Although roughly twelve minutes long and not aiming for any particular goal, Shad’s latest EP, melancholy and the infinite shadness, is one of the most immediately gripping pieces of hip hop I’ve heard this year.
The other opus in that regard would be R.A.P. Music, and that’s a great comparison. Just as Killer Mike and scuffed-up rock chords greet listeners with aggression on “Big Beast,” the way Shad lets the beat awkwardly skip from one instrumental to the next before sauntering over “a milli vanilli” it with a calm groove grabs the attention and never lets go.
He also proves himself as a competent showman and a skilled lyricist, spouting neat lines like “no you’re not pigs, but the profiling’s hogwash” and then jumping into frenzies of tight alliteration and internal rhyme with relative ease. His calm persona works well on the razor-sharp opening track as well as the cheesy soul of “it ain’t over” and the ghastly block-party beat on “old Prince.”
For as eclectic and singular as the beat selection is, Shad’s resistance to vocal change might seem strange. It’s akin to the late Guru’s sage monotone that glided over the cornucopia of Preemo beats – slow and steady, but wins the race due to familiarity. The content does seem quite refreshing, however, as Shad details his rap career in increasingly obscure ways on “old Prince” and delves into a philosophical deep end on “new Don.”
Yet calling Shad a backpack rapper or a underground MC doesn’t fully corner the vibe that he emanates in his lyrics. Simply put, he’s conscious, just as ready to blaspheme mindless commercialism: “how to make a rich man buy?/make him feel poor” as he is to feign an air of provocativeness: “its not just milli vanilli/city to city I’m diddy/sampling scriddy pallidy ’till I’m dizzy.” All in all, this scant offering has only whet my appetite for more of this guy’s music; hopefully something new and exciting may grace our headphones in the near future.