The new single ‘Breathe’ from Middlesbrough rapper Shakk is a frantic and moving track. His rapid flow has a startling immediacy to it that is accompanied by a vibey beat and eery instrumentals. As soon as the vocals begin, Shakk commands us to “breathe”, and holds onto this for the duration of the track. Both the melody and bass sound like they’re breathing, just as Shakk instructs the listener to; the melody sounding like a siren with lungs. The incessant bass yawns quietly, contributing a subtle depth to the single alongside the regular backing vocals.
There is an urgency to the track, emphasised by the repetition of the main refrain “everybody just breathe”, which returns throughout the song acting as a breath of its own, and creating a pace that Shakk quickens with lyrical skill, rhythmically firing bars at us. He confesses, “all my life I’ve felt so different”, and this track suggests that Shakk is telling himself to breathe, just as much as the listener.
Towards the end of the track someone breathes heavily, a haunting addition that reinforces the single’s message and adds to the chaotic atmosphere. ‘Breathe’ fades away quite gently ending with Shakk telling us one more time to “breathe“, before the echoes end.
There is something about Shakk’s style that is reminiscent of some of Lowkey and Akala’s music: the hold, the pace and melody demand from the listener, the emotive lyrics and aggressive beat. What distinguishes Shakk’s song from some of his contemporaries is the honesty and desperation he conveys at times. It will be interesting to see what the up and coming rapper does next. In the meantime, remember to breathe.
By Rosie McCrum