We spoke to Brooklyn drill rapper Sheff G about his new album Proud Of Me Now, his love for Flatbush, and his memories of the late Pop Smoke.
Flatbush, Brooklyn is where New York City culture and Caribbean culture collide. And, despite prevailing gentrification, the unique epicenter is still unlike anywhere else in New York. As Flatbush-native Sheff G, the son of a Trinidadian mother and Haitian father puts it, it’s “the fucking capital of Brooklyn.”
Sheff G emerged on the rap scene in 2017 when his song “No Suburban” went from a local hit to a viral drill anthem. Initially, a response to fellow Brooklyn rapper 22Gz’s “Suburban,” the track not only added fuel to their already brewing beef but also marked Sheff as one of the original architects of the bubbling Brooklyn drill scene. He says he was just having fun recording the song and was not seriously pursuing a rap career or even fame. Sheff G — who before the track’s release had dropped out of high school after being arrested for a shooting incident that occurred at Brooklyn’s Kings Plaza Shopping Center — had no expectations for the song. And he wasn’t aware of how much his life was about to drastically change. “I thought that was like a dream,” Sheff G said about the almost instant success of the song. “I thought you had to be like born famous and shit for that to happen.”
Since then, the 22-year-old has become one of the key statesmen of Brooklyn drill rap and the breadwinner for his family. Despite taking long stretches of time off in 2018, awareness around Sheff G only rose — a lot times because of social media and tense back-and-forths with fellow Brooklyn rappers. Sheff released his first full body of work, The Unluccy Luccy Kid, in 2019, just months after Canarsie, Brooklyn rapper Pop Smoke brought Brooklyn drill pop respectability with the success of “Welcome to the Party” and “Dior.” Pop Smoke, who was friends with Sheff G, would tragically be killed at the top of 2020. But Brooklyn drill is still a force in hip-hop. And, Sheff G is at the center of the movement, even as he has dreams of transcending the genre.
In many ways 2020 has been the most productive creative year for Sheff G. In May of 2020, he released his second project One And Only — which features the standout “Flows.” Months later, he started a partnership with RCA Music and formed the label Winners Circle Entertainment with his rap colleague, “bro,” and frequent collaborator Sleepy Hallow. The two have become one of the most promising rap duos to come out of New York City. Sleepy Hallow appears on half of the songs on One And Only and the chemistry is undeniable, with Sleepy playing the Styles P to Sheff G’s Jadakiss.
The bond between them began years ago when Sheff and Sleepy were teenagers in the early 2010s. Back then it was a trend in New York City for kids to go to other schools and fight other kids, a tradition called “Freshman Fridays.” Sheff was gearing up to fight Sleepy, but changed his mind when he saw how confidently Sleepy was handling the scenario. The two quickly became friends and now, years later, they are doing business togther. Sleepy Hallow has Winners Circle’s biggest hit so far, with “Deep End Freestyle” becoming a favorite on TikTok.
On Wednesday (December 17th) Sheff G capped off the year by delivering his new album, Proud Of Me Now. The 11-track release — which is the first from the Winner Circle Entertainment label — is a coming-of-age journey where Sheff details his evolution with hopes of introducing himself to the world outside of Flatbush, outside of New York, and outside of Brooklyn drill.
We spoke to Sheff G a couple of weeks before his album dropped. We talked about the new album, his love for Flatbush, and his memories of the late Pop Smoke.
I know you’re placed in the Brooklyn Drill category, but listening to you and Sleepy, there’s like some real emotional bars in there. Are you envisioning breaking out of the genre?
Sheff G: It’s way more than just drill, I wouldn’t even know where to place it because me and bro Sleepy really go in the studio and however we feel is how the music comes out. So if it was an emotional day, we sad, or we went to court and shit didn’t go right, that’s what’s gonna come out. If it’s a good day it’s a good song and if it’s a day that we’re feeling really drill-y it’ll be a drill song. So it’s just the type of emotion that we’re in. It’s not one category. If you listen to “We Gettin’ Money” that’s not a drill song.
Yeah, I was revisiting some songs, and I realized Sleepy is kind of singing on some of these songs.
Yo, my son Sleepy — he be on his emotional shit sometime, and he be making some heat. So it’s not just drill.
How would you say this album is different from your older music?
Oh it’s very, very different. First of all, I made sure that I put different types of genre on the album so it won’t just be one whole sound. Everything is gonna have a different sound. That’s what I wanted to do. I don’t want people to listen to the album and feel like it’s one big ass song. It’s certain songs made for different moods, that’s what I wanted fans to do. That’s what they’re gonna do. They’re gonna tune in and they’re gonna see.
Shout out to Great John, that’s my producer. That’s who we work with. I co-produce all my songs with John. I be there with him making it. We start from the melody. I make the whole song from the melody alone. Once I hear the melody I know exactly what kind of song I’m gonna make, if it’s gonna be drill or that pain music for the streets or whatever. And then from there we all sit and listen to all the music and we place it in different places. This will be for this tape, this’ll be for that.
I was watching some older interviews of you and Sleepy. I get the feeling that you seem to be the more outgoing one and Sleepy is like the silent killer, rebel type. Would you say that’s accurate?
Yo, my son Sleepy, he is just sleepy foreal(laughs). He’s different.
Would you say you’re the more outgoing of the two?
Na, it’s just certain days. Mind you, during the summer you gotta remember we wasn’t really living in a better predicament as we are now. It would be real shit going on before we get to an interview. So imagine going to court and they offering him seven years or something and then you have to go to an interview and act like everything is alright. It be real shit going on without y’all knowing and we really just have to keep our composure.
Are we getting a joint album with you two?
[The year] 2021, for a fact. Just wait on it.
Can you speak a little bit about growing up in Flatbush or why you think it’s unique?
Listen — TO ME — Flatbush is the fucking capital of Brooklyn. I don’t care who say what, you understand. It is what it is. All the waves come from Flatbush. It don’t matter where you live in Brooklyn you must know somebody from Flatbush. Everybody knows somebody from Flatbush. Like it’s just where it’s at to me. I love all our shit.
Flatbush is lit. Walking into Flatbush you probably walk into a block party. You got all the Caribbean spots everywhere you turn. It’s always live, everybody’s always outside. People go outside whatever time. You’re always gonna see people.
What do you think about how Flatbush or how Brooklyn is changing? Every time I come back home there’s new buildings, the demographics are a little different.
Yeah, it’s different, I ain’t gonna front. There’s a lot of duplexes and it’s just changing the environment. Everything gotta change someday, I guess. It’s different though.
Who do you think is on the Mount Rushmore of Brooklyn drill rap?
Oh you see that type of question I can’t even answer. You’d have to ask fans and shit, you feel me. I don’t like bragging on myself, and shit. And if I ain’t up there, it ain’t no problem. I’m still coming man, I’m still going hard.
Do you have a favorite Pop Smoke memory?
Yo, that’s crazy somebody just asked me that same shit. I wanna say that type of memory, it’s different. I don’t know, I can’t really say. (laughs)
It was always a vibe though. It was always a vibe. Everything is a memory, everything was lit.
With his death and many other deaths this year within hip-hop, has that changed your outlook or how you’re moving?
Na. It’s like we all already got that in the back of our head how you gotta move. You just gotta be on top of it every second of the day. Growing up in the hood you’re already moving like that so don’t ever change how you’re moving when you think you’re living in a different environment because there’s still somebody else that’s gonna wake up with that old mindset. Everybody not gonna change like you are. You gotta be on point all the time.