‘Ne Plus Ultra’, the debut solo EP from South London’s Shadez the Misfit, casts a new light on what it means to be creative, successful and authentically different in a musical landscape that can often present a one dimensional image of Hip-Hop and its musicians.
Shadez the Misfit, for those not yet in the know, has previously performed and worked with some of the best known brands here in the UK, with Lovebox, Channel 4 and G-shock Sessions marking a few of his prior successes. Both musical artist and creative in equal measure the Misfit aesthetic has long gained the attention of MTV, Dazed & Confused and Complex for its emphasis on elevation. Using music as a base, Shadez often explores the kind of changes in lifestyle needed for lasting success, away from the tired narratives of trap life, the conversation quickly becomes about reaching out beyond what is immediately in front of you; to what changes we can all affect in the world we live in.
Soho’s Axel Arigato store played host to the launch of the EP with a private listening party, rough hewn concrete slabs with jagged edges were the architectural standouts inside the starkly minimal interior, the hand crafted sneakers on display for those invited to view like an art installation before the evening performance began. An intersection of music and fashion lovers the crowd was typically reflective of a Misfit audience and they waited with excitement to hear this latest work.
Opening with ‘The Rendition’, ‘Ne plus ultra’ – taken from Latin, to mean ‘the highest point as of excellence achievement and elevation’ – is the kind of typically future focused production that has come to be a hallmark of the Misfit sound. Speaking of the desire to be more in a world filled with obstacles, ‘The Rendition’ serves as an appetiser both light and uplifting, making it the kind of track that mirrors any of us in our brightest moments. Packed with confidence it reflects a need to leave a positive mark on the world setting listeners up for what is yet to come.
In December 2015, Shadez delivered a TED talk focused on looking beyond the box, speaking openly to his audience about his journey from gang life and a self imposed ‘box mentality’ to one of possibilities and self determination. ‘Fake It’ explores the notion of striving, the Smasher production of ‘Fake It’ plays with light and shade, as hard and soft sounds marry with the typical sing song Misfit delivery, all while he speaks of religion and authenticity, questioning fame and it’s cost. It’s a message about knowledge of self. The very premise of ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ is one based on dishonesty – the implication being you cannot make it being yourself, it’s a great example of the type of ‘box mentality that often stops people being themselves, instead trying to fit a perceived mould in order to reach personal goals.
The Toddla T produced ‘Signs’ is an upfront gangster melody, while the hook declares nothing is going to kill my drive, it’s unfussy, bass heavy percussion plays with retro vibes and is a track that had Toddla T stating the Misfit delivery carries echoes of alt Hip-Hop stalwart Roots Manuva. A track for those uncertain days when we all need reassurance ‘Signs’ is one for those days that we question our path.
As an EP ‘Ne Plus Ultra’ mirrors life filled with peaks and troughs of confidence and self-doubt, something we have all experienced. ‘Fires’ featuring Bipolar Sunshine is one of the best at marrying the two, hypnotic, wandering production melts away to reveal a commentary the often hostile, uncaring society we attempt to navigate with the ‘What It Is’ interlude an unmistakable ‘anti’ moment.
Both ‘Handle Mine’ and ‘Overcome’ have revolutionary vibes for slightly different reasons, where ‘Handle Mine’ featuring Rax and Noel Williams speaks directly to the land ‘where all you do is grind and pray’, the mellow delivery of the chorus by Rax adds an introspective and dreamy element to the jagged edges of a song concerned with those ‘selling us these dreams but they don’t see us as the leaders’. It’s a sentiment that is rooted in the reality of the fact black people have no representation at either cabinet or high court level in this country. The track finishes with the voice Noel Williams an ex gang member who now works as a Labour Party politician, effortlessly real ‘Handle Mine’ is undiluted and highly emotive on a EP filled with a resolve to reach further and push harder. ‘Overcome’ uses a breakbeat feel to illustrate its revolutionary message, in an age where Black Lives Matter movements are springing up globally in the fight for equality it’s the kind of track that could happily serve as a documentary soundtrack as more and more people seek direct action to achieve social change
Ne Plus Ultra’ finishes with a track of the same name, wanting to end on a high Shadez says “I didn’t want to impress, I wanted to inspire through soundscapes, experiences and concepts that felt vivid to me and what I see day to day”. A deeply relatable EP whether you’re an artist, creative, or someone with a 9-5, Shadez the Misfit has created one for the dreamers, giving voice to the questions and insecurities that can all too often hold us back in our search for elevation.
# the debut EP is out now and available to download & stream.