Interview: House Shoes talks legacy, love and protection

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Main image of Big Tone (L) and House Shoes (R): Emilio Cardiel

Friends for decades, House Shoes and Big Tone deal in legacy on their collaborative album, Big Shoes. The project chronicles their experiences and shared history in Detroit, acting as both a family reunion and reconciliation of their shared episodes.

Fully produced by Shoes and released on his own label, Street Corner Music, Big Tone handles the mic throughout. Years in the making, guest appearances come from close associates Denmark Vessey, Blu, Quelle Chris, Jimetta Rose, 87 and MoSel, making the LP very much a family affair.

Bonafide spoke with House Shoes, now based in LA, to talk about the album.


Big Shoes is around the corner… What’s the history between you and Big Tone? You seem to go way back. He says he used to loan your MPC, S2000 and S3000 to make beats, for example.

I met Tone when he was in a group called University around 1995. They joined 31 Flavas, the crew I was in at the time. I would let the younger cats that were dope rent or borrow the MP since they didn’t really have access to quality equipment. Tone was dope from day one. Out the gates. On the beats and the raps. Had his own shit.

Please tell us about the making of the album.

After we recorded Time for my Let It Go LP I knew we had to do a whole joint. He murdered Time. I was still working on Let It Go when I began sending Tone joints for Big Shoes. The majority of the album was completed in the next year. I ran into some delays in the engineering/mixing process. That’s why I try to stick to instrumental releases on SCM (Street Corner Music, Shoes’ own label). They are just that much easier to produce and wrap up. I added a couple more songs to complete the LP in 2014. The album has been done for a long time. Just had to get it mixed proper.

Is it true this is your last batch of beats? Forever?

I haven’t sat down and made a proper beat since becoming a father. Just haven’t found that creative space that I could find prior. I was always a very solitary producer. I don’t collab with cats on beats or any of that. I sit in a room and smoke and go through records with the MPC at the ready. There are beats on Big Shoes dating all the way back to 1998 up through looper joints from the same period as Let It Go.

I was never a workhorse producer. I’ve got two shoeboxes of floppies and maybe 10 zips. That’s everything I’ve ever made. I still get the itch sometimes though. But to be honest, making records for these kids feels the same as making beats used to. I shy from releasing submitted projects. I like to build most of the albums I release from the ground up.

People used to go to record stores and pick an album up they had no prior clue about. They still do. They always will.

Let It Go felt like catharsis and capping off of many things, how is it making music after that?

Let It Go was a response to a lot of bullshit that was going on in my life. A lot of bullshit from people and places I would never have expected. Lessons learned. Even after relocating to LA, I was still holding people’s hands and walking them through shit that I hadn’t done for myself. I had to cut those hands off. After that it was time to get SCM popping.

How do you balance an anti-industry attitude with pushing a new album? What are the frustrations involved in getting your music out there?

I really don’t care about that shit. I’m just interested in putting records out. People always try to tell me this, that and the third about what I could do to increase visibility and all that bullshit. I honestly don’t give a fuck about that. The record is done. It’s permanent. It will always exist. People will listen or they won’t. I’m not in this shit for acclaim or a spotlight. The music industry is fucking evil. There’s no innocence left.

That’s one of my main purposes with SCM, capturing some of the bits of innocence that remain. I love music. And I won’t allow that to be taken from me. I’m a selfish motherfucker that exclusively releases records for nothing more than the reason that I heard a piece of music from these kids that made me feel good and I wanted to share that with likeminded folk. I don’t need a fucking Facebook page to tell you about Street Corner Music. People used to go to record stores and pick an album up they had no prior clue about. They still do. They always will.

Street Corner Music is six years deep now, how have you found running the label and pushing lesser known artists?

Easy as pie. Some records go fast. Some don’t. But they all exist. That’s all that matters to me. Don’t let anyone tell you how to run your ship. Especially those that never done shit themselves.

SCM uses Bandcamp for its releases, is that THE best platform for an independent label? Why/why not?

In my opinion there is nothing more important than controlling your situation. Bandcamp was created for us to control our situations. I don’t really devote any time to those that don’t buy the releases. Streaming can make you a lot of money. But I created SCM as a response to all that.

Records. Records are really what matter to me. And those who BUY them.

You have a well-documented history of being a fulcrum and nucleus for the hip hop community, what’s driven you to do that over the years?

Responsibility. I care about this shit. Prolly way too much. I’m passionate about this music. Prolly way too much. I wild out sometimes, and when I do it comes from my PASSION for this shit. It always comes from a place of love and protection. I just want to assist those who I respect. Fuck those who ain’t tryna ride with me. You will be hard pressed to find someone who cares about this shit as much as I.

What’s next for SCM? What’s next for you now? 

Man. A lot of records. Six records in physical production as we speak. Over 20 more in varying stages of completion. I’m gonna keep on documenting. It’s like I’m building a museum documenting my personal taste. Flowers are cool and all, but I’m not a florist. Cats will have a lot more to say about me when I’m gone. Until then I’m gonna keep it 100 every time.

Aside from SCM, all I got is every other weekend with my children. And I’m gonna make the absolute most of that. My children will be my proper replacements. Slightly refined, but not much.

Big Shoes is released June 7th on Street Corner Music. Stream the album here, or pre-order physicals here: 2CD, 2LP, 2LP splatter edition

Keep up with House Shoes and Street Corner Music on Bandcamp. 

Listen to new single – From My Mouth To God’s Ears below.


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