say it’s shaky which it is, but as long as you 100% straight and you know how to handle your business — you don’t go talking too much about the wrong things, you just come to do your job — you’ll be straight. That’s just how I move in life period. I been moving like that before I been in the industry, so I pretty much get along with everybody I do business with. It’s about just staying calm, being a boss, and doing it how you do.

What are some goals yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
Goals for myself is just learning how to connect to people. I’m really all about the people. My brand is for the people, and the music I make is for the people. Not too much to make them understand me, but learning how to understand them, so that I know how to bring forth my message. Because I’m somebody that puts God first. I press God in everything that I do. I just want to be there for the people and just steer them in the right direction. Before I leave this earth, I can leave behind something that I can be proud of, my family can be proud of. More importantly, so God can say “you did a good job.”

What did you do with your first check?
What did I do? I don’t even remember. I needed a new car. I have an ‘03 Altima that I finally put to rest. I bought a new car, something to move around in. I looked out for my management, I looked out for my folks and all that. I just sat on it, used it for studio.

How important is social media for your career?
Social media is such an amazing platform. This isn’t the day in age where we gotta ride state to state with CDs or tapes in our trunks. I can connect with so many people from all across the country and all across the world, all at the same time. They could all check out my single and my music video, I don’t have to be on TV for people to see my video. I can upload my own videos and post on my own social media, connect directly with my fans and talk to them.

It’s so personable. Before social media, you didn’t see all of your favorite artists until you watched TV or seen them on the news, or seen them in the newspaper. But I can pull out my phone right now and talk to my people, get my message across quick. It’s definitely important, and it’s created a lot of entrepreneurs where I’m from. Everybody can launch their business and be successful at it.

What’s a normal day in the life? Walk us through.
Honestly, I literally wake up at 6 or 7 every morning, before everyone else. I listen or write music for about 3 or 4 hours. Then I look up, and I realize I haven’t eaten. So I’m hungry and I just eat, and then I really just get back to music. Unless I go to the gym, which I haven’t been doing lately. I might go see my family, my little sister — she’s like my daughter, she loves me. My little brother, my mom, and all them. Pretty much, I just get right back to the music. That’s it.

3 things you need in the studio?
I definitely need my laptop. I would say a lot of coffee and tea, and hot wings.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
If I was not doing music, I would be an artist of some sort. I feel like when God creates artists, you’re not just an artist in one specific thing. If I wasn’t rapping, I’ll probably be painting, drawing, directing movies, acting. Anything that has to do with art, that I can create and get my ideas out.

What’s the best encounter you had with a fan?
I went in to Dominos and grabbed my hot wings, you know how I do. I ordered them over the phone. I went in, grabbed my hot wings from the girl and I left off. I was driving off and they called my phone back. She was just like, “Hey, was that you Shawn Smith?” I’m like, she really called me back. I don’t know how, she must have looked in the Caller ID.

That’s against company policy!
She violated the rules. I don’t know if she still got my number, because I be getting unknown calls a lot. I don’t know who they from, I dont be answering them.

Who’s the most played artist on your phone?
At the moment, I would say J. Cole. I listen to a lot of J. Cole, and Kendrick too. Love Kendrick.

Dream collab?
Jay Z, for sure. It’s going to happen, at the right time.

What advice do you have for an aspiring Shawn Smith?
Always put God first. Make sure you live in accordance to his plan and not your own. Try to live as free as you can. Think about how dope life would be to live with no boundaries, and really not care that you don’t got the most expensive clothes or that you’re not pleasing a certain type of people. Try to live life exactly how it would make you happy. Be as happy, be as free are you can, and create a bunch of art. Don’t be scared to shed your art and shed your light and your ideas. Don’t listen to people too much when it comes to creating art, because it has to come from you.

Anything else you want to let us know?
I just want to give a shout out to the whole Philadelphia man, and everybody that’s tuning in to me. Follow me at @shawnsmithstory on all platforms. I just want to give a shout out to all the youngins with a dream. Keep going. Sink or swim is your motivation, and we for the people.

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