Shogun: An Artist You Should Know About
One of the few Montreal hip hop artists to dabble in both the commercial side of the industry as well as the underground, Shogun is turning heads and growing his fanbase. He is among Montreal's top battle emcees, he introduced himself in the summer of 2003 following the release of his mixtape, Ur Words Against Mine. His influences include The Roots, Mos Def, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, and Wu-Tang Clan.
Shogun has kept busy, continuing to hone his skills. He earned a guest spot on the 2005 Butta Babees U Don't Want It remix and video, which was placed on heavy rotation on Much Music. The artist, Manchilde, then featured him on the 2006 People Wanna Know vinyl, which was especially embraced in Japan and Canada. Shogun later went on to drop the LIGHTS OUT video. He had been involved on and off with various management companies, then made the decision to found the Secret Service, a network of hip hop-inspired musicians, emcees, producers, deejays, videographers, clothing designers, and engineers to form a dynamic team.
In 2010, he released the first two albums of his 5-disk Voltron Project. Following the success of these two free albums, the other three will be released in 2011. The next release: the green album, entitled Herbal Airlines.
I chatted with Shogun about the Montreal music scene, the Voltron Project, hip hop music, and more.
UpVenue (UPV): What are you up to right now?
Shogun: I'm in the middle of a 5-album release in the span of 5 months, entitled the "Voltron Project." Each album is color-themed and emo-themed. The first was the introduction, "The Taste Test Ep," which was a collection of what all the other albums are going to sort of feel like. In October, I released "The Heart Donor," which was the red album - a more stripped down version of myself, my thoughts, and heartfelt verses of heart break, love, lust, and comedic relief. Next up is a double release: the gold album and the green album. I'm hoping to have a release party for all five.
I felt like I had to do something like this to increase the buzz around my name, and renew awareness that I'm back. Plus, it kind of networks itself; doing something this crazy and time demanding shows work ethic, skills, and allows for immediate playability on blogs and radio shows. Established editorials want to write about you, because it's like a shock advertising. It's new, it's relevant, it's good, it's consistent, it's mass production, and it's free and readily available via the internet.
UPV: How do you feel about the internet influence in hip hop?
Shogun: It's a double edged sword. On one hand, it's killed the mass stream of fish off to smaller schools in a smaller pond. Labels arent looking to sign everybody or just anybody. They can't afford to. They've put their focus into acts who are marketable on a larger scale. Product placement, tv, movies, modeling, etc.
You have to be Alicia Keys or John Legend now to get signed by a label. a do-it-all type of performer or artist. The result of that narrow corridor has made young up and comers more hands on. We as artists now have no choice but to be in all phases of the business: music, promo, and shows. We've become an independent power, we've learned to shoot videos, do photoshoots, set up contracts, and come up with marketing plans and performance techniques.
And with the internet, everything is at your fingertips. So for an indie artist, you have no excuse to not be heard; you'r work ethic comes into question if you can't build up a following in today's music society. Also, money which you would have to divvy up between a higher power is now in your pocket. The nets made it so the middle man has been hanging on by a cliff edge. You can be a flat screen between you and yor fans today.
And the incentive to go major (label) is less appealing when you start to realize how much work you're putting in, compared to what your return is. So artists like Kanye, Wiz Khalifa, and others have set the standard and shown how to maximize the sources around you.
UPV: How do you feel about the Montreal urban music scene?
Shogun: I feel like a buzz has been building and as of late, it's formed a movement that we haven't had in a long time, or maybe at all. It's good to see so much push from the area. But regardless, I feel it's inevitable that to make it in Montreal, you have to leave and blow elsewhere. Its been the case for Canada period: film directors, actors, comedians, rock bands, models, athletes...
When you leave, the city and country will try to claim the shit out of you, knowing that when you were there, the resources for aid were minimal to non-existent. The outlet's thin and the support from local media inconsistent. I havent decided where I'll venture, but I'm convinced I'll be leaving to further my career in my field.
UPV: Whats next for you?
Shogun: With the release of so much music in a small span, no one can ask for more without it being a selfish request. So i'm going to milk the songs I felt got the most attention, polish them up, re-release them on blogs from January to June, and shoot music videos, setting up the work for a solid proper album release hopefully in the 2011 year. I've got a lot of work to do to establish and sit comfortably.
To listen to the red album (entitled The Heart Donor) and the blue album (The Taste Test), check out these sites: http://www.divshare.com/download/12886656-a0f and http://shogun.bandcamp.com/album/the-taste-test-ep.
If you're in Montreal, you might want to check out the Secret Service launch party on February 4 at Bar Alize.