The 41st Law of Power by Robert Greene warns the reader to avoid stepping into a great man’s shoes and that includes your father. King Solomon with all of his riches and concubines, could not outdo the legacy of his father King David. Sure the son may gain notable popularity and success, but that usually only works if the son takes a slight turn to form their own identity. When you are the son of a world renown DJ, it’s fortunate when you learn that lesson early. SNS of Icy Gang is the son of DJ SNS, a Harlem DJ that made his mark in the mixtape game in the mid to late 90’s. DJ SNS made his name by leaking exclusive singles from major artists on his mixtapes well before their release date. This was long before DJ Clue added this to his formula of success. The reason this method was so successful was because of timing. This method was before the internet or streaming, so the only way someone of the culture would be up on the latest groove was through a mixtape. This method caught the son of a hustler’s attention by the name of Sean “Puffy” Combs and Combs found a way to make SNS’s music leaks profitable. SNS would soon be the go-to-man to leak exclusive Bad Boy records on his mixtapes to get the feedback from a street level if the single was a hit or not. This partnership made SNS very famous and rich.
As DJ SNS’s name got out there, he began to tour and travel the globe making a name for himself as the DJ that would shut down any party, block or any club, giving superstar DJ’s such as Ron G & Kid Capri a run for their money. Meanwhile SNS had a son being raised in Harlem. As his son grew up in the Harlem neighborhoods, he began to hear stories about how famous his father was. Sad and proud at the same time, the only time he got to see his father was on mixtapes, magazines, music television shows, or briefs visits when he was home from the road. As SNS’s son grew, he would play basketball on the famous Harlem basketball courts such as Rucker Park. As soon as he would make his way to the asphalt, the OG’s would say “Yo! here come Lil SNS.” And from there the name Lil SNS stuck. “I couldn’t change my name if I wanted to.” laughs Lil S. As I talked to Lil S, I truly had to respect his perceptive of his father growing up being a superstar absentee dad to wanting to carve his own lane in the music business. Even so much to that fact he recently dropped “Lil” from his name to just SNS. Check it out as we chop it up about growing up in Harlem to his group Icy Gang and their music.
SO: Whaddup S! Glad you could spare some of your time to chop it up with Straight Official. If you could, kinda walk us through how you took it all in to be around the likes of Puff, Capri, and a lot of the superstars of rap all because your father was “That Dude”!
SNS: So when I was young, I barely seen my Pops, because you gotta think, this was the late 90’s so he was in rare form. At this time I’m talkin about, he had the big-body Range Rover…iced out chains. When he would roll through the hood everybody knew it was him. So I would either see him coming, like just getting in, or I would see him going like leaving and it would be like the ice cream truck, I would run behind the car chasing it. But I didn’t truly realize his popularity or power until I became much older and started to do this music thing for myself.
SO: Tell us about not only the pressure of being DJ SNS’s son, but talk about the pressure of being a rapper coming out of Harlem.
SNS: Yeah like you said, It’s pressure just being from Harlem and coming out doing music let alone being the son of DJ SNS. You gotta look at it like this, of course I got what I got because of the genes, but growing up in Harlem we love music, we extremely love fashion and the people of Harlem World just love to have fun. Harlem was and still is a Mecca for talent, from the Harlem Renaissance to Jazz to Hip Hop. We not even gonna talk about The Apollo. The Apollo is still proving ground of if you have what it takes to make it big time. If you even want to talk poetry and Langston Hughes we’ve got that legacy too. Harlem will forever be essential to art. So the pressure to be from here is… if you gonna come outside you always gotta be on ya A game. You have to always be ready because you represent a pride..a legacy.
SO: Sounds like you struggled in the beginning with having a famous absentee father.
SNS: ….yeah only because I didn’t understand the grind it takes to stay on top in this business. Not until I got older did I start to understand the business of the industry and you have to be built for it. But when I was young I didn’t understand why I could only see my dad in a magazine or on tv or on a cd cover. I mean I would hear the folklore of the things my father was involved in, like people still come up to me and tell me they will forever love my father because they used to carry his crates just to get in the club and he would get them in and put some money in their pocket. My pops showed love to a lot of people here in Harlem. But then when I got older and got busy, I was able to bless people with my success more than I could my time, so it started to make sense about him not being available all the time.
SO: So I’m sure the natural expectation is that people thought you were going to be a DJ…why did you choose to rap instead?
SNS: My father’s already iconic in the DJ world so he already did that on the DJ side of things. I knew early on DJing is not what I wanted to do, but I was a fan of music and I knew I wanted to be involved in music so it only made sense to carry the torch from an MC perspective. Imma be honest, the first time I saw my father DJ and I saw how lit he had it, it made me never want to DJ haha because I knew that wasn’t my lane.
SO: Is your father hard on your music because you’re his son?
SNS: Man listen, my father is hard on music period. He is a super honest person about what he likes. If he don’t like something he’s gonna stand on it, so he’s only gonna play what he likes. So yeah, it took him a while to play my music because he wanted to make sure it was right. As my father you would think he would be the first one to play my music. But nah…he had to know it was good first. But this music journey has brought us closer so I’m grateful for that.
SO: So being that Harlem is known for entertainers and notorious hustlers what kept you on the straight and narrow?
SNS: Who said I stayed on the straight and narrow? Haha I was involved in a few things to come outside and get what I needed to get. And seriously nobody could really judge me. Because I’m telling you, on a nice day, I don’t care what the season, on a nice day, winter, spring, summer , fall, everybody is outside and everybody’s looking, so when the lights catch you, you gotta be right. These days the music keeps me right but before that, anybody will tell you, you gotta get it how you live. As a man I wanted to do for myself, so you see the people around the way having nice things, you wanna have nice things too, so you take the steps to get them. My Pops asked me why I was doing it but as a man I told him I have to make my own mistakes. I’m just glad I didn’t get caught up. I’m blessed…cuz I got stories haha.
SO: So are you nervous about having mass appeal in this industry?
SNS: Out the gate I know my music is not going to be for everybody. All I’m asking is for people to give it a chance. Because you may not like one record, doesn’t mean you won’t like the next 3, 4 or 5 songs I put out. All it takes is one hit to catch fire. I already got the green light from Flex, I already got the green light from my borough. Seriously, I’m from Harlem man, we are born with a confidence to win. So that’s my outlook on things….I’m going to win.
SO: You seem to have a mature approach to your music goals, what do you accredit that to?
SNS: I watched for years, Jay, 50 Cam, Kiss, and Fab and watched the moves they made, right or wrong and I studied them along with the wisdom I received from Big S and the rest I just use my instinct and what feels right. So from there, that’s how I try to move.
SO: So what’s the end game and who is Icy Gang?
SNS: When you mention those legends Big L, Dipset, Ma$e, Diddy, Dame, DJ SNS, I want to be right up there wit em. As for Icy Gang….we just the next level. Rock wit us!
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