24 Sep 2020
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Scalper - EP Review: Want More

16 Dec 2019 // A review by Steve Shyu
Mr. Nadeem Shafi, commonly known as the hyper-mysterious hip-hop artist Scalper, of Pakistani descent. I first caught on to this unusual hip-hop artist through Up FM, playing one of his first big releases Carrion on the Top 20 radio show I used to host. Upon hearing the name again after so long, I knew I had to find out if his new releases are as dark as I remembered from nearly a decade ago.

Scalper’s newest release is a revision of his Want EP from 2017, packed with instrumental versions of his original tunes, plus remixes of the titular song by producers based in Thailand and the UK.

Released exactly two years ago, the Want EP became arguably Scalper’s most succinct and career-defining output. Armed with his signature blend of hyper-dark atmosphere, brooding beats, and reflective poetic rhymes, reminiscent of Maxi Jazz from the UK group Faithless, Scalper seemed comfortable in making listeners feel uncomfortable.

This is best exemplified with Strange People, featuring paranoia-inducing lyrics, slow, plodding drum beats, and Black Sabbath-esque chord progressions. Fans of Faith No More’s Mike Patton may also dig the combo of creepily-uttered vocals and mildly offbeat rhythms. This same style is employed throughout the EP, particularly on the titular track Want, which boasts heavy industrial drumming, sounding somewhat like Nine Inch Nails in a bad mood on a rainy day. 

The remixed version of Want by producer 2nd Gen from the UK sees the vocal refrains stripped out and heavy layers of distortion applied, with almost no percussion in the mix save for on-the-beat metallic clanks in the background. This one is dirty, and big on the disturbingly eerie vibes.

The Ramintra Remix of Want is an immediate head-turner, taking reverberating glockenspiel notes and grand piano riffs to amplify a heavy hip-hop groove, while Scalper’s original refrains punctuated the start and end of almost every bar. There is a slight Eastern sound, especially in the sounds of bells, and for extra creepiness, Scalper’s vocals are altered at times to sound demonic and possessed. Arguably, this is underground Aotearoa hip-hop at its most grime-laden and rain-drenched, and it’s thrilling.

It’s wildly interesting how well all the instrumental renditions stand on their own, sans lyrics. Blackbirds, (the Rooks, Ravens, Magpies & Crows instrumental), emanates a thick brooding aura. The urban hopping rhythms of Blackbirds as well as the Cold Castles instrumental of Within These Walls both feel perfect as soundtrack for a modern crime-noir movie. And All I Am, the instrumental of Want, could make for a great addition in a dark, electronic DJ set, for any musicians who are that way inclined.

If Scalper’s Want EP was a success, this new re-release takes a step up over it. The instrumental renditions on Want More are well worth the listen, as they let the sonic aspects do the talking, evoking an even more menacing tone than they do with vocals. These are ideal if one is after something downbeat and atmospheric to focus on work with. Whilst not all the remixes add value, the re-work by Ramintra is definitely one to add to playlists to re-listen and groove to.

Hip-hop has generally been just outside of my musical scope, but knowing how dark Scalper’s music can get, it appealed to me completely, and I was not disappointed at all this time around. Seriously looking forward to hearing/seeing what Scalper brings to the musical table next. One could say I’m “Wanting More”.

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )
 

About Scalper

Scalper is Nadeem Shafi, born and raised in East London of Pakistani descent. First seen in Aotearoa New Zealand at WOMAD 1997 as the vocalist for the British band Fun-da-mental. Now based on the wild West Coast of Auckland, having moved here in 2007. Scalper is Hip-Hop like you’ve never heard it before. Moody, gritty beats with introspective lyrics that conjure visions of epic proportions, and an electrifying live performance that demands attention.




Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Scalper

Releases

Want More
Year: 2019
Type: EP
Want
Year: 2017
Type: EP
The Emperor's Clothes
Year: 2015
Type: Album
Butchers Bakers
Year: 2012
Type: Album
Flesh & Bones
Year: 2010
Type: Album

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