Album review: Shadcore, Oh My Shad!

The Real Clash emcee presents his first solo outing in nine years


You’ve seen him co-leading The Real Clash’s two-man rap attack. This Saturday, local emcee Rashad “Shadcore” Harrell steps into solo mode to unleash his first album of original material in nine years.

Recorded at St. Pete College’s MIRA Studios and featuring guest spots that include members of TRC, Oh My Shad! proves an eclectic affair that capers from one mood and sonic atmosphere to the next with the launch of set opener “Peggy Sue,” which finds Shadcore waxing sing-song nostalgic about his first crush over straightforward blues-licked instrumentals bolstered by ominous saxophone, driven by clear wailing guitar solos, and joined by ragged guest howls on the refrain by R. Skahill. “What?!” shifts gears entirely with its neon-glowing electro-production, its random absurd  vocal samples adding to Shadcore’s cheeky flow and pop culture referential rhyme schemes that ask questions of identity and what makes up a person or place or thing. Life-affirming “One Song” introduces guest verses by Real Clash compadre Jay Acolyte and features Songeagle crooning the sultry resonant hook in an ode touching on how music can not only make you feel good but change your life entirely.

Shadcore flexes his syrupy rhyme chops all throughout the album but shows he can speed up his verse-slinging style in the sinister “Shadzilla” and get more sneeringly aggressive in the title track, a guitar-riffing rap rock ode here Shadcore sheds light on his history and the road that led to his hard-earned bravado, his own hilarious outcries of self strengthened by the commanding backing verses of TFC vocalist Eliana Blanchard. The heady-intellectuality of album closer “20” is eight minutes of loose grooves marked by Shadcore’s mix of fast-spits, slower flows and spoken word interludes, the bluesy-jazzy interplay of electric guitar, sax, keys and bass, and the climbing vocals of Blanchard coming to a propulsive climax before dwindling to its conclusion.

He gets spiritual over a funky beats and ambling elastic basslines in “PSTA To Escalades,” offering commentary on society’s seeming dormant mind-set (“It’s like we’re stuck in the proverbial idle position / if I could, right now, I’d write a prescription / for something that would give us more life and ambition / instead of sitting on the sidelines, wishing”) and the actions that keep achievement at bay, though his solution to enacting change – finding god – comes off a bit preachy and didactic.

There are a few other misfires in “Magnets,” which feels sluggish with forced R&B-hued drama and cooing feminine vocals, and “The Shield,” which verges on trite (“Stop stressing baby girl, what you need is right here”). But Oh My Shad! muscles through the weaker moments with enough aplomb to make for an overall solid outing.

Critics’ Rating: 3 and ½ out of 5 Stars.

More info about Shadcore here.

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