Rap duo SAS, comprised of Mega and his older brother Mayhem, have experienced near unbelievable highs for an unsigned UK act to frustrating lows. From battle rapping in iconic New York projects, affiliation with rap crew Dipset and Roc-a-Fella records, plus sitting in studio sessions with Jay-Z, Kanye West & Beyoncé whilst they created hits, namely UK & US top 5 single Bonnie & Clyde 03, to hate in their home country for all the above and public accusations of being traitors by rapper and former friend Juelz Santana. 8 mixtapes later, they’re on the verge of releasing second street album Galaxy Fly lead by singles Shout and latest effort Complete.
Their introduction to most in the UK was through Jay-Z’s business partner at the time, Damon Dash. They met up after Dame announced he was looking for UK rappers on Tim Westwood’s Radio 1 show in ’03. On one hand they received instant international credibility most artists in the UK scene would happily pay for, but with that came jealousy and criticism for their alleged ‘fake American’ accents at a time of grime and artists becoming proud of their English accents. ‘We lived there so our accent was a little bit inclined with that,’ they clarify. ‘But there are people over here with the accent and they haven’t even been there!’
Originally from East Finchley, north London, the brothers attended high school in New York after Mayhem got a scholarship to play basketball ‘98. The brothers spent spare time battle rapping against local wordsmiths in the Stapleton projects, noted for Wu-Tang Clan’s formation, and Jay-Z’s blocks, Marcy. ‘We used to [rap] for 40 seconds in a battle and within 15 minutes we’d have a crowd of about 40 man. This is without a beat remember, so we had to learn how to drop bars with a certain charisma to make the crowd have a reaction,’ a skill that still helps them to this day.
Despite hanging out with millionaires and rumours of signing to Dipset/Roc-a-Fella, they were still independent artists without any mixtapes, therefore paying everyday living costs without any income from music. Travelling back-and-forth didn’t only cause problems financially; it hindered their relevance in the circles. ‘I feel like a lot more stuff would have happened if we had stayed in America, but we would always have to come back to London after a few months,” says Mega. ‘When you’re away from people they start to forget, so you have to keep on refreshing their memory.’ They kept contact with Kanye, in fact he wanted them on his third album, Graduation, but they weren’t allowed into the States at the time (stemming from charges they were later proven innocent of), so it was a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. During their absence, Roc-A-Fella split and the seeds behind Dipset’s unofficial breakdown had been planted. When travel issues were sorted, SAS went with Juelz Santana until their public transatlantic spate via video hosting sites such as WorldStarHipHop in ’09. These events lead disbelievers to claim a premature end to SAS’ contacts in America. ‘Juelz wasn’t the link’ Mega affirms. ‘He was just our friend,’ suggesting it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Shout, their first official single off Galaxy Fly, addresses everything prior to where they’re at and reason’s for their hiatus. Less than a month after the video’s release in May, the Tears for Fears sample was also used for Dizzee Rascal and James Corden’s World Cup #1 single ‘Shout’.’I was gutted at first because we did it in 2008,’ says Mega wishing they never held onto it for so long. After the disappointment they realised apart from the sample and chorus the two songs weren’t alike. ‘What we were talking about suited the song more,’ and felt ‘great minds think alike’ after people pointed out the fact Simon Cowell thought the same as them.
Their second single Complete marks a change in sound which surprised many. Not only is it geared towards the ladies, the instrumental isn’t far from what the underground criticise grime-turned-pop artists for ‘selling out’. Frustration from not being added to TV and radio play lists made them create grittier songs, but they state they would have made songs like Complete if they had the major label machine behind them. ‘What’s the point of making commercially-viable songs if they aren’t going to be heard by the masses during the day?’ The Euro-dance sounding song is produced by Beno, their in-house producer, better known for hard hip-hop tracks like Nothing Long and Foreign Exchange (both feature Cam’ron). ‘If we hear a beat that we like, we’re gonna do what you’re supposed to do on it.’ Is this an attempt to land a major label recording contract? ‘We weren’t thinking this is gonna blow up, we just did it because we liked it,’ says Mega. ‘We’ve always been doing girl joints, this one’s more upbeat – that Euro sound.’ The aim of the single is to show their versatility. ‘We’ve always just made music.’
The album ranges from real hardcore rap to RnB and rock influences with an older and different outlook on life in their lyrics. With Galaxy Fly they hope to land a deal with a major label machine behind them. The CD boasts features from New York legends NORE (formerly Noreaga) and Dipset’s head Cam’ron as well as his highly-touted protégé Vado and Chiddy (from Chiddy Bang).
Singles ‘Shout’ and ‘Complete’ are available on iTunes now. Street album ‘Galaxy Fly’ is scheduled for release November 2010.
Words by Marvin Sparks