Sab the Artist: My approach today is much more curated

Sab the Artist: My approach today is much more curated
Photo by Dan Monick

Twin Cities hip-hop legend Sab the Artist (formerly Musab and Beyond) is back with The Revival, his first official release in six years. Entirely produced by Big Jess of the Unknown Prophets, the EP is the second release from The Fifth Element Record Store's digital distribution. Gimme Noise spoke to Sab about his relationship with Jess, his time releasing music elsewhere in the mid-2000s and whether he's been misunderstood as an artist.

The entirety of The Revival is produced by Big Jess of The Unknown Prophets. Do you recall your first time meeting Big Jess?

I used to hear Unknown Prophets songs on "Rush It or Flush It," so I was familiar with their music before I met him. I'm pretty sure I met him when he came to Fifth Element a day I was there, and I was like "Oh, you're the guy who's doing that dope music? Tight!" It was pretty funny, we joked about it. That was sometime in probably 2000.

From there, did you start making tracks immediately?

Pretty much. Jess and I have actually made a lot of music together that no one's ever heard. Around the time we were making Respect the Life, Jess and I made a lot of songs together. Only one song made the record, but we recorded 30-40 songs together. None of the other songs ever came out, which is a shame because we made some pretty dope songs together.

Is the writing process different for you in terms of working on an album with one producer as opposed to a series of different producers?

Yeah, it is different for me. My focus is different. Back then I was running around from the street into the studio and just making the song. My approach today is much more curated. I don't make songs any more just to be making them. My focus in life now is different. It's about marinating now and focusing on it. A lot of it is experience and knowing where I want it to go.

The Revival came together with Jess because he had asked me to do a song for his Honorable Mentions compilations. I said "Yeah, OK, why don't you just send me some music and we'll see where we can go?" He sent me some songs and the songs started coming out good, so I said "Let's do the project."

Given your approach to making songs now, do you ever have the concept before you hear the production or are the lyrics entirely inspired by the beats?

How I write, I'm a songwriter. I don't just write rap songs, I write adult contemporary as well. I love working with musicians. It works best for me if you can place the words over the music. If you aren't doing that, you're a poet. No disrespect to poets, but it's an entirely different artform to writing songs.

In the mid-2000s, you put out Slick's Box with Hieroglyphics and then self-released your music for a while. With The Revival out now on Fifth Element Digital, what lead to your choice to release music through such different channels?

Well, it's a part of growth for me since 2007. I wanted to explore the other avenues. I was traveling, and for me, when I travel I'm a peacock. I love to explore and soak up environments. It made sense to work with Hiero, I learned a lot and made some good friends in the process. As far as releasing music on my own, that was just me playing around artistically. I consider The Revival my first official release since Slick's Box.

Recently on Twitter, you tweeted the phrase "stop grouping me in with those other dudes." Was that a reference to anything musically? Do you feel that you're misunderstood?

That wasn't related to anything musically. That was more in relation to Father's Day. I got a thing with Father's Day, why is it the only holiday where people are like "Happy Father's Day to all the REAL Fathers?" Why not just say "Happy Father's Day?" To me, that's like saying "Merry Christmas to only the NICE kids!"

But musically, that's a good question. I guess I have been misunderstood musically. I think the people who "get it," get it, and that's my main focus as this point. I'm just an artist, I can't be anything else. I know that's hard to box in and how the industry works. I think people like to relate and have a problem with things when "OK, this guy made this song and it kind of sounds ignorant, but then he did this song and it sounds really beautiful and inspiring." The music industry doesn't cater to artists like that, they need to wrap-it-up like a piece of candy. I can understand that as a businessman, but I'll never let it affect my art.

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