It’s December 31st & before we binge watch the new season of Black Mirror, I pull out my sketchbook and start writing my interview questions for Richmond native rapper, Shadow. Before you read this interview, imagine yourself in a large cozy room, with numerous anime posters up, a window letting in a a great amount of sunlight, and the smell of coconut Shea Moisture in the air. Not the type of setting you’d imagine someone named Shadow in, is it? This rapper is definitely someone that is more than what meets your eye. His music isn’t like any other artists that are out right now. You won’t hear any drug references, or anything about life being terrible, nothing about guns etc. This young man is trying to do something different with his direction in music, and is succeeding very well at doing so. I’d like to introduce to you: Shadow
where are you originally from? and how old are you?
I’m originally from RVA, and i’m 20 years old
what made you get into making music?
A couple of my friends and I were at my friends house, who’s a producer/engineer. He sent me and a friend of mine a beat. Out of nowhere I started writing to it, and ended up being good at it. It turns out that later on I found out that my dad also made and wrote music, so it kinda made sense to me why I was sort of drawn to it, and enjoyed doing it.
what gets you in the mood to start writing a song?
when i’m walking around..like when it’s least likely to come to me. I could be walking down the street and get inspired, I don’t need a certain setting is what i’m tryna say. Don’t need any rituals or ceremonies to get in the mood to make something (laughs).
If you had to describe Shadow to someone, what would you say?
Shadow is the closest thing to a fictional character from an anime or video game, brought to life. His music has no boundaries, & it’s made through inspirations like Sephiroth (Final Fantasy), Vergil (Devil May Cry), or Ryunosuke Akutagawa (Bungo Stray Dogs). His music mixes his influences with that in which creates Shadow. Someone who always felt like he’d be stuck in the shadows & people would always look past or through him. His music personifies originality, creativity, and a willingness to learn more about music to better his own.
what are your top 5 albums (or mixtapes)?
Bastard, by Tyler the Creator, that mixtape drew me in because he made something no one else at the time was making. It was a whole different level of rap to me. Tha City by Robb Bank$, when i first started listening to him, it was like some of his shit was hot, and some really wasn’t. When I heard Tha City, it had a kind of ominous vibe to it. That’s what really made me a big fan of him, more so than before. Take Care by Drake!!!!! I can listen to that album top to bottom with no skips. This sounds kinda cliche but it sounds like he put those songs together with care. I don’t think it had any flaws. There was a song for every kind of mood. What else… Trappin Ain’t Dead by Fredo, that’s my nigga. For a trap artist to make a song with a lyricist like Kendrick Lamar, that was amazing to me. I don’t think that’s been done before from my perspective. I’m pretty sure 808 Mafia made the beats for that whole tape, they were very hard. Anything in Return by Toro Y Moi, definitely one of my favorites. That album in particular made me a big fan of Toro. It was around the time I started enjoying instrumentals & exploring different genres.
” I don’t need a bunch of fake ass niggas around me or a bunch of yes men around me”
What do you think of other RVA artists/the RVA music scene?
It’s kind of like a pick your poison type of thing. On one hand, you have the cool rva artists, who are willing to support one another, and actually make good music. All in all they have a good head on their shoulders. They aren’t on any extra shit. Then there’s the other half, where they feel like they’re above niggas. They act like they can’t fuck with anyone else.
Are there any VA artists or up and coming artists you’d want to collab with?
@Stealthchosen, his rap name is King. I feel like since he’s my nigga, & we’ve never made music together, I wanna body his shit on every track we make haha. Uhhhh, @bitteraintsweet, because he’s original, plus he’s cool as shit. I think it’d be kind of easy because I already know him. @Yungflex666, he’s very original, and his beats are always fye. My favorite song by him is Flexin & Finessin, a song like that with me and him on it would be turnt.
You just dropped an EP called CODE: M3RC3R, can you tell us a little about it?
Well I went on a little break before I made M3RC3R, & I felt it would be fair not only to me but anyone who supports me that I come back with just a little more than usual. I took the concept from this video game called ‘Prototype’ & in that game the main character is Alex Mercer. He was just a normal ass guy in New York til a virus hit, & he was the first one to not have it completely change him into a zombie or monster. He had to learn how to control his powers & became a sort of an anti hero working in the shadows doing dirty work & shit. With that in comparison, as long as I’ve been gone I’ve been working, perfecting my craft. Anyone else like me, or think they’re like me, I’m gonna leave them in the dirt cause I’m forever evolving to be as standalone as I possibly can. The EP sort of takes form of that. Seeing how my beat selection changed on a couple of songs on there, & just how I went about making the songs for them. I would usually go in thinking “ight let me go as hard as possible.” With this I just let the music come to me, I let it become a song & not just me snapping or going hard, I just had fun with it & it felt good to have a change of pace.
Does everyone in your life support your music?
I’ve lost several friends because I started making music, & the friends I do have or those who I thought were close to me, I don’t truly feel their support. I can count on my hand basically who I know for a fact supports what I’m doing with this music shit, & that’s fine because I don’t need a bunch of fake ass niggas around me or a bunch of yes men around me. I appreciate those who are close to me or those who do support, they know who they are, cause they make sure I got my head on straight & make sure I stay on my shit. Fuck the niggas who crossed me or half way fuck with me though & I’ll let’em know straight like that.
Do you plan on dropping any visuals for your music?
Yeah I plan on dropping one for V3R0N1C4 real soon. I also want to make one for one of my older songs, Underwater Babylon. One for Gorgon as well.
Keep up with Shadow on his twitter, @Shadowishira, & Instagram Shadowishira