Although 50 Cent may get most of the credit, Sha Money XL has been just as instrumental in building the G-Unit brand. Born Michael Clervoix, the Hollis, Queens native broke ground in the mid ’90s as a local DJ and producer. Originally under the moniker Sha Self, the first generation Haitian-American crafted tracks for hometown artists such as Royal Flush and Cormega. His big break came, though, in 1996 when he landed an internship at Def Jam Records. During his two years at the historic label, Sha befriended Jam Master Jay, who introduced him to a burgeoning Queens rapper named 50 Cent that the Run-DMC jock was mentoring at the time. Sha and 50 immediately formed a strong friendship that culminated when Columbia Records dropped Fif in 2000 and they decided to create G-Unit. Operating as the brand’s marketer, financer, mixtape producer, engineer, A&R and 50’s manager, Sha was eventually named President of G-Unit Records when Curtis signed his historic deal with Shady/Aftermath Records in 2002. Contributing beats to all of label’s subsequent releases, Sha not only positioned himself as a shrewd businessman but a talented producer as well. To date he’s helmed the boards on tracks such as 50’s “Poor Lil Rich” and co-production credit on Young Buck’s “Do It Like Me” and Mobb Deep’s “Put ’Em In Their Place.” However, after disappointing 2006 releases from Lloyd Banks (335,000 for Rotten Apple) and Mobb Deep’s G-Unit debut (271,000 for Blood Money), 50 Cent held a meeting in January 2007 announcing major changes within the camp. As a result, Sha Money and 50 agreed to reorganize the company, as Sha vacated his position as the label’s president in order to focus on his Money Management Group. Formed in 2002, the company manages most of the G-Unit roster and a vast lineup of beat-makers, including Jake One, Chris Styles and Nick Speed. With rumors of internal tension being at the root of the position shifts, XXLMag.com caught up with Sha Money to discuss his current role within G-Unit, his Money Management Group and 50’s highly anticipated album, Curtis.
Since you’re no longer President of G-Unit Records, what’s your current role within the camp now?
Me and 50 sat down and had a conversation. We decided that musically, I’m still gonna be contributing to G-Unit, but we wanted to expand [our] management and put ourselves into some new lanes. So instead of me being in the office all day, I’ll be moving around in places like Los Angeles, Seattle and New York—wherever I need to be to do new deals and bring new things to the table. But I’m still managing Lloyd Banks and Young Buck.
Initially, there was speculation 50 had fired you. Was there ever any friction between you guys or truth to that?
Nah, it was a joint decision and there was no confrontation. I was with 50 yesterday, so everything is on the up-and-up. We’re still in business. I’m just expanding my wings and taking on new career challenges. I’m doing new deals for myself and any artists I manage.
In the August issue of XXL, 50 said he held a meeting with the G-Unit roster at the beginning of the year and basically said it was time for people to stand on their own. What impact did that meeting have on the camp?
For the first six months of the year it was like riding a skateboard for the first time for some people because they were used to 50 being the leader and G-Unit being a family. But at the same time, it was a blessing, so I’m not mad at 50 for doing it. He could’ve probably found a better way to do it, but the end results would’ve still been the same. I can’t speak for others like M.O.P. and Mobb Deep, but it’s definitely helped me and I think we’re going to see the change in others, too. 50 holds the weight and he’s gotta worry about his own career. He’s getting ready to do movies with Al Pacino and Nicolas Cage. So he’s gotta go off and do his thing and make his money. He gave the other guys in G-Unit the push they needed. They’re all individuals and now they’ve gotta hold their own weight just as much as 50 did, if not more, because he’s already made it.
Some people view Mobb Deep’s Blood Money and Lloyd Banks’ Rotten Apple as failures for not going platinum, or even gold for that matter. How do you feel about those projects and how they sold?
People are waiting to see us fall, but like the saying goes, first they love you, then they hate you, then they love you again. Banks got the backlash of that hate with his album [Rotten Apple] and the Mobb Deep album [Blood Money] suffered due to a bit of that hate and also some confusion. We gotta remember, Mobb Deep has been here for 10 years already. These guys are vets, but this is a new generation of listeners we’re dealing with. I think Mobb Deep delivered an incredible album. Nobody can fuck with Havoc on those beats, man. But what we have to start doing is seeing beyond the perception of being a rapper and be smart businessmen. We gotta take a record like the Mobb Deep album that scanned 300,000 and put that muthafucka out independently. Then pray for those 300,000 fans to come back for the next one. Then that 300,000 is $3 million. If I was Mobb Deep’s manager, I’d be going independent.
Given the current state of the industry, how many units do you think 50 will sell with Curtis?
I think there’s going to be a little skim-off. It’s not going to be the same million first week sales as before. I think it’ll probably be more like 600,000 or 700,000. But 50 has what it takes to get people excited and entertain them, so he’s definitely capable of doing it. The new album is incredible.
How involved have you been in the recording of Curtis?
My production company has done six tracks on the album. The Money Management Group is really rolling and we’re about to take over some more albums. I’m working on Hi-Tek’s [Hi-Teknology 3] album and Money Management is on the new 2Pac album [Nu-Mixx Klazzics, Vol. 2]. We’ve got two tracks on the new Talib Kweli album and we’re also working with artists on Young Buck’s Cashville Records label, like C-Bo and The Outlawz.
G-Unit has always worked with new producers instead of pandering to the industry’s bigger names. Did your background a producer play a role in that decision?
I’ma producer myself, so I know the struggles other producers go through to get their music played, or at least heard. It’s hard! People don’t really look at guys with no names. They just look at their beat CD as another one to throw away. So I think it’s a skill to be able to take a producer you don’t know and find something that works. Sometimes these unknown guys are making better beats than the producers who’ve already got a name. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been making beats, what matters is how talented you are. I listen to everything that I’m sent and I’m also passing it to 50, Banks and Buck. If they hear something they like, we’re cutting that producer a check and then they’ve got a foot in the industry and can start to build a career. People keep saying hip-hop is dead, but the only reason it’ll die is if we don’t continue to bring new talent through and allow the music to evolve.
There’s been a rumor Interscope is offering you a label deal. Is that true?
I won’t say that I’m denying it, but I’m hearing a few offers at the moment and I just want the right one. But if anyone knows what I do, Interscope knows. People in the industry are starting to realize now that Sha Money is a businessman. I was managing 50 at the beginning of his career, when he went from nothing to the biggest artist out. So that has to count for something. What’s happening with my career right now is the easy part. The hardest part was back when I was in my basement trying to figure out how to get the fuck out of it.