Isolation can sometimes lead to incredible creative breakthroughs, and while I can’t be certain whether or not that’s what inspired Shawn Cook to produce his new single “Stay,” something about its subject matter – and insular, bass-driven melody – tells me that it likely was. Shawn Cook surrounds us with a bassline hook as abrasive as they come right from the start here, yet there’s never a moment in which it interrupts the steady flow of his rapping – a delicate balance for even the most sophisticated of players to strike.
From the appearance of his first words to the moment in which his voice and the instrumentation beneath it disappear into the silence, there isn’t a second in which this artist doesn’t sound like a musician on the cusp of breaking through on an elite level. Considering the sheer volume of quality hip-hop out this season, the fact that he stands out as much as he does speaks volumes about his potential. This would appear to be a statement piece, designed with every intention of getting the world excited about a new face in the international hip-hop community, and personally, I really like the substance of its beat.
Cook doesn’t waste any time creating a ping-pong-like exchange with the bassline in “Stay” that reflects the grating tension of quarantine life better than any lyric ever could on its own. There’s a lot of tension in the air as we push through the first half of the single – in all honesty, it would be difficult to grapple with were it not accompanied by a lush vocal sting courtesy of the star himself. The rhythm is a lot looser than it would appear on the surface; when separating it from the vocal and the bass, the percussion isn’t all that big in this mix at all (which is definitely uncommon among new hip-hop, especially the Soundcloud variety). Muscularity is the number one prerogative of Shawn Cook in this track, but it’s obvious that he isn’t willing to sacrifice any of his organic tonality just to ensure accessibility in the commercial rap market.
“Stay” might sport a grim instrumental backbone, but what it tells us about the driving force behind its conception is positive. Cook doesn’t have that guns, money n’ women sort of persona in this latest release – if you ask me, he’s got a self-awareness in his lyrical approach that is inspiringly vulnerable, and even a little provocative when thinking about how eerily it relates to the internal dialogues that come with periods of self-isolation. This isn’t a psychedelic look, but if he wanted to, I think Shawn Cook could definitely explore his surreal side a bit more in the future and expect to see as much success as he is with this most recent studio work. He’s got a deep-thinking nature to his music that I’m desperate to hear more of before the year is over, and once you’ve heard “Stay” for yourself, I think you’re going to feel the same.
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