Atlanta emcee dedicates “The Shadow In The Shade” to true hip-hop — while also including a shout-out to Betty White.
Sy Ari Da Kid Steps Out Of The Shadows With New Album
It didn’t take long for Sy Ari Da Kid’s new album, “The Shadow In The Shade,” to create a monstrous buzz in the hip-hop community. Just days after its March 18 release, Sy received a cosign from NBA star Kevin Durant, accompanied by the GOAT emoji.
Sy successfully lyrically slaps boxes with hip-hop icons like Jadakiss, Raekwon, Lloyd Banks, Big K.R.I.T. and many others. Admittedly, Sy Ari Da Kid — also known as SADK — feels he’s played the background for long enough, and although he has somewhat accepted that role, he understands the impact “The Shadow In The Shade” could have in putting his career into high gear. An instant classic that is receiving a ton of attention in the hip-hop world, SADK plans to drop a deluxe version of the album in the weeks to come.
Zenger spoke with the lyrical genius, who opens up about the title of the project, the positive reception he’s been receiving and what got his confidence levels up.
Percy Crawford interviewed Sy Ari Da Kid for Zenger.
Zenger: Let’s start with the title, “The Shadow In the Shade.” What’s the meaning behind that?
Sy Ari Da Kid: I get a lot of people asking that question, I wanted a title like that. It’s an analogy based off of… if you think about it, there are no shadows in the shade. It’s physically impossible. But you know that if you put light on something, a shadow will appear at some point.
I always felt like that’s what I was in the industry. I was right there, close enough. I’ve been around a lot of moments, big rap beefs, certain records getting written, people not knowing, the major artists getting all the spotlight, but the people around it don’t. I felt like I’ve always been that shadow in the shade. People tell me, I’m slept on. I’m just as good as the GOATs, but I don’t have the platform yet.
That’s what “The Shadow In the Shade” represents to me. You put a little light on something, it’s there, but it doesn’t have the light that the other things have. I think I’m always going to be the shadow in the shade. I’m content with being that. That’s kind of what I made the album about. Being at that GOAT level lyrically and creatively, but not having no spotlight on me.
Zenger: I listened to this album start to finish, and you have to feel like this is the album that will change that narrative.
Sy Ari Da Kid: Yeah! I honestly didn’t walk into it thinking like that, but I’ve gotten hundreds and hundreds of tweets and posts telling me my album is “Album of the Year!” I’m getting crazy love, bro. If it does it does, if not, I’m going to do it again and just try to match the same intensity.
Zenger: Does this album feel like that boxer who knows he landed the perfect knockout punch from a confidence level for you?
Sy Ari Da Kid: Yeah, because I did a lot of research, I was listening to so much stuff. As I was listening to everything, I was just like, “No one is really delivering like this to me right now.” I’m not just talking about any artists; I’m talking about everybody. I just feel like lyrically, and the way I created it… the only thing I regret about this project is me not documenting how I recorded it. If people seen my recording process, it would have taken it to a whole ‘nother level. I look at it like GOAT level status for real.
Zenger: Is that lesson learned, and you will record and document your process moving forward?
Sy Ari Da Kid: Yeah, but that’s the thing with documenting, I always feel like, every time I pull the camera out, nothing happens. It’s like a gift and a curse. I feel like there’s a median you gotta put between it to where you can show people, you’re in the studio, you’re not using an engineer, you’re changing beats different from what the producer did it, you’re not writing nothing down.
I’m doing all this off the top of my head. I went on Instagram Live on some of these records. Some of the fans were like, “Yo, I remember when you were doing this on Live.” My “Sopranos Intro,” I did the whole record on Instagram Live. People were like, “Damn, you’re literally doing this without writing.” That’s my recording process.
Zenger: You have a ton of top-level artists. They all seem carefully calculated, and they all brought their A-game.
Sy Ari Da Kid: They did. The blessing of it was, only record I did in the studio with the artist was “Darkness In The Abyss,” with Mickey Factz. Everybody else, they had the luxury of hearing me first. I think that made them step their game up because, them being those calibers of artists, they couldn’t just treat it like a feature that they could just go on and breeze their way through. I went on those records doing me.
I didn’t really worry about who was going to get on the record. Prime example: “Press 0” with Benny The Butcher. There’s a version without him on it where I had two verses. The version everybody is hearing now, I only have one verse. Once Benny hit me, I took the second verse off. My second verse is crazy. He was able to hear my first verse and we sound real equal on that record.
Zenger: Crazier than the first verse? The first verse in crazy.
Sy Ari Da Kid: I’m not going to say crazier, but it’s… I’ll probably drop it on the deluxe version. I got a line on there where I say, “I seen a whole lot of true crimes in this heavy life, that’s why I probably die with these two 9’s like Betty White!” You know how Betty White died when she was 99? I got lines on there that are incredible.
Zenger: In speaking on the album, you say, “Information from Birdman I’ll never disclose.” Doesn’t have to be from Birdman, but what was the best advice you received in the music business?
Sy Ari Da Kid: A piece of advice that I got that I felt was detrimental to me, I was at a writing camp one time with Akon and Devyne Stephens for Akon’s album that he still didn’t drop till this day. I was a kid back then. The first day, they had all of these dope songwriters. I’m talking about the best ones from Atlanta to L.A. The first day, the process of it was, as you record in each room, you couldn’t just turn it in to Devyne Stephens and Akon. You had to give it to Amber Grimes and JR McKee.
We turned all this music in, and I guess once they got that first folder that first day, I think once Devyne and Akon first heard it, they were disappointed. I think what they were disappointed about was everyone was so busy trying to get a placement, that they were trying their best trying to sound like Akon. They pulled us all in the kitchen and he was like, “Listen, I don’t like what I’m hearing. I think everyone is trying too hard to sound like Akon. We didn’t call ya’ll hear for that. We called you here because we like how you sound as yourself. What we’re going to do is, we’re going to pick what we like from you, and if Akon likes it, he will then turn that into him to his best ability.”
I think from that day forward, I gained more confidence. When you’re nice in your hood, for your homies, and in your city, that’s one thing, but once the people that is up there call you in, you start to overthink it. The whole time the confidence of being you, sounding like you, and mastering your sound is important. I think when I heard that my confidence went crazy from that point forward. That was a great piece of advice that I got. I’ll never forget it and I give it to other writers and artists. Find your best way to just be yourself. You can’t lose like that.
Zenger: That’s the pattern of the album. No matter who you are collabing with on a song, you sound like you.
Sy Ari Da Kid: Facts! I was confident in being me. That came from that same story that I just told you, I got a piece of that from every artist. They don’t know, before me and Kiss [Jadakiss] did the record, John John Da Din brother, Bart, had me pull up to this spot called Copper Cove in Atlanta, and I got to chop it up with Kiss for about 20 minutes. He was like, “Yo, I love what you’re doing. I was glad you got out your deal with Birdman.”
He was telling me things I didn’t even know he knew. He was telling me I was super dope. Same thing with Benny [The Butcher]. I did a record with one of Benny’s artist called Young World from Buffalo. I did a favor for them, and he was always like, “I got you on a record whenever the time permits. I mess with your music, it’s fire.” When you get compliments from people like that… not that I need it, but it does hit the reset. It’s like a checkpoint. I already know I’m in the car, but the checkpoints matter when you’re in the race.
People don’t know, I done had aux battles, like Fabolous giving me the aux cord, I play something, and he play something. I done been in rooms doing that with these GOATs. As I’m listening to his, I’m thinking, my joints ain’t too far, if not confidently I feel better than a lot of these dudes when they playing their s**t. I’m not saying I’m better than anybody, but I am. I feel like I am better, but I’m still humble because I took a lot from them. I studied Fabolous, Lloyd Banks and Jadakiss. I should be better than them. They got the head start. I was able to peep them from afar, so why not be able to evolve that sound?
Zenger: I love the fact you brought JR Writer on for a feature on “Real Recognize Real.”
Sy Ari Da Kid: You know what’s crazy… when you speak of Dipset, one thing that bothered me about Dipset doing the Verzuz, yeah, Jimmy [Jim Jones], Cam [Cam’ron], and Juelz [Santana] had those hits. And I understand they were the main characters, but the nicest rapper on Dipset was JR Writer. He had the best freestyles on Dipset, period. I hated the fact that he wasn’t even there. Whatever litigation or court process that they were going through, the fact that the world wasn’t even saying, “Where is JR Writer?” — that pissed me off. He was like the Lloyd Banks or the Cassidy of that crew. Being able to get around him and knock that record out was groundbreaking to me. I did that for me.
Zenger: Not to diss anything that’s out there right now, but I was starting to think it was impossible for an artist to give us a 21-track certified classic album, and you delivered that. How does that feel?
Sy Ari Da Kid: Never did the office, bro. I ain’t going to lie, I don’t really feel much, but I’m ready for the next joint. People don’t know, I’m about to drop a deluxe version with another five-six tracks that I didn’t put on there. I’m about to mess the game up. I got some records I didn’t even put on this album. I could’ve had 30 tracks on there, but I took them off because it was too many.
I’m about to drop a deluxe version in like… I don’t know, give me four weeks. I’ll drop the video with Jadakiss, and the video with Mickey Factz, I shot a lot of videos. I’m going to drop a couple of visuals, then I’m going to put the deluxe out.
Edited by Matthew B. Hall and Kristen Butler