Hi Sheik. Can you tell us about how you got into hip-hop? If we are not wrong, your brother was a producer for the historic Sardinian group ‘’La Fossa’’. What are your memories of that time?
Hi guys. I started getting into music, especially Hip-Hop, at the age of 11, in 2001. My father used to play bass and guitar. My brother Matteo (Martinez) was locked in his bedroom all day producing the beats for “3,” the La Fossa record. My other brother, Alessio, was rapping and he already had several active demos, as well as being one of the best graff writers around with his 3D style that was very popular and innovative at the time. After the release of La Fossa’s album, I was given the opportunity to use the discarded beats from the production of their album. So I began to write in my bedroom my own rap on the chosen beats and recorded my first demo, thanks to the use of an old Pentium, Cubase VST, a Shure SM58 strapped to a broomstick that was up with packing tape.
Looking back on that time I can only call it magical.
How did La Fossa and the island scene of the time influence you and how has it evolved today?
The island scene of the time was very active and very fierce. Whether you want it or not, the “island” factor always created great internal rivalries, being a “closed” environment. The aspect that fascinated me most about the groups La Fossa, Menhir, Ganasana (just to name a few) was definitely the way of writing: very strong beats, direct and outspoken lyrics. As for internal developments on the island, I kind of lost sight of everything and everyone, many left and others went in search of new realities. Kind of like me. The environment unwilling to change and the constant presence of internal gossip in the scene convinced me to cut the apron strings and leave Sardinia. Nevertheless, I will never forget my origins and my past, because they have allowed me to become what I am today.
When did you make the decision that you also wanted to make music and pick up the microphone? What let you go down this path more than anything else?
I made this decision when I was 12, in middle school. During gym school, I stopped at the playground adjacent to the gymnasium and I started freestyling with some older kids. They got impressed, so they invited me that evening to do some freestyle with them. That’s when it all started. I wanted to rap, period. I felt captured to the stuff, the beat, the metrics of the lyrics.
Rap was my revenge on the outside world. It made and it still makes me feel invincible, and that helped me a lot to get through the teenage period and to stand up for myself among peers and others.
How did the name Sheik come about?
The name Sheik comes from SHAKE, as my friends used to call me. When I was freestyling, I was always fidgeting a lot, and during a beat, this name came out. I took it right away, mostly because of the beauty of the letters. I had another passion at the time, and that was Bombing and Tag, which is why I chose to change the letters to SHEIK as to make myself less recognizable.
You now live in Bologna, one of the historic capitals of Italian Rap… Why did you choose to move specifically there ?
Before Bologna, I lived for six years in Milan. I needed to return to a city on a human scale to catch my breath a little. Milan was slowly drying me out because of the great hustle and bustle and the pressure of having to necessarily become a saleable product. I was losing sight of the real reason I wanted to Rap. However, I continue to commute between Bologna and Milan, where I continue to pursue different projects. Bologna, unlike Milan, is much quieter, more livable and less competitive; that’s why I chose it.
How is the Bologna Hip-Hop scene? Are you a part of it in any way or are you on good terms or do you collaborate with anyone from Bologna?
It is not the Bologna of the good times, those are gone now and will never come back. In any case, the scene in Bologna is very active and keeps a good buzz. I have already done several live shows in the city, including at Link, a Bologna institution. On October 8th I will have the pleasure of opening the concert of REKS from America, together with Brain who has become a very dear friend and whom I consider a pillar of Bologna Rap. Otherwise I’m working on several singles with a Sardinian producer who has been here for more than a decade, Kiquè Velasquez. We’ll see what happens.
You recently released “In Se Ipso.” Can you tell us something about the album for those who haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet? What is the meaning of the title?
“In Se Ipso” from the Latin means “in himself,” that is a journey within itself looking for a key to understand this society of ours. It is my best work, both because of the collaboration with real professionals and because we felt a group. Zizzed, a nationally known producer, was able to pull me out of my standards by blending my hard, straight-to-the-face rapping with more melodic and emotional sounds.
Then Jamie Fields, a producer from Friuli that I’m sure will be heard very soon, and Chryverde, among the best current producers on the national scene. The record ranges from classic rap sounds, to garage/trap, to melodies, pushes on the lyrics, flow, and sounds, but also knows how to take some breaks, reviewing in ten tracks a bit all the classic rap repertoire.
In the past you’ve had the opportunity to open live for many Italian biggies from Noyz Narcos to Kaos…How did these opportunities come about? And what is the live show that got you impressed?
Live shows are definitely my highlight. I’ve been doing them since I was a kid, and I’ve learned how to deal with all situations, from those in bars with five people, to openings with two thousand. I think the fact that for years I was called upon to perform before big artists was definitely a meritocratic consequence towards me. Punctually, after people came to hear my live shows, the next day I would get a few offers from other venues. This is something that fills me with pride and something I aim for so much. The concert that impressed me the most was in 2016 with Noyz at Poetto in Cagliari, where everything worked very well and I gave my best performance. With him and the whole Propaganda team we had a great relationship during the years in Milan, they are real people with enormous talent, able to turn their passion into their work. Definitely a point of reference for the whole Italian scene. Lots of esteem.
Do you have any new projects in the pipeline or any major news coming up in your future?
I am still very hungry. I have several projects in the pipeline, both on the Milanese and the Bolognese front. I’m working on a new record and in the meantime I’m putting away a lot of singles. There is some important news, but out of superstition we keep our mouths shut and keep working hard. Only work repays effort, and you know, Sardinians are hard workers.