First and foremost, having listened to an album I may have otherwise passed over, I am grateful for the opportunity to review ShaStimuli’s new album The Calling. It is exactly what I need to be listening to. You already know, but for the reader’s sake, I’d like to confess that this is the first LP of Sha’s that I’ve heard. I’ve heard him featured on other people’s stuff. I’m kind of embarrassed about it. However, I’m also thankful that now I know. It’s never too late.
If you think people aren’t rapping about anything anymore, and frankly you’re upset about this, then you and Sha Stimuli share a lot in common. You want to talk about real talk. This album has that. It’s evident he’s not even trying to shoot for radio play with this n-teenth offering. Well, shouts out to my local station in Washington, DC –WPFW-FM 89.3 – they’d definitely play it (please?). Point is, he’s not shooting FOR radio play, he’s shooting AT the garbage on the commercial radio today. You know the standard knocks on the commercial radio acts: bling, guns, hos, money, cars, etc. However, he happens to be a ridiculous emcee. His wordplay is hall-of-fame caliber. I don’t say that lightly. AND he’s on some grown-man ish. At some points, he walks a fine line between passion and anger. That’s cool, but I prefer the former. And he delivers. You can tell he’s telling his story straight from the heart. The album describes his experiences in the hip hop industry as an artist and from his early days growing up in the game as Lord Digga’s younger brother; his thoughts on the state of the art form today; and his life and relationship experiences. The emotions on this record range from inspired to disappointed to angered. There’s definitely a range of beats used as well, from dope jazzy beats to frenetic synthesized beats. Lots of references to religion and spirituality, and well-played.
The first track, the requisite introduction, Thee Alarm kicks the album off with some sort of synthesized Munsters theme. Ok. Not sure where this is going. Next track is Volume. First things I noticed on this track were the frenetic guitar sounds…kinda caught me off-guard. Sha lyrically dresses down the every emcee at an impressive pace and lets the world know that he’s not bowing down at the expense of integrity. I’m feelin’ it. Lot’s of energy brewing here. Next is Me. It’d just be better if I showed you how it starts (or see the video below) - the “17,440 spittas, three-thousand corny and five-thousand are bitter/twenty-four hundred love weed, pussy, or liquor/in the game just so they can get fame and money quicker/four-thousand imitate Weezy, Dreezy, and Jigga… then goes on to say the ways in which he is unlike all the rest. And he’s about right. Most emcess aren’t bringin’ it like this. Absolutely knocks it out of the park, and the female chorus toward the end is amazing.
The first thing I noticed about From Me to You was that it had more of a hip hop beat that I am used to. Perhaps my favorite beat on the album. Here’s him rapping about his transformation which is a recurring theme throughout the album: ”..I went from wishin and waitin for things to happen/now I snatch it and take it/I went from whack to your favorite/I went from attic to basement/I mean mainstream to underground/ you can’t even place me…and this goes out to you and you and you and you…and you.” Another solid track.
On Brenda’s Baby Sha kinda talks about how much has happened in the last 15 years since 2Pac died vis a vis the reference to 2Pac’s first solo hit, Brenda’s Got a Baby.” “Spittin it raw, but shiftin my course, it’s been fifteen years without Mr. Shakur/and if you think about the shit that he saw/I hope the pictures I draw/can come close, ‘cause I give you my all.” But essentially he’s saying that nothing’s happened since since Pac died in that the same issues from then, are only worse now. Caps off a verse with, “I used to rap like you, I was SEVEN.” He’s definitely on a mission. He’s trying to use the mic to bring a higher level of awareness to his audience.
Outro – sounds like an old movie clip that sounds like a person reflecting internally about the right path to take forward…then a brilliant closing verse, asking people essentially to seize the day…step ya game up.
The only thing that I wasn’t huge on with this album was some of the beats. And even there, it’s a personal preference thing. The lyrics are so tight, I never struggled even to get through the tracks that I wasn’t keen on. This is not the kind of album you listen to before or at da club. This is the album you listen to in your man cave, study, den, what-have-you under candle light in a recliner “relaxing” while you’re wife and kids are watching American Idol. If you’re not really listening to the lyrics, you’re really not capturing the essence of this album.