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Thursday, 16 August 2012

Shifty Presidents

Hip Hop, like most genres of music, has two major threads to it.
One is the public face that is designed for mass consumption.
It's unchallenging, repetitive and has only one purpose in life, and that's to act as a cash magnet.
There's very little heart or soul in the shiny bling heavy MTV targeted hip hop that is promoted globally.
It's a stereotype that feels like it has left its expiry date far behind.
A hollow fast food representation of something that should have some meat to it, but doesn't.

The other is the sound of the underground, and it's there that the beats pump fast and passionately.
Especially here in Scotland where acts like Hektor Bizerk and The Girobabies are ripping up the rule book and casting it in the air like confetti.
In this ever shifting bastard offspring of a loose scene the only thing that you can expect is the unexpected, and strangely enough the latest act to throw his hat in the ring defines this unexpected aspect, as instead of a skinny pissed off wigger from a council estate spitting out rhymes Shifty Presidents hails from Chicago, and prior to relocating to Glasgow has been around the block a bit.
While presently he's more Eminem and Jay Z than the punk upstarts with a fistful of repetitive beat that we are used to, there's undoubtedly some influences from his travels creeping into what he is rapping about, and it's clear from listening to his rhymes that what we have is an artists who is maturing and using his experiences to move beyond simple emulation of his heroes and is edging ever closer to a sound of his own.

This stranger in a strange land soaking up partially foreign influences could be exactly the thing that Shifty needs to push some space between himself and the pool of rappers he has left behind in Chicago, and vice versa it adds a certain flavour to what he does that Scots audiences will only have an experience of from watching the dreaded MTV.
If he can tread that line between where he came from and where he's at, and then forge something from both then there's really no telling where he will end up.
While some may be intent on repeating history this is a young man who has his eye on the prize and is keen to write his own story.
You've got to give him kudos for that.

It's not all praise though.
Nothing is ever perfect, and what I am hearing is an artist on a journey. and some of the destinations he is referencing could be left in his rear view mirror.
The bitches and other stereotypical hip hop phrases and terms that are liberally sprinkled sound dated and should be left in the mouths of the less intelligent rappers out there.
Which he isn't one of.
It just feels counterproductive to pay lip service to something that he could easily replace with a more visceral turn of phrase.
However while that is a criticism it's still clear to see that Shifty Presidents is moving away from that and reaching for a less ghettoised sound, and it's this forward momentum that gives me hope that we will be hearing plenty of good things about him once he has soaked up some more experiences and used them to turbo charge his songs.

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