Here is a transcription of the interview I did recently with Sullee J:
One of your most recent songs is ‘Ima Star’ which D12 rapper Kuniva. Why would you say that you’re a star and what separates you from other rappers on the market at the moment?
I consider myself a star because stars shine light upon this world and I feel like that’s my purpose. I’m not just here for a recognition type of thing. I’m not in here just to be famous. I’m here to actually make a difference with my music and as you can see I keep consistent with that. If you heard my latest song which is ‘Voice of the People’, you can see that I’m helping out with children. It doesn’t matter what race or what city or where you’re from, what your background is – humanity is one. I think I said in an article I wrote recently, you can’t write the word humanity without the word ‘unity’, and I believe in that fully. I believe I’m a star, I believe I shine light on this world.
In the song, one of the lyrics is ‘I don’t sell myself for a little bit of fame’. If you’re not here for fame, what are you here for, and what is your purpose?
I want to bring people together. I feel nowadays a lot of people its either gossip or more people look for differences and something that segregate each other. I’m here to find a common ground. The difference is I’m not trying to sound like nobody; I don’t really care how I sound at the end of the day as far as myself. And that’s the whole point of being an artist, be you, be unique. Don’t come here sounding like another Young Jeezy or another Jay Z or somebody else. That’s the problem with most artists nowadays; everyone’s trying to be like someone else. I’m just trying be me.
You use the medium of music to channel your emotions and views about the world, such as in ‘Be The Voice’ and ‘Heart of a Martyr’. What do you think are the main problems in the world at the moment?
Problems are endless. There’s so much corruption and there’s chaos. There’s poverty. There are too many problems and I feel like hopefully I can be the start of something. There are a lot of revolutionary artists out there but at the same time some people just talk. But there are others who are actually doing it. I just feel like I can initiate a movement. That’s my goal. I want to start something so after I die it still continues to live on.
So you seek to educate with your music as well as entertain?
I put knowledge on blast.
In ‘Armageddon’ you give reference to God and Heaven but from the Qur’an. What would you say your true faith is, or would you say it’s a combination of different religions?
Definitely Islam but at the same time one of my best friends is Christian. One thing my religion teaches me is: to each their own. So I feel like as long as you know and believe in what you do then I respect you. I’m not saying that you have to believe in god, I do have friends that are atheists, it’s just in my own personal view, everything I have done in my life, faith has always been the biggest part of it, whether its music, whether its school. I believe that everything I do is a part of a plan that God made. Armageddon is an admonition that includes both aspects from the Bible, the Qur’an and the Tura. I try to include everything so people don’t see that I’m one-sided. I’m trying to bring everyone together.
So the role of belief and faith has played a big part in your music. ‘Journey’ is a song where religion is heavily featured. Speaking of journey, where do you hope your journey will lead you?
I want to be the light for this world. The song actually involves a little of my culture – I’m Pakistani. I wanted to show the diverse side of me, I don’t want them thinking I’m only a one track artist. Like a lot of people get into this revolutionary thing and just talk about the same thing over and over. As an artist I like to be diverse, I like to talk about everything. That was a song which shows a different personality of me.
In the song ‘Inception’ you say ‘there must be a reason why I’m alive, there must be a reason why I survived’. This is in reference to the car crash that happened a few years ago. Can you give us a few words about the crash and how it changed your outlook upon life.
That car crash in December 2005 was crazy. We were in a two way road and it was raining and I was a passenger. And at the time I didn’t have my belt on, but that’s what the doctor said actually saved me! We hit the car in front and as we did a car behind hit us and the car shifted towards the left lane which was a one way and there was a pickup truck that ran straight into me. All I remember is waking up screaming and I heard the doctor say, ‘you’ve lost too much blood; he’s not going to survive’. The next thing you now, miraculously I did. But my femur of my left leg came out and split – that’s what broke my right arm, I had injured ribs and the doctors kept saying things like ‘he’ll never walk again’ and ‘he’ll never be able to use his hands again’ and I somehow rose up all above that and I made it. So ever since then I believe if you keep trying, if you believe in yourself then nothing can stop you.
Before the crash you didn’t have any direction and after the crash you discovered belief.
Before so I was in and out of phases, I was a teen I just felt like nothing mattered. I didn’t care – everything was like whatever. I was at that point where I didn’t care much about anything in life so I was just going astray and that was kind of a wakeup call for me. I’m glad. Sometimes it takes a moment like that to open a person’s eyes and I’m glad it happened at such a young age instead of me being 40/50 years old, looking back and regretting everything. At least I’ve learnt a lot more now. It helped me reflect.
Your recovery from the crash and your progression through music has led to you opening for acts such as Jay Sean, DJ Drama and Waka Flocka. This has obviously given you exposure to a larger number of listeners. What have you gained from the experience of working with these artists?
It’s amazing. I was one of the first Pakistani artists, which I still believe I am, the only one who has a chance to open up for so many artists, to have a chance to fly all the way out to Europe just to open for an artist like Mos Def – artists I really look up to as well, for being in the scene for the conscience hip-hop movement for so long and I just feel like it’s really good for exposure and it shows that somehow artists that came out of nowhere, unsigned, when I was opening up for all these artists I had no back-up team at that time, I didn’t have Allan (Allan Siema, Sullee J’s agent) either, I was doing this all myself. It was like ‘wow’ where did he come from. That’s one thing that really helps me believe that I’m here for a reason and that reason will be shown soon.
And what advice did these artists, such as Jay Sean have for you?
I wish I had got a chance to talk to him (Jay Sean), if he didn’t have all those bodyguards around him. I feel the majority of advice that most artists’ give you is the same thing – be yourself, watch out for the industry, you know a lot of it is rigged. The majority of artists will tell you that there is a lot of corruption in the industry and don’t fall for it. Their just like ‘be aware’, and that the advice I keep getting.
Unlike other rappers you do not seek to disrespect girls by using derogatory terms to refer to them. What do you feel about rappers like Rick Ross who seem to encourage this decadent lifestyle of a rapper? Do you think this gives rap music a bad name? And do you think this turns people away from rap?
It’s hard to say, because nowadays, a person like Rick Ross is talented in his own way but I do feel like content like that dumbs down a generation. What are we teaching the youth? Imagine if your son’s like 15/16 in high school and he puts on the radio and all he hears is ‘this hoe that hoe’. What are you teaching him and what are you learning at the end of the day? That’s why they say a lot of artists in the industry sell their soul. If I was signed tomorrow, would they still let me talk about what I do on a track or would they be like ‘no, make a track about killing this person or smoking weed’, I mean is that what I’m really about? I guess at the end of the day, does money mean that much to you where you would just talk about whatever and sell yourself. I don’t agree with that type of content but that’s what’s selling sadly in today’s world. That’s what I’m trying to rise up against and fight. There are many artists [trying to carry the same message] sadly in the underground as they label it. But I feel like the underground is where the real is at.
Do you think these rappers should be allowed to express their views about these type of issues in their music?
I feel like an artist should be able to express any views as long as it’s real as long as it exemplifies them. For example, when Eminem first came out, he only talked about the majority of that stuff because that’s what life was. But nowadays I feel like a lot of the artists in the booth their just writing something and it’s like a story made up and it’s not even real most the time. It’s like you’re not really killing someone, you’re not really doing this, so why you talking about it. That’s why they call this era ‘The Great Deception’ because most of what you hear is fake, it’s not real. I don’t single out nobody, but to each their own.
Most rappers shy away from talking about proper, meaningful relationships with woman but you open up quite a lot in your music about your relations such as in ‘Far Away’. Do you think rappers should open up more or do you think this is part of their persona and an image which they try and upkeep?
That [woman] is a huge part of my music too because I feel like music is my therapy so at the end of the day is someone is listening or not, I made a song like ‘Far Away’ so that someone who’s been through the same situation, who’s been through heartbreak, maybe they could feel or maybe they could cope when they listen to the song like I do. I’m sure everyone who listens to music, there are certain moments when you listen to it, it hits you in a different way. You know, I can listen to a pump up song when I work out or I can listen to a sad song when I’m going through something upsetting. Music hits you in different ways, that’s why I write songs like that, for people who are dealing with certain emotions. I went through it and if their going through it then maybe it will help them rise through it knowing that I went through it.
You claim you are the only Pakistani-American artist out there…
There are many of them I’m sure but I was one of the first to rise up in the mainstream – that’s the difference. I was one of the first to travel all these places and hit FOX news and BS news and to open up for all these artists and I’m still in the game trying to make it consistent. That’s a hard barrier to break because I don’t really think there’s any mainstream Pakistani artists out there that are signed that you hear on the radio all the time, and a song like ‘Nothing Else Matters’, it was on maybe 20 radio stations over seven different countries, you know, that’s different.
And what’s the reception to your music in Pakistan?
Lately I did have an interview out there [Pakistan] but they put me on and were like whenever you come out we’ll show love so I want to go out there next year some time, I actually wanted to go last year but I heard they were saying the conditions were so bad that if I go to certain areas then they honestly really said that you wouldn’t make it back.
You’re hoping to come to England. When do you think that will be?
Hopefully next year (come to England), that’s what me and Allan are planning because that’s when we’re going to release the mixtape, we’ll release the EP next year, so a lot will go on next year and God willing us we’ll be in a bunch of more press and I’ll be on TV a lot more, I’ll be doing a lot more shows so that’s everything.
Finally, what’s next for Sullee J and what have you got lined up for the listeners?
I got a track coming out with Mark Deez November 1, the track after that I won’t say who it is yet but I am featuring another artist from Shady 2.0, so definitely look out for that one, that one’s going to be huge.