Sunday Night Review: City Shawn – Forever

CityShawn-Forever-Cover

This past Friday was a horribly disgusting day. I was going to add some flowery poetic language that would have hopefully impressed you enough to comeback, but now, sitting here cringing at the thought of another weekend starting the same way, I realized it’s not worth the effort. Not only did the sky open up and drop water so frigid that the Miller Lite ice climbers refused to retrieve multiple patrons’ beers, but it was also depressingly grey; when you throw in the overall trash heap vibe one gets walking around New York City, it makes you feel like you have landed in a soaked overcrowded dumpster. Every damp frosty step I took, a curse to our lord and savoir followed soon after (forgive me Based god, I was in a dark place) . Everyone and everything looked depressing and annoyed, so I did the only logical thing: put on my headphones to escape through the power of music (barf, heave, barf, blagghh, but so true).

Once again, music managed to salvage the only good out of a bad moment. Waking up at the crack of dawn, which is when my mom and me leave for work, getting my ipod in order is normally priority number three, only behind showering and brushing my teeth. That day I  felt particularly adventurous, deciding to forgo placing another Nas or Madlib album on my mp3 player, to explore some younger underground rappers. One in particular, a dude from the Bay Area, who I stumbled upon two nights prior. A quick weather.com check confirmed my suspicions that it was going to be a craptastically moist day, so I hoped that the sunshine and good vibes attributed to his hometown, could positively influence my attitude through osmosis. It didn’t happen that way (playing Beach House would have been far more effective, but the limited space available on my ipod is reserved for bands I like), instead, his spectacular lyricism, amazing beat selection, and the wide array of topics he covered wowed me, and at least made me pay attention to something other than my fast approaching demise.

Who is this mysterious fellow?

Why its City Shawn of course, that’s who.

Shawn is from San Jose, so even though he is from the Bay, his music doesn’t necessarily sound like other artists from the region, like Iamsu! or Sage the Gemini. There are a number of similarities–the excited high pitched voice, some of the slang, and unorthodox percussion–but Forever stands apart in a number of significant ways that makes it interesting. This tape strays away from the dance around because you’re too swaggy to sit still vibe, opting for a much darker and mellow tone. It’s more Pusha T than Drake, even though he does provide a lot of his perspective and social commentary on the tape, he constantly moves forward, never wallowing in self-pity or self-loathing.

After a short phone recording from one of Shawn’s friends, detailing how dope he is, and an even shorter introduction from the host DJ Traxamillion, “Big Tymers” begins to play. I’m fully aware that I previously said he moved away from swagerster rap, but I never mentioned braggadocio. This first track is like a Meek Mill song, where you are left with a thorough understanding of why he is a good rapper and why he deserves all of great things coming his way, just without the eventual loss of hearing. It is a great way to start the tape, especially with the cool third person to first person switch during the hook, “I’m a motherf**king big tymer/ Motherf**king BIG TYMER.” Yeah it begins about a minute and a half into the song, but it is worth the wait, every time.

“No Way” follows immediately after, and it would be my favorite track on the mixtape, if I didn’t play it out already. Shawn  composed one of my favorite lines of this year “Who run the City/They going to tell you City/That’s a question you don’t have to ask twice,” hilariously clever–I replayed it like ten times and was still laughing, never gets old. Seriously though, this track has become my anthem. Its all about grinding and hustling to get whats he want, but then not letting anyone come in to sabotage all of his hard work; the blind ambition and stubborn determination are major driving forces in my own life, for better or for worst. “I’ve been praying all night and all day, hoping you can get me out/ They can’t fuck with a nigga and they finally figured it out/ There ain’t no way, no way, no motherf*cking way.” Following my thirtieth straight listen, I damn near full out sprinted to work off, hype alone, ready to blow people’s minds. Its my new coffee track (I call songs that no matter what time of day you listen to them, but normally its the morning, they get you hyped like caffeine, coffee tracks).

“100” gives a great definition of what a hater is, “You ain’t fucking no bitch and you ain’t getting no paper/You know what that sound like to me/ That sound like a Motherf**king hater”, that’s exactly what it is, someone get Webster on the line.  “I’m way too in-tune with my inner-self,” somehow he manages to make self-obsession sound cool, instead of sad or depressing (I do like Nothing Was the Same, I just hated the tears that followed afterwards).  He deals with the biggest set of haters on “Feds Watchin.” He isn’t 2 Chainz, seeing that his phone is tapped doesn’t make him run to the versace store to get fresh as hell; rather he wisely quiets all of his operations and tells his friends to watch their steps. You will be looking over your shoulders, anxious that someone is going to see you doing something wrong, by the time the song is over.

I was surprised when “Jazz” and “On the Real For Real” the first time, their mellow vibes make them stand out from the rest of the mixtape. DreemTeem, who I believe produced the entire project, are quickly becoming some of my favorite produces out. “Jazz’s” horn and female vocal sample are beautiful and layered perfectly; this beat could have easily been used in a Film Noir soundtrack. “On the Real For Real,” contains a sample that may have been used in Harry Fraud’s “Bird On A Wire” beat, it is an equally gorgeous beat. Shawn murders this track, while delving into some serious social commentary. When I heard him say that “Your mind is a weapon,” my face literally melted. Crazy good and deep.

Now this tape is long, I mean like twenty tracks long, so I’ve barely scratched the surface. However, my bed is calling me and its sells pitch is persuasive. The final two tracks I want to talk about are towards the end of the tape. “Jordan” reinforces a lot of what is said previously, the fact that he has been grinding hard and is now firmly in a position to win. What makes it an interesting song is its hook, where he references both Mike Tyson and Michael Jordan. It is smoother than majority of the tracks on the album and his nonchalant bragging adds an additional layer of coolness. “Problem” is just flat out phenomenal, from the beat to its lyrics. A definite stand out and the best way to close out the mixtape.  If you only have enough time to listen to one track on the album, listen to this one, it will turn you into a believer.

Friday came and went, but this project will remain. City Shawn offers a fresh sound and lyrical content that will make you think, while still turning up. There are few people who can actually achieve this delicate balance, and it is a testament to his talent that he was able to do so well, so soon. It may be due to my irrational impartiality when it comes to Bay Area artists, but I feel like he is poised to make some major waves in the future. Half of this album have five stars next to their names in my itunes, which rarely happens for underground mixtapes. Give it a spin, I’m sure you will find something you like on it.

Jimi (@Nativejimi)

P.S. Thank you to all those who have and continue to support me and Native Suns. However, I would like to give a special thank you to a close friend of mine. Big Boy Drew was the first person to follow the blog and has constantly encouraged me to keep writing. I would like to thank you and send my condolences to you and your family during this time of need. I have no clue what you are possibly going through, but I do know that you know how to find me if you ever want to talk about it. Keep your head up, things will get better. Peace, one love.

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