Chicago transplant Longshot has been rapping for 11 some years and has started making an imprint on the Minneapolis rap scene since moving here in 2009. Continuing his steady trend of quality releases, his latest, Instant 4 Eternity, is being celebrated at Cause this Saturday. Gimme Noise caught up with Longshot to get a look into his process.
You've got an innate ability to match your flow to some left-field beats, and you tend to pick a range of styles to write over.
I don't want to be pigeonholed into just one type of shit. I have these different emotions and feelings. Sometimes I wanna dance, so I'm gonna put out a dance record. Sometimes I want to be gully, so I'm gonna put out some gangsta shit. Sometimes I want to be super lyrical, so I'm gonna get on that ass with some rhymes. I call myself "The Beat Whisperer," these beats talk to me. I hear sounds and I hear a melody and those melodies turn into words. [Slug] made the comment [about one of my songs], "You sound like Nas and Nicki Minaj had a baby, and it's you. You're saying important shit with this carefree swagger." That's what I try and capture. A lot of times you can fuck up an instrumental. Rappers fuck up beats. When you hear a [Longshot] project, you're gonna hear someone who took the time with every single line, whether I wrote that song in 15 minutes or a day. To find it could take a week, it could take 30 seconds. Let that shit talk to you. Don't force it. I ain't never had writer's block ever in my life, because it comes to me. This shit's therapy. It's like being able to talk to someone, but I'm talking to this mic.
Your lead single "Weak" with Lazerbeak and Rachel Jihan really captures that idea well; it's not just a song about domestic abuse, it relates your own experience with it as a child.
If you listen to the second verse -- "I saw my mama get smacked while she was in a wheelchair" -- that's a real image and event that went on in my life. Again, I know these kids, these people, these women, are going through that shit. Seriously, somebody, let's do something about this. My mom had me when she was 17. We got taken away from her when I was 8; she had six kids in between that time. She was about 25 with six kids, single mom. She would literally tell me everything she was doing. She would smoke dope all the time, heroin. She would nod off, and as a little kid I wouldn't know what she was doing. I was like, "You look like you're dead, are you hurting yourself?" She'd say, "No, I'm not hurting myself, let me show you exactly what I'm doing..." Broke down the dope, cooked down the dope, but "don't you ever do this." She would be so staunch about not playing with needles and making sure my little brothers wasn't. That was how I was raised, I was raised a little man. That's how I go about the music and the things I talk about.
I'm not gonna sugarcoat nothing. Everybody struggles, it's about what you do with that struggle, how you overcome that struggle. That's how I define my sound. It's talking about real shit and then talking about overcoming that. That's been my approach from day one. Being what you were meant to be. Beating the struggle, beating the odds. I'm a Southside black male from Chicago, mama on dope, daddy never around... I shouldn't be here. Living the life that I've led and being exposed to what I've been exposed to, I was forced early to deal with all these emotions early on. All these different things that I didn't know how to really put into words until I was old enough to do it. If you haven't seen your mom get beat up, I don't think anyone else could make that song "Weak" on that same level. I have a story to tell, and it's a story that needs to be heard.
What's different about living and rapping in Minneapolis versus Chicago?
Chicago's a scene that's really divided. It's such a huge city, I don't know if that accounts for it, but motherfuckers don't fuck with motherfuckers in Chicago. It's so cliquey; I'm not helping you, I'm helping myself. Our big stars are Kanye, Lupe, Common, they don't live there. When I did that project Civil War [in 2005], I co-produced and co-wrote 30 songs, and tried to get as many rappers and DJs on this shit as I could, from all walks of the city, all different styles. I had people on there that had not worked together, groups that broke up and got back together for this project, and then I filmed the whole thing into a little documentary. I've had this vision that I want to build myself up, but also build that for Chicago. I want to be one of the reasons why Chicago makes that leap in terms of creating a solid scene. I will never stop that as one of my goals, even being here in Minneapolis. We're fighting with each other, when we should be working with each other and making ourselves a better scene. We're the last scene to develop out of all the major cities for this hip-hop shit. That's insane. Chicago, we got four million people here and we can't come up with one Rhymesayers? We should have four Rhymesayers!
I came to Minneapolis because I wanted to turn my single deal with Rhymesayers into an album deal. Ultimately, that didn't work out, and before I even came I said that wasn't what was going to make me successful here. What was going to make this a successful trip was if I came back with some type of business model or some sense of how to really build a scene. That's what I'm here learning, just trying to be a sponge. I've been able to call up or sit down with Kevin Beacham, or Siddiq, or Slug, or Ant, or P.O.S., or Mictlan; it's so invaluable. I had a relationship with these dudes before I came up here, through touring with Psalm One, and just the good fortune of having these guys like my music and interested in what I'm doing. Especially Slug, I respect him as an artist and as a man. What he's done for Minneapolis hip-hop is unparalleled, besides Prince or Jimmy Jam. Another dude I've come to know and see in that same light is P.O.S. He's on that same path as Slug, I feel like, in terms of being a stalwart in the scene, and also being someone who takes people under his wing. Building a brand, building a business. That's what I want to build, that's what I'm trying to learn. I'm so blessed and lucky to be able to do that. I want to do it independently because I know it can be done.
Catch Longshot this Saturday at Cause for the Instant 4 Eternity release party, with Duenday, the Level Heads. and Big Dylan and Yakub; hosted by Toki Wright. Doors 9 p.m., show 10 p.m., $7, 21+