There is no denying that I am a Sha Stimuli fan. I'm damn near a "Stan." I think that anyone who discusses hip-hop music with me will agree that he won my vote after one listen to the magnificent "March On Washington" mixtape. I was also impressed to learn that he and DJ Victorious had made a personal quest of completing one themed mixtape a month for the entire year of 2008. My question was would Sha be able to maintain the same level of lyrical quality for the duration of what amounts to twelve albums?
Each time out, the answer has been a resounding YES!
The Sha/Victorious team is also successful in continuing to develop and implement mixtape concepts that keep the music fresh instead of just going for a grab bag of various songs. The hip-hop artist/musical icon mashup has been a popular weapon of the album remix community every since Dangermouse decided Young Hov would sound "simply smashing" spitting right alongside The Beatles. The choice to use Stevie Wonder's legend-making compositions as the base material for a mixtape is as wise a decision as Mark Ronson/Rhymefest sadly slept-on "Man In The Mirror" mixtape from earlier this year.
The Sha/Victorious duo did not make it as interactive as Rhymefest's effort, yet they manage to integrate the "feel" of Stevie's music and retranslate it in lyrics that are about as honest and raw as you will hear this side of a Rhymesayers recording. It takes some SERIOUS cojones to name your track after songs and an ALBUM that has been declared "classic" by fans of the music across the word. I remember Wreckx N Effect making a similar gamble with their third album to disastrous effect. Fortunately, Sha/Victorious avoid that "cooling" effect by keeping things hot enough to remind you that they are capable of living up to the greatness of the titles they chose.
This review will probably contain the most lyrical transcriptions that I have ever performed - and even with this it does not even begin to scratch the surface as to how nice it actually comes out when you are using your ears instead of your eyes. Yet, in my opinion, it all still manages to come off as deliciously fine eye candy - in the literary sense, that is. Let's begin with the "Win The Fight" intro that manages to be an entrada that is relevant to overall effort:
"Win The Fight"
"Oh you thought that I was playing?
I do albums in my sleep so I can dream of getting paper, I
cause nightmares, like you was seeing Satan
I show up at Summer Jam, I was feeling like Son of Sam
Just, looking at the stage in a rage like, "this is stupid, y'all"
Standing there, mad at myself, so I hit the studio
And wrote, this no hit record, no underground
This is a reflection from staring at Stevie Wonder's sound"
Sha uses "Redemption" to spit several story verses that give his translation of the song's title. Over sped-up samples from the Stevie remake of the same track, Sha gives you narratives that even Stevie could visualize:
"Imagine a dude in a cell
doing that time because of things he had to sell
Didn't say a word when they asked him to tell
Who was supplying, so now, he's in a hell
Talking to the walls, making love to himself
Scribes from his would-be bride kinda helps
Food in the mess hall messing up his health
Three years in, he's reminiscing bout his wealth
Though he might look the same
but a letter from his girl that his son's joined a gang
and was slangin, and about to join him in the bing
Made him realize that it may be time to change
So he started writing letters
"Dear son, everything that I showed you I regret it
All that I've done for the fame, for the cheddar
is nothing without freedom, my life is so pathetic
Show this to the judge, let em know, for your crime
they can add on ten more years to my time
I don't care if I'm locked, if I'm shot, if I die
as long as your life doesn't end up like mine" That's Redemption"
On the track "These 3 Words", Sha Stimuli manages to vocalize a situation that many of us have found ourselves in: caring about someone deeply, but being unable to tell them how you truly feel about them.
I know personally I have skated out of saying them by replying "143" to someone after they direct their deepest feelings in my direction. Sha takes it a step further and brings new life to the SW classic:
"These 3 Words"
"I don't know if I can say it
Then if I say it, I don't know how you gon take it
I don't even know what to call it when we make it
I said, "It's sex", you call it, "lovemaking"
I thought that it was lust
You call it "trust", I say, "You gave it up"
You met my moms like once
You say, "It's been years", I counted like thirty months
But I guess that's the thing
That's why she left; she said I was "playing games"
Last week I saw her, I was walking to the train
She was riding in a Range, looking good, I said
"I love you, girl!"
But I don't think that she heard
I don't know why I just couldn't say the words
I hardly say them to my moms
Maybe as a kid, but it got a little hard-er
As I got older, I really didn't bother
Same for my grandma
both of them passed on
Then I'm at the church
Missing my folks, feeling like the worse
Not knowing if they knew what they were worth
Maybe that's why that shorty was so hurt
Damn, it's so hard to say
It's much easier to walk away
than say "I Love You"
It's so sad and wrong
that I have to use a rap or a song
to say "I Love You"
I can say, "I got love"
I can say, "I care for you"
I can say, "I really like you"
I can say, "I'm there for you"
Sha Stimuli also does something rarely touched upon in his incredible version of "You Will Know" - and I do not know if he even realizes how meaningful it actually is. In a genre that often romanticizes being a part of the distribution channel for off-the-record pharmaceuticals, a viewpoint rarely touched upon - and one that I have actually heard discussed and pondered upon - is how it really feels to face THIS type of customer on a regular basis.
Sha breaks it down beautifully - and this is only the first verse:
"You Will Know"
"The first time I did it
I felt like a stupid little kid, trying to get it
After twenty minutes
Three hundred dollars in my pocket, I was quittin
The job I had the day before
Lord, I was making more
Money in a day than I made in two weeks
But I felt too weak, at night I would lose sleep
Be conversing with a person, and hearing this dude speak
He looking like an average guy, then I seen his ass get high
As he was walking away, I wanted to ask him, "Why?"
But my position is simple; it's just demand/supply
But I keep on imagining
the addicts that I see, Is life that bad for them?
Is breathing really stressing you? Is being a mom that difficult?
You gotta smoke some krill to be calm?
I'm doing them harm
There's no good excuses, I'm wrong
But I feel better when I tell em, "Put that loot in my palm"
Then I'm gone..."
The production for "Hotter Than July" does not climb the same heights as "March On Washington", but honestly, not too many mixtapes, or albums, would be able to touch that apex. However, it will not disappoint you. In addition, Sha's vocal work is of the variety to where he could make an average track better than it actually is.
With this type of consistent quality, it is a DAMN shame that Sha is not getting the same type of love as the "guy" who managed to flood the streets with an almost unbelievable amount of music. It is also a shame that this "12 in 12" movement has gone so far under the radar that I am STLL having to actively seek out the material.
Believe me though, it is worth it. This effort may not have been quite as "Hot As July", but it is definitely as warm as the first day of June.
Nervous Picks: "Coldness", "Redemption", "Lately", "These 3 Words", "You Will Know", "Heaven"
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 9 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10
Originally posted: September 16, 2008