A few years back when people thought the next megastar was going to come from the mixtape world, there were a few people who were positioned in the “Most Likely to Succeed” column who appeared to have everything they needed to take their career off the mixtape and onto 106th and Park. Of course, I am referring to Saigon and Papoose, two artists who both seem to have experienced a substantial loss of momentum after the almost nonstop buzz they had a few years back.
There was also one other name that was thrown around a bit, but not nearly as much as the other two: Sha Stimuli.
Sha Stimuli, an alumnus of the honorable class known as “Source Unsigned Hype” would become a part of the same mixtape circus that elevated Papoose and Saigon to almost-legend status. He would go as far as to acquire a record deal and thenâ€¦nothing. He did allow the inevitable frustration of a music career prevent him from continuing to try his hand at musical success. This year, he and his deejay, DJ Victorious, have embarked on what many would consider to be a TOUGH mission. They are going to attempt to release one mixtape a month for the entire year of 2008.
I have to be honest, if the remainder of the mixtapes are anywhere close to the quality of “March On Washington”, I am going to place an advance order THIS WEEK to ensure that I get them delivered to me as fast as they can get them out of CD duplication.
When I heard “MOW”, the first thing I said is, “Why the hell is there not a huge buzz around this guy?” I was honestly MOVED when I heard “MOW” and I cannot say that about a lot of music. Sha Stimuli is not writing, he is breathing, bleeding and sweating through the pen and everyone on the mixtape is right along for the workout.
Let us begin with the excellent opening track “Oh Yea” produced by Astronote. This song addresses, in the realest way I have ever heard, the dichotomous state that artists and producers alike find themselves when facing people who desire for them to incorporate contradictory concepts into a song and make them work. When people say that they want something “Hard, yet soft. Smart, yet watered down. Laidback, but with energy” and you do your best to capture that “lightening in a bottle” feeling that they want, but cannot truly explain. I really should quote this one, but you should listen instead.
The next track “Heroes” produced by DJ Concept has a last verse that sends shivers up my spine every time I listen to it. Not only is the track perfect, the verse describes the last letter written by a deceased veteran of the Iraqi conflict, as it is being read by his mother. “Coulda Been Me” is a song in the similar strain of “Pledge Allegiance” that finds Sha Stimuli meditating on how easy it is for tragic circumstances to derail ANYONE and how EASY it is to find yourself on the receiving end of something that could change your life for the worst in an instant.
“Colors” opens up with a clip from the song made famous by Ice-T, yet it breaks down into personal narratives by Sha Stimuli, A-Pinks and Malik 16 as they reflect on the gang problem plaguing urban (and rural) centers across the United States. To me, this song, intentional or unintentionally, is a BRILLIANT update of the classic “Colorblind” song from Ice Cube’s “Death Certificate” album.
Sha Stimuli manages to be political without really being political, street as hell without being obvious and so honest, raw and witty that you find yourself paying more attention to his lyrics than the tracks. Trust me though; the tracks are more than up to the task of keeping up with Sha. In a lesser emcee’s hands, the tracks would be merely good, in the grip of an emcee that is “Saying Something,” they become part of something truly special.
“MOW” follows a loose theme of Sha’s growing consciousness juxtaposed against his street sensibilities and delivers a tale of a man coming into the light and letting us go there with him. Supposedly, every mixtape in the yearlong series is supposed to follow a theme. I hope Sha and DJ Victorious can pull it off, or as least as much as possible. Either way, this jewel has been birthed.
They may call this a mixtape; I call it a classic.