Interview With Sup The Chemist
Getting His Reaction
For nearly two decades, Sup the Chemist has been a force to reckon with in the holy hip hop industry.
interview by Brenda M. Ingram II ó
As one of the generals in the genre, his innovative style and longevity continues to intrigue both Gospel and mainstream listeners alike, demonstrating that his ingenius ability is timeless.
Gospelflava.com spoke with this founder and giant of holy hip hop in this exclusive interview.
GospelFlava.com: Who or what got you started in rap? Was the art of rapping first a hobby for you that then developed into a career? And who are some of your major influences that encouraged you to rap?
Sup: Well, my influences are considered as old school greats now: Double Trouble, RUN DMC, EPMD.
John Coltrane is another. There were really no Christian rap artists back then. I also am heavily influenced by reggae and dancehall music as well. This mainstream group by the name of Freestyle Fellowship has some of the tightest flows I've ever heard and I get some inspiration from them.
Sup: I actually started out as a DJ, but when all my equipment was stolen, I tried my hand in rhyming. I wrote my first rhyme in 1984 and came out with a group called The Chemistry Crew. The name came about due to a formula we tried to produce in our music. We wanted to feel the beat and then capture that feeling in the music.
GospelFlava.com: Most people don't know the origin of the name "Sup the Chemist". Can you give some background information on the "AKA" to way back in the days of Super C and explain where you got the name "Sup" and how "the Chemist" became a permanent part of your alias?
Sup: Actually, Super C was the alias back in the day. It stood for 'SUP Everyday Remembering Christ'.
An interesting fact about me is that I love clam chowder. I would be on the school bus when I was a kid and while everybody had their potato chips or candy, I'd whip out my can of clam chowder. They called me Soup. That name stuck with me; I dropped the "o" and just kept "Sup" (pronounced "soup").
As for the Chemist part, in science, chemistry causes a reaction. I wanted to be a musical scientist or chemist so to speak. When my lyrics hit the ears, a reaction occurs. So that's how that came about.
GospelFlava.com: You had a group called SFC (Soldiers For Christ) back in the day. Whatever happened to it, and will there ever be a reunion album?
Sup:Yes, I had a group named Soldiers For Christ. We all went our separate ways and are doing our own things now. I would like to make a reunion album if possible.
GospelFlava.com: How many albums have you recorded? What is your favorite "Sup" song and album, and what is the most controversial song you ever wrote?
I released a total of five albums so far. My favorite out of all five would be my most current one, Dust. Artistically and musically, itís on a different level.
Itís also special because I had a chance to work with Gene Eugene (owner of first Christian rap label and pioneer producer) for the last time before he passed away [in 2000]. I like the song "Language of Imagination" from that album because it has that interesting movie effect, storyline, and an unheard of beat that's original.
The most controversial song I ever wrote is called "Kill The Spirit" from my third album, because it addressed some issues in the Black community that seemed taboo back them.
GospelFlava.com: Will there ever be a greatest hits album?
Sup: There maybe one out. It depends on the label's decision.
GospelFlava.com: Who are some of the artists that you worked with over the years?
Sup: Let's see. I have a whole crew that I rocked with. PID, Dynamic Twins, Freedom of Soul, Ahmad from 4th Ave. Jones, Brainwash Projects, L.A. Symphony, LPG and the list goes on.
GospelFlava.com: How do you think that your music has developed over the past decade? You show no signs of slowing down or retiring your mic; is there another album that you are concocting in the lab?
Sup: My music changes with time. I'm like a Van Gogh or Picasso, I illustrate what I feel.
Although there is another album that I would like to release, Dust may be my final album. There is a great possibility that I will be retiring my mic soon. It would be hard for me to walk away from rap though. I would still have my presence known through musical production when I do retire the mic. I would have to say that I am glad to be a pioneer of holy hip hop and am honored to be able to have contributed to it.
Dust is an album that belongs in any hip-hop addict's collection. With throw-off styles, play on words that Sup is famous for, and guest artists that spark the album, it's already a classic, even though it was released in January 2000.
Click the above album image to read the CD review.
GospelFlava.com:Being a general in this rap game, what are some of the "battle scars" (trials) you have encountered over the years?
Sup: Over the years, I faced some obstacles in the Gospel market. I had a whole crew that would rock stages at sold out concerts when I first started out. I would have to say that the worst battle scars are the ones inflicted by your own. When the very ones you help forget all about you when they make it.
GospelFlava.com:What advice would you give to any aspiring rap artist or novice of the art hoping to nab a contract and display their skills?
Sup: Always study the industry. Know about what you are getting into before you step into it.
Don't just rap because you think you have talent, a decision to join the rap industry shouldn't be based on emotions. You should understand the industry in depthly before naming your claim to fame. Learn how to represent yourself. Lastly, respect others and never think that you are above anyone.
GospelFlava.com:You have your own record company now. What is the name of it? Why did you feel it was imperative to start your own company?
Sup: Beesyde Records was started because I wanted to do my music the way I felt I should and not be restricted. Basically, in the secular world, most of the risky songs are placed on the "B" side of an album. It was a risk for me so I named it Beesyde.
GospelFlava.com:Do you think that holy hip hop is here to stay or just a passing fad?
Sup: Of course. I believe that hip hop as a whole is here to stay. People are embracing hip hop even more these days. Holy hip hop may be a different style, but it is still hip hop.
GospelFlava.com: Your sound and your flow are very particular like no other. Where do you get inspiration to flow lyrically?
Sup: I capture a pattern. There is no set pattern for a saxophone player, but when he plays he creates one. I love to listen to jazz for inspiration to flow lyrically.
GospelFlava.com:Where do you get the energy and passion to write your lyrics?
Sup: I am motivated by things that happen in nature. I'll sit at the beach and look at the ocean at how God could create such an awesome wonder. This huge amount of flowing water that just barely touches the shore; it's like He put up this invisible wall that holds the water back from destroying the whole earth. That serves as inspiration to me.
GospelFlava.com:Describe a full length "Sup the Chemist" concert.
Sup: Well, I have a whole bag of goodies. It depends on the mood of the crowd. If the crowd is hype, I'll come out with the whole entourage...the lab coat, gas mask, and some other interesting gadgets. It varies at each concert.
GospelFlava.com:Why do you think that others have not lasted in holy hip hop?
Sup: They haven't mastered the art of humility. There are times that cats think that they are superstars and don't need people. Know that the industry plays a vital part in surviving and staying strong! A good rapport with people is also necessary. Some have "burned their bridges" so to speak and have lost ground that they can never recover due to the way they handle business.
GospelFlava.com:If you weren't a rapper, what would you be?
Sup: I want to own group homes and help kids. Also I owned my own catering business that did quite well back in the day as well. I think I would be a lucrative business man if I weren't in the rap industry.
GospelFlava.com:What can we look forward to in the next decade from Sup the Chemist?
Sup: I have a few books I want to put out. I want to try my talents in the movie industry and already have a full length script. You can look forward to Sup the Chemist's signature in producing beats for multiple artists as well.
Sup is a very real and a very intense brother. For his next project, this pioneer is launching out on his own. In what may well be his final album, Sup is putting together a 14-tracker for his own Beesyde Records, titled Eargasmic Arrangements, set to feature collaborations with artists such as Joey The Jerk, Sherlock Poems, Cookbook, Pigeon John, DJ Gabe Real and DJ Babu. Slated for a spring 2002 release, Sup says that he will not compromise on lyrics, but that the project will have more of a mainstream feel to it.
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