This extended play was released on August 7th this year. Last year, SHADI released what is quite possibly the weirdest album I have ever heard, You Can’t Hear Me. I may be biased since I had the privilege of premiering the lead single on this blog, but it was also one of the better albums I heard in 2019, so I was really excited to see what he would follow it up with. The stuff he was uploading to Soundcloud was nothing at all like that album, so I really had no idea where he was gonna take his music. He produced every single song on You Can’t Hear Me by himself, and this EP is actually handled by other producers, so that’s the most obvious difference right off the bat. Of course this project is just an EP, so it’s only a fraction of the length of that album. SHADI is a very unique artist though, and he’s not the kind of guy whose music you can really skim through and digest super quickly, so I don’t think four tracks and 17 minutes is too little music from him. Anyway, I kinda went into this project with no expectations. I was just hoping that I would fuck with it, and I thankfully wasn’t let down at all.
There’s not a single song here that I didn’t like to some extent, so I’ll just write about the whole thing in the proper order of the track listing. The opening song is called Stolen Art, and this is definitely a highlight for me. In a nutshell, this song is really just hard as shit. The production from Boo Hiss feels relatively minimalistic. The percussion is really the main selling point of the instrumental in my opinion, but there’s also this weird motif throughout the song that sounds like some descending bell notes. I feel like the way SHADI was flowing over it is perfect too. It sounds intentionally scatterbrained and sporadic.
I hate just to love, but I love all this hate
Reciprocate 'cause money comes with the blood
Pigs they the real thugs
Fill 'em up with a whole buncha slugs
Turnin' up when my mind get a buzz
I'm lightyears ahead of this mud
Dark energy in my cup
Dark queen, dark blunt
But my future blue like it's Ozark
Scatpack like Mozart
Shittin' on a jake or a narc
Dummy boy cash smart
I feel like the aesthetic of this song matches his Thugs Love Art brand perfectly. It sounds like super artsy, experimental Gangsta Rap. Not in the same way as clipping.’s early stuff though. Daveed Diggs sounds like an artistic dude who likes to rap about street shit. SHADI sounds like a weird, artistic street dude. One’s not necessarily better than the other, but there is a difference there. I love the hook on this track too. His flow is so dope on this part…
Hit that boy with the chop, Tony Stark
On the block painting art, stolen art
Took her heart from afar, foreign car
You a narc, sellin' dog with them dogs
Got my eyes on you just like a frog
Camouflage camouflage, on the block
I love the way the next verse starts too. The aggressive ad-libs really added a lot for me, especially when he yells “knot” in the background after the second bar in this excerpt…
'Cause it's hot, 'cause it's hot, 'cause it's hot
And my pockets got knots, they got knots
And my shoe don't got laces, they don't
Off the wall, I'm in places you won't
Come up at all, drink a case of Cristal
Racist ass shit, fuck a stall
I'ma piss in your face if you won't
Give me a seat at the throne
I'm in need of a home
I think the song is dope as fuck honestly. I liked the song on my first listen, but after returning to it a few times I love it now. It’s super hard. The following track is called 2020 DISCO, and I wasn’t really sure how I felt about it at first. Boo Hiss’ production on this one is similarly percussion-focused, but it sounds more danceable. The opening lines from SHADI also reminded me of Danny Brown‘s Dance in the Water, which is one of the songs that I dislike from Atrocity Exhibition.
Don't stop, too slow
Move sumn like a ho
Shake sumn, show me mo'
Shake sumn for this gold
This kinda stuff just doesn’t interest me at all, but the way it’s delivered with this weird ass skeletal beat makes it more appealing to me. It just sounds like a super intense, super weird, freaky, drug-fueled sexual encounter. It sounds like a combination of adultery, sleep deprivation, and drug abuse. I feel like Danny Brown, ScHoolboy Q, and maybe Elucid would fit on this track perfectly if they were just rapping about vices. The sonic landscape of this song just sounds like a downward spiral and complete lack of self-care, but in a cool way. Once SHADI actually gets into his verse the lyrics get really cool. His delivery is weird as fuck, and it’s definitely gonna be annoying as shit to some listeners, but I think it works with the beat pretty well.
6 foot deep, the walls touch my knees
My eyes repeat everything my mind deletes
Everything depletes, even this currency
Currently boarding over seas
Honestly, this is probably the weirdest song on the whole project, but I do like it. It’s not a favorite of mine, but I enjoyed it. I think it’s pretty good. The penultimate track is called it is what it is., and it’s a major highlight for me. The production from Giant Claw is way less minimalistic, but it’s just as weird. It’s just far more hard-hitting, and the way the percussion comes in after about 20 seconds gives me the coveted involuntary head nod every single time I listen. I love the way SHADI flows over it too.
That's feet, that's body, that's bone, that's flesh
I'ma still walk to get to this check
I'ma still talk to go get my respect
I wasn't taught to get on my kness
Unless I was making Sallah
I am not one of the pedestal
I don't bow down 'less I'm chowing down
In them temples under Tibetan Rule
Something about this project just feels so much more… I don’t know. I hate using this term ’cause I think it’s corny as hell, but I don’t know how else to say it. It seems like he has way more “swag” on this project though. The album felt very vulnerable and fucked up. It almost sounded like a cry for help. This one sounds like he’s content with where he is and he’s making the listener beg for help. I don’t know if that makes sense. On You Can’t Hear Me I feel like he was like, “bruh look at this shit, everything’s fucked up,” but with this project the listener’s like “bruh what is this shit, everything’s fucked up,” and he’s like “yeah.” That probably makes no sense. Fuck it. It don’t matter. The song is hard as fuck. That’s all you need to know. I love it. The closing track is called sticks n’ stonez, and it features SB the Moor, who also handles the beat. This one oddly feels more traditional to me than the other songs somehow. It feels less scatterbrained to me, which isn’t really a good or a bad thing in my opinion. It’s just something that I noticed. I like the beat a lot, but the main aspect of it that I love is those thicc ass drums. I never really thought about it until I listened to this track, but SHADI & SB the Moor actually have kinda similar voices. Anyway, SHADI killed that first verse.
Back against the same walls I call for protection
99 ways of interpreting neglection
Dialects to express neglect, an exterior the ego protects
How can one love distress? He knows the best
Allah grasp on my neck, fear the pressure when it's kept
Appreciate release, exhale to breathe
For it's not escape from death, but a chance to piece
Hold the piece, we want peace
Slave chains coated in grease
Escape to seize, escape to sea
I really like SB’s more lowkey delivery, and their flow was smooth as hell. Their writing had me hooked too.
Patrons in front of dimly lit screens, girls behind doors
She tried to tell it to everyone, she won't take it no more
Disparity and hilarity both etched into the shore
When forced into living, every footstep kills a little bit more
I think I misquoted that last line a little bit, but either way their verse was fire. I think the song is really dope. I think it’s the least interesting song sonically to be completely honest, but the actual rapping is so good that it made up for the relatively plain instrumental. It’s a dope track.
This EP is really great. It’s hard to say whether or not I like this more than the full album SHADI dropped last year, but I definitely think this is more consistent. I would like to hear him rap over his own production again at some point in the future, but the beats on this EP fit his style really well in my opinion. I don’t think they’re as wild or chaotic, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. They’re still super weird for the most part. SHADI’s vocal delivery is also way less abrasive, which isn’t really a good or a bad thing to me. It probably will make the music more accessible to listeners in general, but he’s by no means selling out or compromising his artistry. I don’t think SHADI’s the kind of artist that people would be able to pressure into making something he doesn’t wanna make. Anyway, SHADI is such a unique and strange artist that I was afraid he wouldn’t be able to connect with me on another release, but he’s two for two so far. There’s not a single song here that I don’t like, and it makes me even more excited for whatever he does in the future. I definitely wanna hear more production from him in the future, and I think it’ll be really dope if he continues to fuse this weird, abstract, experimentalism with his thuggishness. “Thugs Love Art” definitely sums up his work to me pretty well. This shit is really fucking cool, and I can’t wait for more. Don’t sleep on this shit.