Sasha Go Hard is turned up. She's about to rock a short but potent set for a backroom full of rockers, hip hoppers and randoms at grimy Williamsburg, Brooklyn, venue 285 Kent. Days earlier, she'd done the same at hipster haven Santos Party House in Manhattan.
"It was my best show so far," she says. "It was my first show outside of Chicago. The crowd was crazy; they were showing a lot of love so that made me bring it even more."
It's a far cry from the streets of Chicago that she's called home for the 20 short years of her life — the same streets that have claimed more than 391 lives by gun violence this year, prompting many to crown the Windy City America's Murder Capital. But Chicago's been making headlines for another reason in 2012 as well: the explosion of its local rap scene, which has produced budding stars like King L and Sasha's homie Chief Keef, just two of the MCs who've made the leap from local sensations to major label deals. And judging from the reaction of the mixed New York crowd to Sasha's own brand of Windy City bump, she may be next up.
While she's Chi till she dies — her songs ooze the same hypnotic, bar-brawling "drill" sound Keef's known for — Sasha says her music is connecting with people from all over.
"The crazy surroundings I live in now, I just put those real-life situations into songs, 'cause I know other people got through same stuff," she says. "I put real stuff in songs, 'cause I know people will tune in to it more."
Sasha's proven this simple hypothesis with both of her mixtapes, last year's Glory Girl — named after her affiliation with Keef's Glory Boy Entertainment crew — and this year's Do You Know Who I Am? Mission statement "What We Do," produced by Japan-born Keef associate DJ Kenn, stacked up more than 300,000 views on YouTube and counting, but her new heater, the raucous "I Think I Like," produced by Young Chop, is even better — Sasha's phone has been ringing steadily ever since. (Her pretty face and disarmingly innocent smile, which counterpoints her rabbit-punch music, doesn't hurt, either.)
"I'm trying to get a good deal, but I'm not trying to just jump into something and mess things up," Sasha says. "A lot of labels trying to talk to me, but I'm just looking for the best. The best of the best."
She's definitely set her sights high: Maybach Music Group, to be exact. "They whole team seem like bosses," she says. "I love their music and how they approach themselves. Especially Rick Ross — he don’t care. I’m like that too. I just don’t care what nobody gotta say."
That may be true, but unlike her boy Keef — whose reckless tweets have landed him in hot water, and even possible legal trouble — Sasha definitely cares what comes out of her own mouth. When asked about Lil JoJo, the teenage rapper and Keef rival who was shot and killed earlier this month, Sasha kept a respectful distance. "It’s sad that he’s dead, but I just stay out of it and stay in my zone, 'cause it's safe where I'm at."
And while she refused to jump into the recent row between Keef and Lupe, who recently said that the former, and the violent "drill" culture he ostensibly represents, "scare" him, she did plead for cooler heads to prevail on the bloody streets of her hometown. "It’s kind of crazy cause all of us are from the same place even if we didn’t grow up together," she says of the Chi's spiraling crime rate. "There’s no kind of reason why things like that should go on. There’s no purpose at all. It’s not proving anything."
The simmering Chicago chaos surrounding Sasha makes it that much easier for her to keep her head down, avoid the drama and concentrate on what really matters, from her new bookings around the country to a new mixtape due in November. "There be a lot of stuff going on in the Chicago music scene, a lot of people competing and comparing themselves to the next person, but I stay in my own lane," she says. "I don’t pay attention to stuff I don’t have time for. I just stay focused — I don’t let nothing get in my way."
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(Photo: courtesy William Glasspiegel)