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Scalper - Album Review: The Beast and The Beauty

20 Nov 2020 // A review by Peter-James Dries

I have reviewed more releases than I have patience to count. Many of the musicians I’ve heard have disappeared from my consciousness and the scene soon after, but there are a few that make such an impression that they stick with me. Nadeem Shafi’s Scalper is one that has passed the test of time. Snippets of their hooks and videos still enter my conscious in those moments of tedium that cause the mind to sojourn from the task at hand.

Looking back at the last review of Scalper’s singles My Blood Your Blood and Puppets, I didn’t have much to say, but what I did say was positive. I knew there was something great there, but I didn’t have the words yet to articulate what it was. Some things reveal in hindsight, and aren’t captured in the moment. Like the dense atmospheres created by the music and tonality of Shafi’s voice, or his expert mood building, or the synergy between the words and music.

The new album The Beast and the Beauty is one of those rare examples of music as therapy. It’s not music for the sake of music, or a vehicle to stardom, or a commercial product to profit the corporate overlords of the record label. It’s an album rich in raw emotion. An artist’s life laid bare on an aural canvas, with all the darkness that comes with baring one’s soul. But beneath it all, there is hope. The beast of adversity, and the beauty of finding a way through it together. The Beast and the Beauty is an apt title.

It’s also relevant to our times, as it speaks of the need for finding balance and harmony in the polarised world we’ve found ourselves in, where the ideologies of left and right are so far stretched they can never re-join in the middle. It’s the counterpoint to everything we hear and see every day. A call for healing and hope, not a call to arms against an imaginary other.

Scalper always felt out of place in the New Zealand music scene. While their stories and ruminations on life, love, and loss are relatable, their chosen genre is unique. Trip-hop never quite reached the mainstream appeal it did in other counties, or at least it hasn’t since the late-90s, and home-grown attempts are few and far between.

In a world where all popular music sounds the same, Scalper is at a disadvantage. This is a disappointment, as The Beast and the Beauty is an album that would win awards and accolades if only more people would listen. With all its ASMR-inducing hushed tones that made Billie Eilish a household name, and hypnotic, trance-like beat, it has everything it needs to top the charts. If only it was more shallow.

We can’t be afraid to feel. To confront the darkness and conflict in our lives, and persevere through them. Scalper has, and his music is all the better for it.

I’d love to say Scalper has improved in the 6 years since I last reviewed them. However, Scalper was already at their peak at that stage, with their high production values and polished sound. If anything Scalper has been riding that high. It’s hard to improve on perfection. Five stars of five.

You can find Scalper’s The Beast and the Beauty on Bandcamp.

Rating: ( 5 / 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


The Shine
Year: 2023
Type: Album
The Beast and The Beauty
Year: 2020
Type: Album
Want More
Year: 2019
Type: EP
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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