To celebrate 20 years of The Hip Hop Project we look back on some of the best moments from the longest running mix show in the country. By CosmRoks (The Voice of The Hip Hop Project, 1998-2010)
Around this time ten years ago I received an .mp3 from a friend that would begin one of the best times of my life both personally and professionally. The friend was Manos and the song was called “Autobiography” from an artist named Sham God. I loved everything about the song. Production was dope and the voice was new to me (even though heads knew Sham for a while already). It was grimey and soulful at the same time, with sharp punchlines and metaphors. An instant THHP banger.
I remember I had just bought my Technics CDJ turntable with the backpay I received from my job after I had an appendectomy (should have appreciated insurance more back then). I gave the song a lot of love on radio, mixtapes, and at parties thanks to this new technology.
Being able to mix CD’s like vinyl allowed me to stand out from the crowd as a DJ in the days before Serato. Naturally, I started cranking out mixtapes to get the THHP name out and I began to establish my sound as a DJ. I needed to hear more from this cat Sham God. I remember seeing him perform at the local spots and he had this mixtape where he spit original songs over Jay-Z’s “Black Album”. Naturally it was called “The Po Black Album”. It only reinforced the idea that I needed to collab with this dude. The feeling between Sham and I was mutual and we were off.
Manos was living in Boston at the time, and we spoke a lot over AOL Instant Messenger (I don’t think I’ve thought of AIM for a decade). It was dope because he could play me beats he was working on. He was sending me some heat and I was really excited about this project. This would be my first time working directly with artists during in the recording process, so it was very new to me. We started by recorded a couple songs at DNA Studios up in Rogers Park, which DNA also produced. Also at the session was Ogun. He was such an important part of the project, he made dope beats and we already knew each other from back in the day. He was the driving force behind Sham’s “Stealing Money” LP (an underground classic that never got the shine it deserved). I remember reaching out to a lot of producers I wanted Sham to collab with. One of the first to bring something to the table was Doc West of Single Minded Pros. I really looked up to Rude and Doc West (still do) and I was glad to have Doc contribute the first real song which was called “I don’t have to go that far”. It featured a great vocal sample of Kool G Rap from “Truly Yours” and it was just a fun record. It basically became the first single used to promote the mixtape.
We did the majority of the original songs at Franco De Leon’s studio. It was a really nice vibe there on Milwaukee Avenue and Lawrence. Selfish from Green Llama came through, Doc West came through and redid the beats on his MPC, even Chicago/Scribble Jam legend DJ Presyce laced us with a beat. I was thrilled to be involved in the process. This is where I also learned about the concept of booking studio time and mixing and mastering costs. I learned that if you don’t have your sh*t together, you could be out of money QUICKLY. Franco was so professional and efficient. He did a great job with everything.
We decided to title the mix “The Fear of God”. This was years before the Pusha T tape of the same name. Then Sham decided to change his name to Danny S. I loved the artwork and the title too much, so I said “F it” and ended up putting “Sham God aka Danny S”.
We ended up doing the release party at The Note. Anyone who remembers that spot knows it was the perfect venue to do a show like that. In my eyes, the project was a success. The strength of the tape allowed us to perform at additional live shows, including Chicago Rocks. THHP has had the privilege of working with many talented MC’s with varying degrees of success, but we always worked with who WE thought was dope. “Tastemakers” (hate that word) may have not always agreed with us (don’t care) and I’m still proud that we never compromised over the years. I haven’t spoken to Sham in years but working on that project was an experience I will never forget.