Former Death Row Records producer Sam Sneed — who is responsible for hits like Dr Dre’s “Keep Your Heads Ringin'” and “Natural Born Killaz,” among others — has been m.i.a for quite a while. Actually, he was suffering a serious brain tumor, but has since overcome the illness and is healthy and getting back into things.
In this exclusive interview, Sam Sneed tells BallerStatus about his past with Death Row Records, how he helped Dre find his sound, rumors of him getting beatdown by Tupac and Suge and of course new things on the horizon.
BallerStatus.com: First off, you have been away from the whole rap game for a little while. Tell us a little bit about what you have been doing.
Sam Sneed: Kinda sorta, but recently, I’ve done something on Scarface’s album. The song is called, “F—ing with Face.” I did something with 50 Cent for the G-Unit album coming out. The song is called “I Smell P—-.” I did the track to that.
BallerStatus.com: You have been kinda quiet though. The name Sam Sneed hasn’t really been out there.
Sam Sneed: Yea, well, I’m about to hit the scene. I got a mixtape coming out and I got some vinyl that’s about to hit the streets in like 2 weeks, so you will be hearing alot of stuff that I have been doing lately.
BallerStatus.com: We heard that you were recovering from a serious brain tumor. Are you fully recovered now?
Sam Sneed: As of now, I would say so. I mean, I feel real good. I’ve been feelin’ real healthy, so I haven’t had any complications, you know what I’m saying? It’s a blessing that I’m still out here doing what I do best.
BallerStatus.com: I’ve read some interviews with Daz recently. And in the interviews he said that Suge and Tupac had beaten you up and that was the cause for your injury. Is there any truth to this?
Sam Sneed: [laughing hesterically] Nah… [laughs] Nah, I wouldn’t say that. They could have speculated that, but that wasn’t what happened. What had happened, it didn’t even go that deep where that would have been the result of what happened. That had nothing to do with it, but he could have assumed that was the reason.
BallerStatus.com: Yea, he had said that he wasn’t putting you down at all, but that was the truth. I wanted to ask you about it to get the word straight from the horse’s mouth.
Sam Sneed: Yea.. he could have assumed that, you know what I’m saying? It didn’t happen like that. I mean it was wrong what they did, no doubt about that and Suge didn’t do it. He shouldn’t have allowed it to happen.
BallerStatus.com: So, what exactly did happen with you guys?
Sam Sneed: Well, basically, what it was… was Dre was leaving the label. He wanted me to come with him, you know and start his new thing and I had producers and artists that were down with me. He wanted to start Aftermath with the click that I had. I was like “Cool, is Suge with it?” If Suge was with it, it was all good. You know what I’m saying? I didn’t think it was a big situation with them, you know?
They called me up to a meeting and had all the Death Row artists there. Everybody from Death Row was there and they mentioned that Dre was no longer with them, you know? I really didn’t know what was going on, so I pretty much got caught in the middle of that situation. I didn’t feel that it was comfortable for me to be there anymore, so I just left the whole scene. Basically like that.
BallerStatus.com: So, there was no fighting between you guys?
Sam Sneed: I mean.. it was so quick, you know what I’m saying? And I was there by myself, you what I’m saying? It was just crazy. I felt that it was unfair, and that’s why I left. There’s no re-affiliation after that.
BallerStatus.com: Let’s go back to the beginning, how did you hook up with Death Row back in the day?
Sam Sneed: Well, I originally started with the Hit Squad. You heard of K-Solo?
Sam Sneed: Ok, well I did his second album. I always wanted to get with Dr. Dre, ya know? I admired his production and umm.. just going on the Hit Squad tour, I found a lot of people that knew Dre. I was just trying to plug up with him and it just so happens that a girl that used to babysit for Miche’le knew Dre, so we were on the road one time and she was like, “I got Dre’s number right here.” She gave me the number and I called him up one day, let him hear the artists I was working with and he was with it and asked us to come out. I eventually went out there and I was out there ever since, doing what I had to do.
BallerStatus.com: Back then, Death Row was pretty big in the industry and right now they aren’t doing too much. Do you think there is a chance for them to rise up to where they were in the past?
Sam Sneed: I mean, I would say Suge… he is clever. You never know what could happen. I don’t count it out for nobody. Coming with the right records, he could do it again.
BallerStatus.com: Okay tell me the reason why you ended up leaving. Was it just a bad situation?
Sam Sneed: Yea. I was caught up in the middle and I wasn’t trying to get caught up in all that madness. I was trying to make records. I wasn’t trying to get caught up in nothing else, but doing records. If it makes me feel uncomfortable, then I’m out. Simple as that.
BallerStatus.com: When you were on Death Row, there were rumors that their were plans of you releasing an album called, Sneed Indeed. What happened with that?
Sam Sneed: Nah… No, it was called, Street Scholars.
BallerStatus.com: Oh, ok, well what happened with that?
Sam Sneed: Well, what had happened was when the “Murder was the Case” soundtrack came out, I was like the last song that they really, really promoted. My song was the one that actually really did real big as far as people requesting it. So they was like, “We got to do a video.” Then that resulted to “we got to do an album.” I’m like more of a producer, so I don’t really feel like I can carry a whole album, but what I did was I got with a couple of people from New York, brought them out to L.A. and I put theStreet Scholars album together. Right when I was in the middle of getting ready to mix the album, that was when Dre and Suge fell out. The album never came out.
BallerStatus.com: Do you have any of that material today?
Sam Sneed: Nah.
BallerStatus.com: Did you ever end up shooting a video?
Sam Sneed: I shot a video for “U Better Recognize.” That was on the “Murder was the Case” soundtrack. I also shot a video for a song called “Lady Heroin,” but that never came out because that was when I left.
BallerStatus.com: What is your relationship with Suge and Death Row Records, today?
Sam Sneed: Well, I’ve talked to Suge, maybe a couple times, when he got out the first time. I don’t carry no grudges. I told him how I felt, you know what I mean? I’m sure he respected where I was coming from, but now I’m doing my own thing. I got my own company called Street Scholars Entertainment, and we doing what we do. I don’t have no bitter feelings toward no one. Let me do what I gotta do.
BallerStatus.com: How do you feel about Kurupt signing with Death Row?
Sam Sneed: Hey if it works for him, I hope the best for him.
BallerStatus.com: You mentioned that you wanted to hook up with Dre in the beginning and you did. What about now? Is there a chance you guys could hook up soon?
Sam Sneed: Well, I mean… anything is possible, but I’m not pressed to do it because I feel like I can do just as well without him, you know what I’m saying? I’ve been doing it this long. I feel like once I get a major behind me, then the sky is the limit because I could create whatever from New York to down South, I can do it all. Me, myself. Print that!
BallerStatus.com: You mentioned when you were working on the Street Scholars album that you brought East Coast artists in. Did that…
Sam Sneed: Yea, because I was trying to bring something new to the label. They had the West Coast sound, but I was trying to create the East and West Coast sound… a bi-coastal sound, that’s what I brought. That’s what Dre took and ran with, when he started doing The Firm, you understand what I’m saying? That’s what he ran with. That was all my concept. You understand, but it’s all good. He’s doing what he do and I’m doing what I do.
BallerStatus.com: You are still producing, so tell us about all the projects you have been working on and what we should be looking at for?
Sam Sneed: Umm the Street Scholars Vol. 1. That’s what you should be looking out for. That’s coming soon. It hits the streets real soon. It’s a mixtape and plus we got vinyls also, that DJs will have to spin.
BallerStatus.com: Who do you have on it? Any guest artists?
Sam Sneed: I got an artist named Prophet. He is a diamond in the rough. I have an artist named Drunken Apostle, an artist named Ramaj, he’s like the scientist. Ramaj is from Pittsburgh. Prophet is from Connecticut. Then I have Jazz, she’s an R&B singer. Then I have Mishaun, he’s an R&B singer. Then I have Da Goon, he’s a hip-hop artist, he is from New York. Drunken Apostle is also from New York, but they all live in ATL, that’s where I’m at. That’s where I’m building this thing up. We have two offices. We have one in Pittsburgh at the Ranch. Then, we also have one out in Atlanta. I don’t wanna miss nobody… I got Joe Slick, he is a South artist. That’s about it right now. I got a couple people trying to holler at me right now.
BallerStatus.com: Are all these artists signed to your label, Street Scholars Entertainment?
Sam Sneed: They are not signed, but they are willing to sign, so it’s no problem.
BallerStatus.com: They are just working with you?
Sam Sneed: Yea just working with me, exactly.
BallerStatus.com: Are their any plans to release any of your old material or are you just coming with new stuff?
Sam Sneed: Naw, I’m coming fresh, man. I just keep it moving. I’m leaving the past alone. There’s too much ahead to look forward to.
BallerStatus.com: Who have we been working with today that we might not know about?
Sam Sneed: Umm… 50 Cent, like I told you, the song “I Smell P—-.” Scarface, I did that. That’s basically it… and my past records. I did Capone N Norega, their first album, War Report. I did the song “Closer” and a remix. I did JT Money, I did Jigga “I’ll Do Anything.” JT Money’s song was “Super Bitch.” I also did “Keep Your Heads Ringin'” for Dr Dre. I did “Natural Born Killaz” for Dr. Dre and I did my self-titled record “U Better Recognize.”
BallerStatus.com: Are you signed right now, are you looking to get signed?
Sam Sneed: I’m not pressed, but it’s a beautiful thing if I find some people that are trying to get behind me to do exactly what I’m trying to do.
BallerStatus.com: Are you in talks with anyone?
Sam Sneed: Yea definately. Umm Def Jam, Sony and I’m definately trying to holler at Universal.
BallerStatus.com: What about the whole Dogg Pound, Snoop, Daz and them. Are you in contact with them?
Sam Sneed: I haven’t talked to any of them, but it’s all love when I see them and I’m always open to do, you know, collaborations with them.
BallerStatus.com: Hip-hop today has changed alot since the whole Death Row era. What is your take on the state of hip-hop at the moment?
Sam Sneed: I think it’s pretty stagnated. Yea, I think it’s stagnated. It used to be very creative, alot of creativity. I think everyone is on the same page and I think people need to open up more and touch other areas, you know what I’m saying?
BallerStatus.com: What about the internet? What effect do you feel the internet has on hip-hop today?
Sam Sneed: Umm.. Since Napster, I’m just sick. [laughs]. That whole downloading sh–, that is just crazy to me man. It’s hurting us, you know what I’m saying, but what can you do?
BallerStatus.com: It does hurt in some ways, but in other ways it’s alot of promotion for artists.
Sam Sneed: Yea, you know, it’s just a bad and good situation. I know I’m not exempt, but I just hope I get a blessing and I don’t get it as much when my stuff comes out [laughs].
BallerStatus.com: You are mostly a producer, but when you were on Death Row and your single got hot, you started a solo album.
Sam Sneed: Well, it’s never gonna be a solo album because I like to colaborate with different artists. Me personally, I don’t try to carry a whole album. It’s not my style. I like to do a few songs by myself, but I like to have other people featured on my songs, you know? That’s just my style. I came in as a producer, but they made me put that pen into effect, so I had to put that pen down.
BallerStatus.com: Are we gonna see more of you behind the mic?
Sam Sneed: Yea. Especially on this album that we about to put out on the street. I got some nice, nice, nice singles. One is called “The Matrix,” a song called “What I’m Looking For” as far as a woman to put in my life, you know what I’m saying? One that is gonna ride with me… [laughs]