Since the 5th grade, Shao Sosa’s passion has been for creating hip-hop. Heavily influenced by rap icons such as LL Cool J, Eric B. & Rakim, and the Beastie Boys; young Shao found himself well known in the Tri-Cities area for his wise words and determined delivery. Over the years, these things would never change.
Then known as “Shaolin”, the skinny Vietnamese kid with the remarkable rhyme game took advantage of local talent shows and built a name for himself. By the age of 14, he found himself recording with his future mentor Kyle “Porky” Adams. Pork was the founder of Acropolis Records and spent a lot of time helping the young artist develop his craft. At 16, Shao was officially on the Northwest hip-hop circuit. This was highlighted by a performance in Yakima at a 1994 Lowrider Magazine show in front of a 15,000-person crowd. Early on, it seemed the youngster had the world in his hands..
But things weren’t going as smoothly as they may have seemed. Shao describes his younger self as a “knucklehead” who moved away from his parents early and began dabbling in mischief to make ends meet. In the winter following the Lowrider show, this star in the making was convicted and sentenced to two years in a juvenile institution for armed robbery. The time down would prove to be a blessing in disguise. Despite his incarceration, Shao became increasingly close with Adams and continued to hone his writing skills. Through Porky, Shao was able to release his first tracks on a variety of compilation records, increasing his buzz even from behind bars. His track “Broken” (released on the Acropolis Records compilation, Pork Presents: Side ‘n’ on You) even received praise from the notoriously conservative Tri-City Herald, which referred to the song as “a poignant message of regret”.
When he touched back down, Shao was hungry and felt he had lost ground to make up. Smarter and more focused, he immediately went to work recording and releasing his first solo album, Baby Dragons and King Cobras. The album is considered by many to be a Washington underground classic. Working to expand his network, Shao was opening for regional legends Yukmouth (of the Luniz), Digital Underground, Cool Nutz and Kid Frost before his 20th birthday.
As so many young musicians learn, it’s all about your team. In 1999, Shao parted ways with Acropolis Records due to label issues and later joined up with Bullet and Eastside Records. His relationship with Cool Nutz grew and he soon found himself on mini tours alongside Nutz, Maniac Lok, Mr. D.O.G. and Mac Money. Under Eastside Records, Shao recorded songs with notable artists such as Jay Tee (of N2Deep) and the late Mac Dre. He also formed a strong bond with Portland-based R&B crooner Arjay, a friendship that lasts to this day. This time of his career was highlighted by appearances on a number of compilations and the eventual album with Bullet: Small Town Livin, Big City Game.
For Shao, life only seemed great from the outside though. By this time he had moved to Tacoma but was constantly bouncing back and forth between his new home and the Tri-Cities. Trouble was a day to day affair and as his change of address list overtook the double digit mark, the stress became overwhelming. But one thing would remain constant: His ability to channel that pain into his art. It showed in the product, and the buzz in and out of the streets was growing rapidly.
Disagreements with Bullet and a poor commercial response to their collaborative efforts lead to a split from Eastside Records. In 2003, he linked up with longtime friend Dustin Jordan who launched Street Money Entertainment/High Side Records Northwest. Working with producers like Tory Ward, Big Squeeze, Bosko, and Big Hollis, Shao’s work ethic in the booth only improved and he was able to record enough songs for two solo albums. But while planning the record release, his partner Jordan was convicted on drug charges and the label would go into a state of permanent hiatus. Discouraged, let down, and crushed, Shao decided to hang up his mic in 2005.
“Music is my first love… I can’t stay away.” – Shao Sosa
In 2008, Shao started recording again, and quietly rebuilt his fan-base. Life continued to throw boulders his way, taking close friend John Shue in 2008 and long time confidant Porky Adams in 2010. But hardened by his resolve and loss, he stayed focused. Reinventing himself under the handle of Shao Sosa, he launched his own label Razor Tongue Music in 2010 and is currently prepared to release his long-delayed sophomore album, The Gateway Drug. Asked about his sound, Shao responded, “I think I am most known for brutal honesty in my music, and vicious self-analysis coupled with a sharp pen. What you hear is all me. As an avid listener of hip hop and all music, you will hear that incorporated into my sound.”
From a young boy to a grown man, Shao has seen his share of tragedy and learned his share of lessons.Yet somehow through it all, he’s never lost his passion for rap music. As driven now as he was as an 11 year old prodigy, Shao once again looks eagerly to the future… wondering what she holds for him.