PROZAK: Saginaw\'s \'Hitchcock of Hip-Hop\' on His Accelerated Ride to the Top of the Charts

    icon Jul 31, 2008
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You can see his image plastered all over town - an old rusted film projector coming out of his skull with a flashlight taped to the side - on over 17 billboards spanning strategic placement throughout Saginaw County; both a testament to his hard fought success and a beacon marking unknown heights for the future. For Steve Shippy (aka 'Prozak) the billboards are but one component of a $1.5 million marketing campaign spanning the country, marking the remarkable fact that his new solo CD Tales From the Sick managed to breakout in Billboard Magazine's R&B/Hip-Hop charts at #52 its first week of release, outselling such mainstay icons as Jay-Z and Mary J. Blige, while catapulting the Saginaw native to a whole new level & dimension of success.

A decade earlier when Prozak comprised one half of the two-man 'Horror Rap' team known as Bedlam, he was pioneering a heavy-edged marriage between Hip Hop & Horror, earning him a moniker as the 'Hitchcock of Hip Hop'.  Later he teamed up with Detroit producer Mike E. Clark (Insane Clown Posse and Kid Rock) to form the breakout union of Project Deadman, which also debuted at #84 on Billboard the week of its release.

Now that he is embarking upon a solo career, Prozak is determined to further redefine his love of Rap music with a grim world-view perspective. Embracing the types of topics - political & personal - that most artists shy away from has given him a definitive marketing edge; but the music is still the bedrock that fuels it all. "Everybody has a grim, dark side," reflects Prozak, "and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that we live in grim times. My music reflects those times."

When asked about his expanding popularity during a recent lunch meeting at Jake's in Old Saginaw City, Prozak noted that "The darker realities of our culture are spreading, so I make it easy to digest, so people and identify and vent their frustrations. I've been doing this for a decade, and when I started I was ahead of my time. Now the times seem to be catching up."

Apart from a sizable diamond ring and custom-designed 'bling' in the form of a pendant skull necklace, little about Prozak seems to have changed - he is still down-to-earth, approachable, and seemingly unfazed by his newfound & hard fought success. He still calls Saginaw his home and rents the entire floor of an upstairs apartment in Downtown Saginaw overlooking the Temple Theatre.

"It's funny," he notes, "because I always tell people that I'm from Saginaw, not Detroit, because this is my home and why should I lie about it?  But the perception people have of Saginaw is so different from the reality. Some famous contemporaries will say to me, 'Saginaw, what is that all about?' And they don't realize that it's a vibrant, different and complex city.  I always tell them, 'Saginaw isn't some Mayberry RFD kind of town. It's not like Gaylord. There is a lot of texture to this town."


Review:  When you look back on your beginnings with Bedlam to the point of success & attention you've received today, did you ever imagine your vision would become so successful?

I always knew my drive would land me somewhere, and I always knew there must be some purpose for the drive. Having said that, many people have drive and talent, but don't always end up where they dream to be. So, I will call this hard work, talent, drive, and fate... with a touch of luck.

Review:  In looking back at your evolution from Bedlam, up through Project Deadman, and now with your solo material, what do you feel it is about your work that distinguishes you from your contemporaries?

I think I have a very original and UNUSUAL STYLE. I have always had a way of attacking things from angles that most don't see, or think of.

Review:  Please explain the background behind 'Tales from the Sick'. How long did it take to write the material and what was the impetus behind the project?

Prozak: Tales from the Sick took a year and a half to make, from conception, to the mastering. It was intended to be a giant collaborative effort from myself, and those I work with, and have always wanted to work with. This album to me, is a Grindhouse if you will... an action packed non-stop double feature (CD/DVD combo). I wanted to give my fans the most I could, from twenty tracks, to multi platinum special guests to an extravagant DVD - free of charge... and the best production the mid-west has to offer!

Review: Who are the key people that you worked with on 'Tales from the Sick' that you feel helped inform and shape it's sound?

Prozak: Michael "SEVEN" Summers, Mike E. Clark, Robert Rebeck, Saginaw's own Gee Pierce, and big Krizz Kaliko.

Review:  With the CD breaking out so swift after its release, how did it feel to see it land at #52 on Billboard, out-pacing that of other more established artists in the genre?

It felt well deserved, because of the insane amount of work, and promotion we did, but it also felt surreal and amazing! Seeing my name above JAY-Z and other a-list star names was very crazy!

Review: What is the plan and schedule behind 'Tales from the Sick'? You mentioned you'd be touring larger theatres - 5,000 seaters. How long will you be touring and what are some of the venues you'll be performing at?  I believe you said the marketing budget is $1.5 million - how does it feel to have so much behind you?  Also, if you could clarify the scope of the marketing campaign - I recall you saying there were 19 billboards in Saginaw alone - how many total billboards, and busses are you plastering and in how many cities?

I have over a hundred shows lined up with two separate U.S. tours between now and the end of 2008. As far as venues, we are playing large capacity theatres such as the State Theatre in Detroit (Now the Fillmore)

In fact I play the Fillmore Theatre in Detroit August 24th with Tech N9ne, The KottonMouth Kings, and Hed P.E.  As far as billboards, we have over a hundred in the mid-west and some on the west and east coast.

We did a large run of commercials on MTV, Sci-Fi Channel, Comedy Central and many more, as well as a huge street and Internet push. I also shot and directed a dozen commercials myself intended for viral purpose. This is the world now, plus we also put full page ads in several national magazines and weekly publications.

Review:  Can you talk a bit about the changes in the recording business. You mentioned that 'Tales from the Sick' is independently produced and distributed by Universal. How did all that work and how much of your own hard-earned money did you have to pony up to the plate?

Yes this album is distributed by FONTANA, which is a Universal Music Group company. My business partner and me signed a deal with Strange Music INC., which has a label distribution deal with Universal. As far as how much money we have personally wrapped up into this album, lets just say it's over Two Million. We are completely self funded and get no backing from our distributor.

Review:  find it truly admirable that you don't say you're from Detroit, but proudly claim ownership of hailing from Saginaw.  What do most of your famous contemporaries say when you tell them you're from Saginaw? What is the 'outsiders' perspective of our fair city?

I've always kept it real trying to put Saginaw on the map. Even in the new issue of THE SOURCE magazine (a National Hip-Hop bible, a'la Rolling Stone) you'll see that they reference Saginaw repeatedly in both my album review and my interview.

I even have TWISTA shouting out Saginaw at the beginning of "WHY", track number 9 on my album. I also decided to shoot my last music video here in Saginaw and spend all $150,000 dollars of the budget in this city. The video was for the song "GOOD ENOUGH" and was shot in Old Town Saginaw and at the Temple Theatre.

You can see the music video for GOOD ENOUGH on the bonus DVD, titled THE HITCHCOCK OF HIP HOP, which comes free inside my new album. The video stars Irwin Keys, a legendary character actor from Hollywood, who has stared in films like The Warriors, House of 1000 Corpses, Friday the 13th, Tales From The Crypt, The Flintstones 1 and 2, and so many more!

Review: What is your future plans after the tour?  You mentioned you're going to start cracking on yet another new CD, so feel free to talk about that.

Prozak: As soon as I get off tour in November, I will be preparing for WickedStock 7, an annual show I put on every year. This year Wickedstock will be held at the Birch Run Expo Center, Saturday December 6th. After Wickedstock I plan to record my next album, which will be set for a Summer 2009 release. Of course people can expect a huge track listing, amazing special guests, another bonus DVD, and who knows what else.

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