At first, Shape’s production appears to outpace his lyrical abilities, as he unleashes a furious set of borderline industrial-style hip-hop beats, boasting a griminess similar to the haunting and captivating concoctions of vintage Wu-Tang. With needle-on-the-record static behind keys, strings, and clever vocal samples, the soundscapes are immediately exciting, so much so that you might not notice this guy has a pretty sick flow and a flare for unusual but potent similes (“I feel a lot like a lottery ticket that won’t scratch off”). Then again, maybe Shape creates the speculation himself with lines like: “My rhyme style comes second to the ghost inside my beats”. In actuality, he’s solid on both accounts—as a rapper and as a producer—but his beatmaking experiments are, by nature, easier to interpret as “pushing for the next level”, whereas a stream of consciousness delivery seems disjointed, especially when delivered in a nasally monotone that sometimes sounds like a schoolchild calling out words when asked to read aloud. Mainly, this debut puts Shape’s skills on full display, from the dope posse cut “Gary Oldman” (yeah, like the dude who played Lee Harvey Oswald in Oliver Stone’s JFK) to the bump-friendly flavor of “Rock Like This” and the geopolitical-minded “Super Heroes”. While Shape can enhance his product by putting more thought into the statements he wishes to make, he certainly possesses the tools to do so when he’s ready.
// Notes from the Road
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