I discovered Shinobi Stalin quite a few years ago and I told you about him on several occasions, including with my review of his debut album Zombie School and with an interview I did with the Orlando-based artist, so it is with great pleasure that I now present you his sophomore album.
The highly-anticipated Invisible Man was released last week and it was definitely worth the wait. With this new project, Shinobi Stalin proves, once again, how gifted he is when it comes to penning lyrics and expressing them over instrumentals. While he invited several of his frequent collaborators, including his Vets of Kin crew, as well as other independent hip-hop artists such as Roc Marciano, he clearly shines on this project, from start to finish.
From the very first seconds of Anticipation, a heart-felt track, he steps out of the shadow and goes straight into the heart of the matter, taking the listeners on a journey through his thoughts and feelings, equipped with clever rhymes and seamless flow. Here Not There, which could have been the subtitle for the album, is probably the best explanation of its name. The beautiful, slightly hypnotic instrumental serves a perfect backdrop to what is probably the most relatable track for me, as it describes how you can sometimes be present physically but actually somehow aloof. This is something you can also find later on Energon, where Shinobi Stalin explains how he is more of an observer, something I can definitely relate to.
The MC then proceeds to touch upon relationships (Game Should Never Play), politics, history and the media (Control, His Story), or his Black-Puerto Rican heritage (Nigger Rican), among other topics. He also offers an ode to his city of Orlando, FL, nicknamed the Ozone, on the aptly-titled Welcome to Ozone, and invites the Vets of Kin and Kap Kallous for N.I.K.E., a posse cut that makes my ears quite happy. Another guest worth mentioning is Mike Rosa, who is none other than his brother, as well as a talented skateboarder, and joins him for Brothers Influence.
In addition to the great quality of Shinobi Stalin’s lyrics and flow, I can’t but mention the wonderful instrumentals, provided by talented producers Reeplay, Abbott, Tempermental, Soy Is Real and Shinobi Stalin himself, among others. The different soundtracks match his flow perfectly and create a very pleasant atmosphere, which helps increasing the level of replayability (yep, that’s a word). I need to give a special mention to Control, which, in addition to being my favourite track in terms of lyrical content, benefits from the most beautiful instrumental you could ever dream of (shouts out to Tone Blare). Also, Sing The Blues is a wonderful combination of lovely production and honest lyrics that stands out as one of the most personal and compelling tracks of the album.
Overall, Invisible Man is a comprehensive and cohesive project that serves both as a worthy follow-up to Zombie Skool and a testament to the MC’s brand of quality, timeless-sounding music. If you are just discovering Shinobi Stalin, this should make you want to dig deeper and listen to the rest of his discography, both on his own and with his crew.
You can now discover Invisible Man by heading to Shinobi Stalin’s Bandcamp page, or simply by clicking on the link below. Enjoy, share and support!
As a bonus, here is the official video for Welcome to Ozone, complete with cameos from his Vets of Kin crew members and other Orlando MCs.
I first told you about Shinobi Stalin when I reviewed his debut album Zombie Skool last year (time flies!) and as he is about to release his new project entitled Invisible Man, I got a chance to catch up with him and ask a few questions. The Orlando-based MC and producer, who is part of the Vets of Kin and Civil Mics among others, has quite a few interesting things to say and it is a real pleasure for me to share those with you now. I want to thank him for taking some time to answer my questions, and Civil Mics’ creator Twist for putting me on his music in the fist place. Without further delay, here is Shinobi Stalin, in his own words…
First of all, for people who are not familiar with you and your music, who is Shinobi Stalin? I have to say the name somewhat puzzled me when I first heard it. Any interesting story behind this seemingly unlikely association?
I am just your run of the mill half Black Puerto Rican, Eastside Ozone rhyme spitter, nothing special about me except the fact that I write pretty good. My rhyme name is on some middle school shit honestly. I came up with the first part in like 7th grade. My favorite game on the Sega Genesis is “Shinobi 3”. He wasn’t a typical ninja all in the shadows sneaking up on fools. He wore all white and walked throwing daggers exploding his enemies. I took that, and saw the daggers Jewells dropped and the enemies as the minds of those listening creating the spark and big bang. The Stalin part came as a joke. My homie Kazarian and I used to make beats at his crib, play a game called “Medal of Honor” on the PC, and watch mad WW2 documentaries. We called ourselves the Axis Power Click just messing around and that’s how I got the Stalin part. I took Stalin because he was known to erase his enemies or threats from history. This dude would literally take cats names out of books, take their faces off of photographs, and send cats to Siberia, homie was nuts. 1 + 1 = 2 and the name sounded rather unique so I ran with it.
While 2010 was quite an awesome year for Civil Mics, with many projects and singles, I had a feeling it was only the beginning. When I listen to Bomb Run, the latest single from Shinobi Stalin, I am definitely convinced of this. After the release of his first full-length Zombie Skool back in 2008, the MC is currently working on the follow-up, entitled Invisible Man. I am obviously looking forward to hearing the new project, as well as all the solo releases from the Vets of Kin member scheduled for this year. From the very first seconds of Bomb run, I was caught up in the great prod, courtesy of Tek The Intern. The atmosphere of the track is quite dark and moody, almost hypnotic and it was clearly impossible not to nod my head to its rhythm. To complement this beautiful instrumental, Shinobi Stalin’s flow and lyrics are on point. Matching some of the feelings I may have in regards to the state of the world and its future, the words are a mixture between pessimism and realism. There is also a sort of martial feeling to it, which I could already notice in several Vets of Kin earlier releases. To put it simply, I will play this track quite regularly, to indulge in the beautiful darkness of the production and the quality of Shinobi Stalin’s flow and lyrics.
You can indulge as well, by going to Shinobi Stalin’s Bandcamp, or simply by clicking on the link below. You can also download Bomb RunHERE
I told you about the upcoming Vets Of Kin album in a recent post (catch up here) and I am happy to tell you that it is now available (as of yesterday)! I have to thank Twist from Civil Mics once again, first for putting me on their music and second for suggesting I interview AMiAM, one of the crew’s talented MCs and beatmakers. The young artist has some very interesting things to say about hip-hop, his crew and the album and I am quite pleased to share those with you. Without further delay, here is AMiAM, in his own words…
First of all, for people who don’t know you, could you introduce yourself? When and how did you discover hip-hop and started being part of the movement?
Call me AMiAM or Freddy Douglas. I’m an MC, producer, original B-Boy, promoter, and more in the works. (Laughs) I overheard hip hop from my pops playing Kool Moe Dee, or my brother MyGrane playing NWA. I recorded my first rhyme when I was like 6. I didn’t even write it. My brother kind of made me do it. I just wanted to do something cool at the time with big bro you know? Then when got older, I started break dancing real heavy in ’97. Shit turned for me when my brother woke me up on a school night to show me a his first Open Campain album that he recorded with his boy MURDOC. It was called “Suspense”. Yo I bumped that shit for a year! Started writing my own shit in 99, been nonstop ever since.
You took part in several freestyle battles and won quite a few of them. I have to say you’re a very skilled lyricist and have a lot of imagination. Is it important for you to emphasise this aspect of hip-hop and of your talent?
Some days start in a so-so way but then there is something that will make you feel good and put a smile on your face. What happened to me today was this: I was chilling on the net, minding my own business, when Twist from Civil Mics sent me this exclusive track, first single of the upcoming Vets of Kin album. I immediately liked the prod, courtesy of Shinobi Stalin (who is clearly as gifted creating music as he is writing and rapping) and the atmosphere of the track. I already mentioned Vets of Kin in previous posts and I have to say I’m quite happy discovering more from them. The upcoming album will be released as a collaboration between Civil Mics and Domination Recordings and this is unfortunately the only info I have for the moment. But you can be sure that as soon as I know more I will share the goodness. 360, apart from the beautiful production, is also a great exhibition of Vets of Kin’s members talent in terms of delivery and lyrics and had my head nodding from the very first notes till the end. Of course I’m impatient to hear more tracks from the guys but until then I will listen to this one regularly and I encourage you to do the same!
You can now listen to 360 and discover Vets of Kin universe, in case you were not familiar with them. Enjoy and spread the word!
Because I am curious by nature, I did a little research about Vets of Kin, which is like a super group gathering many of Orlando (aka O-Zone)’s best MCs, including Civil Mics members MyGrane McNastee, Unique Assassin, Shinobi Stalin & Word Chemist. Most of their music sounds quite heavy and I can’t really get the image of them being some kind of superheroes or soldiers fighting for the cause of hip-hop out of my head. I will share a video with you, which I found while doing my research on YouTube. It kind of sums up the ‘martial’ spirit I just mentioned and is entitled Ceremony. Enjoy!
If you are as curious as I am, you can find out more and listen to some goodness on their MySpace
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.
Twist from Civil Mics told me about Shinobi Stalin months ago, but I didn’t really get to listen to a lot of his music until recently. And this is one of those cases where I was wondering why I had been sleeping for so long… Fortunately, the saying ‘better late than never’ is true, and I can now make up for my lack of reactivity. If you’ve never heard of Shinobi Stalin before, here is a little something that should convince you of his talent and make you want to hear more!
Spiritual Law is the first collaboration between him and his cousin Word Chemist and is not featured anywhere for the moment, but it’s a very nice introduction to their universe. The production, by Abbott, is very chilled and has this old-shcool feeling to it that makes me nod my head and relax at the same time. What I really appreciate is the very smooth and natural delivery of the MCs, as well as the interesting lyrics, that once again make me feel quite confident about the present and future of hip-hop. I’ve heard so many talented MCs in the past months that I wonder how some people can still claim that it’s a lost art…
Shinobi Stalin is currently working on several projects, including the highly anticipated Civil Mics album, as well as his next album, Invisible Man, with Domination Recordings and Vets of Kin. While waiting for all this goodness, you can listen to Spiritual Law below.