Q+A: Beanie Sigel
The Broad Street Bully breaks down hip-hop and hoops with SLAMonline.
by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
Let’s take a trip down memory lane…
A decade ago, Roc-A-Fella Records was running the rap game. Jay-Z was putting out hit records and building toward present day’s mogul status. Kanye West was quietly producing some of the hottest songs of the time while earning his stripes and gaining respect as a MC. Super producer Just Blaze was on a hot streak, seemingly pumping out a chart-topper every other week and providing groups like the Diplomats with an iconic sound that still makes ears perk up to this very day.
The Roc was on fire but there was a new, hungry MC hailing from Philly making the rounds and stealing the show on many of the crew’s now legendary posse cuts. That man was Beanie Sigel aka the Broad Street Bully aka Mack Mittens. More or less signed on the spot by Hov after spitting a few bars in front of him, Sigel was building quite the catalog and fans were clamoring for more from the aggressive MC. Beans was on top of the hip-hop world and with his State Property clique making waves of its own, it looked like the sky was the limit.
Unfortunately for Sigel, the demise of Roc-A-Fella sent him on a bumpy road and a fall from grace. While he was still putting out tremendous music, he couldn’t separate his rhymes from reality and found himself on the wrong end of the law on more than one occasion. A bitter feud with Jay-Z, a stint in the clink and drug and alcohol problems all led to a path of self destruction for Sigel.
Today, Sigel still faces the same issues that have plagued him throughout his whole career. One day after releasing his critically acclaimed album, This Time—another gem added to his already impressive catalog—he was arrested on gun and drug charges at a traffic stop in Pennsylvania. Add those charges to his already scheduled jail time for tax evasion and it seems as if this may be the end of the road for one of Philly’s most wanted. Fans will always be able to look back on Sigel’s music and rightly claim that he was one of the best to ever do it and can only hope that he will turn his life around and walk out of the pen a better man than he was when he went in.
SLAM: Coming from Philly, do you have a favorite Sixer of all time?
Beanie Sigel: A favorite Sixer of all time… It would have to be Mr. 76er himself, number 6, Dr. Julius Errrrrving! After that I would have to say The Answer—AI.
SLAM: Do you have a specific moment or defining moment that sticks out in your memory when you think about Dr. J?
BS: [Mimicking Erving’s legendary cradle dunk] When he cradled that joint… BOOM! I think that was better than going under the basket. When he took that joint, took that long stride, two step, cradled that joint and puffed on ‘em. That was real.
SLAM: What about Iverson?
BS: When he crossed over Michael Jordan and made Jordan stumble. I said, “Ooohhh!” The League tried to say he was carrying the ball, they had never seen that handle before [mimicking Iverson’s crossover] he sent Jordan to the other side of the court! The city hasn’t been the same since he left.
SLAM: They have a nice little buzz around them now with the Bynum signing…
BS: We finally have a big man, but we traded away a lot of players. Now we have to build a team around Bynum, is it worth it? What’s Jrue Holiday going to do? Is he going to step up and be a point guard or is he going to run the 2 because we have to find that option. Is he a pure shooter at the 2 or is someone else going to bring the ball up? With Bynum we have a nice center but we’re going to need a power forward and a small forward that’s going to be relevant to bang down in the paint with Bynum.
SLAM: They had a nice run last year, you don’t think they can build on that?
BS: Every player that the Sixers have ever traded away, they have gone somewhere else and did their thing.
SLAM: Who are you thinking of in particular?
BS: Tim Thomas, when he left to go to the Bucks [pauses] BALLIN’. Larry Hughes, when he stepped off to the Warriors [pauses] BALLIN’. Every time they got rid of somebody, they went somewhere else and started balling. The Sixers don’t know how to build a team.
SLAM: Do you think those guys were playing better when they left Philly because they weren’t feeling the pressure of the Philly fan base?
BS: Nah, it wasn’t that. You have to give a team time to grow. Jordan won six rings but look how long it took him to get his. They had to build a team around him, he didn’t get his rings when it was just him and Scottie. You had Horace Grant, Toni Kukoc coming through in the clutch, Ron Harper, Cartwright was banging the boards. They grabbed Dennis Rodman, he came through and they won some more chips. They built the team around Jordan, they didn’t get rid of the core, they built the team and started winning Championships.
SLAM: So you think the Sixers just need to patient?
BS: Yeah, everything starts with a foundation. If the foundation weak, the house is gonna fall. Our star is Andrew Bynum, he finally started playing with some heart last year for the Lakers, but before that he was soft. Now we have to build around Bynum and that’s going to take another two to three years.
SLAM: What about Ev Turner? They have a nice, young core to work with…
BS: They’re still just coming into the League. Look who they have to play, they have to go against Durant and them. They have to play against Kobe and them, they have to play against some young teams that got guns too like the Bulls. The Western Conference is looking crazy right now, they’re building some vicious teams.
SLAM: Aside from the Sixers, are there any other teams or players who you mess with?
BS: Yeah, Slim Peasy.
BS: That’s my nickname for Kevin Durant.
SLAM: Why do you call him that?
BS: Because his hair was peasy as shit when he came into the League. He was bony and he didn’t care and he’s unstoppable. That’s my favorite player right now: The Durantula. He got busy in the Olympics, he was killing them, just droppin’ threes. He had a point to prove, he thought was supposed to win the title. You got these young cats that are really coming in and balling, like him and Westbrook. What’s Jrue Holiday going to do against Westbrook? Nothing.
SLAM: Rappers are constantly making basketball references in their rhymes, what is the correlation between hoops and hip-hop?
BS: We like sports and you can use them. I make a couple sports references in my music.
SLAM: Do you draw inspiration from watching basketball?
BS: Yeah, when people are getting busy and getting in their zone, it’s similar to being in the zone in the booth when you can’t do nothing wrong. It’s like AI putting up points and dropping treys or Jordan running down the court like, “What do you want me to do? I’m on fire right now.”
SLAM: That’s how you feel when you’re blacking out in the booth?
BS: When I’m in the zone and I’m writing, everything just comes naturally. Or when you’re rhyming and you’re flowing crazy it’s like having an incredible handle. You’re playing with words and bringing them back, getting tricky with the wordplay and you leave ‘em right there and the rhyme patterns go off until you bring ‘em back. I’ll in-and-out you, cross you over, put you in the triple threat.
SLAM: Looking at your career as a whole, what do you want your legacy to be as an artist? How do you want people to remember Beanie Sigel?
BS: That’s a tough question ’cause I feel as though I still have more work to do. My legacy… A true MC that was always consistent and putting out great music that people can learn from—always dropped classic jewels. Classic verses. I’m a master of the triple and quadruple entendre. People do doubles but in my last album, if I was able to break down some of the lyrics and what I was really saying, you’d think, “Wow, that’s what you meant by that?”
I got one line that I used on The Solution that I know people never caught: [Rapping] “I know it’s been awhile since I left a stain on our brain and gave you some game that you can gain from. I’m here to end it now, break the cycle of this bullshit, same ol’ same that these lames run.”
Now, to normal people they’ll just look at it like I was saying it’s been awhile since I did a song or spit something for you to think about. But when you dig a little deeper, Staind was a rock group that had song called “It’s Been Awhile” that was the first single off their album Break the Cycle. So when you start digging you think, “Yoo, did you hear the way he was able to put that together?!” It comes so effortless to me. How I do it, I don’t know.
SLAM: You think you were born to do this?
BS: Yeah, it’s a gift. How I’m able to sit and think and put things together in the illest way and being able to get things from my brain to paper is crazy to me. Sometimes I’ll listen to something and think, that’s going to go over everybody’s head, if I don’t explain that, they’ll never understand.
Off of this album, I said, “I told ‘em one day I’d be big, shit’ll be gravy. Once I got the white girl sealed like the Navy.”
Now, when I said, “One day I’d be big, shit’ll be gravy,” Biggie Smalls was played by Gravy in the movie Notorious. “Once I got the white girl sealed like the Navy,” Seal, he was messing with Heidi Klum. See, people might not get that, it might go over their head a little bit.
SLAM: What can people expect off this album that’s different from your previous work?
BS: It’s just consistency, man. If you’re a true Beanie Sigel fan, it’s a consistent body of work, man. Real music that you can put in and ride to. Everyone else is in the club, jumping around and taking weird pills like molly and ecstasy and doing all types of freaky stuff and writing all over your face, this is grown folks’ music here. This is 30 and older music right here.