Beyond the Record
Music news, album reviews & interviews
Beyond the Record: Welcome! Tell us a little bit about who you are, where you're
from and where you're living now.
Shah: I’m currently in Atlanta, because of my current legal situation I haven’t been able to go home to Toronto for a while. But Atlanta’s been showing me a lot of love. And I’ve also been spending a lot of time in New York, which has kind of been my second home for years.
BtR: There are many artists who come to love music early on in life. At what age
did you fully pursue music and do you feel as though your childhood played a
role in your love for music?
Shah: Hip hop definitely had an important role in my childhood. After getting kicked out of my first high school, I ended up at a very white high school. As a child of immigrants growing up in a poor neighbourhood and now going to a completely white school, I often felt very isolated. But hip hop served as the community that allowed me to feel a sense of belonging. I didn’t start pursuing music until more recently because Toronto is a city that doesn’t really support it’s own until after they make it in the States. On top of that, being brown, there was no path already carved for me. But then realizing I had the support around me to make this happen, it made me realize I needed to pursue my dreams. Not only for myself, but also so the kids of today could have the role model that I didn’t have growing up.
BtR: As far as labeling the music goes, I feel as though it is hard to pin point
where you fit on a spectrum. If you could label your music as one genre, what
would it be?
Shah: One of the reasons that people are so excited about the music I’ve been making since getting to Atlanta is that it’s something fresh. I really have to shout out Atlanta for giving my music the southern soul that’s made it so catchy. Personally, I think biggest strength of the music is my bars and my storytelling, which seems to remind people of NY golden age rappers. As a Toronto artist, that Caribbean flavour and international sound are always going to be present. But the best name I’ve heard anyone use to describe the genre of my music is golden trap.
BtR: And as far as a genre goes, who are your inspirations to make music?
Shah: Tupac was my biggest inspiration because I’m driven by the ability to make music to drive social change. In terms of current artists, Kendrick is the artist that I respect the most, for that same reason. But I also fuck with a lot of Atlanta artists who just make dope music like Lucci and Future.
BtR: Elaborate on the process of recording your latest music video. Take us
through all the little details. How was the experience for you?
Shah: This was the first music video that I shot in Atlanta and this experience really showed me the support I have around me. So I had my shooter Mafia come in from LA. I had my brother L.Eddy, Harlem’s Godson, come in from NY. Liz oversaw the video like she has the previous ones and I was blessed to have my Atlanta team - My Buddy the producer of the track, DJ Westside, DJ Outlaw 3000, and DJ Shawty Rock who all made cameos in the video, Don Haiti and Graffiti the video’s spiritual guides, JJ my barber, Stephanie my stylist, Ren who was doing makeup, and Luca and Dante who were holding it down behind the scenes. I also gotta shout out Magic City and The City where we shot.
BtR: As far recording your music, take us through the recording process.
Shah: We've now got the recording dream team. The process will begin with a beat from My Buddy, who’s won 7 straight Atlanta production competitions, or L.Eddy, who’s worked with Grammy winners like Prince Royce and Romeo Santos. Then Eddy will record me at NH Records studios, which used to be Bob Marley’s NY studio. And then the mastering is done by multiple Grammy winner Alan Silverman. Lex Lumens of Creative Realm is my go to artist for the cover art.
BtR: There are quite a few artists and rappers that have hidden messages in your
music, while others are very open. Which of your songs is the most personal to
Shah: The message in my music is that we should use our success for social wealth, bettering ourselves and our communities, not pursuing material wealth, which is really just us getting caught up in a trap. My most personal song is probably the next one, called Baad Bad, which is about all my ride or die girls in Toronto, NY, Atlanta, and LA who’ve been there for me through thick and thin.
BtR: With that being said, can you tell us the meaning behind your latest song? What is your overall message in the music that you produce?
Shah: Atlanta has taught me that you need to keep people captivated and the music should always be enjoyable. We are in an era of shortened attention spans, but artists like myself who still value having meaning and a message in their music, need to be able to rise to the challenge of doing this in a captivating way. Just Text is a perfect example, this is a track that’s bumping in Atlanta clubs and strip clubs like Magic City, but still tells the story of my struggle. This song was written during the 12 hours I was detained by Homeland Security, which can be captured by someone who’s honed in on the lyrics. Whereas for someone who’s just trying to vibe, the song can also serve as the escape that they’re looking for.
BtR: Take us through some of the lowest moments in your music career but also in
your personal life.
Shah: Right now, even though things may appear glamourous from the outside looking in, because of my current legal status, there are a lot of difficulties in life right now. I’ve been locked out of my bank accounts, I always have to be looking over my shoulder while I’m out, and most of all I can’t go home presently. But I know this is temporary, and I have been through worse. The lowest point before this was probably during high school. There was a stretch of 3 years where 3 friends of mine were murdered, which a lot of people write off as typical hood shit, but those loses stay with you and definitely take a toll on you as a kid. As an independent artist, there’s so many things that are out of your control. When you choose to do things without a label and the big budget that comes with that, there’s moments that can feel very low because as an artist I have these aspirations and dreams and I have a team and fans who share that same dream, but the resources needed to achieve them instantly come with a compromise I’m not willing to take. So just that feeling of not being able to have the dream you want at this very moment can get you down.
BtR: On the flipside, what have you overcome that you are most proud of? What
successes have you had?
Shah: The successes that others point to are some of the accolades like being listed as one of the top 10 artists to watch in 2017, one of the top 6 emerging rappers from Toronto, and one of the top 10 South Asian artists in the world. Musically, the biggest thing I’ve overcome is that as a rapper who’s greatest strength is lyricism who’s also led by his moral compass, is people not believing I could make hits. But since getting to Atlanta and forming this team with Buddy and Eddy, every new song we make is a hit. On the visual side of things, with Liz and Mafia and Skoob making the videos, and Lex making my cover art, I know that no one can touch my visuals. As an independent artist, to be able to make nonstop hits backed up by the hottest visuals, is a very powerful place to be in and this is something that I’m proud of.
BtR: Tell us a little bit about your fugitive status here in the USA:
Shah: Well first off I’m not a fugitive… which is a mistake that many people seem to be making. So I just want to use this opportunity to clarify that I am not a fugitive. But I was twice detained by the Department of Homeland Security while entering the US. This was done without any justification and Homeland Security acknowledged that I had broken no rules or laws. Thankfully my lawyer was able to safely guide me back into America. But Homeland Security warned me that the next time I try to travel internationally, I’ll again be detained, which this time will come with an automatic ban from the US. This is why people have been describing my situation as being trapped in America. But again, I’m innocent, and I love America.
BtR: Aside from being passionate about music, you're also a feminist. Tell us a little bit about what you are passionate about and why.
Shah: I am a feminist but in our society people seem to misunderstand that word. Because if you’re not a feminist, you’re opposed to that word, then you’re opposed to equality between men and women. So it should be interesting to nobody that I’m a feminist. Instead, it should be concerning that anyone should be opposed to feminism. But I am more compelled to speak on certain aspects of injustices in our society, like with racism, police brutality is something I find particularly painful. Similarly, the fact that women can’t walk home at night with the same sense of safety as men, is something that genuinely upsets me. The same way that I think racism is really only going to subside when white people compel racist white people to evolve, I think that it’s on men to explain to other men the inequality that exists and the need to change this. One of the most glaring inequalities in our society that I think even the most simple minded men can digest is the gender wage gap, i.e. women earning less for doing the same job as their make equivalents, which inspired my last single Pay Day 71.
BtR: Where in the country is your music being played?
Shah: Atlanta is definitely the hotbed and shout out all the DJs that have been breaking my record – DJ Outlaw 3000, DJ Shawty Rock, DJ Westside, DJ JR Uing, DJ Jante, DJ Webbz, and Sean Teezy. The Atlanta strip club scene is actually heavily influenced by women so shout out the bad boss bitches out there like the Magic City Takers. With Atlanta as the hip hop mecca, it’s led to the music spreading nationally, including NY and LA where I have existing fan bases. Even though I can’t go home to Toronto right now, the music’s been bumping out there thanks to DJs like Mike Stoan, tastemakers like Ellis Iyomahan and institutions like Play De Record. And I can’t forget my fans in the UK and Asia who’ve been supporting me since my first single release.
BtR: If you had the power to change the music industry as it stands, would you
change it, and if so, what would you change about it?
Shah: Like I alluded to earlier, the biggest problem in rap is that we don’t use our influence for good. So I will use my influence to change the industry so that instead of making music that promotes materialism and other dumb shit that just makes us dumber, I will make and encourage making music that improves our society and makes us better.
BtR: Where can people find your music?
And it’s @DayofShah on all social media