“Who the fuck is Ant Shears, anyway?”
A track into The Growth: My ENTroduction, I found myself asking the same question. Here’s what I knew:
- A fellow by the name of Anthony J. Shears approached me on Twitter and via an e-mail to this site (his answers to my extra questions were priceless… Hellrazor and a Yoga instructor, if you’re curious).
- I immediately assumed it was spam because… well, come on, it’s Twitter.
- Then, upon some further research, I discovered he was in fact a real (and very legit music industry) person. I still wasn’t sure he meant to contact me, but I went along with it (see: Hellrazor, Yoga instructor).
So, I put on the CD, but again I’ll admit, I was skeptical. I’m a fiend for new music, don’t get me wrong. But a lot of times, what you might call “home-made music” (which, I can’t stress enough, this is NOT) trends towards unpolished at best, wack at worst. These were my concerns.
A handful of tracks in, those doubts were erased.
The sampling is incredible (Paul Simon, James Taylor, Jay-Z, Patti LaBelle to name a few), the production is on point and the lyrics range from fun, bob-along type stuff to stop what you’re doing, I need to listen-type stuff.
Without getting too gushy, it’s the type of hip-hop I’ve been waiting on for a while now. And by a while, I mean about 8 to 10 years. You see, I’ve gone along for the ride with where the genre’s gone. The invasion of that techno/trance, the poppy sounds, the mechanical robot touch that everything seems to have now (ahem, Yeezus). And, I’ll be honest, a lot of it I’ve really loved.
But, for my money, there’s not a lot better than a solid sample, sped up and flipped, with a nice bass beat and guy with a good flow. Listening to Shears, I started thinking he’d have fit in fine alongside the early versions of Kanye’s conscious G.O.O.D. music crew on any number of tracks from The College Dropout. How many people can really pick out GLC in a crowd? Exactly.
One of my least favorite aspects of any music review is when the reviewer tries to describe, in-depth (and often, in vain) the actual songs. Here’s an example of how ridiculous that can be, from Rolling Stone (first) and Business Insider (second):
[Kanye West’s] “Hold My Liquor” is an elegantly wasted house ballad, with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver as dyspeptic diva crooning under the amber waves of drank and teenage Chicago rapper Chief Keef playing the sad gangsta.
[Jay-Z’s] “Tom Ford” survives some lackluster rips with a whale of a Timbaland meat-grinder beat.
Seriously, what the fuck do those even mean? Dyspeptic diva crooning under the amber waves of drank? A meat-grinder beat? Good lord.
So, I’ll spare you of that. What I will say is that several songs from the album have made it to my iPod. That’s as good of a recommendation as I can give it.
My favorites, in no particular order, are Break You Down (this one’s the James Taylor sample), Mea Culpa, Tears In Your Eyes and 50 Ways (and this one’s the Paul Simon sample).
If the CD is 13 tracks (there’s a new version of Tears In Your Eyes as 14th track. That’s my only issue with the album—just give me the best version, not both), I’d say four songs are iPod worthy right away and seven are repeat-listening-worthy.
That’s pretty damn good.
All I can say is, if this is Shears still growing, I can’t wait to see where’s he at once he’s finished.
Go buy the album on iTunes, here.