Shane Eagle - Yellow [Review]


In 2015, the first season of the VuzuTV show – “The Hustle” aired. A show which sees a selected bunch of rappers complete weekly challenges for the awarding of corporate sponsorship and a record deal. I would have easily passed over Shane Eagle. He presented himself as being nothing but a pretty face. Pretentious as ever, he appeared only as an ideal model that could be seen on billboard adverts aimed at schoolgirls. However, after weeks of struggle, he began silencing his critics but specifically, AKA. He went on to make the competition’s top four. After his elimination, he had a stint as a presenter on VEntertainment and a few singles with Bigstar Johnson (the eventual winner of The Hustle). The easily recognizable single being “Way Up” – a trap influenced yet lyrical showing by the pair that eventually made waves.
In addition, he followed this up with several guest verses. On DJ Speedsta’s song, “I Want It All” which also features Nasty C, both rappers release ferocious verses as they go head to head. This begins to signal his impressive ability as lyricist – something that he somewhat lacked during the majority of The Hustle. Moreover, he features on DJ Switch’s “Now or Never” and to be fair, he holds his own against technically gifted heavyweights such as ProVerb & YoungstaCPT. Whilst on this impressive guest verse run, he follows up the success by featuring on Speedsta’s huge summer smash, “Mayo”. The song features Tellaman, Yung Swiss and Frank Casino. It’s his first major taste of commercial success and spawns conversations of his talent and if he's released enough music to be mentioned among contemporaries such as A-Reece, Emtee and Nasty C.
Within the South African hip-hop community, Shane Eagle was always a known name but it didn’t carry weight unlike his peers. He simply was not as productive enough in his output. After a short yet notable hiatus, Eagle returned with another single “I’m Back”, a solid effort but it was still clear that he was only scratching the surface of his imagined potential. It was only after he gave us “Cutting Corners”, an easy going piano-infused rap song with elements of 90s boom bap, that Hip-Hop heads started taking note of the lyrical ability, storytelling and his ear for production. It was clear that something was bubbling and he has something that we didn’t recognize before.
Eagle then dropped JULIA. All Hip-Hop heads were sold and we were all pining for a project. Between fuego cyphers, washing rappers as a guest feature, Cutting Corners and JULIA – it’s clear that he used the hiatus efficiently and figured himself out. All the music released to date acted as a firm staple in his discography and by now there was a clear sound he subscribed to.
Fast forward to August 2017, and it finally came. Industry heavyweights gave their validation, American YouTube sensations were going crazy and they went as far as comparing Yellow to J Cole’s 2014 Forrest Hills Drive. After a few listens its apparent why.
Shane Eagle had created something different. Yellow is unlike any album that mainstream South African rappers had produced before. Within South Africa, the industry seems to emulate whatever that is prominent within American Hip-Hop instead of being creative and original. Yellow’s production lacks the influence of new age trap/mumble rap instrumentals that has become standard in today’s space. You didn’t hear a bit of Major League or Gemini Major (credit where it’s due, it’s all love). The production incorporates mellow sounds and melodic harmonies and irresistible motifs. Whether sampling beautiful R&B and Soul records or creating melancholy inspired beats, the production is perfect for Shane to narrate his personal journal. Ultimately, what made Yellow special is how the writing and sound formed a perfect marriage. Production and writing – my favourite union. Shane stayed true to his long-time friend and producer, Shooter Khumz. Their chemistry warrants his production contributions and their union is something to behold. It’s simply a dream to many other artists.
The album’s track sequencing is brilliant. Changing the track ordering would not make any sense. You simply don’t use shuffle on this one. The subject matter is almost applicable to every millennial out there. On the thirteen tracks, Shane’s content ranges from mental health and the suicide of his friend, education, life’s idiosyncrasy and forgone relationships. He also speaks of his relationship with God, finding purpose, renewed self-belief and being satisfied with the direction he’s taken thus far. Excellent content, incredible production and a great showing lyrically. South Africa’s best album of 2017 (all genres). His impact was unforeseen but it’s clear, Shane Eagle is here to say. With every listen, the project gets better. Yellow is classic material – with substantial impact, elite production, lyricism and content, the only challenge it has to face is “standing the test of time” but if I’m being honest – I know this album will be equally impressive in 10 years. A star is born.
Standout songs:
  1. Need Me (ft. KLY)
  2. Let it Flow
  3. Can You See
  4. MIHI
  5. Aliens x Conversations with God
  6. Strange
  7. Empty Highways
80/100.

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