As bright, bold and uplifting as UK Hip-Hop gets, Teesside rapper Shakk’s ‘Butterfly Trees’ EP brings the energy we all need to get through these trying times.
‘Just breathe, all this pain and bad energy must leave’ Shakk repeats on opener “Breathe”. The first song from this 6 track EP and arguably the most poignant of the entire project. Shakk manages to be uplifting yet braggadocios at the same time, his claims of sonic superiority enough to motivate you to smash any task in your way. Washing the dishes? Shakk will make you feel like you’re the best damn dish washer in the country – and you’ll be proud of it.
“Sunrays” slows the pace down slightly, Shakk adopts a slighter more mellow energy behind the mic. He’s already proved on many a track that he can spit with pace and precision, so he knows there’s no pressure on him to demonstrate his ability as a rapper for the sake of it anymore. Despite an opening monologue that walks the line between cringe and inspirational, it gets quickly forgotten as Shakk fills your ears with sonic sunshine. The ability to paint a vibrant picture with his lyrics is a rare skill, your mind is suddenly bombarded with positive imagery that transports you to a happy place.
“Friends” is another track that delivers an instant shot of positivity, this time with an earworm hook that’ll be stuck in your head for days. Prepare to be reminiscing about those summers spent in parks with your mates, Shakk is the master at inspiring sun-kissed nostalgia.
Throughout this project Shakk balances just the right amount of consciousness and playfulness, putting the breaks on at the brink of becoming preachy. “When I Die” is a prime example of this skill, a track about the legacy you’ll leave behind after you die tackled with some upbeat energy. Again the monologue outro that questions how YOU will be remember after death crosses the line of cringe a little for me, but considering how bold and full of positivity this EP is one or two lines of cringe are more than passable.
The most fully formed interlude I’ve ever heard, “White Rooms Interlude” tricks you into feeling like Shakk is keeping the positive vibes rolling with the soft, almost elevator-music beat despite the lyrics being relatively gritty. “I kill ’em softy,” Shakk raps, a small bar that sums up his style on this EP in a nutshell.
The jewel in the middle of this shining crown of an EP is without a doubt the title track “Butterfly Trees” featuring Jack Craggs. Craggs’ soft hook elevates this track to another level, paring perfectly with Shakk’s woke, anti-mass media lyrics. Shakk also throws his hat into the melodic ring on this one with surprisingly smooth results, showing he clearly has more in his arsenal than just technically proficient rapping and thought provoking lyrics.
On the surface this EP is an injection of sonic sunshine and positivity that will do it’s utmost to inspire you and lift your sprits. But listen closer and you’ll hear a record that not only provides momentary relief from life’s hardships but questions why these hardships exist in the first place.
Shakk makes you feel like you’re drinking cans in a sun soaked park with your mates whilst simultaneously feeling paranoid about the government propaganda machine. It’s a weird pairing but somehow it works.