Shawn McDonald’s story…
SKII: I’m here today with actor SHAWN “HAZZ” McDonald”. You recently played in the movie “Chocolate City”. Tell me a bit about you, today.
SHAWN: I’m definitely fortunate telling my story because there’s a rich background that’ll inspire people to grasp onto what I’ve been through.
SKII: I know you’ve written songs for award winning soul R&B singers, Keith Sweat and Keith Mitchell and a host of other people. How did you feel writing these songs?
Shawn: I felt very honored, coming from my upbringings. I have had the game dealt to me first hand from people like; Run-DMC, Whodini and Russell Simmons. So, I literally picked that up from them. So helping great people like Keith Sweat and Keith Mitchell was a great feeling and I was very honored. I helped get his artist signed to a major llabel like Epic and Sony.
SKII: How did you actually get involved with writing for these great people?
Shawn: Well, I actually started out as a D-Jay. While growing up with my uncle and the late great – Jam Master Jay (RIP), they showed me how to work the turntables. Right after that, around the age of fifteen, I started to write songs. One day, their manager came up to me, telling me how great I was as a songwriter and a D-Jay. They said I was very talented. Then they said… “I Got It!” I got what they are looking for. So, I continued to write songs and eventually got hooked up with ASCAP which is a publishing company. I started submitting more songs to them and then eventually started working with other major artists. That’s when I moved to Atlanta to do more business with other artists. I’m lucky that this fell in my lap. It was because I was around the right people at the right time and continually staying consistent with my craft.
SKII: What’s your field for the music world?
Shawn: My field for the music world? Well… I came from a world where the music is the soul, the beat is the heart and the lyrics are the blood that flows through the veins of a body. The words that come from my mind, I know, I’ll always be a true artist that represents the Hip Hop culture. I’m not talking about rap. I’m talking about Hip Hop. What I mean by that is.. Lyrics these days doesn’t mean the same as yester years. Music doesn’t stay the same. But, I feel that Hip Hop needs to be put back into it’s roots where kids can understand the message in every song. I believe that’s why I’m here. I’m here to relate that message to the kids so that they can get some positive influence out of music of the world today.
SKII: Are your parents still alive? Do you have any siblings. Did they influence you with positive outlooks in regards to any of your goals of your music adventures?
Shawn: My mom and dad was high school sweethearts. They never got married. I grew up in Jamaica Queens with my mom but, my dad lived right down the block from us. Even-though I grew up in a single parent household with my mom, my dad lived right down the block from us, I was fortunate enough to have had my grandparents around me. I grew up with all the love anyone could possibly ask for.
I did have a brother. GOD rest his soul. He was killed by a drunk driver who ran up on the curb and struck him. My brother died at the age of five years old. The funniest thing is, I was a D-Jay at that time and my brother was my biggest fan. He loved everything I’d done and he was excited with my every move. My dad was my biggest influence as far as music. I remembered one Halloween party my dad threw where he had all of the stars coming through. I used to beg him to D-Jay the parties. So that one night, he allowed me to D-Jay the event and ever since then, everyone called me S-1. I loved it.
My writing skills was different from others. I was well educated and I was studying the dictionary to make sure my lyrics was just that. “DIFFERENT”. Because back then, I was deep with my words. I was the only one that was doing it like that until Keith Murray came on the rap scene. He rapped the same as me. Music is my love and it kept calling me.
SKII: Shawn you said, Music Was Your Calling. At what age did you determine that?
Shawn: At the age of 18, I started getting more studio time. I wasn’t a D-Jay anymore. I became more than that. That’s when I decided, this is who I am and this is what I’m destined to do. Someone once said, I was acting like “NAS” and sounding exactly like “NAS” too. That’s was not my intentions at all. So, I stopped doing the things I used to do and began “Ghost Writing” more because, I said to myself; everyone does not have to be a star. But, at the age of 21, I decided to stop ghostwriting and just become the star that I was destined to be. I have a certain look that is very marketable. And it needed to be out there. I needed to be exposed. Ms. Debra Antney was the one who got me the deal with Infra-Red/Keith Sweat. That’s when I decided to be the face of my own music. So in 1995, I packed up my stuff, left new york and moved to Atlanta GA. After spending some time in Atlanta GA, I found out that they didn’t like me much because, I sounded like a person from New York. Eventually I left Atlanta and moved to Hollywood. I got a record deal with Interscope/Geffen. That was fine but, things didn’t go as planned.
SKII: I remembered hearing you say how Hip Hop has changed since your era. How did it change for you?
Shawn: It actually changed a lot because Hip Hop of the world today, doesn’t make sense (to me) at all. Again, music is supposed to have meaning. Your supposed to put your heart in it and a message. Today, it isn’t that way. For example; I’ll be around different women where they would say.. “they don’t like Hip Hop anymore. They would also say, back then Hip Hop was great. Hip Hop back then had meaning. Today’s Hip Hop is explaining different sexual positions.
SKII: Shawn; Tell me about this project you and your manager started called; “Champion World USA”.
Shawn: Ahhh Yes. “Champion World USA” is a movement founded by myself Shawn “HAZZ” McDonald and Marie Lemelle. Globally uplifting and recognizing The Champion In All Of Us! We provide a source of information to the community about School Grants; how to get involved in Outreach Programs; Cancer Awareness; Walk For Lupis and a whole lot more. Champion World will also produce Up and Coming talent. We will teach them about Ownership and Artist Development. We have a song for our project The song, “Champions”
SKII: You did a commercial on television about “Education Connection” and you are rapping? Tell me a little about that…
Shawn: That was dope. Basically I did a rap for a commercial about education for kids. Showing kids how they can connect with education.
My agent set-up the audition. I went down there and crushed it. They loved me and told me right on the spot I got the part.
SKII: So now you’re in “Chocolate City”. How did you get that role?
Shawn: That was a blessing in disguise. Myself, and Li’l Romeo went up for the same role. I had another film in the making called, “Over the Edge”. Well, we were going for the same role and when I got to the location, The Lord knew I was getting it! I saw Genuine, Tyson Bedford, Vivica A. Foxx, and a lot of other “big” cast members. I was excited! Now, we’re getting ready for Part 2.
SKII: Are you still writing for different people and performing at different venues?
Shawn: Yes I am still writing and performing at different places. I do perform all the time. I just did a performance for a “Bullying Campaign” called.. “Bullying Awareness Network – Easy Way Production”. I do a lot of performances for the kids. They are our future and they should be surrounded by nothing less than people who are positive influences of their lives. They Are Our Next Generation. I just worked with Steve Harvey doing a project with kids in jail. I’m always doing something positive for the kid’s non-profit organizations.
As far as writing; I am currently ghost writing for three artists. I’m still developing my art – that’s my therapy – that’s my heart. I will always write songs and help with other projects with people. That’s my nature.
SKII: What’s your expectations and aspirations in life?
Shawn: My expectations are really simple… to stay passionate by three things. I always say: Move – move in the direction that is righteous; Touch – Touch people; touch them in person or in a message; Inspire – inspiring people with my passion to do what I do and hopefully they will do the same. I try to help people in a positive way.
SKII: Who’s the number one person that inspires you the most?
Shawn: Besides God, the man that gave me the ability and talent to do what I do. I would say Russell Simmons because I watched him as a I was growing up and during my college days, and still now! He was great then and even greater now.
SKII: If you could go into the future, what would you tell a younger you, older you, and future you?
Shawn: I would go back and tell a younger me to study your craft more. Have patience and have fun doing it. Don’t be so uptight and to really just have fun! The older me I would tell to listen more. And, the future me – I would tell him not to take anything for granted. Things can be gone in just a moment. When people talk, sit back and listen. Last but not least… Always pay attention to your finances. Always give thanks to the Man Upstairs – GOD.
SKII: Shawn “HAZZ” McDonald” is a man with many visions. He started with a dream of being a D-Jay to actually becoming one. He began moving forward to being a songwriter for many influential people; and went straight to acting; He began helping kids with an anti-bullying campaign, unselfishly take time out –to help kids whose been involved with being a target for bullies to starting a new project with his manager called – “The Champion World USA”. He is constantly moving and shaking up the industry with his driven talents. What’s next Shawn? I’ll tell you what’s next.
***You can see Shawn in an up-coming “Life Time” movie called; “My Crazy Ex” and also in a (Ros Capital commercial); And remember… there is a part two to “Chocolate City” coming out soon.***
Watch Out world for Shawn “HAZZ” McDonald. An aspiring man from Jamaica Queens, who made his way to “Chocolate City.”