I first told you about Shinobi Stalin when I presented his single Spiritual Law featuring his cousin Word Chemist (catch up here) and I have more to share from him. This album isn’t new, it actually came out in 2008, but I think it definitely deserves to be under my spolight and in your collection. Here is why…
The word I would use to describe Zombie Skool is positivity. From the very first notes of YGB to the closing track Soul rap, Shinobi Staling spreads inspiring messages through well-written lyrics and mostly chilled, jazzy productions. Keeping a balance between lighter topics and more personal and ‘serious’ subjects, he manages to come out with a very uplifting and enjoyable album that is easily put on repeat over and over again. It is definitely feel-good music, while staying true to the spirit of hip-hop and ‘educating’ young people and all the listeners. I particularly appreciate the concept of the project and this teaching aspect, which is a reflection of Shinobi’s job and shows how education can take many forms and reach people in different ways.
In the same way as a day in school is made of different periods, some where you need to concentrate and work hard, others where you can relax and enjoy your time off, Zombie Skool enables you to let your mind go through different phases. It can be open to receive some motivational messages and to be fed with interesting ideas but it can also let go and of stress and be relieved from life hardships. The perfect example of the latter is Smoke break, with a very nice and chilled production courtesy of Shinobi himself. This is one of my favourites and it is definitely a great way to relax and to relate to Shinobi’s need to disconnect from the daily routine. The smoke break is taken as a metaphor and I really like the way he played with that, underlining the need to ‘breathe in all the positive energy’ and to ‘blow out all the negative excess’. This relative lightness of subject can also be found in Confessions of a sneaker addict, which title is quite transparent and in SNM, another one of my favourites, partly because of the great jazzy and uplifting prod, where Shionobi makes a comparison between skating and being an MC, stressing the fact that they are both part of him and different ways for him to express himself.
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After the break, you can come back to the classroom to enjoy Shinobi’s lessons on life and music, as well as his story-telling and introspective moments. With tracks like the opening YGB (Young, Gifted & Brown), Close driven or Messiah complex the MC delivers positive and inspiring messages to the youth, especially from minorities, encouraging them to keep pushing and never giving up on their dreams and goals, reminding them that they can achieve anything if they put their mind to it. Shinobi then shares his take on music and explains how he is doing it with his soul and ‘for the love in the first place’ (Soul rap). He also reminds people that being an MC isn’t for everyone (Circle master) and how there is a need for hustling and grinding until you can ‘reach the top’ (Hustle and flow). Joined by Vets of Kin, he indulges in ego-tripping with SG1, which is an appropriate title that reflects the martial dimension of their message and the images they use.
Shinobi Stalin finally gets ‘deeper’ and more personal with tracks like My life in life which is a very honest and open piece where he tells us about being rejected and being alone, while pushing to make it in this world. Other important subjects he touches upon are violence and guns and the need to fight ignorance with knowledge, using the power of the mind (Gunz, Prophet). Finally he draws a sad but not completely dark picture of society in What a shame, describing different ways how people can fail to cherish life and make the most of it, sinking in very deeps waters of despair and negativity. This is definitely not the choice he is making, and Zombie Skool is a way for him to focus on optimism and faith in a better world. Listening to the album makes me feel good for sure, it gives me hope and lift my spirits and that alone is a very good reason why you should do the same and on a regular basis too!
Now that you know a little bit more about the album and if you need any more encouragement to support Shinobi Stalin’s music, here is the official video for SNM, one of my favourite tracks. Enjoy and spread the word.