Sugar Tongue Slim is an artist at the doorway of success. He’s made a name for himself by guesting on two tracks on the Roots' How I Got Over and membership in Black Thought’s other collective, Money Making Jam Boys. He’s also made the move to rebrand himself as STS and released the well thought of Demand More and Demand More 2 mix tapes. Street cred only goes so far in hip-hop, though. STS, like countless other rappers, only has to make the next move. For him, it’s The Illustrious, his first full-length album. As STS prepared to take his giant leap forward, he took some time to discuss the shortening of his name, his Atlanta-Philadelphia connection, and what it means to demand more of hip-hop music.
What prompted the change from Sugar Tongue Slim to STS?
It’s really always been STS. When I first started I put the whole thing out there, but I was always known as STS because I drove an STS Cadillac. The whole reason I bought the car was that the initials matched, but if you don’t know me and know where I come from, you wouldn’t understand that why I would call myself Sugar Tongue Slim. I was, however, a manager of strippers, shall we say, it was a pimp thing, Everybody didn’t get all of that, though, so I shortened it to STS. Once you hear that and hear me, you want to know what all is behind it. You hear the story of my life and hear the way I rap, and that’s some pimp shit right there. It’s sounds real sweet. I make it nice for you- you know what I mean?
Let’s go back a little; tell me about the Demand More mix tapes.
Well with Demand More, we had been putting songs out on the Internet from a project that I had been working on called Immaculate Conception. It didn’t seem like a lot of people were getting. It was maybe a little deep. I come from a poetry background, and sometimes I may go overboard with the writing. So we just stepped back and rapped. We didn’t want to do anything too crazy artistically. We just wanted to make some hip-hop music. We took a couple of meetings and the meetings didn’t go well. We asked if it was the music, but they liked the music. Really, they wanted me to dumb down a little. I thought that was a shot at the fans. People like to be challenged. They should be demanding more from their music. It was the beginning of my own lifestyle change, and I put out there. No matter what you’re doing, you should demand more. Even if you’re working a regular nine to five, you should want to be the boss of that nine to five. Demand the absolute best from yourself in whatever you’re doing. We just started jacking beats and rapping over them. People started to get it. They liked the lyricism, so we kept it going. We kept jacking beats and rapping over them. We did a Volume 1.2 and then Volume 2. It really took off from there. People were feeling it, especially if they were coming from the golden era of hip-hop, where it was just getting better and better. Back then everybody wanted to be the best. Now a lot of times it’s just who ends up having the better swag. That’s not really hip-hop.
What about your lyric “All I know is women, weed, and what to wear?” Are you still standing on that, or are you demanding more?
Sure. That’s a lifestyle change. People already know I can rap. After Demand More, I had the Money Making Jam Boys project out where I’m right up there spitting with some of the best lyricists. Now the question is whether I can transform my rap into something commercially viable. There are actually two versions of “Women, Weed, and What to Wear.” I thought people would say I was going to easy on them, so I made a more lyric-heavy version, but the song is meant for you just to be able to sit back and listen. What I wanted you to take from the song was the basic idea of women, weed, and what to wear. That’s what I talk about most of the time, but lyrically I make it sound good. Most of the time, I want to take people on a full trip with my lyrics. On that particular song, the way I flowed was so that you vibe it and rap right over it. The focus is the hook, and that’s not the kind of hook you normally find in underground rap. I’m trying to demand more of myself right there, to write the kind of hook that will end up changing my lifestyle. I wrote the hook for “Oh,” by Ciara. I’m comfortable doing that kind of thing when I put my mind to it.
Do you feel like you have to give up lyrical credibility in order to get your music on the radio?
That’s the one thing about rocking with the Roots. I wasn’t with them until Demand More 2. That’s when I met Black Thought. I didn’t want people out there to think that all my stuff was just like the Roots stuff. When I’m with the Money Making Jam Boys, that’s when I cut loose and spit. My solo stuff is “Women, Weed and What to Wear.” That’s who I am solo, but I still do spit.
Do you consider yourself an Atlanta rapper or a Philadelphia rapper?
I consider myself a rapper. I was born and raised in Atlanta, and now I spend a lot of time in Philadelphia. It’s a mix of both cities. I wouldn’t rap the way I do without Philly, but I wouldn’t have that little bounce without Atlanta. Those two cities emboldened me. They made me who I am. I’m Atlanta to the heart, but Philly is where I got my start.
Most of your work is associated with Philadelphia, though.
Most of my rap is from Philly, but people in Philly know me as the rapper from Atlanta.
Do you think that you have a place in Atlanta rap as well?
Yeah. It’s like a new South down there. You got new rappers like CyHi, Big K.R.I.T., and Yelawolf down there, coming through Atlanta from Mississippi and Alabama. There’s also Vonneguttand Hollyweird. There’s a lot of artists that are doing something different than what’s been identified as Atlanta rap. But Atlanta has always had a varied identity; it’s primarily known for booty shaking, but there’s also Outkast and the whole Goodie Mob family. I feel like because of that I do fit into the city. I’m Atlanta with a little twist.
What are your plans for The Illustrious?
I just want to get it out there and see what happens. I want to see how the fans respond. We’re working on the next project. I’d like to get something else out by the end of the year. That’s where I’m at right now. I’m just working all the time.
How does The Illustrious fit in to your discography?
The Illustrious is where I’m really trying to show you Sugar Tongue Slim. Demand More was about establishing me as a rapper, but this is the full package. It actually comes from DJ Jazzy Jeff, who everybody knows as The Magnificent. He was one of the first producers to take me in and work with me. When I see Jazzy, he doesn’t even call me Sugar Tongue; he calls me The Illustrious. When it came time to do a full album- no jacked beats- I wanted to give it a fitting name, something big and grand. This is like going from street wear all the time to dressing up a little bit. That’s where we’re going, and we want the fans to come with us.
One final question- do you still have the STS?
No I don’t. I was rolling back and forth to Atlanta so much at one point that I blew the motor on the thing. I was coming back from my best friend’s funeral, my man Tino, who was my producer. I drove up here to Philadelphia and parked my Caddy and the thing never turned on again. He was with me when I bought it, and it was like a signal that it was time to let it go.