Introducing ‘Notes from Mr. Sandman‘ – a column slapping a spotlight on lyricists overlooked, under appreciated, or just plain criminally slept on. Or like a man named Nas once said, “I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death.” Enter Mr. Sandman with what y’all missed while chasing the REM dragon. This week we bring you a special Q&A edition with Detroit’s Guilty Simpson.
Detroit born and bred, Guilty Simpson is all business. He’s tactful and professional, always honest and as hard-hitting as a Rick Mahorn elbow. Two solid studio albums to speak of both of which capture ghetto life like he were a graduate of Iceberg Slim University. But what separates him from other like-minded artists is his delivery: forged in Motor City steel, all Detroit and as much a part of the city as the Bad Boys.
He’s never gotten the love he deserves, but has a place among those who can appreciate rap with substance. The need for O.J. Simpson 2 is paramount especially when there are others with half the talent promoting the same style. And while the album may be some time away, we thought it’d be worth it to catch up with Guilty (via email) to talk about past works, the future of O.J. Simpson 2 and rap culture as a whole.
Ode to the Ghetto. Classic. But as odes go they can be challenging in that you have to come correct. What were some of the biggest obstacles – if any – when you penned it?
Getting tracks from various producers. Getting the tracks were easy it’s about trying to make the project cohesive, so I had to listen for tracks that complimented previous tracks I heard. Not a fan of that at all. That’s why most of my projects now are with one producer or a production team.
“Pigs” is just as poignant today as it was when you wrote it. What do you have to say to those that think that those lyrics aren’t constructive or telling in any way?
They probably aren’t where I’m from. Not even Detroit so to speak, I mean the inner-city. Cops harassed us for existing when I was younger, we had to prove we belonged wherever we were. It still holds true to this day and I’m not sure it will ever change. I hope so.
What do you think about other rappers out there (like Chief Keef) and their portrayal of the ghetto?
That’s their reality. Even if the music isn’t for me particularly, I can relate to the struggle. I just wish some rappers took more pride in the presentation of their message. I’m not that far removed from my upbringing where I can’t understand why certain street music has an audience. I like some of the music myself I just don’t agree, hip-hop not being on a balanced platform. It’s all kinds of hip-hop music that touches many topics. It’s just not given a fair shot.
There’s been some instances in the court of law where some prosecutors tried using rap lyrics as evidence. Thoughts?
It’s wack to me. Unless they have real proof it’s totally unfair. I write hardcore lyrics, I’d hate for someone to pin murder on me because I speak of a murder through song. Sounds like lazy cop work to me.
Any info on O.J. Simpson 2?
No news yet but I’m working. Hopefully we can get it done soon. If you see Madlib ask him that question, ha.
I know you’re a big sports fan and when I listen to O.J. Simpson you remind me of – to use another athlete/sport – a young George Foreman: patient and methodical but with hella power. What other athlete do you think best embodies your style and why?
I’d say somebody like Ray Lewis. All about winning. If I happen to look good in the process that’s cool but I want to win! When I wasn’t the focal point of the crew I rapped with, I still waved the flag for the crew. I just want myself and those around me to achieve.