SCALPER PROFILED (2105): New clothes for an old ceremony

 |   |  2 min read

Lullaby (Scalper w Claire Duncan)
SCALPER PROFILED (2105): New clothes for an old ceremony

Scalper – known to his family as Nadeem Shafi – is one of the politest e-mailers it has been Elsewhere's pleasure to have contact with.

For the past few years he's sent us sample tracks from his forthcoming album, always signed off with “Peace” and has cheerfully accepted that Elsewhere doesn't review singles or EP (too many full length albums commanding attention).

He always said he hoped I was well, and the singles just kept coming despite me being unable to do anything for him.

But not unwilling.

So when he released the album The Emperor's Clothes recently I happily shelled out for the vinyl (which came with an MP3 download code).

But here's the thing about Scalper, he might be very polite but his music is dark and menacing, his lyrics full of portentousness and broody doings.

Among his current favourite films are The Shining and Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Needless to say then, the sonic setting on the album are doom-laden and disconcerting. On Phantom Ghost on The Emperor's Clothes a holy choir exists in the same space as a voice which echoes “murderer” and searing guitar in the middle ground . . .

scalpIt is powerful stuff and if over the long haul you think he might be broadcasting on a narrow frequency you just need to make the time and sample judiciously. These are 10 discreet pieces punctuated by subtle samples and held down by incessant beats.

But there is still that dark matter.

Of his earlier album Flesh and Bones five years ago we said that in places it “comes off like the Book of Revelations pulled through newsreels of Middle East conflict and the nightmares that would ensue”.

We were so impressed we also had him answer our Famous Elsewhere Questionnaire in 2012 on the back of his album Butchers Baker.

A bit of background then: London-born Shafi/Scalper was in the influential socio-political hip-hop group Fun-Da-Mental whose work addressed racism, Islamic culture and marginalisation.

Oddly enough he recently told Elsewhere that among his more embarrassing role models as a kid were Showaddywaddy and the Bay City Rollers. Everyone is allowed such missteps of course.

However he also toured with Public Enemy in 2011 as support, is currently performing in Europe and laughs about his most recent purchase which was a Korean synth-pop record from an op shop.

“I usually only buy old records now to look for samples and sounds to pilfer.”

Such samples are woven cleverly through The Emperor's Clothes which he self-produced (a couple of tracks with Troy Ferguson) at his own studio at Te Henga at Bethells Beach in west Auckland where he has lived for quite a few years now.

There is also beauty at work, as on Lullaby with vocalist Claire Duncan from Dear Time's Waste who brings ethereal counterpoint to his menacing poetry.

The Emperor's Clothes is an impressive collection where subtle allusions to Middle Eastern music are as evident as the smell of brimstone and sulphur.

“Lyrically and musically I am at the best place I have ever been in my life,” he says, “and the album feels extremely relevant to these times in which we live with all the turbulence of existence.

“Plus the beats are great, each track is different and the tracks do not follow a set pattern so avoids monotony.”

All true.

“Peace”

To buy The Emperor's Clothes on vinyl (with an MP3 download) go here. For Scalper on Facebook go here

Share It

Your Comments

Shaun - Jul 1, 2015

I spent quite a bit of time watching/listening to Scalper videos on you tube last night. I had heard the name, but not bothered following up until your email Graham- the benefits of "Elsewhere:!
Fantastic stuff, and great images too. It is a "must buy" for me."
It also sent me to your "famous Elsewhere Questionnaire" with him, and led me to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who he recommends everyone should listen to. Unbelievably beautiful- google him, and sit back for an hour and just watch and listen- mesmerising.

post a comment

More from this section   Absolute articles index

EMINEM IN 2004: Time for an encore?

EMINEM IN 2004: Time for an encore?

It's probably never been easy to be Eminem. But these might be particularly trying times for him. Which seems a strange thing to say given he's so successful. But that's the problem. When... > Read more

JOHN ZORN INTERVIEWED (1990): No ordinary noisemaker

JOHN ZORN INTERVIEWED (1990): No ordinary noisemaker

John Zorn doesn’t sound like your typical New Yorker. His speech is slow and measured, not quite the expected machinegun rattle of words. Then again, composer and saxophonist Zorn is no... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Maharashtra state, India: Riding the rail

Maharashtra state, India: Riding the rail

In the historic, temple-filled and rather wealthy Indian city of Kolhapur a couple of hours north of Goa there's a glimpse of a past which is appealingly distant but also curiously contemporary.... > Read more

Fela Anikulapo Kuti: The Black President; The Best Best of Fela

Fela Anikulapo Kuti: The Black President; The Best Best of Fela

The great Fela -- who died of Aids-related illnesses in 97 -- was a superstar in Nigeria. He single-handedly created incendiary and righteously angry Afrobeat by welding together James Brown funk... > Read more