Who is Mr. Shadow? In our quest to keep our loyal readers happy I’ve undertaken the task of exploring the Chicano rap scene. Mr. Shadow was the first rapper I hit up, mostly because has a greatest hits record. It’s an arbitrary factor, but in a world of countless Misters, Eses, and Lil’ this and that it’s hard to figure out where to start. Turns out Mr. Shadow wasn’t that bad of a choice. Hailing from San Diego, the man has dropped well over 20 albums, compilations, and mixtapes since the late 1990s. Chicano rap is niche market, but those who put their time in and keep their hustle up seem to be rewarded well. Mr. Shadow’s albums are easily accessible on the web and in digital format. In an age when albums that are a mere 10 years old are often out of print and unavailable that is no small feat. Mr. Shadow keeps his fans happy with a mix of gangsta rap and funky beats that ends up being much more universal than one would think.
Mr. Shadow kicks things off with “Gangbangin’ Don’t Stop” where he unapologetically declares his love for gang banging. With a funky beat and vocoder hook, it’s hard not to bounce along even with the ignorant subject matter. In fact, the funky beats tend to be the main thing that keeps you interested as Mr. Shadow’s “Greatest Hits” reflects a deep rooted love with the gangster lifestyle. Mr. Shadow doesn’t hide his intentions with song titles like “Gangster,” “Gangsters and Strippers,” “Dirty Money,” and “Real Crime.” The few moments not filled with unabashed gangsterism are equally funky. The only real change of tempo comes with “Streets Ain’t The Same” where Mr. Shadow pays tribute to a fallen homie:
“I dedicate this to all my homies resting in peace
Sorry that you had to leave so soon, believe me
I wish I could turn back the hands of time and bring you back
So with could drink another bottle, we could smoke another sack
Then I would, I put that on the hood that your memory
Is forever wit me til the very day they bury me
Everyday that goes by is unhappy
Somebody tell me why it had to be Scrappy
Man, we used to chill, drink forties, and play ball
Since elementary school when we ran through them halls
And then I got a phone call late one evening
My ears didn’t want to believe what they were hearing
Had to step out of the house, looked in the sky
And ask God why as a tear dropped my eye
October thirty first, the lord took him from us
I send my love to your mom, sister, and brother”
The female singing in the hook sort of guarantees the clichÃ© nature of this fallen homie song, but all in all it’s a nice heartfelt change of pace. “Undercover Hoodrats” could be considered a non-gangster track as Mr. Shadow calls out the hoodrats who try to hide the fact that they indeed are rats from the hood.
Overall, I can’t really hate on Mr. Shadow’s game. He’s built quite a following being gangster as gangster can be. I assume his fans pick up his albums because they know they won’t run into sappy love songs or radio tunes. Despite the hardcore material, the beats a pure g-funk through and through and keep things interested. Not the best lyricist, Mr. Shadow still reps San Diego quite well with his smooth flow. I have to give the man credit for knowing his strong points and focusing on them. For those looking to get into Chicano rap, this might not be the most balanced introduction, but I will say it is both smooth and bumping. If you don’t mind the one-sided material, then Mr. Shadow is a good listen.