By Lisa Diedricks
Released Friday May 18th, 2015 - XL Recordings
Prince join Mr. Bungle, then mix it with MGMT and a mellowed out Aphex Twin. Then master up the new craze that is now Shamir. He might resemble past baby-faced rap and R&B stars such as IMx or B2K, minus the alpha masculinity, but Shamir, who is only 20 years old, fits in with today's genre-bending pop stars. There's both unique simplicity and tough diversity that come at you in waves on his debut album,Ratchet.
Less than two years after sending a demo to Brooklyn's "Godmode", Shamir has signed to XL Recordings - a label known for indie pop/rap outgoers like Dizzee Rascal, M.I.A., and FKA twigs and, pressingly enough got his face on Times Square billboard. On Ratchet, an album that makes you feel as if you are walking on the Vegas strip with a late 80s theme song blasting in your ear, Shamir elaborates on the gutsy melodies of those early demos and singles and makes good on the hype. Shamir Bailey, born November 7, 1994, better known by his stage name is an American singer and songwriter from Las Vegas, Nevada and he coming in full swing to make some noise. Shortly after graduating from high school, after sending the demo tape to the "Godmode" label in New York City, the label founder Nick Sylvester contacted Shamir, and signed him immediately and released his first debut EP "Northtown" back in June 2014.
In songs such as 'Call it Off', which was premiered at the YouTube Music Awards in 2015 and was the first single off the album, is a theme song from a disco-worshipping, androgynous teen that hailed from Las Vegas. But on the strength of these songs, with its laser synth peaks, it's fair to say his spirit is connected to late-'80s Detroit and his "...god an ill-behaved hybrid of Grace Jones...". If this is the house that Shamir built, I'm definitely getting the directions ASAP. "On the Regular" is another song that was released with great critic reception and introduces Shamir as a more of boss as bitch type persona. He states that he may "...only be 5'10 but he is nothing to F*% with, wise as a 50, don't try me I'm not a free sample..." With lyrics like these, it's not hard to figure out why this generation is loving this breath of fresh air.
'Darker', and 'KC' shows a more sensitive and deeper side to the album, and we start we see the complexity of Shamir's voice and vocal range, and simplicity in his voice, as he plays along an acoustic guitar, if you close your eyes you wouldn't know it was a man singing, and that too me is beyond talented and quite frankly draws you in deeper.
Produced entirely by Nick Sylvester, Ratchet feels like a well wrapped gift of the best dance-pop of the past decade, from the dank basslines, to the melodic moody visual you gain from his voice, the flamboyance, to the technical finesse, this powers a record that's about the sincere winds of adolescent emotions; Shamir, a cookie cutter type fashion kid with a voice like Crystal Waters, flips easily between vulnerability yet huge amounts of confidence and swag.
Shamir has been making his name known these past few months, he has been bumped up to MTV's Push Artist for the month and you can catch a few more facts about him on the website. He has been interviewed on Spotify when he released the album, on his Ratchet playlist, "growing up in Vegas, and being weird, you had to put on tough face" - he laughs, its impressive to see what has forged out of this young man.
Ratchet is as melodically and theoretically confident and bold as Beyonce and as abrupt and sassy as Rihanna, but it's the black man making poetic and flagrantly disco dance pop, with a pixie sound, that is a challenge and reclaimed artistry. Not just of "ratchet," but the queer, racialised roots of house music and the flamboyant history of black pop music is what makes this artist so incredibly interesting and curious to many people.
If you're looking a new, fresh, electronic indie based artist to dive into, I wouldn't look any further, its rarely in my nature to listen to a new album more than once at a time, I have listened to this album at least 5 times already back to back. The music, the lyrics, the way it makes my head nod without me noticing is definitely I sign I may be obsessed.