Big Sant. Smithe’s Old Bar. Atlanta, Georgia. 2014.
Name: Big Sant
Hometown: Meridian, Mississippi
Age You First Fell in Love: 15
Love Is: Ah. Love is, (laughs), I don’t know love is, I don’t know. Love is putting whatever you got- love is putting whatever it is above you. Above your own. . . you know, putting you next instead of first. No matter what it is. No matter if it’s for the love of the game. You know you finna go out there and Derrick Rose yourself and your knees hurting and you need all this service; but you love the game so much you put yourself at risk. Or whether it’s your woman, you know what I’m saying? Boom, boom. Like she’s a little extra, so I want to do it for her and I want her to have something so I don’t got to buy whatever it is for myself. Or for my kids, you know, I can shorten myself so they can have a little extra. That’s love.
Monique: Just listening to some of your songs, I know that you put out your freestyles and that you recently put out Strictly 4 My Sleeprz, but um, in your Throw Sum D’s freestyle, you mention- you talk a lot about being country in most of your songs. So how is being from Meridian, how has being from Mississippi influenced who you are, as a man, as a black man? What kind of influence has being from Meridian, Mississippi put on you?
Big Sant: Well, I think, probably just- well I guess we can break this down into tiers. Just being from Mississippi and being black is like this whole thing, you know what I’m saying? That’s a level of, a certain level of understanding about who you are and your culture when you live in the places where actual events took place. As opposed to hearing about it and reading it in a text-book. –
BS: Like you know, Medgar Evars is from where I’m from.
M: James Chaney.
BS: James Chaney and things like this. Once upon a time these were just men in a city- that had they lived long enough, they would be old ass people I know. And the mothers at our churches and my grandparents, they’ve seen, they’ve had contact with these people. So it’s more of a first hand experience. Just being from the country myself, I think my maturity level might be different, because thirty in a small town is like fifty in the big city.
M: (laughs) In what way? I just moved from Atlanta to Baton Rouge and so, you know, living in Atlanta, I thought “Ok, I live in the south.” But then I moved to Baton Rouge and it’s a way smaller town and I’m for real in the country.
BS: It’s way different.
M: Yeah, it’s so different. So, how is thirty like being fifty where you’re from?
BS: I mean, when you were younger, when you were a child and like you found out your dad was thirty-five, it seemed extra old. It didn’t seem like a young man. But now that we’re in our late twenties to early thirties, I don’t think our parents- well speaking from somebody who was raised in a small city, a small town, rather, I don’t think my parents or my grandparents were as active as I was- as I am now, when they were thirty-one. Like sure, you know they was probably still like drinking and partying, but you know, these were people with nine to fives, it was settle down time. You know when you’re younger they tell you like, thirty- it’s time to settle down. Like television is different. Like how old could Vivian Banks really be at the beginning of Fresh Prince? Like your oldest kid is in high school and you’ve been with your husband since college, so that makes you forty at the max, but those were like grown ups to us. You know what I mean? I don’t think we give off that same vibe, living in a big city, as opposed to me being a thirty-one year old-young man living in Meridian, Mississippi, probably with the [most full] or full-time job taking care of my family the same exact way.
M: Do you feel like being from a smaller town, do you feel especially again, like you’re saying, living in a place with the Medgar Evars and the James Chaneys, it’s just not something you read-that’s far off, there are people who are-they’re like your neighbor. Do you think that puts a different perspective on blackness being from a smaller town? Do you think maybe there’s a different idea, maybe from a person who’s perhaps from an Atlanta or New York?
BS: Maybe a person that was born in the late 7os early 80s in Atlanta could still appreciate the history that their city has. You know, Atlanta is a black city. But I think, for me, being in Meridian, Mississippi, I think maybe, yeah it definitely affected me because all the things that shock people, like as far as racism goes, or anything, all the things that are shocking that are still prominent and day-to-day where I live in my day-to-day life in Mississippi, more people in larger cities are more like, “Oh you know, it’s old we should get over it.” Where there are people in these small cities still going through that.
M: Right. It’s more prevalent.
BS: Racism is active, it’s extra active as opposed to, “Oh man, you know. It’s ok for your white homeboy to say ‘nigga’ it’s all good. That’s old, I’ve transcended, I don’t think like that.’ ” Whereas, I’m from the south south and that kinda don’t fly.
M: Now as far as that perspective goes, you talk a lot about your family and one thing that I notice that you talk about a lot, well not a lot, but you do mention-is religion, in your song Over and Over, the song produced by Slade da Monsta, you mention:
my prayers and the Lord keep me composed. you got an extra prayer, i’ma need it folk. cause being Big Sant is a heavy load
Did you grow up, being in the south, we talk a lot about religion. Religion is- we’re in the Bible Belt, was that something that was prevalent growing up?
BS: Absolutely. I was raised in the church, I was one of those kids that went to church six days a week, for something. Usher meeting, youth choir, mass choir, men’s choir, Boy Scouts, whatever.
BS: It’s almost like my grandparents ran the church. They had a key. I used to go down there and clean up.
M: Us too.
BS: I was in there, I was present (laughs). A lot of the things I didn’t appreciate when I was younger, the kind of spoon fed morals, where they’re telling you that this is the way you should do stuff, but they ain’t got no real reason why, a lot of that stuck with me and now that I’m older I understand it more. And like you know just living in the world we’re living in, it’s just hard. Rappers don’t- I’ve been a rapper so long that I remember people that I just saw, like I just saw David Banner on Tuesday and I shook his hand at JJ’s Record Mart, he remembered my name, I saw him again and then I turned my head, or I turn to the television and now he’s got a ten-million dollar deal for Universal. And I’m like, “Whoa, wait a minute! What just happened?”
M: (laughs) Right, life.
BS: I was a young man, a child, a boy. I was a boy when I was rapping. And it’s just that there’s more stress- I don’t know if there’s more stress-nobody has like, seven zeroes over my head, so I don’t know what that stress is like. But the stress of just trying to have something from nothing. I make words rhyme for a living, that’s how I keep the lights on by making words rhyme and sometimes that rap check [lost in translation] so, yeah I definitely get down on my knees when being Big Sant becomes so stressful, like “I gotta go out because I need to be seen.” Because the minute you take six months off, they’ll forget about you forever and replace you with somebody else. Just because they ain’t seen you. It ain’t even about dropping music, if I ain’t seen you, if you ain’t been out, I ain’t seen you in the club, I ain’t seen you on no red carpet, I ain’t heard hide nor hair of you, in six months, they’ll forget about you, they’ll wipe you off. I don’t care if you had a number one hit, I don’t care if you had twenty number one hits, you disappear too long in the rap game, they’ll sweep your ass under the rug, real quick.
M: Exactly and they’re on to the next one. I think it’s interesting you say you’ve been rapping since you were a boy. And to me, I love rappers just because in a sense, I feel like it’s kind of continuation of the African tradition of being a griot. Like you’re not just a rapper, you’re a story-teller, you’re a poet, you know? You’re kind of documenting all of these things that are happening to you. Your history is someone else’s history, like someone from the south and they don’t even have to be from Meridian, someone who from the south can relate to what you’re saying because they’re living that same experience.
Now as far as writing goes, because I think talking about religion, it’s a very personal thing, and you’re kind of putting all those personal things in your music, do you feel like as a black man and as a writer and not just a rapper, because I feel like sometimes people just use that title ‘rapper’ it’s a very blanketed, almost very superficial title, “Oh well, he’s just a rapper.” You know, like you’re a historian.-
BS: Right and it cheapens it.
M: Right! Exactly and it lessens the thing that you’re doing. You’re writing poetry. You know, like all these bards. If this were [historical] European times, you all would be considered bards. Do you feel like for your music, is that the place where you’re able to get out your emotions and your feelings. I feel like a lot of times, especially in this country, black men don’t really have an outlet to express their feelings. Do you feel like that’s where you get it out, in your music?
BS: Definitely. When I get frustrated, I really let it have it on the microphone and you can hear it in my aggression. Like I’m really intense. And it’s not that I can’t rap calmer and I do. I’ve had outstanding rap performances where I wasn’t so aggressive and it all still made sense. But even on songs like Over and Over Again you can hear it build as I wrote. The more I wrote, you can hear it in my tone just having to say all these things over and over in my head, that – [he begins to rap]:
if the wood wheel could feel it would feel the pain of me sitting in the car trying to snatch it off
You know when you can’t scream or you can’t get loud so you just go sit in your car and let out all your frustrations. You know what I mean? I definitely vent and let out a lot of hot steam on wax because anything else is next to criminal. Even if I get too loud in my own home, you know, the authorities could be summoned and then it’s a misunderstanding and now I’m on the news for the wrong reason.
M: Mmm hmmm. When all it was is maybe you had a bad day. And it’s kind of like black people in general aren’t allowed to have bad days and so we definitely have to find other ways to, I guess, to channel that. Your channel happens to be music. Now being from the south, how do you think that has influenced you musically? Because just listening to your latest project, it’s super smooth first of all, so congratulations on it.
BS: Thank you.
M: I think you can hear how, to me it sounds very southern. I think the different sounds that you are attracted to and the beats that you choose for yourself, it’s all very reflective of different elements of the south. You have your heavy bass lines, you’ve got like heavy bass, funk, it’s just all very, very southern. You move – [lost in translation] and all of those things, when you look into it, cohesively, it’s a very southern thing. So just musically, what has influenced you in your movement as an artist?
BS: Well, I think, I want to say I’m influenced by all music because now that I’m, you know like I said I’m thirty-one, I don’t listen to rap music all day long anymore. I’ll give whatever the new release is two, three spins and if I like it- I listen to the songs that I really like a lot. But I’m not twenty-five anymore where like, “I don’t want to hear no other music, I listen to rap music, I’m a rapper, this what I do, boom, boom, boom.” I’m a lot more calmer than I used to be, I used to be hell. So, I think that transition right there helps a lot. The fact that when I see other boys get on t.v. and they be from somewhere else, but they rapping like [they are] from the south, that kind of annoys me.
M: I bet.
BS: That really bothers me. Paying homage and biting is two different things. A lot of these guys don’t care, they don’t care about the craft anymore. They just trying to get hot, so they can fuck bitches or whatever the fuck. You know, I’m an MC, I care about this shit. My aim is to rhyme words better than the next rapper. Like I don’t ever want to- ever since they came up with this ole, “you got kilt on this song shit” I do not let that happen to me. Because even the best rappers have been kilt on their own records, they’ve been outperformed. I don’t want to be outperformed. I take my craft very serious, even if it doesn’t seem like I’m putting a lot into it, but it shouldn’t look like I’m putting a lot into it, I’ve been doing this for twenty years, so it should appear easy. It should be like I picked up my sword and I slayed fifty-two dragons and didn’t even break a sweat. That’s the kind of shit I want to hear about myself when I look for reviews. I want to know what they thought about the Big Sant verse, even if it was just a verse. I want to know what you thought about it because most of the time I’m rapping with people I really look up to or people that I consider my legit peers, or like K.R.I.T my brother, or like with Slim Thug that’s a legend, Bun B that’s a legend. I got rap songs with all these people and like, I don’t want to- I just want to carry my weight. And sometimes I might run too fast with the weight on my back, it becomes a competition in that sense, it’s just that I don’t want to look like, “Yo man, they could have left him off.” I can’t afford none of that.
M: Exactly, I know as a listener, for me, you can hear, or I think sometimes you decide and say, “Ok, well he had the better verse or he has the better delivery. Sometimes it’s not even about the verse that was delivered, it’s the energy behind it. Or you know, how much they feel that. Now you say that you’ve been rapping for twenty years, so you started when you were eleven-
BS: It’s really nineteen years, I started when I was twelve.
M: Twelve? Ok, so what was that first song, or what moved you at twelve years old to be like, “I want to do that. I want to create something.”
BS: Man, I think it was around the time my grandma decided she was gone pay for some cable and then I really started seeing videos. And I was like, “Fuck!” Kris Kross, them some little kids, they do it, I want to do it.” “Anybody can do it, if they can do it, I can do it.” Especially if it ain’t limited to just men, or grown ups, let’s do it. Around that time I started stealing tapes and shit from my cousin, that was before the three strike law so he was going to jail every weekend for the DUI, so like I’d just go over there and take his tapes and dub them or just steal them period. Because when he comes back, he’s going to work extra all week, buy him some more tapes whatever’s getting ready to come out and then boom, boom.
All the men I looked up to were working hard, like my grandaddy worked at a roofing company, my father’s a barber. All the men in my life were working extra hard and telling me that, “If you work hard you can have what you want.” But ya’ll don’t got what ya’ll want. So I’m going to keep doing this other shit that I want to do and [lost in translation] and I’m like cool, let’s do that. I can still work hard at something else.
M: Right. It doesn’t necessarily have to be- and that’s one thing that I love is that, you know, you’ve taken the chance on not kind of doing that conventional route of either white-collar/blue-collar work and just kind of dying on your dreams. I feel like there are so many black people taking one step towards their dreams and never really doing what they’re meant to do. You’ve moved along in your career, what would you at thirty-one now say to twelve year old you? As far as where you are, what you’ve done.
BS: I don’t know, it’d be something along the lines of not losing yourself. Because, I think I’d be further along but I lost my way. I lost my work ethic, I let things in my life get in the way and dictate my emotions to the point where I couldn’t work, I didn’t have the energy. So I guess I’d tell myself, it’d be more of a- like, “Aye man, you can do this, you gone get this, just don’t lose focus for nothing.” I definitely would sacrifice more than I have. A lot of people are like, “Yo man, you ain’t gone need this person. Don’t even go over there. This person ain’t gone bring you no good in the future, you ain’t even gone need this person, so don’t worry about that. You ain’t gone hang out with him, I’ll get you some other shit started early.” I would have met K.R.I.T when he was eight instead of when he was twelve. “Yo, hang out with him.”
M: Now you’re fairly open with your lyrics. You talk about your children, raising your kids and your fears and just the things that you want for yourself; one thing that I noticed that isn’t really a prevalent topic in your music is relationships, you might touch on it but you don’t speak too deeply on love. Is there a specific reason about that, when you talk about your emotions and such?
BS: Um, I don’t know. It’s almost like that Mary J. Blige Syndrome, it’s easier to talk about all the bad-, the fucked up interactions because it makes the music better. Letting the pain seep through as opposed to “I’m chilling. She cooked today, I’m happy. I might rub on her a little bit later.” I haven’t made those kinds of songs yet and I don’t know why. But, when it’s time for me to do songs like Live and I’m grown enough to call a girl that I didn’t have the best relationship with and like, “Yo, I fucked up, I’m sorry. I think about that shit. I ain’t trying to get back with you, but I want you to know I was a real asshole, boom, boom, boom.”
Those conversations. Dudes can do all this whoopin’ and hollerin’ they want, but when a girl gets mad at you and it becomes a hate situation. If you lose a woman to the point that she hates you and she’s going to let you know that she hates you, then you start hearing the list of things you did that you didn’t realize you did, she’s tired of fixing everything, you know that shit will eat at you. It’s not a game. I’m on to bigger and better things, I’m a grown man. I’m more grown than I was last year. Or the year before. Whether I’m taking big leaps or small steps, I’m definitely growing every day. That’s as a man, that’s as a father, that’s as a human, regardless. So it helps me interact with people better.
M: Right. And just as far as the things you’ve learned along your way. You said you have three children, right?
BS: Yeah. Two boys and a girl.
M: What are the things you hope for your children? To teach them about love? Your experiences about love, about being black in this country, what are the things you want or hope to teach your children about those experiences?
BS: Man, I try to lead by example. I talk to my kids a lot about patience. Because, they’re still small children. They’re six, seven and eight so everything’s kind of new, you know? Fast, fast, quick, quick. Sometimes the long way is the best way. Sometimes everything ain’t always going to work out. Losing doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Things like that. I try to give them more real world conversations early. So that when they become-when they get into their teenage years and it’s time for them to start making those real decisions on their own; sex, drugs or things like that, they’ll have a different perspective on it.
As opposed to, “I wonder.” or “No one ever said anything to me about it.” Yeah, shit can be fun, shit can be fucked up, I want to let you know. (laughs).
M: (laughs) This is true. Now are these things that you felt you’ve learned on your own?
BS: I definitely learned all of that on my own. I learned all of that on my own and probably too early. Because my grandparents raised me, you know they was old. Not that they were old in the sense of old, but they’d already raised a set of children and now I’m one of their children’s children. And it’s all good to feed them and make sure you don’t die, but they old, they tired.The twenty year olds that raised my mama are now the fifty year olds that are raising me.
M: It’s a whole different generation now.
BS: Right. So they don’t understand me, all they see is what they see on the news. They probably think I’m smoking crack and gang banging. (laughs).
BS: (laughs) And they did, that’s what they thought I was doing.
M: Well just looking back and to round it all up, because I think, generationally, I think it’s beautiful that you kind of had that though. Because that’s kind of a part of history that they’ve imparted on you. And to wrap all of this up, what would be the one thing that your grandparents taught you that you feel is maybe a large part of the foundation of who you are as a man today?
BS: Man. From my grandfather: It would be more of a-recognizing what’s important. My grandfather did a lot of stupid shit. Once he realized what was really important, everything in his life smoothed out. He used to gamble real bad, he got all this shit smoothed out before I got here. He used to gamble, he used to be extra lusty for other women, all kinds of shit like that. But if you realize what’s important, everything else will smooth out.
And from my grandmother: Anything you got to say, make sure that it’s so potent that you can say it twice if you’ve got to. Ain’t no need in a person saying what you said, when you can say it again. Don’t write nothing down. My grandma said, “Don’t leave no evidence. Say it, don’t write no letters.”
M: And I feel like you know what, then that makes sense in how you deliver your music because I feel like with your delivery-how you talk about the energy and the emotion that you put into, it’s warranted for you to be able say it twice because you put so much thought into. It’s almost now- when I listen to your music, it’ll be like hearing the wisdom of your grandparents and that’s something- I think it’s Emerson who said, “Every man is a [living] quotation of his ancestors.” So it’s like those things that you now carry with you and that carry on with your music and will carry on with your children as well.
BS: Sho nuff.