RAPS + CRAFTS #7: Short Fuze 

RAPS + CRAFTS #7: Short Fuze







1. Introduce yourself. Past projects? Current projects?

My name is Short Fuze. I’m an MC from Chicago, I started out in a group called Wastelands in the early 2000s. I signed with Uncommon Records in 2007. People may know me from my past projects: Lobotomy Music, Autonomy Music, or my most current work with Uncommon Nasa as Guillotine Crowns from The First Stand and Hills to Die On

2. Where do you write? Do you have a routine time you write? Do you discipline yourself, or just let the words come when they will? Do you typically write on a daily basis?

I have my basement set up as a workspace, so it really lends itself as a comfortable place to write any time the inspiration strikes. In the last couple of years, I have trained my inner monologue to think in rhyme patterns. So, I’m always keeping myself sharp these days. I don’t write daily regularly, but I write way more frequently than I ever have. A song, conversation, or TV show might spark something, so I just run with it when it hits. 

3. What’s your medium—pen and paper, laptop, on your phone? Or do you compose a verse in your head and keep it there until it’s time to record?

I write on my phone. There was a point in time I carried notebooks with me everywhere in a backpack. I lost that back at a show. After that, I learned to write in my phone. It’s helped a lot because I always have my phone on me. If I am in the middle of a conversation and a line hits me, I can quickly write it down and I don’t look weird [laughs]. On top of that, everything is automatically backed up so I don’t lose anything. 

4. Do you write in bars, or is it more disorganized than that?

I do write in bars now. There was a time where I didn’t know how to count bars until Uncommon Nasa taught me when we were writing together. Now that I know how to count bars, it’s made my writing more concise and vivid because now I know the actual space to play with. 

5. How long into writing a verse or a song do you know it’s not working out the way you had in mind? Do you trash the material forever, or do you keep the discarded material to be reworked later?

I’ll know something isn’t working usually within the first few lines. I pride myself in setting the tone for the verse in the first opening lines (shout out Prodigy). If it doesn’t grab me, I know it’s not going to grab the listener. I never scrap anything I write. It may fit into a different verse later. I’ve built new verses off lines I wrote years ago. Sometimes, I’ll go back to something and that’ll spark something entirely new.

6. Have you engaged with any other type of writing, whether presently or in the past? Fiction? Poetry? Playwriting? If so, how has that mode influenced your songwriting?

No one knew this, but I dabble in writing stand-up routines. I don’t know if any of it is good or if I’d ever perform it publicly, but it really sharpens my technique in telling a story in a flowing narrative structure. I try and be as vivid as possible and put the listener in my place.

7. How much editing do you do after initially writing a verse/song? Do you labor over verses, working on them over a long period of time, or do you start and finish a piece in a quick burst?

Not much. I’ll usually sit on the verse until the next day and adjust after rereading it. Sometimes I’ll even edit as I’m recording because a word may not fit or sound as good within the context of flowing the verse out loud. 

8. Do you write to a beat, or do you adjust and tweak lyrics to fit a beat?

These days I don’t write to a beat much. I don’t always have beats readily available, so I’ll write if I get inspired and then if a beat fits something I wrote, I’ll use it. It’s worked out well for me and I’m not limiting when I can write if I don’t have beats at the moment.

9. What dictates the direction of your lyrics? Are you led by an idea or topic you have in mind beforehand? Is it stream-of-consciousness? Is what you come up with determined by the constraint of the rhymes?

I draw a lot of my lyrics from personal experience. The Guillotine Crowns album and The Painkiller Boutique were easier to write because I finally found the words to talk about things I have wanted to talk about for years. Even if I’m writing a straight up braggadocio rap verse, there’s always a nugget of personal experience in there. 

10. Do you like to experiment with different forms and rhyme schemes, or do you keep your bars free and flexible?

A little of both depending on what I am trying to get across in the moment. Lately, I have been trying to push the boundaries on how I put words together and that’s really allowed me to come up with different deliveries and flows. 

11. What’s a verse you’re particularly proud of, one where you met the vision for what you desire to do with your lyrics?

My verse from the song “Graduation Day” off The Painkiller Boutique. From a technical standpoint, I experimented with different rhyme schemes, internal rhyming and the way lines transitioned from one line to the next. From a vision standpoint, I feel like that’s one of my more vivid verses. I talked about things in that verse that I’ve never spoke about publicly. That verse was the catalyst for where I was going to take the album.  

12. Can you pick a favorite bar of yours and describe the genesis of it?

Smoked out against the headrest
reflect on the temptress, feeling neglect
wondering if, the seed in her belly is mine or 

As I said above, “Graduation Day” was the catalyst for where I would take the album. This line is something I’ve not talked about publicly or in my music, but there was a point where my daughter’s mother cheated on me and she got pregnant. At the time, she didn’t know if the baby was mine or this other person she was with. Once I put that down in a verse, I knew I was really ready to dig really deep. 

13. Do you feel strongly one way or another about punch-ins? Will you whittle a bar down in order to account for breath control, or are you comfortable punching-in so you don’t have to sacrifice any words?

No. I’ve recorded verses where I’ve done it in one take and felt great about it. I’ve also punched in numerous times to get the verse right. Whichever way is going to get the point across and make the listener feel something, I’m all for however makes that happen.

14. What non-hiphop material do you turn to for inspiration? What non-music has influenced your work recently?

Everyday experiences, whether mundane or exciting. There are times I’ll just be sitting on the couch petting the cat and something will pop in my head. In that moment, my mind is clear and quiet. 

15. Writers are often saddled with self-doubt. Do you struggle to like your own shit, or does it all sound dope to you?

I used to be saddled with self-doubt. But over the last few years, I’ve really embraced that I’m a great writer and I think that’s translated into my rapping. Having confidence in my writing has given me more confidence in my rapping as far as experimenting with using my voice as an instrument. Whether it be delivery, flow or adlibs.  

16. Who’s a rapper you listen to with such a distinguishable style that you need to resist the urge to imitate them?

Ka. Although it’s not to resist the urge to imitate him, it’s a bar he’s set that I aspire to get to that level of writing. There are things he does with the English language that’s unbelievable.  

17. Do you have an agenda as an artist? Are there overarching concerns you want to communicate to the listener?

As an artist, I just want the listener to relate to what I’m saying. I understand what I can do with writing and rap, not everyone can do. So, I write for people that have been through similar things I have. Hopefully, when people hear my music, they feel seen and heard. I started writing as a kid to have a voice within a space I wasn’t allowed to have a voice. 

Scratched Vinyl Interview 

Short Fuze - Interview - 10-14-22

Written by Chi Chi Thalken on October 20, 2022









Short Fuze is best known these days as one half of the group Guillotine Crowns, alongside Uncommon Nasa. In fact, they just released an album, Hills to Die On, this past April. As it turned out, Short Fuze had a lot more to get off of his chest, which resulted in a new solo album, The Painkiller Boutique. He took the time to chat with us about the album and all that went into it - becoming at peace with his past, learning the lessons, finding hip hop, and finding the right friends and collaborators.


Scratched Vinyl: Let’s dive into the album, The Painkiller Boutique, which came out today. You’ve had a long career as a solo artist already, and you’ve done a lot of albums with Uncommon Nasa. What put you in the position to make this solo album, The Painkiller Boutique? What led up to this moment?

Short Fuze: It’s a combination of things. I started working on this album the same time we really started to dig our heels into the Guillotine Crowns record. So I had mentioned to Nasa that I was getting interested in doing some more solo material. As you know, Nasa has his hands in a lot of things himself, including things that we’re going to be releasing towards the end of the year, into next year, and beyond that. So I was asking him for beats for another solo album, and he told me in so many words that he was being stretched thin at the moment. He’d be open to doing it, but he didn’t know how quickly he could get me more beats, because he was already pushing himself to crank out more beats for the Guillotine record.

Historically, I’m the slow writer. But over the last few years, I’ve been writing more frequently, and I joke with Nasa all the time that this was the first time in out working relationship that I was outwriting him – I was getting stuff done faster than he was. In the past, he’d have to chase me down and be like, “Yo! Did you finish this song yet?” And I’m like, “No!” There were times when I just wouldn’t get inspired, or I had other things going on. I was always a notoriously slow writer. That’s what hindered me early on from doing cameos. A lot of times, artists would approach me, and they’d say, “Oh, we should work on something!” And I’d be like, “Well, when do you need it?” Next week, or tomorrow. And I didn’t know if I could write something that quick. Over the last few years, I’ve found this spark with music in general, just because I’m in a better place, mentally and emotionally, after going through some tough years.

So again, I’d been coaxing [Nasa] to do some more solo material, and he was like, “I can do it, but I don’t know how quick it’s going to pan out.” At this time, I was writing a lot of stuff, so I didn’t want to tamper that spark. I wanted to keep rolling with it and see where it would go. I talked to Dr. Khil, who produced most of the album – he posted this beat on IG, which became the beat for “Graduation Day.” I hit him up, and I was like, “Yo, that beat’s really dope, does anybody got that?” And he was like “No! You want it?” And I was like, “Hell yeah!” He sent it to me, I wrote something to it, and he was like, “Oh man, this is really dope. If you need any more beats, let me know.” A couple of weeks go by, and he’s like, “Hey man, I made some new beats! You want to hear them?” “Yeah, send them over!” So he sent me a huge batch of beats, and I was catching a vibe to a lot of them. I asked him, “What do you think about doing an album?” And he was like, “Hell yeah!” He just started sending me more and more beats, and it grew from there.

“Graduation Day,” and “The Chronic (Pain)” where the first two things I wrote to his beats. I sent those to Nasa, and he was like, “This is really dope – you should keep going in this direction.” Those two songs were the catalyst for me to dig deeper, emotionally, and put down things that I’ve wanted to put down for years, but could never find the words to do it. And then, ironically, this is my most emotional album, but I’m in the best place I’ve been, mentally and emotionally, probably ever. So it’s weird how that works. When your brain is at peace, it’s quiet enough for you to gather your thoughts and put them in order. It’s been an experience for me.

SV: So now that you weren’t in the midst of it, you could finally reflect on it?

Short Fuze: Yeah – that’s exactly what it is! You know, like I said, there were things I wanted to talk about on this record that I wanted to talk about since I first started making music. But you know, being twenty, twenty-one, even twenty-five or thirty, I don’t think I had the capacity to reflect on these things. A lot of that stuff I was still going through at those ages. I just think I reached a level of emotional maturity where I could put these complex thoughts together. And to not be afraid to – You know, I don’t own emotional music. There have been a lot of people who have done it, way before me. You have your…El-P’s and Ka’s and countless other rappers. Uncommon Nasa! You could throw Uncommon Nasa into that mix. billy woods. You have all these amazing artists who have done deep reflective music, but what I think what differentiates my music from other music in that same vain is…I talk a lot about my physical disabilities and my issues with chronic pain, and things like that.

And those are thing that I always wanted to talk about, as I got older, but I was afraid to put those down because I didn’t know how they’d be received or interpreted. And then it just got the point where I was like, “You know, let me just talk about these things,” because there might be somebody out there that has dealt with the same type of thing that I have that doesn’t have the capacity to put it into words. And this might help them, to let them know that they aren’t by themselves. ‘Cause you know, a lot of people who haven’t met me, they don’t know that I have a mild case of cerebral palsy. So that gives me a unique perspective.

For a long time, when I was growing up, my mom made it point to not view myself as disabled, because you know, I was very fortunate in the sense that I could still walk, I could still do things – I played sports. I did things that normal kids did. Whereas people who had more severe cases, they’re wheelchair bound, some people can’t speak. They need constant care, 247 assistance. I was never in that situation or that position, thankfully. But as I got older, and my back issues began to hinder me and I had to stop doing shows – I can’t really do shows anymore, it taxes my body too much. I used to love performing, but you go through these things, and it just gets to the point where it’s okay to talk about these things and put these things out there, because I’m not the only person dealing with these things. Thankfully, over the last ten years, it’s become more acceptable to talk about your mental health issues, your physical issues, your emotional issues.
For better or for worse, hip hop was built on a tough guy stance, because it came from a tough place. You know when I was twenty-five or thirty, I couldn’t imagine talking about these things and having people be like, “Yo, that’s really dope.” There wasn’t really a space for that back then. Maybe there was, and I just didn’t see it, or have the courage to push. But now that I’m a full-fledged adult, it’s become easier to talk about things and have a support system that nourishes that. Not only familywise, but creatively, too. Nasa was really heavily involved in this project behind the scenes, in terms of bouncing ideas off of him. I bounced pretty much everything off of Collasoul of Gilascope…those guys were my guinea pigs. Like, “What do you think of this?” And they would be like, “Yeah, it’s dope – keep going!” So they were a big help and they deserve a lot of credit for the way this record turned out, too.

SV: One of the things that hit me about this record was just how it was like, “Bam!” Right out of the gate, you press play and you hear, “I was born three months premature/Cerebral palsy/there is no cure.” When did you make that decision that you weren’t going to dance around this, you’re just going jump in and do it?

Short Fuze: I think it goes back to what I said before, about finally having the courage to talk about it and get it off my chest. The album is laid out in a loose chronological order. So when I wrote that song, I knew immediately that was the first song that I wanted people to hear, because I felt like that song represented the beginning of my journey best. Going from being a child into young adulthood. The other component to that is, being a person of mixed race – My father is Mexican and my mom’s white…but, growing up I wasn’t “Mexican enough” for the Mexican kids, and I was “too brown” for the white kids, so I found my identity with my black friends, because I grew up in an all-Black neighborhood. A lot of my friends introduced me to rap music, and that was kind of a snowball effect, and that’s what that song is about. Navigating that world, on top of having a disability.

When you’re a kid, you don’t understand why another kid is different. So when you add that extreme difference in there, it makes it extremely difficult – it made it extremely difficult for me at some points. For as much as a lot of stuff could roll off my back, some of it was like, “Am I really less than? Am I not worthy of certain people’s time? Is this going to be my life for the rest of my life? Am I not going to be accepted anywhere?” So there was a bit of an identity crisis into that mix, because the other thing that came into play was, because of my mother’s relationship with my biological father, she was just so hurt by him, she would tell me that I’m not Mexican. That played into that, too. It was again, where do I fit? If I’m not this, and I’m not this, and this disability doesn’t make me “normal,” who am I? Where do I go?

Rap music was really my safe haven. I could write things, whether it was about my experiences, or whether it was just being a dope braggadocio rapper, dope punchlines, and getting that, “OOOOHHHH!” reaction from people. That was my armor. That made me feel like a superhero. That was the one place that I fit, within rap music.

SV: Speaking of that, I found it interesting, because you’re from Chicago – and there are plenty of references to Chicago – but there are also all of these refences to New York hip hop references, like Wu-Tang, Pharoahe Monch, El-P. When did you connect with New York underground hip hop?

Short Fuze: The beauty of growing up in Chicago is that we got exposed to everything. Not only did we have our own scene here, in the early ‘90s, but we got exposed to West Coast stuff – and not even just mainstream stuff, like underground West Coast stuff. A lot of people in Chicago have Southern relatives, myself included – I had relatives in Memphis and Mississippi, so I got exposed to early Three Six Mafia and things like that through them. And then you got stuff coming through from Texas. And then you get the stuff from New York. I started getting more exposed to indie New York stuff, and New York music in general through things like Rap City, The Box. Then when I got older and had the ability to travel and do shows out of state, just mixing with different indie artists from other scenes, going to places like Scribble Jam, meeting people there.

Once I discovered Company Flow and MF DOOM, in like ‘99-00 – me, I’m curious, so if I stumble upon something, I want to know where that particular thing came from. So then I would go backwards and learn the history of where it came from. Then, once I figured out where Company Flow came from, where DOOM came from…at the time, it was mind blowing. I was like, “This dude is from KMD? That’s crazy!” ‘Cause it felt like two different people at the time…there were levels to it. Same with El-P. He opened doors for a lot of people, myself included. Then the Internet made it easier to reach out and connect with people, and that’s how I met Nasa, because I reached out to him for beats for my old group. That turned into a working relationship and then a friendship. Then he would start putting me onto to stuff, and vice versa. ‘Cause there were things that he didn’t get exposed to in the Chicago scene that didn’t make it out to New York, and vice versa.

I feel like I came along at a good time as a fan, because Wu-Tang was a huge influence on me, to start a group. To even pick up a pen and start writing. Then you have albums like Illmatic and Ready to Die…I was always into stuff that painted pictures. Stuff that I could relate to, because I’d hear this music and feel like, “Man! These guys are dealing with a lot of the same shit that I’m dealing with!” You just feel that connection, emotionally and mentally, to certain things.

SV: It particularly hit me to hear you reference “Stepfather Factory” on your album. Even before you specifically said that phrase, as I was listening to “Hell’s Moshpit” for the first time, I was thinking to myself, “This song has a direct forefather in ‘Stepfather Factory,’” and then you said it, and I was like, “There it is!”

Short Fuze: And that’s the thing. Like I said earlier, I’m not going to pretend that I own emotional music. You know what I mean? And I’m a big proponent of paying respect and homage to influences. That “Stepfather Factory?” When I first heard that song, that blew my mind, because I knew exactly what he was talking about, and what he felt, because I was dealing with that with my own stepfather. And then the song that was the precursor for that song, which was “Last Good Sleep,” that song hit me even harder! ‘Cause I completely understood where he was coming from, because I had those same experiences. So when I wrote that song, I was like, “I gotta put a little nugget in there,” to pay tribute to El, because those two songs hit me at a certain point when I first heard them. And then years later, I write my own story, so it was automatic for me to do that. So I appreciate you catching that.

SV: We touched on a lot of major themes of the album, but there is also an ongoing theme on the album about your evolving relationship with religion, and organized religion in particular. Was that also something that you had to be at peace with to be able to talk about it?

Short Fuze: Yeah, because…I’m not going to project my experience on everyone, so when I say this, I just want to make it one hundred percent clear that I’m not disparaging anyone that believes in religion or is religious, because I think in the right context and used the right way, it’s a beautiful thing. It helps a lot of people to have faith, and it helps people in their moments of weakness. But for me personally, growing up, it was very much weaponized. My parents, and later on my stepfather, they would use it against me, as a fear tool.

Growing up, my father was Jehovah’s Witness, and then I had various members of the family who were Lutheran and Catholic, so I was exposed to a lot of different things, but early on, it was like the worst parts of it were what was verbalized and taught. Like, “If you do this, God is going to be mad at you!” “You’re going to go to Hell!” Then, when I was a teenager, I actually converted to Islam, because my stepfather was Muslim, and he got me into it. And at the time, I was like, “I need this. This is a good thing to have because it teaches you self-discipline and self-accountability.” But then, even he would start to use religion to control me and make me feel guilty about certain things. Because when you’re a teenager, you do teenage things. You chase girls, you might slack off in school, you get into trouble, doing stupid shit. But for him, he would use religion to make me feel guilty about being a kid and a teenager. In some ways, it pushed me to do more stupid shit, because it was like, “If you’re going to accuse me of doing these things, I might as well go do them!”

So for a long time, by the way I grew up, I was kind of angry with God. I had a stepfather who was constantly pressuring me to be a certain way, my biological father was abusive towards me and my mother. Even as a teenager, I was navigating how to be a person with a disability and being different, and not fitting in. As a teenager, you’re even more self-aware. So all those things being mixed, just made me really angry at this supposed higher power that’s supposed to be loving and caring. So it’s like, “If he’s all these things, then why am I stuck in these situations?” You know what I mean? But then when I got older, you start to reflect more, and you start to realize that you can’t put those things on whatever this higher being is. Some of it was me. Some of my issues were caused by me acting out and doing things that I shouldn’t be doing, and getting myself in situations that I shouldn’t have been in, because I was making bad decisions.

And then some of it was that I had parents that just didn’t know how to parent. I didn’t realize this until later because I went through therapy – in my late 30s, I went through therapy – I realized that my mom had me when she was really young, and she didn’t know what the fuck she was doing. She was a kid raising a kid – raising kids, me and my brother. Obviously, you want things to be different, or you wish they could have been different. I wish my mom would have stood up for me and my brother a little bit more at certain points, but she didn’t know any better because there wasn’t anybody there to teach her. So she was just doing the best that she could. When I became a father, I was like, “Okay! I know what things worked for me as a child, and I definitely know what things didn’t work for me as a child!” I made a conscious effort at a very early age that whenever I had kids that I was going to break that chain. That’s what I’ve been working hard to do.

SV: You made this album, and you put all of this stuff that you’ve been working towards into it. How are you feeling now that it’s finally release day?

Short Fuze: I feel good, man! It’s exciting. I was a little nervous – I was up realy early this morning, because the excitement and nerves were getting me, and my body was just like, “We’re not sleeping anymore. Time to get up.” I got up, did my routine, checked the release, and I was excited to see that people were feeling it. People were streaming it and buying it. It’s a good feeling to see that people understood what you were doing and to vibe with it, on top of it. Thank you for understanding it, and appreciating it, and just getting it. It’s a good feeling when you have people who understand what you’re doing and they support it. They genuinely like it.

SV: I have a sneaking suspicion that this will be an album that snowballs a little. I know the first the time I listened to it – I’m a runner, so I’ll load up some music and go for a jog in the morning. I think I got halfway through the first song before I was like, “No. I have to sit down and listen to this and just absorb it.”

Short Fuze: I appreciate that. That’s cool.

SV: I think people will keep listening to it, absorb it, and then pass it on to others, but it is something you really have to spend the time with and let it all sink in.

Short Fuze: And part of the reason that album is on the shorter side, even though it’s fourteen songs, is because I knew people would have to sit with it, but also I didn’t want to beat people over the head with my emotions for longer than forty minutes. I felt like if it was any longer than that, people would check out, and I didn’t want that. I just wanted to tell my story and connect with people as quickly as possible, and then they’d think, “Damn, that was short! Let me listen to it again.” So, yeah. That was another part of it, because I didn’t want to get to the point where I was preaching or crying on record.

SV: You mentioned that you’re physically not able to do shows and tour. Do you have any other things in the pipeline that people should be looking out for?

Short Fuze: Nasa and I do Flashback Sessions. We talk about the early 2000s, late ‘90s indie scene, so leading into his experiences with Def Jux and after we get through that chapter, we’ll talk about our own contributions to the scene. ‘Cause, you know, for a long time, and you’re taught this as an artist, because that’s always the way that it’s been – when you put out albums, you gotta wait for the writers or somebody to cover you. We’ve been fortunate to be covered and exposed on different levels, and we’re super thankful for that…and it was like, man, it would be cool if somebody could [cover this era] for us. But then you’re realistic with yourself. Even though Nasa and I have names, we’re nowhere near the level of someone like El-P or somebody like that. So we don’t have people knocking down our door like that to tell our stories in longform. And I’m not saying that with any bitterness, that’s just the reality of what the situation is.

So then me and Nasa were like, “Shit! Let’s just tell our own story!” Who better to tell our own story than us? Then it’s not watered down, and it’s from a first person perspective, and you can really break it down any way that you want. That’s how we got the idea for the Flashback Sessions. We have another thing we’re doing called GC Talk, where the first episode we did I talked to him about his experience making Only Child. Then in the coming days he’s going to talk to me about my experience about making The Painkiller Boutique. After that, we’ll do other episodes pertaining to projects that artists have that are coming out on the label. It kind of kills two birds with one stone. It gives us the avenue to tell our own stories, but it also gives us content for the YouTube channel. It brings people there to see that there are other things going on, ‘cause we’ve seen it where people drop in for a Flashback Session and then go buy an album. So it’s really cool that we can connect everything and tell our stories in different ways and not feel left behind, so to speak?

SV: Where can people check the Flashback Sessions?

Short Fuze: The Flashback Sessions are available on the Uncommon Records YouTube channel under UncommonRecordsNYC.

SV: Finally, if there were three people that you could work with that you haven’t, who would that be?

Short Fuze: One would be DOOM, Rest in Peace. The second would be billy woods. The third would be Ka. Those guys are just phenomenal with their pens, and they do things with the English language that I only wish I could do…I don’t know if people know this, because it was early on in both of our careers, but I was actually on a song with billy woods back in 2007. It’s a song with myself, Nasa, Cirrus Minor, Zesto, Centri, Masai Bey, billy woods and Tracy Jones – it was a posse cut. But that was pre-“Peak Powers” woods. I want to do a song with “Peak Powers” woods. It would be a different experience now, because he’s a completely different artist than he was back then. It’s been really cool to see him grow into what he’s become and carrying the underground torch for a new generation.

Damn That Noise Interview 

Original Link: Damn That Noise Interview by Ralph Perez

Autonomy Music is a futuristic walk through what would seem like the inner demons of Blade Runner Rick Deckard after all the androids have been retired wondering what his purpose is. The production is some of my favorite from Uncommon Nasa who is clearly on a musical rampage with the last three albums he’s released being pretty incredible. Now he’s taking the musical reigns again on the Short Fuze project where he has crafted sonically dense, heavy, cinematic music to pair with the stark stories coming from the Chicago native Short Fuze. 

6 years between an album release can be thought of as kind of a big gap, but when you write with purpose and thought no one really cares about how long the wait was, just how good the end product is going to be. With the release of Autonomy Music arriving today, almost 6 years since the release of Lobotomy Music I sat with Short Fuze to talk about his work with Uncommon Nasa, the overarching theme of the album and it’s internal battle with faith, depression, and what motivates his writing for this LP. 

If you haven’t copped the vinyl yet, do so HERE, or follow the embedded Bandcamp player found in the interview. 


DTN: Autonomy Music seems very personal. What was going of in the creative process for you t hat had you focus more inward that outward? 

Short Fuze: I was going through a lot during the process of this album. From the beginning of the writing process, I didn’t feel confident about what I was writing. When I finally hit a groove with writing, I lost all the lyrics I had written because I stupidly was writing lyrics on my phone. My phone crashed, I lost everything. I actually called Nasa and told him I was done with music. He talked me down and basically said give me one more record. So, we started from scratch. I initially was putting a lot of pressure on myself finish this album quickly. But, one day I just said FUCK IT. I’m going to take my time. I want every song to tell a story. I think that’s why it seems so personal. Even more so than Lobotomy Music. You can here the tension and pain in my voice in some of those songs. That’s because as I was recording it, I was being freed of my fears and doubts. The minute I heard the beat for Chaos, that was the catalyst for the rest of the record. 

DTN: This is album #2 with Uncommon Nasa handling all production, and even showing up on several songs. What about Nasa makes him your go to guy? 

Short Fuze:  I have a lot of respect for Nasa. Beyond music. Just as a person and human being. I’ve been a fan of his work since The Presence and Def Jux days. He has an incredible ear and knows how to bring the best out of someone. The beats for Autonomy were for the most part crafted specifically for me. He just knows what fits well with my style. He brings a different level out of my ability. He allows me to be myself and rarely questions what I’m doing. When I went to New York to record Autonomy, he let me be me. Outside tweaking of a chorus and a rewrite of a line, he worked around my vibe. And trust him enough to where I didn’t have to tell him what to do with his verses. We just work well together because we’re friends outside of music and we understand each other. He knows what I’m on musically. And that’s the best producer to have. 

DTN: This is the first time I’m seeing your work pressed to vinyl. What about this particular album made you and Nasa sit and decide that it deserved to be heard in that particular format? 

Short Fuze: It’s a simple answer really. I wanted it that way. I’ve always wanted something on vinyl. The dopest albums in existence are on vinyl. Any genre. I said even before I finished writing the record, that’s what I wanted. It just so happens Nasa had great success with NYT and Halfway. I wanted to duplicate that. Plus, nothing sounds better than vinyl. It’s definitely made a difference. People that have never copped my shit, have copped my vinyl. 

DTN: “EPMD” is one of my favorite tracks on the record. Explain the importance of that group to you, and why the choice to name a song after them? 

Short Fuze:  EPMD was one of my favorite groups growing up. They created some of my favorite songs. This was my way of paying my respects to them. Plus, Nasa and I have gotten compared to them. So, I figured why not? I can’t wait to perform that song live. 

DTN: Explain the ideas behind “Perfect Health” and the art of graffiti in your life/youth. 

Short Fuze:  Perfect Health was a quick piece about how I was pulled towards being an MC even when I was gang banging and selling weed. My soul was being pulled by the negative I was doing by being loyal to so called friends. Rap was literally my savior. You’ll have to ask Nasa what his verse is about. I know, but I think he wants you guys to figure out. Graffiti was a big part of my childhood. Now, my can control sucked, so I would throw up random tags with markers whenever I could. Growing up in Chicago our graffiti was different than anywhere else. Ours was gang related. But, we had our share of traditional burners sprinkled about the neighborhood. 

DTN: What do you hope people take away from the album once they’ve sat and digested it? 

Short Fuze:  I just want people to be like, damn  Short Fuze is dope at what he does. I hope that people can take something from it. I want people to know they aren’t alone in the same thoughts they share with me. I know I’m not the only one that’s felt this way. I’m fortunate I can express it. Some people can’t. I always try and be the voice for them. 

DTN:  We are in a very politically and socially charged time with elections, police murdering folks, and living in Chicago I know that murder rate there has been crazy. How had this taken effect on your approach to creating and more importantly parenting 

Short Fuze:  It hasn’t changed how I create at all. I’ve been touching on these subjects in some form for a long time. It’s just unfortunate that America doesn’t listen to the intelligent rappers i.e. Chuck D, Killer Mike, etc. They aren’t/weren’t talking out of their ass. Chuck D has been talking about these types of injustices for damn near 30 years. Unfortunately, they aren’t going away anytime soon. Shit, I would love to write happy raps and party records. Haha. 

DTN:  You grapple with your faith throughout the album. What kind of relationship to faith/religion have you had, and what about it all has been a battle for you? 

Short Fuze:  Faith is a battle for me because it’s blind. I like being able to control what I can. And unfortunately, God’s plan is not one of those. I have patience and faith that God is leading me in the right direction. Even when I’m going the wrong way.

Rap Station Interview 

Original Link: Rapstation Interview by Kyle Eustice

Rapper and producer Uncommon Nasa worked on a slew of early Def Jux releases in the early 2000s. He quickly established himself as an underground hip-hop heavyweight and eventually founded his own label, Uncommon Records, in 2004. These days, he’s mastered the DIY way of doing things—from producing and rapping to handling promo, booking tours and doing his own PR, he’s an impressive one man army. 

In 2010, he teamed up with emcee Short Fuze for the collaborative album, Lobotomy Music. It introduced the world to the sometimes dark side of Short Fuze’s mind. The motley duo is back with its second collaborative album, 2016’s Autonomy Music, which revisits Short Fuze’s own personal struggles. In a revealing interview, Short Fuze and Uncommon Nasa dive deep into the album’s concept, where they fit in to the current musical landscape and juggling countless responsibilities. Check out Autonomy Music here: www.uncommonrecords.bandcamp.com/album/autonomy-music and visit www.uncommonnasa.com for more information. 

RAPstation (Kyle Eustice): First off—how did you guys meet and what about your styles gelled? 

Short Fuze: I first touched base with Nasa in 2004. I used to be in a group called Wastelands and I tapped him for production for a record my group was working on at the time. He wound up producing three songs on that record. Based on that, I approached him about producing a solo record for me. As we started working, we became friends outside of music. At the time, I was running my own label. I was growing tired of that grind, so I signed my last group record and what would become Lobotomy Music over to him. And, the rest they say, is history. We've been down ever since. 

Nasa, You mentioned this was Short Fuze’s vision—what was the overall concept of the album? 

Short Fuze: Autonomy Music is my personal diary for freedom—whether social, political or musically. This record is important to me because I/we worked really hard to bring that message to life. I struggled with a lot of personal things over the last few years. This album is a culmination of all that just spewed out in a musical perspective. I love working with Nasa because he understands what I do best as a writer, MC and artist. I couldn't have done an album like this with another producer. 

Uncommon Nasa: And for me, it's about getting that vision out there in the most cohesive way possible.  Since we are good friends, I know most of the things he has gone through lately and I understand the lyrics at that level.  So it becomes my job to get the whole song into a state where other people that don't know us can understand what's going on as easily as possible.  I mean, it's still art, nothing either of us will do is going to be solid black or white, it's always shades of grey, but you have to as a producer get people comfortable within that grey area. 

Can you break down what each of you contributes to the album? 

Uncommon Nasa: I produced the full album and I dropped four verses on it, as well.  When we work together it starts with Short Fuze and his idea for a track, then he applies that to one of my beats, we record it and then I take it from there.  For me in this group, I always try and take the raw vision and push it as far as it can go.  Whether that's sitting down and figuring out new elements to add to parts of the beats, vocal samples, guest musicians or just jumping on and adding verses or parts of chorus'.  I'm not sure if any of these songs expressly called for me to get on the mic, but I did it where I felt it and we get along so well musically that that was always a thing Fuze liked.  It's really easy to work with Short Fuze, he likes what I do and I like what he does and when you are fans of each other, you can do no wrong in a collaboration. 

Short Fuze: One thing I will add is, it's fun making music with Nasa. We understand each other as artists. I think we subconsciously inspire each other to push the envelope. We have similar styles and views musically. So it's become automatic. He's produced my best work. 

Nasa, I’ve been familiar with you for years and years. You’ve been at it a long time. Where do you think the drive to constantly create comes from? 

Uncommon Nasa: It’s sheer will that I'm still here. Apparently I'm very stubborn. I just have to do this, it's a drive that I can't really explain. I'm constantly creating, thinking about creating, telling other people about what I'm creating. And with all of that said, I still want my music to have an impact. I'm not out to prove raw skills; I'm out to write great songs and make lasting albums. The drive to deliver great records and hone my craft on stage keeps me alive. 

The album is about to be released. What’s the day before like? Are you nervous? Excited? 

Uncommon Nasa: A little bit of both. It’s intense. Right now, I have to get everything lined up correctly for the release to fans, but I also have to work the phones/emails for promotion. At Uncommon Records, I pretty much do it all from the first beat laid down to the last article written about an album. I book my own tours with my tour mates, as well.  All of this while holding down a 9 to 5. I said just last night, that my day could easily be filled with 8 hour days just on the music business end of my life and usually is, plus I somehow get 8 hours of dedication in a day for my job that keeps the lights on. It's not an easy road, but it's a road I'm thankful for.  A lot gets invested by independent artists, time and money, and I'm not sure how important people that buy our music or cover it and spread the word realize they are to that. It's a lifeline to the next project taking place at all, regardless of what that may be. 

Short Fuze: I don't envy the work Nasa does. Like I said, I ran a label at one point, and I don't miss it. For me, it's a little different. I've been putting music out a long time but, this is my first project in five years. That's eons in music time so I feel like a new artist. I'm excited and nervous. I'm going to have the chance to gain new fans, but I want my long time supporters to love this record. And, I think they will. 

It’s hard to get attention in the digital era—we are flooded with so much information on a daily basis. How do you plan to stand out? Is it more frustrating making music in 2016 than it was in 1996? 

Short Fuze: I used to have disdain for this era to be honest. A lot of people treat music as disposable. It's been difficult to combat that at times. I find though, if you put out something meaningful that resonates with people, they'll support to the end of days. I still have people that tell me how much Lobotomy Music means to them. There are more rappers in this era I think, or at least it seems that way. But being that the glorious indie rap era isn't coming back, I can either go away or compete with the youngins'. I choose to compete and teach them or crush them. The choice is up to them [laughs]. 

Uncommon Nasa: I’ve been thinking lately that maybe there never was an artists’ era.  We can look back to 1996 (for instance) and see a lot of great music signed to major labels, a lot higher touring fees paid out, physical merch being made regularly for anyone with a deal, but only a chosen few are still living from that time period today off of that. While all of that was great, there were still issues, the amount of control the label had over your art and your career was far more then it is today. You have good and bad in both eras, but I guess when push comes to shove, I'll take my self determination from this current period over anything else in a previous period. 

When did you establish Uncommon Records and what’s going on with the label these days? 

Uncommon Nasa: Uncommon began in 2004, so we are in year 12 of the label. I used to run it as mostly an A&R outfit, where I was actively seeking and gathering talent, progressive hip-hop artists that I loved. But I got to a point in my life where I looked up and down the catalogue and noticed I hadn't produced much, and certainly hadn't rapped enough even though I did both of those things. I just didn't have the time because I was pushing the "bigger picture" of the collective. I say it often, when you put a lot of time into one thing, other things will suffer. Me pushing the label so hard made me a label owner that happened to be an artist instead of an artist that owned a record label. That had to change. I enjoy and am proud of what we did the first nine years, but needed to move on.  So now the label is what I'd define as a "Producer/Artist label" centered around myself. It exists to put out my own work and the work that I produce for others. It's allowed me to slow down and put out one or maybe two releases a year so that it's all promoted correctly and toured behind. It also allows me the freedom to do projects for other labels and collaborate more, as well. 

How do you go about selecting guest features? 

Short Fuze: I choose features based on being a fan of the people I work with. I don't go after "names" to boost the profile of the record. I choose people based on whether they fit with what I'm doing. I actually wanted no guests on Autonomy Music at first. But Nasa thought Curly Castro would sound great on what would become “Self Distortion.” He wound up crushing his verse, adding another dynamic to the album. So thank you Castro for coming through and representing! 

Uncommon Nasa: That's exactly how I approach it. I know almost everyone I'll ever want to work with, so it comes down to when I hear their voice on a certain concept or beat. If the producer in me hears it, I reach out and try and make it happen, that simple. 

What do you have planned for this album? 

Uncommon Nasa: I will be out on the road in September in the Eastern United States with Carl Kavorkian to promote my latest LP, Halfway, as well as this LP with Short Fuze. I’ll also be back out in December, likely in the Deep South. Fuze will be out on the road with me shortly, as well. We’re going to be shooting a video for “Time and Space” in New York City. 

If you had to describe your music to someone who’s never heard it—what would you say? 

Short Fuze: I've always had the opportunity to connect with people through my music. My music has always been about struggle. I speak for my faith, beliefs, views and those who don't have the same platform I do. My music is heavy. I want people to cue it up and angrily speed walk their city or town. 

Uncommon Nasa: The music I make with Short Fuze is always going to be heavy, like he said.  His voice is so strong that it goes beyond complex technicalities. He doesn’t need that. He just needs you to shut up and listen to him talk to you for about 12 tracks worth of time. It’s my role to give him the best background noise for his points about life, love, faith, and pain. That’s what makes us, us. Connecting with regular people and breaking beyond the rap for rap’s sake BS is something I know me and Fuze are focused on whether it’s together or individually.