Beanie Sigel understands pressure. Hailing from South Philadelphia's rough and tumble 21st and Sigel streets, "Beans" emerged as one of the game's most revered rappers and even while facing the type of hardships that would break most artists, the Broad Street Bully has always excelled in the studio.
On August 28, 2012, just weeks before he is scheduled to turn himself in for a two-year prison bid, Beanie Sigel will release THIS TIME, his Ruffhouse Records debut and fifth official solo LP overall.
"Pressure busts pipes, but it could also make a diamond," says Sigel about his process of creating this new album under duress."It could either make you or break you."
With his mounting legal troubles, the former Roc-A-Fella star only had a few weeks to record his latest work, but THIS TIME is filled with the same street-inspired jewels that have made Beans so beloved throughout his career. On the title track, "Sig" stands triumphant as he reflects on the ups and downs in his life.
"It was personal things that I was going through," he says. "Most dudes in my shoes would've been jumped, if they had acquired the wealth, acquired the status and monetary things and then lost that, they would've been dead. Look at how many people that become famous and then lose it, they commit suicide or they're strung out on drugs."
"It's almost ironic that the sentencing is happening on the eve of this record, because this record is about introspection and redemption," says Ruffhouse CEO Chris Schwartz. "Beanie is truly one of the great lyricists in the hip-hop game. He stands tall among all the major MCs and he's revered by all hip-hop aficionados around the world."
Rather than focus on superficial rap rhetoric, Beans presents his truth on songs like "That's All I Know," featuring global pop star Akon. On "Kush Dreaming" Beanie applies a melodic flow over a jazzy and calming instrumental. "'Kush Dreaming,' that's just me zoning off the music being able to use my voice as another instrument that's in the track," he says before explaining the song's concept. "There's a storyline behind it, because a lot of these dudes out here, they're kush dreaming. They smoke that weed, drink that liquor and they start to believe their raps."
THIS TIME not only marks the return of Beanie Sigel, the album also brings together his State Property group on aptly-titled "The Reunion." Beans, Omillio Sparks, Young Chris, Peedi Crakk and Freeway trade menacing verses over a soulful 1960s-inspired beat. "When we get together and everybody's on the same page," says Beans of his SP clique, "I don't think there is a group out there that can make the type of music that we make."
Due to Sigel's impending incarceration, it will be a few years before fans get another album from the Broad Street Bully, but THIS TIME has enough substance to last a lifetime. "It's real life stories; people go through things and that's the music that I make," he says. "My music is honest. You have a lot of dudes that live the facade. They start falling to the character that they are portraying in the music. I don't do that."
On "Sigel is What They Call Me," Beans delivers one of his best lyrical performances while honoring the late Notorious B.I.G. and on "Dangerous," featuring Game, Sigel channels the spirit of Tupac Shakur while painting a vivid picture of the ghetto that raised him.
If there is one lesson that Beanie Sigel wants fans to take away from THIS TIME, it's to never give up.
"If you listen to that record, it's never over," he says. "No matter what you go through it's never over."
Sigel (born Dwight Grant) got his start in the late 1990s after securing a record deal with Jay-Z's Roc-A-Fella Records. After a number of key mixtape tracks and notable guest appearances (Jay-Z's "Reservoir Dogs" and The Roots' "Adrenaline!"), Beans released his gold-selling debut album The Truth in 2000, featuring contributions from Jay-Z, Memphis Bleek, Eve, and Scarface, and production by the Ruff Ryders' Swizz Beatz and Suave House's Tony Draper.. The Philly MC followed up in 2001 with The Reason, led by the single "Beanie (Mack B****)," and a year later, starred in his first film, State Property. The movie's soundtrack officially introduced Sigel's new group, State Property, which consisted of himself, Freeway, Young Chris, Neef Buck, Peedi Crakk, Omillio Sparks and Oschino. State Property not only spawned a record label with the same name, but a clothing line as well.
Just as his career started flourishing, Beans faced serious legal trouble and was sentenced to a year in jail in 2004. Around the same time Roc-A-Fella Co-CEOs Jay-Z and Damon Dash spilt, leaving most of the label's artists at a standstill. Though he faced major hurdles, Sigel released his third solo LP, The B. Coming, an album he recorded before his incarceration. It remains his most critically-acclaimed work.
In 2007 Sigel released his fourth official studio album, The Solution, and has been busy on rap's mixtape scene for the last several years. In July, 2012, the hard-nosed rap star was sentenced to two years in prison after he pleaded guilty to federal tax charges. Beanie Sigel is scheduled to report to prison on September 12, 2012 just two weeks after the release of THIS TIME.