From his flow to the beats that he rhymes over, everything about hardcore rapper Shade Sheist screams "West Coast" in no uncertain terms. Sheist has, on occasion, worked with some East Coast rappers -- including Ja Rule and Naughty by Nature member Kay Gee -- but even so, Sheist is very much a product of the Southern California rap scene. Heavily influenced by West Coast gangsta rappers such as Snoop Doggy Dogg, DJ Quik, Warren G, Dr. Dre, and the late N.W.A. agitator Eazy-E, Sheist was born and raised in the Los Angeles area. Anyone who forgets how long rap has been around need only think about how long Sheist has been alive; the Southern Californian was born in the early '80s, which means that he was only a baby when trailblazing old-school East Coast rappers like Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, the Sugarhill Gang (as in "Rappers Delight"), and the Treacherous Three were at the height of their popularity. It also means that he was only two or three years old when Ice-T -- the seminal father of West Coast gangsta rap -- started recording in 1983.
Growing up in Inglewood, CA (home of the Inglewood Forum) and South Central L.A., Sheist was raised on rap. He was hip to what MCs from the East Coast and the Deep South were doing, but ultimately, it was the West Coast that had the greatest impact on his lyrics and his flow. Growing up in the 'hood in the '80s and '90s, Sheist was well aware of the gang violence and the infamous Crips/Bloods rivalry that plagued South Central L.A.; however, he has been quoted as saying that he was wise enough to avoid getting caught up in the gang scene. It was in 2000 that Sheist started to get some breaks as a rapper; that year, he was featured on "If You Were My Bitch," one of the tunes that Irv Gotti produced for the CD Irv Gotti Presents: The Murderers. The Murderers' project was where Sheist met East Coast hardcore rapper Ja Rule, who invited him to be a guest on his Def Jam album Rule 3:36 (which went triple platinum). It was also in 2000 that Sheist met the L.A.-based producer Damizza, who was serving as a senior director of artist relations for L.A.'s urban contemporary station Power 106 and had a production company/label called Baby Ree Entertainment. Damizza went on to feature Sheist on the 2000 single "Where I Wanna Be," which appears on the compilation Damizza Presents: Where I Wanna Be. In September 2002, Baby Ree/ MCA released Sheist's first full-length solo album, Informal Introduction; the disc's producers include Damizza as well as DJ Quik and Naughty by Nature's Kay Gee (who brings an East Coast background to what is usually a very West Coast-sounding album). ~ Alex Henderson