Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Those old Romans had a phrase which is very useful: sui generis. It means singular, unique, in a genre/category of its own.
The music of Auckland-based producer/poet/rapper and former Fun-Da-Mental member Nadeem Shafi aka Scalper is definitely sui generis.
His voice and spoken-word lyrics are dark, full of foreboding, touch on the mythic and are sometimes -- often actually -- downright menacing. But they are married to fascinating musical backdrops which shift from gloomy trip-hop like Massive Attack on a downer (Dust on this, his fourth album) jazz soundtracks (Sleep with trumpet and flute weaving around), a sample of heroic orchestral music (So Special), dreamscape ambience across heavy downbeats (Ink) with some gritty surface noises included to further add to the atmospherics.
What makes Scalper's sonic palette so interesting -- and the songs discrete within the broody vision -- is just how elevating it can be as it sits in counterpoint to the lyrics, as on Ten Reasons here where a rippling loop of what sounds like a Middle Eastern zither provides the bed behind lyrics which include “hunger pains, hungry for his fame, slaves to a monster, hungry for his praise, lay shackled in chains . . . nothing remains, but remains”.
This is not the apocalypse but a look back at fallen idols, fake gods and the folly of human vanity.
Savior's a Savage opens with the lines of the old nursery rhyme Rock-a-Bye Baby which are pretty menacing anyway but now even more so as he declaims the words across his typically cavernous drum sound and moves into the monster under the bed, a monster baying for blood . . .
Scalper's music, vision and style has been consistent for over a decade and it has always been Elsewhere's uneasy pleasure to draw attention to his art which we can only describe as . . .
You can hear and buy this album (and others) at his bandcamp page here.