"Son of the Hood" Shady Nate Talks About His West Oakland Neighborhood, LiveWire, etc.

Posted by Billyjam, December 19, 2011 07:01pm | Post a Comment
A founding member of LiveWire Records West Oakland's Shady Nate is a local rap hero and long a popular artist with both Bay Area rap fans and fans nationwide of the mobb street style of rap that he and his LiveWire potnas (including J Stalin, Philthy Rich, and Stevie Joe) all deliver. He grew up in West Oakland's notoriously violent Acorn housing projects on 7th Street not far from the West Oakland BART station - an area that has gone through much changes over the past decade - and, while a gifted hip-hop artist who has enjoyed moderate success from his art, has gotten caught up in the street life and spent a good deal of the past decade either incarcerated or under house arrest. However thanks to his ever optimistic, upbeat outlook Shady Nate has managed to write and/or record music and boasts an impressive discography that includes  - much of it with his fellow rap artists in the tight knit LiveWire collective - the label he launched in 2004 along with J Stalin and Jay Jonah.  I recently caught up with Shady Nate to talk about rap music, West Oakland, and how he got the name Shady Nate?

"I got my name from my hood: the notorious Acorn Projects - the only projects in Oakland period. They say everybody in my hood is Shady. I'm from a shady hood and Acorn niggas ain't cool and all that. So I named myself Shady Nate just to let people know what it is," Nate told me. Known for caring about his West Oakland neighborhood and giving back to his community (Nate has been responsible for throwing BBQ's in his neighborhood for the kids coming up over the past two summers) I was curious to know what Nate thought of West Oakland today versus ten, fifteen, or twenty years ago. Is it better or worse than when he was a kid coming up? "That's a tough one," he answered, pausing for a second and considering all of the so-called "development" that taken place in West Oakland in the past decade. "Yes they're putting money into the city; they're rebuilding but they're not putting money back into the right places. They're not putting money into the schools so while they're rebuilding the structures, the buildings, they're not rebuilding the community, the people. So the people is getting worse. It's a lot worse from when I was a youngster. People might have thought I was crazy but now the people that is coming up under me they is even more sick. I can't say it's getting better. I really think it's getting worse."

Shady Nate found his love of hip-hop and rhyme making from a young age thanks to a school teacher, he told me. "Yeah my fifth grade teacher used to have our whole class write poetry and write about our day, everyday, and it just stuck with me. So when I got to like 18 or 19 years of age and my potnas was rapping it was already in me."  Coming up Shady Nate had a few mentors in the rap game that without their guidance he says he would not have made it this far. They included Lil Dame who he said, "first got me started with this rap shit. He helped me write my first bar. He was the rawest dude I ever met in my whole life." Another was the M.A.C.. "Free M.A.C., Mac Blast," said Nate. "He was the first person to ever take me to a studio." "And there was one more: I gotta give a shout out to Taco Dell man. He was the one who kept me in the studio and made sure I didn't fall off." Nate quickly notes that "two out of those three dudes is doing life in jail right now: one in Pelican Bay and one in Folsom [State Prison]. But them my mentors. Them the dudes that I come up under, ya feel me."

On the topic of incarceration I'd heard that Shady Nate had spent so much time behind bars that he had inspired a Free Shady Nate campaign. Was that true? "Oh yeah man and it stayed been a Free Shady Nate campaign until I jumped [fulltime] in this music game in '06 or '07. Between 2000 and 2007 I was in and out of jail all the time. I couldn't stay my ass out of jail," he admits. "But it was just for little petty shit though. It was never for no big shit. All the big shit cases I had I always beat 'em. Man there was always a Free Shady Nate campaign.But that shit's over. I'm a rapper now!"  As well as been a rapper these days he also tries to be a mentor to kids in his West Oakland neighborhood, throwing the summer series of We All We Got community BBQs in a local West Oakland park. "Yeah it's for the kids - and for the people on the streets - to have something to do, just for them to have something to do coz idle time is the devil's playground, So I try to keep my influence in the hood, a positive one. And we just had a big block party too. Again it was just to try and give the kids something to do. Because they ain't got nothing to do. All the school projects have been shut down so it's on us.!"

Is Shady Nate surprised with how well LiveWire has done since it was founded? No he said. In fact he thought "we was gonna blow up like Cash Money or something so I got a long way to go. I feel like I ain't there yet. LiveWire is almost a household name but I still feel like we got a long way to go." With his tireless work ethic it looks like Shady Nate should reach his goals.

The prolific artist was responsible for a lot of productions in 2011 including a series of music videos, his impressive album Son of the Hood, and a slew of other releases he is involved in including the two soon to drop group full length recordings LiveWire Mafia and The Fab Five featuring "the starting line up of LiveWire." Before leaving Shady Nate I asked him where he sees himself in ten years time? "I would like to see myself as an executive, as a factor in this music game whether still doing music or the business of music."

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West Oakland (5), Livewire (3), Shady Nate (4), Bay Area Rap (13), Hip-hop (217)