Showtime Shegz is a hip hop/rap artist originally from Lagos, Nigeria but who grew up in South East London. He has released two albums prior to this, Caution! Before the Show there was Rage! in 2012 and last year’s seven track album Apologies For The Delay. He is a product of London’s strong urban scene though incorporates some elements of world music into his art, which helps to give him a unique sound.
This album, Imperfect Art(ist), is somewhat of an epic and consists of nineteen tracks, written and produced by him (he also did the album artwork). It begins powerfully with Important Poem, a spoken word monologue that addresses the issues the youth face today growing up in the rough areas of London, which is becoming increasingly violent and blighted by crime.
Shegz immediately grabs you with an arresting, distinctive rapping style, delivering an inspiring poem that acknowledges the difficulty of the situation with realism but points towards a better way: “You have been fooled to think you’re wasting your time in school, you’ve been conned to think it’s cool to be a con….but the truth is there is no limit, not even the sky…..your journey might be tougher but that will make you stronger”. It’s a strong opening statement to the album and a vital message for today’s troubled youth.
Second track Furi! is more representative of Shegz’s signature style. Over a bed of sparse, pulsing percussion Shegz delivers a masterclass in rapping, packed with entertaining rhymes that contain no lack of pugilistic braggadocio and his own brand of unique humour: “I have a way with the words, young Mike Tyson…I have a way with the birds, I always stay strapped when I stick my stick in…”. This catchy track has been released as a single and understandably so.
Everything Good is also single material, another infectious track with some killer lines (“I’ve been fly since Marty McFly”) and perhaps the most instant chorus hook on the album. “Everything good, I look good, I feel good, I smell good, I taste good, everything good…”. The production is first rate, with intricate percussive touches over a slinky, toe-tapping hip hop beat.
Wham Wham is much more sparse with a clever, slow building arrangement while Matrix is an unexpected detour, a haunting ‘a capella’ track with a spiritual feel and quite powerful despite its brevity.
This is contrasted by the following KO which shows the more aggressive side to his artistic persona. Built on a blistering beat, Shegz gives an incendiary performance laying down rhymes thick and fast with customary flair (“When I explode, the Richter scale can’t measure”...). The addictive title hook grabs you on first listen and won’t let go: “Knock him out the ring, knock him out the box...”.
Ketchup is a little light relief, one of his more laid back playful tracks featuring some amusing lines (“I’ve got more sauce than the condiment aisle”). The title hook is again naggingly catchy and this could be a further future single. Stone is another minute long track that captures his Nigerian roots and leaves a strong impression with the line, “Home is where the heart is but I have no home….”.
Collect The Bag stands out due to the superb rhythmic complexity of the beat and how Shegz weaves an intricate rap over the top, perfectly in sync. Inventive and highly skilful. Night School is relatively much simpler with a reggae feel to the vocal melody and lyrically it is an entertaining, none too subtle metaphor for Shegz’s love of bedroom antics.
Catfish is another showcase for his rhythmic genius, angular syncopated rhythms creating a potent musical tension. Lyrically, it feels very current, with Shegz depicting the perils of online dating with characteristic humour, especially the spoken word monologue in the middle. A Drowning Man’s Warning (Ripples) couldn’t be more different, another a capella track with only sounds of lapping waves behind his haunting vocal performance. These constant contrasts are a real strength of the album.
I Luvem is a hilarious ode to Shegz’s love of the ladies, featuring some gloriously politically incorrect lines that might have him in trouble with radical feminists. 419 is a reggae-tinged track full of exotic rhythms and sounds and with a noticeably more romantic vibe than the previous track: “If I have you baby, I’m the richest….”.
Emotion Ocean is another soul searching song where Shegz wears his heart on his sleeve: “I’m drowning in the emotion ocean, I’m struggling not coping….”. The following God Flexn is devoted one particularly fine lady and the sung chorus hook soon latches in the memory: “God must have been flexin’ when he made you…”.
Pagan is one his arresting, hyper-aggressive tracks that packs a considerable punch into its two minutes. Built around a demonic descending riff, the urgent hook of “Put the pagan on the pavement” is highly effective. By now, the album’s sharp contrasts are expected but it’s still remarkable how he can veer from this to the tenderness and bleakness of Spiralling, again consisting of just his voice which depicts his emotional isolation and depression.
The album finishes with Dear Group Chat, an eight minute track that’s an epic in itself. It charts his life with a poetic poignancy: “Been partying with angels but inside I’ve been going through hell…”. It’s another strength of his artistry that behind the fighting talk, he reveals himself to be a sensitive soul who struggles with life’s problems as most of us do. The final verses express his need to make things better through his art. It’s an apposite way to end an album that feels like an emotional journey being completed.
Overall, this is a superb alternative hip hop album that takes the listener through almost every emotion in the human condition, Shegz portraying his problems with searing honesty and hard earned wisdom. The music is constantly inventive, full of eclectic twists and turns from track to track and his rapping is consistently electrifying. Showtime Shegz has made a major artistic statement with this album and deserves to be recognized for it.
VERDICT = 9.2 out of 10