Las Vegas’ Shamir is a bundle of contradictions. The schoolboy crooner warbles like a natural on country songs, yet he’s earning rent money by firing off candy-coated hooks over synth beats. The casual listener might not take his work seriously for the use of aggressively youthful slang, but ignoring his sharp lyrics would be unwise. No matter how cavity-inducing his nosebleed-register vocals are, the R&B wunderkind spits fluorescent acid. Shamir isn’t a traditionalist, and like it or not, he’s ready to smash through boundaries with his bag of sugar, spice, and things that aren’t nice.
Last year’s blues-flecked Northtown EP found Shamir lovelorn, unapologetically aiming at the heartstrings with funky vocals and Taylor Swift-worthy ex ripping. On Ratchet, Shamir keeps with the dark side of love on the anthemic “Call It Off” (“Just can’t make a THOT a wife/ No more basic, ratchet guys”) and the syrupy “Demon”. The Fool’s Gold-worthy “On the Regular” finds Shamir cheekily entering Azaelia Banks’ brat-rap game and setting some rules (“Yes, yes I’m the best, fuck what you heard/ Anything less is obviously absurd”), while the slyly cynical “Make a Scene” criticizes nightlife norms. But despite the emotional rollercoaster, Shamir can’t help but crack a smile, jumping to the spring-loaded electro-bounce of “Head in the Clouds”.
Admittedly, the party wouldn’t get as far off the ground without the help of GODMODE producer Nick Sylvester. Working within the perimeter of Shamir’s neon vocals, Sylvester’s fat house beats and ever-present tinny cowbell help round out the album’s electro-funk playpen. Still, Northtown’s rising star proves his worth on Ratchet through his genre fluidity. Just moments after closing the fuzzy hip-shaker “Youth”, he’s off channeling his inner Nina Simone on “Darker” with vulnerable, cathedral-echoed sorrows and brooding orchestral strings. Sure, it might get messy changing from sassy to sweet to sad as if constant mood swings are the norm. But only through these shifts do you understand Shamir as the giant spice rack of emotions and ideas that he is.
Essential Tracks: “Darker”, “On the Regular”, and “Youth”