On the fringes of underground hip-hop between New York and Amsterdam, 2010 allowed the necessary concoction for a legend to flicker into being. Through the combination of spontaneous near-miracle and intelligent direction, this dual-cell organism came to be known as Shahmen. With two new teaser singles currently released in rough development on SoundCloud, this Project: Mooncircle duo deserves immense attention for their largely overlooked 2010 EP, Enter the Circle.
The release is nothing short of oceanic in proportion. Through the pressure of BLS’ natural bass and the tidal rhythm of Sense’s sample composition, we are uncontrollably taken into the murky depths of a truly justified record. Rapper BLS hails from NYC and made a powerful appearance on Pulse in Project: Mooncircle’s full-length fusion hip-hop album from The Q4, Sound Surroundings, on which Amsterdam-based Sense was one of the beat-masters. With their first official collaboration, BLS and Sense crafted an EP that tantalizes with lyrics and beats much too tight for such a short-lived blaze.
To hear BLS pronounce “dark” is perhaps the best way to capture the vibration of Enter the Circle. Each rhyme, from the crushing opening of Dirt to the manifesto of World of Wils is thickly saturated with spiritual imagery, raw autobiography, and control in execution. Not one verse is rushed or sloppy. An understated coat of grit unifies every track. In an intelligent move for their debut release, the duo featured the elusive rapper Unorthodox, heard in My Own Advice from Sound Surroundings, on the EP’s tracks Shell Dweller and 1981985 which act as solid specimens of a BLS vocal collaboration. Lyrical content is more than relevant, dealing heavily with the relationship of self and environment, as well as personal history. Naturally, it also serves to introduce both artists, as “Spitting out the venom / Filling out the rhythm” is precisely what they do.
Shahmen is no doubt a product of intensely introspective discovery for both BLS and Sense, whether in the mortality reflected in Dirt, “I see a tree grow, a tree grows inside/I see a body rot, I’m reminded of my time”, or the cyclical existence in Shell Dweller “Even when we leave, we just coming back/This body’s just a shell, so it’s bound to crack”. Worth noting is the ability of BLS to punctuate his poetry with effective stress and by holding out words in all the right places, in a way that has you leaning in to catch the fall of the rhyme. This is especially evident on the track Mark, where all deliberations over reality are brought to earth with recollections of a friend who OD’d.
Sense continues to deliver solid beats that are more intricate than one listen will afford. Hints of inspiration from the duo’s travels in West Africa and South America are well dispersed throughout every track to create a dynamic foundation for BLS’ delivery. The use of cello in the sampling commands a certain degree of respect towards the material atmosphere of the EP. Imagine the vocals on mute, and you are left with meticulous layering that persists in an anxious ambiance.
With a couple of brand new teaser singles released on Soundcloud, Shahmen is a powerful duo to watch out for. Murmurs have circulated the internet about a potential upcoming LP, which would be more than overdue given their demonstrated potential. Their honesty has the potential to deliver a prominent impact on underground hip-hop, so hopes are high that BLS and Sense will tighten up for 2013 with another solid release. “Physically, we can reach infinity”, they proclaim in Enter the Circle, painting vision with meaning and drawing parallels between truth and experience.
Listen to the opening track, Dirt, from Shahmen’s EP, Enter the Circle:
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Project: Mooncircle: Shahmen