If you think back to some of the elements that you love from Shane Eagle’s projects: the unconventional choices for lead singles, the production choices, and even the features (or lack thereof), one thing is consistent – Shane has insisted on doing things on his own terms. It’s hard to argue the method behind the madness, especially when it has earned him all the accolades and experiences that he has accumulated over the years. A SAMA Best Hip Hop award-winning album, which will celebrate its 5th anniversary this coming August. Joining Dreamville artist Bas on the European leg of ‘The Milky Way’ tour was not just an opportunity to perform his music across the border, but also served as a gateway to cultivating relationships with some of his favourite artists.
“True artists, never in pursuit of the dollars,
That’s how we got blessed, I grew my own garden.” – Shane Eagle, Moving Spirit
His latest effort, Green, sees him continue his colour-themed album series. I have always been a fan of artists who created an album that lead to sequels and third installments – whether it was Jay-Z’s “The Blueprint” series, Kanye West’s school-themed series (The College Dropout, Late Registration & Graduation) to Snoh Aalegra’s “feels” series (‘FEELS’ and ‘-Ugh, those feels again’). These albums represent the beginning of, or in some cases, the continuation of the artist’s storyline. We follow them as they reach new highs and lows, both in their professional and personal capacity. Green sees Eagle enter a different space, one where he is not the hungry 21-year old looking to solidify his place in the game. He is not dreaming of putting Rabie Ridge on the map, or seeing his music play on MTV: he has accomplished that. He has travelled the world back releasing chart-topping music. He is undeniably a household name, so one could wonder what is next in the Shane Eagle story. Would the grass be greener on the other side if he decided to abandon all that he worked for in pursuit of a different path? On the very first track, Paranoia, Eagle is not intent on finding out anytime soon. Instead, he is standing firm in his vision.
“I don’t sell out, I’m here to sell out arenas.”
At its best, Green has Eagle, along with an impressive cast of producers working in perfect harmony. There are songs on this album where Shane displays great lyrical performances on authentic production, excellent vocal sampling and instrumentation. On Sistine Chapel, he delivers one of his best verses to date, detailing the sleepless nights he has while working on his craft, speaks about his ascension in the rap game, and displays excellent writing in the final 8 bars of the song. Referencing Johannesburg, also known as the city of gold, he speaks about the dreams we are constantly sold about the city. He smartly flips the “city of gold” reference by saying that his verses are already gold the moment he records them – gold in the content they contain, and gold in records sold. He has another clever flip of the word “Ghost” on Road Signs – speaking to pulling up in a Rolls Royce Ghost but also chilling with Omari Hardwick, who is featured on this song and commonly referred to as ‘Ghost’, his character on the famous Starz show Power. In addition to the clever wordplay, songs like Moving Spirit, War Paint, Not for Sale have Eagle expressing his spiritual side and staying in tune with his natural side.
Where the album seemingly falls short is where it fails to go beyond surface-level on some of the issues Eagle brings up on the album. The first example of this is on the album opener. He starts the album off by asking for someone to “make the pain go away” and “paranoia and trouble” being on his mind. The rest of the song strays away from the topic of paranoia and gets into a more braggadocious bag as he raps about his enormous flows compared to these other rappers. He could have elaborated on the “exit” that he speaks about on War Paint when he questions the true cost of a stream but chose to ditch that train of thought to rap about artists only charting “for an hour max” compared to him.
The same can be said for songs like Pet Dragon and A Ladder where Eagle’s thoughts are scattered. The songs’ apparent lack of structure may be due to two reasons: Shane’s freestyle approach and the album operating in short bursts as opposed to longer songs. There are 8 songs that do not exceed the 2-minute mark, which limits the album’s ability to get into 5th gear. Some songs such as STREETFIGHTER & To Be Frank end prematurely, where an additional verse or the presence of a hook would have helped greatly. At times, these topics become repetitive. Some of the bars on this album are repetitive. He uses the same “split cream/split spleens” bar in the first two tracks, then talks about being in Paris on multiple records similarly to Dark Moon Flower.
“The bloodline is deep (Ayy)
I’m countin’ racks in my sleep (Ayy)
Came out in Cape Town, then I’m in Paris again…” – Shane Eagle, Chrome Hearts
Ultimately, it is hard to view this album as a step forward or back for Shane. Yellow and the Never Grow Up. EP proved that there is a strong audience for good rapping over traditional hip-hop production. Green sees him double-down on his vision both sonically and lyrically, but lacked the depth to take it a step further from what we already know. What his previous work had that Green sorely missed was his underrated hook-making ability. Never Grow Up. had songs such as Fears&Demons. and Purple Rain that contained some concentrated rapping on lively beats, while giving the listener melodies they could sing a lot to. That does not take away from some of the highs Green reaches, it just does not reach them as often as it should. Shane should keep his core fanbase satisfied with his release, but be wary of complacency creeping in.
Stream Green below: