STS IS GOLD: The Last Poet
STS IS GOLD explains the meaning behind his name, his “Demand More” mixtape series and why his contribution to the Hip-Hop game makes him indispensable.
Words & Interview: Aimstar
Remember that cat you went to school with who was just nice on the flow and ill on the lyricism? You always wondered why he always shut down the cyphers but never considered being a rapper. You knew for sure, had he or if he did, he would undoubtedly win. Sure, the game is not for everyone, but for STS Is Gold, which stands for Sugar Tongue Slim, a poem he penned and delivered freely back in the day, the dream is just beginning.
We caught up with STS on one of his many runs to his favorite TJ Maxx in Atlanta, the one he says is very special (like “TJ Maxx meets Rodeo Drive” he says) as he talks influences, his projects and poetry slams.
So did you perform at poetry slams back in the day?
Yeah, I was the best! I was the best! Slams, The Nuyorican [in New York City]—all that stuff. I did the National Poetry Slam. I used to live off them things. I still, every now and then, do a slam.
Let’s talk about how you’ve got heads buzzing. I know that sounds cliche these days because people use that phrase so much now. But you really do have people talking because your delivery is crazy. How does it make you feel being compared to true lyricists for your rhyme skills, when a lot of newcomers are compared to folks for different reasons?
I’m happy people get it. The thing is I always wanted to be a writer. Like when I sit down and write, I have to get myself to mentally understand that I have to rap this. Like if you take some of my verses and slow them down, people will see that I can spit them things at a poetry slam and people would go crazy because it’s just the writing of the thing.
I co-wrote Ciara’s “Oh”, that song with Ludacris, and [before that song] I [had] never wrote a song in my life. [I] Sat down and told me, “Yo, you could write a song”, and I wrote the song. I just believe that I can write, which gives me a stand. You look at most other [new] rappers, to rap they listen to other rappers to get all their cadences and all that stuff. But I take it deeper cause like I read what [other] writers have said, and [writing my own lyrics and knowing how to perform them my way] gives me that extra edge.
And when it’s time for me to really go in and work on a project, before I turn everything off, I go to my classic rappers [for inspiration] like B.I.G., Nas, Jay-Z, Outkast, you know what I’m saying. That’s where I draw my energy from because that’s who I lyrically compare myself to. I hope people compare me to people like that cause that’s where I want to be and who I want to be compared to, you know.
Of the artists that you just mentioned (the ones who are still alive), are there plans to work with any of them?
Aw man, I’d love to work with Outkast, that would be a dream come true.
A dream for Atlanta period…
Yeah, being from Atlanta I gotta work with the root. And being in Philly all these years, working with The Roots was one of those dreams. Now if I get Outkast, I’m a rapper then.
How did you end up working with Black Thought and becoming a member of his Money Making Jam Boys?
He heard some stuff from my manager who is cool with their [The Roots'] manager. He passed the music off to Black Thought. Black Thought heard it and he called my man Truck North that night. He was telling Truck about me, saying he wanted to meet me. Truck already knew me, so Truck told me to come out to the studio. I went down to the studio that night. We started recording; We did “Ill Street Blues” [Kool G Rap & DJ Polo remake] that night and I became a Jam boy.
From there it just kept going. They had me work on The Roots’ album, How I Got Over, and they put me on that joint. Two times.
So what does the Gold in your name stand for?
GOLD is for Gentlemen of Leisure in Development. That’s my whole crew, we GOLD—Gentlemen of Leisure in Development. That was started back in the day with me and my man Cornbread. We were trying to figure out something to call ourselves and we had already gotten Gentlemen of Leisure. Then we were like, “Man, what the hell are we gonna call the D?” Development…to give it some class, like we’re trying to do something.
Artist development is pretty much nonexistent these days. Do you feel development is necessary?
Financially, it’s not worth it for the labels. Is it worth it artistically? Yeah. I look at my life and everything that I went through, like all the different people that I’ve learned from, it was my path and it made me the artist that I am. I guess life has been my artist development.
But if you’re given somebody to tell you what you need to pay attention to and that kind of stuff, I think it [development] could move faster. It’s a thing that just gone cause record companies are not making that much money and it’s something that you can cut because of the Internet. Artist development is what the Internet is now, like your own personal A&R.
So would you say your development happened in the slams or on the Internet?
After doing slams and stuff, we used to have this mixtape store in Philly down on 11th Street between Chestnut and Market. Every rapper in Philly used to come down there because we had a booth in the store. We charged $25 and you could record your song. So I used to sit down with all the rappers from Philly—Beans, all of State Property, all of ‘em. Me and Peedi [Crakk] hanging out and that was the time when Southern Rap was really starting to takeover. So everyone wanted me to get on their track and act like Lil Jon or something. But I don’t scream, I’m not a good screamer. It’s not in my soul to scream.
So I would go on people’s tracks and just talk. They just wanted to hear me talk Southern talk—that pimp shit. Eventually people were like, you might as well just rap. I started rapping in there and then through poetry, I got hooked up with Def Poetry with Black Ice. Black Ice hooked me up with Jazzy Jeff. I was sitting there working with Jazz and he had this rapper who said, “I heard you can rap…” Jazz, who was working on a beat, played the beat and told me to rap. I started rapping and Jazz was like, “Get in the booth.” From Jeff, I started working with Dre and Vidal, and I just kept going.
We did a deal with Def Jam at that time but I wasn’t rapping how I do now. It was all about pimps and hoes. It was what people thought would sell, but then I went back in with this new stuff like Demand More. My best friend T had died and he used to always tell me, “Once you figure out how to fuse the poetry with the rapping, yo, you’ll be great.” It took me a while to figure out, but that’s what you got now. That was my artist development.
Is your Demand More mixtape series about demanding better lyricism?
That’s where it came from. We were doing songs, people would listen and we’re taking them to A&R’s and they’d be like, “Hmmm, you can rap but I don’t hear a hit.” We’d be like, ‘Yo, you just said I could rap. What part of Hip-Hop is that?’ So we were like, ‘Yo, you’re not listening.’
Like you can’t tell me that every song that you hear is going to be a hit, like they know exactly what’s going to be a hit. Music speaks to people in different ways. It just made us mad. It was either us dumb down or we ask the fans to demand more. And we couldn’t dumb down…so we created Demand More and it became demand more from everything. I demand more from the producers I work with. I demand more from myself. Demand more from everything.
How did that idea resonate with people?
I think people started realizing that, for me personally, this kid can rap. I don’t think people were totally realizing like what’s really going on [in the industry overall].
It is a mixtape series that I’m going to keep going with, but it’s also the reason why I did the project The Illustrious. It features full songs and shows you that not only can I rap, but when it’s time to sell music, I got that too.
What do you think is your weight in gold?
You know what, I was watching something the other day and we started talking about gold and its worth. At the end of the day, we try to collect all of this gold just in case the economy falls to shit. My thing was, if the economy falls to shit, is gold gonna be really worth that much? Wouldn’t food be more valuable? It’s just a thought of mine…just cause you brought that up.
But me personally, my weight in gold? I don’t know, I couldn’t tell you. What’s gold going for right now? $16 an ounce or something? [Laughs] A lot, a whole lot and I’m going to make the industry pay.
Images courtesy of STS Is Gold.