Sha Stimuli - My Soul to Keep

Posted October 28, 2009
Tags: Sha Stimuli,

Some people say good things happen to those who wait. Those people are idiots, or lazy, or...

My Soul to Keep Album Review

Some people say good things happen to those who wait. Those people are idiots, or lazy, or both. Patience may be a virtue, but it’s not a formula for success and respect. Just take Sha Stimuli, an intensely creative and uncompromising Brooklyn born rapper who has been told that with a little patience, he’d be the next big thing since The Source placed him in their coveted Unsigned Hype column way back in 2002. But then a contentious legal battle between Virgin and Def Jam left Sha without a label home or management, and suddenly the path to the top wasn’t so clear. Unfortunately, simply making great music isn’t enough. You have to make things happen.

Tired of waiting on others to decide his fate, Sha is now determined to forge his own path into hip-hop’s elite circles with the release of his debut album My Soul to Keep, a work that’s simultaneously proof of his remarkable talent and evidence of why mainstream radio’s won’t come near him. (What can I say, no one likes a free thinker, especially a smart one.) In other words, you’ve probably never heard anything quite like My Soul to Keep before, and in today’s cookie cutter hip-hop climate that alone is enough to warrant Sha some serious praise.

Honestly, Hang On might be one of the best openings to an album I’ve heard in a long time. If you’ve never heard Sha before, this is the place to start. Hang On begins with the voice of a young man rapping and then slowly deepens into Sha’s adult delivery as the track progresses. It’s a dope idea, and the execution is perfect. But special effects are nothing without substance and Sha delivers substance in abundance, dropping a nearly ceaseless four minute flow that careens from serious reflection (“You stop living fast when you witness slow death”) to off the cuff punchlines (“Wasn’t getting love from DJs, had to sell verses on Ebay”). It’s a hell of an introduction, but one that would prompt some to label him a quasi-spoken word rapper, until they heard Move Back. The lead single off My Soul, Move Back is a Just Blaze produced burner featuring a substantially harder flow from Sha, though he still can’t resist the occasional joke (“I talk in third person like Elmo”). To cap it all off Philly’s finest Freeway even stops in for a typically gritty verse. Sha doesn’t quite have a full fledged banger in him, or if he does we don’t hear it on Soul to Keep, but Move Back proves that he’s anything but soft. It’s a similar story on Follow the Leader (Remix), a track featuring Sha fearlessly throwing indirect jabs at the likes of T-Pain and Ron Browz. Sha obviously refuses to follow, but leading can be a dangerous game, and on My Soul to keep he’s certainly playing with fire.

Just in case you thought Sha was an overly serious artist, My Soul to Keep spends plenty of time contemplating a more earthly pursuit, pu**y. Nowhere is that pursuit more literally addressed than on the soon to be infamous Smelly Cat Song (I’ll give you a moment to figure out the correlation between the song title and the topic at hand), but more broadly Sha repeatedly takes time on the album to address his relationship woes, most prominently on the laid back I Wish I Was U, an ode to unbalanced relationships featuring a hook by newcomer Bellringer, and My Girl, the album’s only real example of sincerity involving a woman. Most importantly, even when Sha deviates from his more seriously minded hip-hop meditations, he doesn’t compromise his musical mission or dumb down his flow. In other words My Soul to Keep is about two things: the independent artist’s fight to stay true, and the struggle to co-exist on this planet with women. And for the record, both are worthy of deep contemplation.

With that said, I’d much rather listen to the darkly spun What’s Wrong With That?, featuring an ill contribution from Torae, or the 9-to-5er anthem Do It For the Doe, a gripping look into Sha’s battle to balance the pursuit of his art with paying the light bill (I’ve definitely been there). These are the kind of tracks that truly make My Soul to Keep what it is: an album that’s far from perfect, but whose imperfections primarily only make it realer. That kind of artistic depth can’t be bought at any price. Much like Sha Stimuli’s soul.

DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins

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Posted October 28, 2009
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