Silkk The Shocker Reflects On 'Charge It 2 da Game' 20 Years Later
The No Limit MC details the making of the album & how a Kardashian inspired him to revisit it.
In 1998, Silkk the Shocker released Charge It 2 da Game, an album which was both extremely popular (it went platinum one month after its release and its single "It Ain't My Fault" was one of the biggest of the No Limit wave) and woefully misunderstood. Silkk's aggressive, rhythmically "off" rap style, though, sounds prophetic today, as a whole generation of artists have arrived with similarly adventurous, idiosyncratic flows. Yet critics tended to underestimate the originality of his style, to malign the things that made him distinctive as evidence of artistic laziness—even though at the time, his experience was quite the opposite.
As one of a wave of No Limit albums released in 1998, Silkk's Charge It 2 da Game is one of the label's high water marks; it features a pre-fame Destiny's Child, one immense hit ("It Ain't My Fault") and some iconic cover art. It's also ahead of its time, as one very important hip-hop tastemaker recently told the rapper himself. Silkk is a humble interviewee, and is not at all presumptuous about his impact or importance. He was recently inspired to revisit his own album after seeing Kourtney Kardashian sport a Charge It 2 da Game t-shirt on Instagram. Silkk spoke with Urban Legends about his memories of that era and the importance of Charge It 2 da Game today.
There was a two year gap between The Shocker album and Charge it 2 da Game, which came out in 1998. Your buzz had obviously gotten a lot bigger. What happened in those two years? Musically, and in terms of your day to day life.
It was crazy. First, before the Charge It 2 da Game album, if you go back, I did a song off P's older record, it was called "The Ghetto's Trying to Kill Me." I thought I did horrible. I was like, "I sound like a little kid, or a girl." But the people wasn't saying that. I remember E-40 was like "Who is this dude right here? I want him on record." Even 2pac had mentioned he was a fan to people.
The next project was one of P's records, and it was an interlude, and I just did my thing. By that time it was a crazy buzz, so when The Shocker album came out, It just took off. I didn't expect it, I was just doing music. In like 20 minutes, I'd just make a song. It took off to where I was busy from the time it came out to two years later. I was touring, I did features on people's records. It was non-stop. I was home maybe 20, 30 days a year. That's how it was. It made me grow as an artist, but it was very tiresome too.
I was like, "When do I do another record?" because I couldn't find time to take two or three weeks out to put it together. I knew I was talented, but if you know me, you know I just go with the flow. But everybody else would be like, "Oh, it's a really good record!" I'd be like, "Are you sure? I think it's OK." [Laughs]. But I learned to appreciate just being able to create a story and that's kind of what the time was anyway, just growing, and being able to put it into Charge it 2 da Game. It didn't take me long to do, it took me only like two or three weeks or something, but the process of trying to find those days was like, "Where?"
I saw an interview with KLC where he talks about how the albums would come so fast, that P would set all these deadlines. What was that process like for recording that album? How well do you remember recording it?
I remember it very well. Because of the buzz, everybody was really trying to make something classical. They put a lot of time and effort into it. At that time, I guess I can say I was probably one of the biggest ones on the label. And anticipation was really there. I think that's what made Charge it 2 da Game a classic, cause it was almost like, "We know what we got, the buzz, you ain't got to do no promotion on it, the people really want it."
I think it went double-platinum or maybe more. But it went really fast because I didn't promote it that much, I didn't do a lot of videos. I'm younger, and I knew KLC was older, so he was telling me, "We gotta go in on this album, the world is waiting for this record." I was just like, "OK, how much money I'm gonna get?" [Laughs] I loved the process though, but that's when you're young. I took some time and focused on doing a good record. KLC and them did the same thing. Playing me beats, making stuff around me. It was just monumental stuff happening in the studio.
I remember me and Mystikal was just messing around the studio, we made a lot of songs that didn't make it. I remember me and Mystikal just messing around, and we just came out of the blue like, "Ohhh, it ain't my fault." And then Mystikal being funny was just like "Did I do that?" Then everybody was like, "Drop that song!" I was like, That song's crazy, I ain't about to put that on my album." And we finished and it took us a little while to say "It's OK." I was like, "I don't like it, I'm not gonna use it. It was fun while it lasted but erase that KL." He was like, "Nah, I'm gonna keep it." He mixed it. It was funny because that was the song! From us just messing around. I remember the first time promoting it, it just caught fire.
Who were the rappers who helped shape your sound? Did encountering Mystikal have an effect on your style?
I just was a fan of the music, I didn't think that people where I was from could make music, I thought it was all New York people. I thought if you were from where I was from, you didn't make it big. When I saw LL Cool J, Run DMC and all that, I was like, "What are you doing?"
With Mystikal, my flow was kinda similar, but not similar. When I got with him, I didn't want him to outdo me. Me and Mystikal made some stuff, man. When we got together, it would be like a main event. The whole studio would be full and it would be like, "What's he gonna do next?" I would add my style, put more aggression. You ain't gonna be outdoing me! It was friendly competition.
Over the years, you've gotten a fair amount of criticism for the way that you rapped. Which is kind of silly to me, I thought you had an unconventional, unique style. Who influenced that style?
It's funny, because now there are rappers who have a similar offbeat rap style and it's cool again. I just did it, and as many people who thought it was "off," it was as many people who thought it was my style. You want to be different. I thought I was doing great. I thought it was perfect how I did it. I knew what I wanted to say, I wasn't really concerned with everybody else. I have my own style, you like it, you don't like it, whatever.
I go back and listen to Charge it 2 da Game right now, I feel like I'm on point. Fast-forward this to now, and people are doing it, but they want me to do it! I was talking to [Quality Control CEO] Pee and I'm actually going out there in a couple weeks, we're going in the studio. He has an artist, Lil Baby, we're doing stuff together. With the beanie cap and how he carry himself remind him of me, and a couple artists in his camp kind of do the "off-stuff." What Pee wants me to do is the old shit. He said it first, "I think you were before your time, Silkk." He's a good guy and he knows talent. Same way we was with No Limit, is kind of what he feels like he could do, and I think he can.
I was a little off when we go back. But it was my own style, and it was kind of before its time. That's what a professional said. The fact that he wants me to do not what I'm doing now but, "If you could go back to your old style, you'll come out and kill everything." Because everybody's laid-back, mumbled or whatever...and if I could hype style with my stop-and-go-flow... he could be right, we'll see. [Laughs]
Growing up what kind of music you were into? Who were the artists that made you who you are as an artist?
Coming from New Orleans, it shaped us a lot. But what also shaped us was going to California. The base was New Orleans. We come from humble beginnings, to say the least. It was tough. In our culture, if you go back into that kind of music when we first started out, it was always about bounce music and p-poppin music. Club music, girls dancing, shaking they butt, and twerking. With us coming from poverty, it was a tougher situation. We didn't really want to express anything like partying, we was talking about real-life stuff. But back at home, they never heard of that before. If it wasn't dance, or poppin or whatever, it wasn't too much accepted.
That's kind of why we moved to Cali. We did make music out there, but it didn't sound right. We moved to Cali to a little bit to kind of get out of trouble, and decided to start doing recording [there]. Once we did that, we was able to show the real side of our lyrics and be accepted. When we got to California they didn't accept our music at all, they were like, "Aw, you country guys, get out of here with y'all gold teeth in your mouths," but we still adapted to what was able to be done.
If you go back and hear the Spice 1's and E-40 and Too $hort and stuff like that, they were speaking some real music and it was accepted.
How long were you guys out there? I know True came out then...
We was out there for a year or so. But we was back and forth by that time. It was like a vacation going to Cali and being like, "Oh, this is a different culture, this is where rappers come from." We was appreciative of that, it was an eye opener for us.
Where we're from we don't see no palm trees, no green mountains or stuff like that, we was just in a box. When we came to California our eyes opened up wide, this is a big city, this is a big state, sky's the limit.
When you got back to New Orleans, what was it like integrating with artists back home, like the artists KLC was working with?
When we got back home one time, we had a little bit of a buzz, and we was like, "Where's the hot producers at? Everyone kept saying KLC is hot, he's one of the ones out here doing his thing. After missing each other a little bit, we got a hold of KLC. The funny thing about KLC is, he just works a little differently. He's all about the music. Making great music. That wasn't really the thing back then. Everything was making music but not really putting any time into it, just kind of following a pattern. But KLC, if you heard his music back then, everything had to be mixed like Dre. He didn't have the equipment, but he would spend hours and days perfecting it.
It sounded so much different, so much better than a lot of stuff because KLC wouldn't let it go out without it being a certain way. When we got to finally meet KLC, it was in his basement. It looked like a dungeon. [Laughs] But we was like, "OK, let's give it a shot." KLC turned his music on, he had the speakers bumping. Back then it was only a four track. The first song we ever did was "I'm Bout It."
KLC put the beat on. Once P heard the beat, he looked at me, I looked at him, we were like, "Man, this is crazy." He was like, "I'm gonna give you the track to write to." P was like, "Nah, I'm gonna do it right now." And he did. It was just that simple. Wasn't nothing pre-planned, it was just organic. If you go back and listen to the song, it's funny because some of the lyrics did make sense, but he'd mess up so he'd just have to keep going. Once that happened we knew that we had a sound. It stood out.
I'm also curious about the first single you have from that album that featured a few singers that would go on to become famous: Destiny's Child. Tell me about that record. Were you interacting with Beyonce during that process? How did you connect?
Beyonce actually was my neighbor. We lived in Houston for awhile together. It was more a family thing. Beyonce, Kelly, all of them was real cool people. They'll come by, they'll record. I haven't spoken to her in awhile, but for awhile, we was family. I'd call 'em up, swing by their house, they'd swing by mine.
They came by my house and recorded it. It was a dope song, P had said something about it. At the time, they was big but they wasn't super-big. I just felt like they should do it. They was real cool people. I wanted them on it.
Did you have any idea they were going to get as big as they did, or Beyonce in particular?
Beyonce, for sure. She had this drive, man. She does what she does now, she just works. She took her talent very serious. When she comes by, she'd be in work mode. She used to come by with sweats [and a] hoodie on, she's ready for working, she's not coming as "Beyonce," she's like, "I'm killing this song and then I'll go to Beyonce later on." She was really focused. Everything she does, if she danced, she danced hard. I don't know about as big as she is now, I wouldn't have seen that. But I definitely knew that she would be successful, and have a high level of success. I don't think anyone saw this Beyonce possibly happening.
The only other guest I recall who was not a No Limit artist was 8Ball. Did you see 8Ball and MJG as peers, or was he someone you looked up to?
They stood for something, like how Geto Boys stood for something. I remember hearing 8ball and them in the club, and their music, I looked at them like icons, even though we was right there neck and neck.
At the time, you could get anybody, but me, I just wanted them. I didn't really reach out like that, I just said "Organically, if it works." I think we got together, sent the song over, they sent it back. When they sent the verse back, I was like, "Oh my god, I got some 8Ball and MJG. It was great to get what I really wanted—I really wanted Destiny's Child on the album, I really wanted 8Ball and MJG.
When did you realize how big you were? What was the first time you realized how big it was all really getting?
I'll give you a couple of 'em. One was 17,000 people and they knew every word off every part of the album. One was when they asked me to headline my own show on tour. Another one was when Cam'ron called me and was like, "Do this remix." I want to say Mary J Blige, I did a song with her. She called and was like, "I've got to have him on the album." I don't think the song came out. [Laughs] When you go places—and I'm low-key—but people really rock with you? That was a big deal for me.
It's funny you mention Mary J Blige too, it seemed like you were getting a lot of R&B looks. You did Mya's record and she did yours after that. Why do you think it was you especially?
I didn't purposely do this. Even to this day right now, I have a lot of women fans. The Mya song, that was big for the women.
Kind of a sex symbol thing going on.
I didn't want to say it but you said it. [Laughs]. But that's what it was. Girls would send stuff, their whole wall was filled with my picture and stuff like that. A lot of celebrity girls would reach out. I kind of figured that's what it is.
You know them Right On! magazines? Every week it was just about 10 of them. If my shirt was off, it would be a write-up about it. I wasn't looking at it like that but if I'm a smart man, I wouldn't say that that wasn't it. I didn't really think about it too much. I wasn't the dude that was trying to be that.
Were you involved in the cover art? That's an iconic image.
Sometimes stuff has a way of working itself out. The cover art was just basically saying, "Charge It 2 da Game is my album... I gotta get a credit card, it should be 'Ghetto Express.'" The music was one thing, the cover was another thing, the "It Ain't My Fault" [single] … it was all lining up. "Charge it to the game" back then meant something to people. "Oh you had a bad day? Charge it to the game."
When was the last time you listened to Charge It 2 da Game?
I want to say either Gucci Mane or Migos mentioned it. They keep mentioning it, though. But one day I'm on my Instagram, and Kourtney Kardashian was wearing the shirt! She had a Charge It 2 da Game shirt on. It was funny. She's walking around with her kids in it and everything. She was wearing this Silkk the Shocker shirt with some Adidas and some Gucci glasses or whatever.
So I'm like, "Let me just go back and listen to it." Everybody was saying it's a good record. Those things were making me say, "Wow." I listened to it, and that's what gave me a thought about going back to the old Shocker.
I was like, "Wow, I need to get back to being the old Silkk." I appreciated the music more now that it was years later. Some stuff you go back and you're like, "Wow, that's trash." At first I wasn't like, "I'm a super-fan of my own music." But now I'm like, "Oh, I see why people like this. It is pretty good."
You can stream Silkk The Shocker's entire discography here.