Stagga Lee

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In the early 2000s, ARTISTdirect Records signed at least two promising white rappers. One of them was Poverty, a very sociopolitical, somewhat KRS-1-ish MC from Portland, OR. Another was Stagga Lee, a…
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In the early 2000s, ARTISTdirect Records signed at least two promising white rappers. One of them was Poverty, a very sociopolitical, somewhat KRS-1-ish MC from Portland, OR. Another was Stagga Lee, a native of Yonkers, NY (just north of New York City) who has cited Nas and Kool G. Rap as major inspirations. Stagga has a very East Coast-sounding flow, and unlike some white rappers--the Beastie Boys and the White Boys, for example--he doesn't sound white. The MC gets his name from the song "Stagger Lee," which was a #1 hit for R&B/blues singer Lloyd Price in 1957.

Stagga started rapping publicly when he was 16; he had been rapping before that, but not in front of live audiences. One person who gave him a lot of encouragement during his high school years was his friend Scratch, who produced some demos for Stagga on a four-track recorder. After dropping out of high school, Stagga didn't pursue a career in the music industry right away; instead, he enlisted in the United States Army and was stationed in Georgia and South Carolina. When Stagga's stay in the military ended, he returned to the New York City area and resumed his hip-hop activity. At that point, he got heavily into battle rhymes--that is, confrontational dissing rhymes aimed at rival MCs. But eventually, Stagga came to the same conclusion that Ice-T had reached back in the ‘80s: he decided that battle rhymes were limiting and that he didn't want to spend all his time writing about the flaws and shortcomings of other rappers.

Stagga got a lucky break when he met producer Max Perez, an associate of Robert Clivilles--the famous producer/songwriter who had co-led the popular C & C Music Factory in the early ‘90s. Clivilles, in fact, was one of the two C's in C & C Music Factory; the other was David Cole. Clivilles and Perez worked together at the New York-based M.V.P. Productions, and Perez--believing that Stagga had potential--introduced the rapper to Clivilles, who agreed to check out some demos that Stagga had recently recorded. Although Clivilles hated the demos--which he felt didn't begin to do Stagga justice--he believed that the Yonkers native had serious potential and wanted to work with him at M.V.P. Stagga went on to sign with the Los Angeles-based ARTISTdirect label, and in 2002, ARTISTdirect released Stagga's debut single, "Roll Wit M.V.P." (which was co-produced by Clivilles and incorporated part of the late Minnie Riperton's 1974 hit "Lovin' You"). ARTISTdirect planned to release Game of Breath, Stagga's first album, sometime in 2003.