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Sheff G on Starting from Scratch

One of the standout voices in Brooklyn drill speaks on the origins of Winners Circle, the late Pop Smoke, and the UK’s influence on New York.

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Sheff G is one of the artists credited with pioneering Brooklyn’s monumental drill movement, a sound that was set in motion by early 2010’s pioneers from Chicago like Cheif Keef, Lil Durk and countless others. The sound eventually made it’s way over to the UK, where the production changed up, implementing heavy 808s and birthing the sound what we associate with the drill genre today. Over the last few years, the genre has made its way back over to America, finding a home in Brooklyn with artists like Pop Smoke, Sheff G, Sleepy Hallow and Fivio Foreign at the helm.

Hailing from Flatbush, Sheff G and his label Winners Circle (Sleepy Hallow, Eli Fross, Great John) have positioned themselves as the new voices of Brooklyn street culture, racking up millions of streams on tracks like ‘No Suburban’, ‘Tip Toe’ and Sleepy Hallow’s mega-viral 2020 track ‘Deep End Freestyle’. Catching up over a zoom call between New York and Melbourne, we chat to Sheff G about the evolution of drill, the late Pop Smoke, and the origins of Winners Circle.

Sheff G what’s good, how you feeling?
Feeling good man.

How has this year been for you, it must be strange putting out music with everything else going on in the world?
Yeah, that’s a fact. Everything has been Gucci though so far. I’ve been chilling. We’re still able to move a little, not really an outside ting but studio and all that.

I wanted to take it back to the start, what was it like growing up in Flatbush? Did you grow up around music?
Yeah, I’m Caribbean you feel me so they would be playing Soca around the house and stuff like that but my cousins were in tune with the Brooklyn music and New York music period so they would be listening to Biggie, 50 Cent and all that shit so there was always a variety of music around.

When did you first become interested in rapping? Do you remember the first music you recorded?
The first song I ever recorded I think I called it Nightmare, we didn’t even drop that song because we were just playing around and shit. I was just flowing off the beat, just messing around. My homies were rapping so I would pull up to the studio with them.

I wanted to ask you about your label Winners Circle actually. What’s the best thing about being part of your own label?
Listen, Winners Circle let me tell you, man. Everybody plays their part like a two space, it’s one of the best teams out here, one of the best labels man and it’s our label. We started that from scratch, you heard. The whole team is winning that’s how we do it, everybody eating.

Brooklyn has found a distinctive sound with its own version of drill music and you are one of the people credited as being on that wave early. In your mind, how did the drill sound make its way over to New York?
That’s facts. You know, to us it started from Chicago so shout out to them—Lil Durk, Chief Keef, G Herbo and all them. So it really came over here to New York from us tuning in to YouTube and shit like that. It’s really all the drill producers who gave us the ability to go and pull those beats from YouTube and use them. That’s how we became in tune with it.

I know you were working with UK producers too, who took the foundations of the Chicago drill sound to a new place.
Definitely, the UK drill beats are very different. Those beats are just amazing, you feel me? It’s lit. The way they use the 808s and all that is crazy.

Is UK drill something you’re listening to heavy in New York?
Yeah, I be bumping the UK drill shit all the time you feel me. [Laughs] On god.

Are there any artists over there or that you’re messing with?
I fuck with Headie One’s music. Digga D’s music. Skepta. Central Cee. You know what’s crazy? I heard a lot of different lingo from the UK shit, but to me, what they say means the same thing as us but they just mention it differently. Just different ways of saying the same shit.

Have you heard any Australian drill?
Yeah, I think so. I think it was a group, are they called One Four? Yeah, I’ve seen One Four. They got some shit too!

What is your go-to bodega order?
Bacon, Egg and Cheese on a roll wit Ketchup and Mayonaise [Laughs] Don’t forget the Arizona, you heard? Watermelon Arizona.

On another note, I wanted to see you play at Rolling Loud when I was over there last year but the NYPD put pressure on the festival to cancel the sets of you and I think about a few other New York artists, including Pop Smoke.
Yeah, that’s right.

I’ve seen artists being indicted from things they’ve said on VladTV interviews. In the UK drill scene, artists have their songs removed from YouTube over certain lyrics and here in Australia drill artists’ tours have been cancelled. How does shit like that affect your career?
It’s like—when people don’t understand what’s going on and they aren’t involved, they could care less about you or how you’re feeding your family. They would rather than take it away from you every chance they get, you feel me? So that’s what that was about. It’s fucked up but that’s part of life. They are trying to take away our opportunities and our way out.

Can you talk to me about your friendship with Sleepy Hallow? Did you guys grow up together?
That’s my brother. Yeah, when we first met up we were supposed to be beefing and shit. We were supposed to jump him, but when we met him we realised that he was on our time and it was better to have him on our side type shit, you feel me? That’s how we first started fucking with each other and we’ve been brothers ever since. Every step we took together you feel me?

What’s the energy when you’re in the studio together?
It’s lit. Either I will start a track off and then Sleepy will hear it and jump on it, or he’ll start it off and I’ll pull up on it—just like ‘Tip Toe’, he started it off and I heard it and matched it you feel me? That’s how we keep it going.

I wanted to ask you about the late Pop Smoke for a moment, I know you guys were cool before he passed. What kind of relationship did you and Pop have? Is there anything you learned from being around him?
Pop was my mans, you feel me? RIP my son Pop. He was really motivational, my n*gga. Pop came from nothing, just like the rest of us and he showed the world what this drill music shit could do. I guess at the time, all the labels were scared to sign a drill artist and Pop really opened up a lot of doors and showed them that this shit could transcend.

Do you feel like you guys are carrying the torch now for Pop and for Brooklyn drill?
That’s a fact, we gonna keep his name alive forever. His name is going to be forever mentioned, every time.

So you’ve just dropped your new project Proud Of Me Now, what did you want to do with this new material?
I be listening to my fans, whatever they tell me they want I get it to ’em. You want some music? I got you. We’re going to have some drill music on it, some sad shit, motivational music. Every type of emotion for everybody to tune into.

There it is. Sheff G, appreciate you man.
You already know bro, appreciate you having me.

Follow Sheff G here for more and stream his new project Proud Of Me Now below.


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