Label drama has been a perpetual thorn in the side of the Clipse. When Malice and Pusha T couldn’t get the major labels to see their vision, they took to the streets but not alone. Forming the Re-Up Gang with Philadelphia MCs Ab-Liva and Sandman, the Clipse delivered not one but three critically-acclaimed volumes of their We Got It 4 Cheap mixtape series. The tapes sustained the Virginia duo’s buzz between projects and introduced fans to two more lyrical giants—Liva and Sandman.
Things were going good for the four-man collective by 2008, the Clipse were signed to Columbia Records and their notoriously long-delayed sophomore effort, Hell Hath No Fury, looked ready to finally drop. Before that, though, they were set to release the Koch-distributed The Clipse Present: Re-Up Gang that July. Two months later, news broke that Sandman had abruptly left the fold to try his hand at a solo career and build up his own brand, Cannons Inc. XXLMag.com recently caught up with the Clipse’s former anchor to discuss his departure from Re-Up, his new mixtape, The Heart of the City, with Don Cannon and why he and Malice once shed tears together.
XXLMag.com: As part of Re-Up Gang, you had critical acclaim for appearing on the three highly regarded Got It 4 Cheap mixtapes. Why did you decide to walk away?
Sandman: Man, I left because I truly felt in my heart that everything the Re-Up Gang as a four-man group worked for was getting ready to start, then how could I put it? …I saw The Clipse get money and take it all to themselves—one way or another. Like, we promoted a single called “20K Money Making Brothers on the Corner,” remember that? That was supposed to be our single on the Koch album. All of the sudden, “Fast Life” came out and that was our one shot [at a mainstream look]… It was already told to the world that the Re-Up Gang album was coming first on Columbia. This shit is in publications and websites, but then I hear the Clipse was releasing an album [first]. In my mind I’m thinking that’s a conflict of interest. How could Re-Up drop on Columbia and then three months later the Clipse drop? It’s don’t make sense.
XXLMag.com: Did you ever get an explanation for why things switched from the Re-Up project to the Clipse’s next album?
Sandman: I hit Pusha up like, “What’s up?” He’s like, “The label [Columbia] said it’d be best [for the Clipse album to come first].” We knew that Koch wasn’t giving us no fuckin’ second video. So the payoff from all that fuckin’ touring, mixtapes and that grind; [the Clipse] got the benefit of that. So I’m feeling like, damn, I gotta stand around and now be on some “Wamp Wamp,” “Mr. Me Too” background video shit. That was cool then ’cause that was what it was about and I’m a team player. My niggas’ dropping albums, I’m working with that, that was the plan but for it to turn into what I just told you it turned into… When I got the call [to do the “Fast Life” video] I was like, “Nah, I’m not coming out there and I’m not with it no more.”
XXLMag.com: So is there beef between y’all over all of this now?
Sandman: Nah, it wasn’t no beef, it was all business. Me and Malice read the Bible together on the tour bus before. His grandmother passed of cancer and my grandma was dealing with that shit, too. I forget which CD we were on tour for, but my grandma had cancer, dawg, and she was going through it. My grandma is the rock of our family, so I had distanced myself in back of the tour bus, smoking on something and one day Malice came back there and he seen it in my face. I couldn’t hold it in, it was killin’ me, dawg. I just wanted to cry, ’cause it was my grandma. I started to express myself and tears started rolling down his face, too. We confided in each other about each others’ grandmas. I got love for these niggas, but at the same time the business obviously does not benefit me right now and it’s nothing guaranteed.
XXLMag.com: In XXL’s interview with the Clipse in the Novmeber issue, it said early reports were that you left because of how Koch/E1 handled the Re-Up project. Is that true?
Sandman: No, I ain’t fuckin’ leave because of what Koch did. I don’t even know what Koch did. How the fuck I know, I don’t even own a copy of that Koch album and I didn’t know nobody up there. I left because I felt like the shit that was being told to me wasn’t being acted upon. [Malice and Pusha] came and looked for me. I wasn’t nowhere looking for the Clipse, dawg. I was in the fuckin’ hood when I was selling my work when I got my first deal and when it went bad I went back to the streets made a DVD and all kinds of shit popped off. I did things that niggas do to keep their name relevant in hip-hop while I was trying to get on.
XXLMag.com: Speaking of which, you’ve stayed on your grind since splitting from the Clipse, dropping three mixtapes—most notable your recent one with Don Cannon, The Heart of the City. What else are you working on?
Sandman: Man, I’m just grindin’. I got a bevy of videos gettin’ ready to hit… We got a little independent deal on the table—shout out to my man Truth, and my man Charlie over at Traffic Distribution—they wanted me to turn [my album] in by August 15th and have it drop by October, and I just felt in my heart that if [my company] Cannons Inc. is gonna be the sole label, you know the role your label gotta play when it’s real, that ain’t even no time to fuckin’ promote an album, let alone to make sure your label is stable enough to really kick this thing off. I felt like I wanted to do another CD and just use this winter to build my juggernaut summer, like Heart of the City is a hell of a lead off into the Cannons CD and to [my sister] Housewife’s CD and to the Sandman Best of…, which is called 25 to Life, and to another Sandman CD. I’ll probably drop another mixtape in March ’cause in April the album’s comin’.
XXLMag.com: What’s the name of the album?
Sandman: The album is called 12/12. Like you know, everything starts and ends at 12, it’s a beginning and an end. However you wanna look at it, 12 disciples, 12/12 skinnies, crack bags, but the most significant thing to the number 12/12 for me is that’s the number code to hip-hip, microphone check 1-2, 1-2, and that’s my birth date, that’s when I was born, December 12. I was born on the code for hip-hop, so there’s got to be something special there.
XXLMag.com: Seemed like you had something special with Re-Up, any regrets about going solo?
Sandman: It was all love, man, but I can’t say that I didn’t see a lot of shit happening. I’m always going speak how I feel, bro. I don’t give a fuck who you is or where we at, I’m going say something if I don’t like it… The Re-Up Gang is forever, though, and I wish them the best with Re-Up Gang Records. I wish they sign [someone like] Lady Gaga and blow the fuck up ’cause that’s what I want to do with my company. Real rap, but at the end of the day, Re-Up Gang, the legacy, the four-man group, the dopest four-man group since N.W.A… That’s forever. —Anslem Samuel