Drawing from his Zulu ancestry eighteen-year-old rapper/poet Shaka Shams is proving to be a force you might not want to reckon with in the EP Elements: Crystal Clear. A collection of six songs with inspiration taken from a variety of places such as street scenes, films and even anime. The contrasting inspirations demonstrate Shaka’s versatility as a performer, each track offering something different but every one laced with an infectious beat and effortless lyrics. Crystal Clear is only the first EP to be released under the Elements banner, but it introduces us to the sonic sound of Shaka’s world.
Currently living in Belgium but from South African descent, Shaka was introduced to the hip hop world by his cousin when he was eleven during recording for his own track at their house. Shaka was hooked and knew that wherever his life went from that point on, it was going to involve music. The rapper took opportunities when he saw them, wanting his music to reach as many people as possible, playing an open mic night at Kings Park in Bournemouth where the positive reaction from the crowd spurred Shaka onwards. Aiming big from a young age, Shaka takes influence from both old and new hip hop as well as paying close attention to sub genres like hip hop house and trap and boom that have allowed his music to liquify and flow through a mixture of hip hop styles.
Lead track ‘Groove’ is almost like a funky spoken word poem about the pretence of the highlife, how appearances take place over feeling. The song effortlessly achieves its purpose, the unrelenting groove music style impossible to not move to, the keyboard sounds combining with a beat that brings us other the threshold into Shaka’s world. The street style of ‘Bounce’ plays a heavy bass that thumps through your headphones, vibrating through speakers and is entirely too short leaving a need for more of Shaka’s music, a mood acknowledged by the lyrics ‘once I leave, you’re gonna start missing me.’ ‘That Girl’ is the longest track on the album, exceeding the others by nearly three minutes, but it tells a story we all know too well about finding success and old flames thinking they have a place in the life you have created. The track reveals the down to earth persona of Shaka, one he is unlikely to lose if his music continues to contain the same amount of passion and drive as Elements: Crystal Clear. ‘Flow’ is a smooth piece of music, the track’s rhythm rolling in perfect unison with the lyrics whilst ‘Pills’ is a delve into something darker about the awareness of drug/substance abuse. The rhythm and beat reflect the message of the song through its trippy playing around with sudden drops in pitch to a background of swirling sound. The last track on the EP, ‘Teenage Angels’, features Hubert giving a contrast between his and Shaka’s styles, fading us in and out of reality and something more spiritual.
Shaka Shams’ name is taken from his Zulu roots allowing him to channel the mighty ability of the Zulu warrior and eradicate his youthful shyness to breakthrough into the music world head strong and determined. With Crystal Clear only being the first stop in the Elements series, Shaka’s journey is bound to be one full of excitement and musical creativity; a journey he is inviting us all to take with him.
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Review by Skye W.Winwood