Sab the Artist on Respect the Life's 10th anniversary

Sab the Artist
Sab the Artist

This month marks ten years since the release of Twin Cities hip-hop veteran Sab the Artist's Respect the Life on Rhymesayers Entertainment. Known then as Musab (and before that as Beyond), his album both captured the Southside sound as well as introduced production and stylistic elements that proved to be years ahead of their time. We spoke to Sab about the making of the album as well as how he feels about it a decade later.

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You put out your debut album, Comparison, under the name Beyond. What made you decide to change you name to Musab?

When we started to travel, I started to run into a lot of guys who had some form of the [same] name. I remember Styles of Beyond, and what not. Originality has always been a big focal point, and I was growing out of Beyond. I wanted a name that suit me best, and Musab, that's my real name. Tupac goes by his real name, I'd go by mine too.

Your first release as Musab was the Actin' Rich EP at a time in indie hip-hop when one could sustain oneself just putting out singles. What made it seem like the right time to do another album?

Well, I think that was a label decision on my part. I was running around, and that's what those albums reflect. Being from the Midwest in Minneapolis, we did what we did, and everything we did was different. For that first [single], we had just gotten our first deal with Fat Beats Records, and I think vinyl was all they were doing at the time. I had been working on Respect the Life for two years, and really wanted to put out something that wasn't done in our area. Indie rap was developing a particular kind of sound with Living Legends on the West Coast and Def Jux on the East Coast. I wanted to do something different, and that's how that developed.

So, you were working on Respect the Life prior to Actin' Rich?

Right, those songs were all done around the same time, and we had ten songs, so we went with the three that became Actin' Rich.

Was keeping those songs off of Respect the Life a legal or artistic choice?

I think it was pretty much artistic, but honestly I wish it were done a little different. I feel those projects were a bit rushed because we were working on a deadline. If you listen to "Actin' Rich," the bass line's a little distorted. I think it was a deadline thing.

Was it much different recording 1996's Comparison, the Twin Cities' first locally independently released hip-hop CD, compared to working on Respect the Life?

Not for me. It was different in the feeling of it all. Back in '96, it was a big deal to be putting out a CD, you just couldn't burn a disc back then. Respect the Life was more so, to me, a bridge album. That's when we first started working with Jake One. Ali actually did five beats on there. It spawned a lot of things from that. But the writing was fairly similar. Back in the Comparison days, it was just me and Ant who came into Rhymesayers together. I would go over every Sunday and Wednesday and record as many songs as possible in the basement.


Sab the Artist AKA Musab
Sab the Artist AKA Musab

The first track on Respect the Life begins with the thank you's and sounds as if you recorded it last. Was the album largely made out-of-order?

It was out-of-order and we did make that track last. It was natural, and what made it really natural was I would live my life and go into the studio immediately after. And Respect the Life was the first time we went into a big studio to record the final versions, and that was different for me as well. That was a big deal for me.

You mentioned on the album it was "A Prelude to Southside Accent." Were there plans for that to be an immediate follow-up album?

Exactly. I had all these songs and I was telling, almost a blaxploitation story on record. They were supposed to follow up. Actin' Rich was the first, and then Southside Accent was supposed to come. All those songs, no-one's ever heard. That album got done.

With the release of the album so close to Atmosphere's Godlovesugly, do you feel Respect the Life benefitted from Rhymesayers' raised profile nationwide?

Ummm, I don't know. I made that album from back home, I was really making music for South Minneapolis. Even now that I don't live in Minnesota anymore, people know about it, but back home people really know about it. I don't know if that helped that particular record. I'm sure is has, I don't see how it couldn't.

Who did the Professor X impression on "What Time is It?"

That was Brother Ali. He did a great job on that.

Ten years later, how do feel about the album now? Is there anything you would change about it?

I wouldn't change anything about it. I, personally, think that album was ahead of its time. I didn't think that back then, but I'm hearing music come out nowadays that's along the same stream of that. We were part of a climate like Rawkus Records and, looking back, this album stood on its own. I'm very proud of that.

Sab the Artist can be reached on Twitter @SabTheArtist

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