I got a call from a friend of Tupac’s asking me for help back in the Spring. At the time, I was about to set up J Diggs’ label, so I passed on working this other project. But something happened with Diggs’ investor, and I ended up wasting 6 months waiting for dude’s money to get right. It’s always more challening to work with friends because you end up doing stuff you’d never do for a regular client….like waiting for 6 months for the investor to get straight. Anyway, I used the time to write a book and started setting up SlavesNoMore.com, so it wasn’t a total waste…and I traveled and watched more TV than I’d watched in the previous 20 years combined. But I craved work and needed a project I could sink my teeth into.
So in November when Sardar called me for the second time—or was it third, I was available to meet with them. I flew out to L.A. to meet with his team and his investor, and I was impressed with everyone. We sat in Skip Saylor’s studio listening to all of the music and they outlined for me that they’d spent a lot of money and lost it. This industry is like being in love with someone who doesn’t love you back. They’d lost a whole lot of money.
I try not to work with folks who’ve gotten burned too badly because 1) they usually have too little money left to do this properly, and 2) they are super gun shy about trusting anyone. There was something about these folks though. I know what it was. The label was funded by a middle aged white woman from the TV and Film industry. She saw this ‘hood gangsta rapper and felt his passion and struggle, and decided to fund his dream. She believed in Sardar! She funded it for her middle aged boyfriend (sexy middle aged boyfriend, in case he’s reading this and is offended by the crack about his age—hell, I’M middle aged!!) to run. He always wanted to be in the music industry. He’s long gone, but we all have chugged on focused and stealthily. Anyway, after that meeting it became my mission in life to get the investor’s money back plus a fair profit for believing outside of her comfort zone. What a cool story for the start up of a label.
Anyway, as I sat in Skip’s studio that day, I heard gangsta rap song after gangsta rap song. I wasn’t real impressed. It was good, but not great, and today you HAVE to be great to stand out. It’s just so over saturated and splintered. PLUS, rap is going more pop and less street right now. I began to wonder how to market a kid who sounded too much like Tupac (Pac taught Sardar how to rhyme when Sardar was a kid), had a name I hated (that we changed to Sardar, his birth name), and had a flow straight out of the mid-90s.
And then, something magical happened….someone in his entourage, from way in the back of the room said “Play the uptempo shit for her!” So Ian, the engineer, cued up a few pop songs. On came Party Life. I asked him to play it over again. And then again. I heard a hit record. I wasn’t 100% sold on the lyrics, but I knew they had something. I asked them to play another song. Ian played Antidote. Holy fuck! Another hit record.
I asked Ian to silence the speakers and looked at Sardar in the middle of that room, in the midst of all those people and very sadly told him, “I’m sorry sweetheart, you aren’t a Gangsta Rapper, you are a pop star.” You could hear a pin drop in that room. In my memory, everyone ran for cover and ducked to hear how a Gangsta would react to those words. In reality, they all just froze and Sardar nodded, thought about it for a minute, and said “OK, Pac trusted you; I trust you.” Everyone began to breathe again.
I spent the day and night talking to Sardar. He was a pop star. If he could change his name, his image, his lyrics, and his style, we could all win. We could get this investor her money back and build a real label and have some serious success in today’s music industry. He said he could do it. I let him sleep on it and asked him the next day “can you do this?” His answer, “YES!”
I waited one more day and asked him again, “are you SURE can you do this?” He again said “YES!”
And THAT, my friends, is the true beginnings of Sardar…the pop star gangsta rapper. LOL