If you’re even partially hip to the boom-bap renaissance taking place right now, chances are your ears have been graced with the witty lyricism cooked up by New York emcee Sauce Heist. Since breaking onto the scene with Nu Kingz and the head-turning Sauce Monk EP with Camoflauge Monk, Sauce Heist has been firing on all cylinders to make himself a household name in the scene. With rhymes as immaculate as his beat selections, Sauce is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with on the underground circuit. I sat down with him a couple of weeks ago to break down his meteoric last 12 months, gain insight on his artistic influences, and find out what to expect from Heist Life in the coming months. Enjoy.
First of all I want to congratulate you on releasing Diamond Dust Shoes. This is your first full-length project if I’m not mistaken. What made you choose DirtyDiggs to do a large project like this?
So this is like a little short story. I’m PRR so Killa Kali extended the love to open up to these producers. DirtyDiggs caught my eye seeing as he was an old school producer and he had the sampling sound that I liked, it just went from there. From me being PRR and doing Gasol Sauce he was like “lets do our own solo project” and I was down for it. I had the beats for a lil’ minute but I just wanted it to be right. It didn’t matter how long it was, so I could have done 20-22 songs but I chose 12 for my first LP and it had good enough features for me. I’m happy with it, it’s my best body of work yet so I’m ready to go.
The name of the project comes from a piece by Andy Warhol. Are you a big fan of his work?
Oh yes, Andy Warhol inspired me because I like the fashion, silk-screening and screen printing. Before even silk-screening though he used to draw shoes because he used to be into doing female fashion. Him drawing female shoes and all that, that shit was cool to me. Him being into fashion, the king of silk-screening and all that had me want to twist the hip hop into it. You know what’s going on right now, the old 90s theme of dressing in vintage Polo and Tommy Hilfiger and people are even doing their own silk-screen shirts. Plus I just felt like this was gonna be my own Andy Warhol project anyway, the one that’s gonna put me out there.
Looking at your catalog you’ve worked with a lot of artists already, how did you decide who was going to be on this project and where?
I have a thing where if an artist hasn’t done work with a producer, or they did a song but didn’t put it out or half-assed it I like to approach them, that’s my little trick. That’s how I got Crimeapple on Sauce Monk 2. Before he and Monk even had a conversation I had a conversation with him like “yo wassup I got a Monk beat you wanna get on that?” and he was down. That’s like my trick but I still try to keep my circle small. I don’t work with the best of the best you know, more the up-and-coming and I’m still up-and-coming so I just wanted to work with everybody get my name out there. See who I’m compatible with, see who I don’t gel with, and take it from there. I also got the small circle I deal with now: Rome Streetz, I’m starting to deal with Da Cloth a little bit more now after the feature, Jamal Gasol, and I got my own crew Heist Life. I try to keep it small, to what’s going in my neighborhood and keep it street but not too street. Street knowledge and all that. I feel like I’ve been hands on you know, experimenting, and not to diss anybody or play anybody but I just rather get the realness rather than the talent right now.
Speaking of Jamal Gasol, the first project you did with DirtyDiggs was the Gasol Sauce EP earlier this year with Jamal. How did that come together?
When Jamal did the video for It Ain’t Safe I had came up there with the producer Quis Star. We were getting cool before a but the trip made me n Jamal even more tighter. I went up there and we were working on Three the PRR Way, we did that joint the first night and sent the beats to Nowaah, he did his end, but that whole week was just vibing. Like I said, realness. Real recognize real and still sharp as steel. We’re both experienced, he had a little case and I had the same case so it was like damn I can feel that, goin through the same experience. And also, he takes the the advice that I give. He’s not like “fuck this dude Sauce, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about”. I don’t wanna be around someone who feels like they’re better than me, or done more, or been in the game longer. I got some real life advice, and in my opinion some of these rappers get caught up in the rapper personality rather than being who you are, but being who you are is gonna get you farther than being someone you’re not.
Exactly. What I also really like about this underground wave is that artists are working together a ton. After seeing all the beefs going on between people in New York over the years it’s nice to see artists coming together as I get older.
Definitely, but you know you still got your personal “I don’t like this person for whatever reason” you know, hip-hop won’t be hip-hop without competition. If you look at Twitter you see who be throwing subs and who be feeling themselves a little bit too much. It’s what keeps the juices boiling. I feel without Twitter, heads wouldn’t be rapping about shit, like all these lil extra subs they be throwing or extra third persons, cause nobody got so much beef in the whole world that they’re gonna shoot up the whole world, you know? You talking about somebody you don’t like so you’re not gonna @ em, you just gonna send shots on Twitter!
I actually ain’t never get on Twitter till this year you feel me? I was on the run so I didn’t have Instagram. Back on Instagram last August, started rapping and the Nu Kingz project came out October 9th. I been doing this shit for myself for a year, you feel me? So for me to really move and connect with these people is really good because I’m trying to see who’s who and what’s not. It’s a win and a loss and the same time though because you could be winning and trying to stretch your horizons and connecting and getting fans out of your town and staying at where the other artists is at, but the loss could be that he could be a bozo! He don’t keep it real, he might be doing this because he thinks he can get your fans or get a dollar off you, or whatever other little hidden agenda he got.
Like I said though I met Jamal and that shit was like organic, while we were linked we were talking about doing another project with just us. We were going through a lot of names at the time, Upstate Meet Downstate or Up Top Up Bottom and then one of his mans said Gasol Sauce and I was like hell yeah, that’s fire! And then the actual sauce came about. I hit Trevor Lang up because my sister said we should get a real sauce and I was like hell yeah because you know, black people love red devil chicken. I hit up Trevor Lang and said lets get some small bottles, limited, 20 bottles with the cassettes. That probably didn’t sell out and I ain’t upset but I was like damn, we ain’t really push it like we were supposed to push it. We were supposed to do the commercial and all that like “sauce so good, you wanna sock a wack rapper ain’t that right Gasol?” “Yeah baby!” We were supposed to go all out for that shit. We would have had it done in a week but I caught a cold so my voice was fucked up. That’s why if you hear my voice on a couple songs there it sounds hoarse because I was fighting through it. That’s when we were putting the pedal to the metal for real, but now I feel like I got my name up and I’m trying not to oversaturate. You got cats dropping three EPs a month, like c’mon man.
Taking a step back to that first project Nu Kingz, you had a verse from El Camino and a beat from Camoflauge Monk, then you went and did a whole EP with him, and then another EP. What happened that made y’all click like that?
It’s just a vibe bro, I got some Jack Daniels in the cup right now and that’s just my vibe you know. That’s why my name’s Sauce. Heist Life, if you really dig into us, we had a movement that was supposed to have the same kind of anticipation for the streets, and people were feeling us all at the same time around like 2013-14 but we were all on the run. We had real cases. My man Ty, I was on the run, Babymane was having his lil’ problems so we all are talking what we lived, what we go through, what we’ve seen so it’s not like we’re trying to fake it to make it. For Nu Kingz, I had hit up Conway but he was talking a number I didn’t really want to pay at the time so I hit up El Camino. Hit him up and was like oh yeah I can definitely get with that. And it’s not an understep, I thought yo let me ride with him because we’re the same age and got similar shit to talk about. Sometimes it’s good to jump out the box but jumping out the box doesn’t always benefit you. With Conway on Nu Kingz it would had the same feel but I didn’t need that type of look, instead let me fuck with the young boys. You know I fuck with the Divinos, the ANKHLEJOHNs.
I hit Monk up on the same type of tip like “I need a beat” and I got a couple of beats to choose from. And then he was in New York and put up the bat symbol saying “yo i need smoke” so I said pull up, whatever you need I gotchu and he was with it. Him coming for that one day turned into him staying at my crib for like three or four days, making MADGURU at my crib. We just gelled and linked up and from there it went to the sky. We went to a theater party, I was just taking him everywhere in New York on the good vibes you feel me. He stayed at my crib, we were going to mad parties and shit just vibing so I was like yo let’s do a full project and he said “hell yeah let’s do it”. The first single he gave me was Z-Bo, and it’s a funny story because that’s how me and ANKHLEJOHN had a fallout. He wanted ANKHLEJOHN on a track and ANKH thought I was trying ask people to get on a track with him and shit like that. Then Big Ghost emailed me saying he wanted me on ANKHLEJOHN’s album. Ain’t that ironic. So Z-Bo, that was the first single from Sauce Monk 1 and that shit just had the feel and then we made the whole thing cohesive from there. And then Volume 2 was just like ‘we cool bro’. Whenever he comes to New York City he got a spot to stay you know, that’s my man. I got love for Monk.
Now that you’ve done full projects with Monk, DirtyDiggs, and Wazasnics, who’s been the best to work with as a producer?
You’re forgetting my brother Bass Reeves too on Nu Kingz. Those four I like to call my in-house production because at any time I can go to them and say I need something. Especially Wazascnics, he got those beats from Japan so he has like a different sound, he’s bringing a different art to it. Even though they like to mimic what’s coming from the States, that country has different instruments that they can use and different samples that we wouldn’t even touch from vinyl digging and shit like that. Like I said, I like how Diggs catches the soul sampled loops and Monk, that shit turned from a business transaction to a business partner brothership type shit man.
So you’re in your mid-20s in a scene that I feel is primarily occupied by older heads and people who were growing up through the 90s. Is there a different dynamic to being younger than a lot of the emcees and fans?
Nah. Good music is good music, you can’t say that. Like when Rakim was rapping and he saw Nas he wasn’t like “yo fuck this young boy” he was like “yo this boy can spit” but like you said we’re at a different time. It was rougher than what it is now, they weren’t linking up like we are now. Now everyone wants a dream team. Well, not a dream team exactly but everybody wanna link up which is not bad, but we still need some order and structure. We can’t have everybody being on songs with everybody because not everybody sounds good together. Do I have a problem with being younger? No because you have to understand Tha God Fahim is like 23, Al.Divino just turned 24, ANKHLEJOHN is 25, I just turned 28. I don’t know if anyone be mad but like I said I keep it real. The only cats that I know that aren’t in the 27 and under age is K.Burns and Rome Streetz, and they’re only 30-31. I know Crimeapple is probably like 33 too, so we’re all in the same bracket, going through the same experiences. That’s how I hold it.
There’s a lot of rappers doing numbers out of New York that aren’t really doing the lyrical type of hip-hop the city is known for generally known for. Do you think it’s beneficial because it’s getting heads turned back to local artists or is it just trash?
Nah that shit is trash. At the end of the day though we’re in the hippie era right now, everybody taking drugs, turning up, you know what I’m saying? When you see heroin commercials and dope commercials that’s how you know. Remember there used to be those ‘crack is wack’ commercials? Now we’re in the heroin era. Everybody is peace and love, sex, money, and murder.
You’re doing the New Golden Era show this weekend and you had that headlining show as Heist Life not too long ago. Do you have any plans on doing shows outside of New York at some point?
Oh definitely man, if the promoters can get me out there and the money’s right, they’re talking that nice lil’ bag I’m definitely out there. I’ve only been in this shit for a year so still I’m learning the business. Good music always speaks for itself but if you really want to be seen and heard you need a good promotion team, a good marketing team, and know how to brand. Your brand has to be something people want to buy into.
Top five albums of all time?
All time? Supreme Clientele, Illmatic, Ready to Die… Man I ain’t gonna lie I grew up in this shit really understanding what the fuck was going on. That’s why I like this type of music because there’s a 1001 CDs or vinyl I can look at. I’m not someone that really has a top 5, like I said good music really stands out to me, but if it had to be an album that I always listen to it’s gonna be Supreme Clientele, Illmatic, It Was Written, Reasonable Doubt. That’s four right there. A fifth one, I probably wanna throw in some new school shit in there. I’ll throw in Dogfood by AA Rashid. Oh and I need to throw AZ in there, Doe or Die. That shit is classic.
Now that you have a few projects out, Ty dropped Tokyo Drip, and Babymane’s been dropping verses do you have any plans on doing a full tape together as Heist Life?
Oh yeah that’s definitely coming together. We don’t know if we want full production by one of the in-house producers, like I said Diggs just gave me a nice batch that we could cook up, my brother always cookin’ up, Wazascnics always sending me shit. Monk just gave me a couple of new beats. We could just mix it up all together and make it a gumbo pot. Depending on how the mood is we might just do it, call it Heist Life Radio or some wild crazy shit but that shit is coming. We just trying to get Mane out first, once we get Babymane out and you see how we all sound solo then we gonna give y’all that This Is Heist Life. That might be the name.
Is the Babymane project coming soon?
It’s coming soon. Before 2019 definitely. Probably like early December, we were pushing November but we on real man time, families and all that shit gotta come first. We pushing for November but we’re gonna say December.
To end it off, you just talked about the Babymane project but is there anything else you can disclose is coming this year?
Definitely. I don’t know if Trevor Lang wants to talk about it but fuck it, I got a track with me, Al.Divino, Westside Gunn, and Conway. It’s gonna be a single, one vinyl that’s coming out called Lammy. Look out for that. That’s coming this fall, should drop before 2019. Me and my brother are working on something too, we don’t know if we’re gonna put that out this year, if we’re gonna push and rush or take our time, but we’re probably gonna take our time. I really feel like in 2019 you’re really gonna see Sauce Heist and Heist Life on a lot of shows, on a lot of bills. That first show we did was immaculate, got a lot of good positive reviews and handshakes. And like I said we hadn’t performed in a long time. Our very first performance was in front of DJ Ty Boogie and he was like “yo y’all kids is it”, this was like 2014 though when we were first trying to push it. Lot of shit coming out, I’m going to L.A. November 3rd and I’m just going to push Diamond Dust Shoes, shoot some videos, do a couple of interviews out there and just push Heist Life and Sauce Heist.