Video Exclusive: Shakk | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Shakk is an emerging rapper from Middlesbrough, who is making a name for himself with his thought-provoking, and emotive lyrics, along with raw, eye-catching live performances. He follows up his debut EP ‘I Am You’, (which earned him a spot on the BBC Music The Biggest Weekend Fringe event, Twisterella and Lindisfarne festival as well as airplay on BBC Asian Network and BBC Introducing shows) with Butterfly Trees. 

From the sci-fi sounding opening track, Breathe, to the previously released, chilled-out Summer anthem, Friends, to the reflective title track (featuring Jack Craggs), this new offering demonstrates an artist growing in maturity and cementing his reputation as a versatile and proficient songwriter who is up there with anyone else making music in the North-East right now.

We chat (from a distance) to the talented hip-hop act about his new releases and in return, Shakks gifts us with an exclusive look at the brand new video to Butterfly Trees.

How are you? And how are you keeping yourself occupied now we’re on lockdown?
I’m feeling great. I can’t complain. I have a roof over my head and all the essentials. I think times like these really put things in perspective. Creating music has always been my anchor and I’m grateful I have a positive vice to keep me occupied. This lockdown is giving me a chance to revisit things that I’ve kinda neglected over the years. I’ve been reading more, refining my skills as a musician and on the hunt to learn new things. I’ve turned this lockdown into my training camp. 

When did you start rapping and who and what inspired you to do so?
I first started writing lyrics at 12 years old after being introduced to rap by my older cousin. I bought my first pair of decks that same year with money I’d saved from past birthdays. It was a pair of Technics 1200’s. Then I got the 1210s shortly after. The rest is history from there. I made my name in the local rave scene as an MC and by 13\14 I was performing one hour sets with the people I looked up to at the time. I was just a kid performing at over 18 raves. I don’t think I would get away with it these days. The events were always filled out with up to 500+ people too, great times. I think the experience and confidence I gained performing live at such a young age really has stuck with me to this day. Once I left school at 16 I moved to London and studied music at Kensington and Chelsea College in Ladbroke Grove. That’s where I met my good friend Wax who introduced me to AJ Tracey and other great rappers and producers. We would all constantly be working on music at Wax’s mum’s house haha. During those times I really learned my craft and honed my skills as a musician. I’d say there’s a good chance that I wouldn’t be rapping or making music now if it wasn’t for those experiences. 

Tell us more about your new EP, Butterfly Trees.
This is only my second EP. For someone that has been around music for a while, it’s crazy to think that I only debuted in 2018. I’m still a baby in the game in terms of the amount of songs I’ve released.  My intention for making music has never been for money or fame. The goal is to be able to live through my music. I want my listeners to come on this journey with me. I want them to feel more connected with every song. The Butterfly Trees EP is like a mini album. There is a current theme running throughout and I’m really proud of the full project. Everyone involved like Chris Davison, London Mastering Studios, Kracken Cinematic and Jack Craggs have all contributed so much into making this an amazing experience. I couldn’t have done it without them and I hope everyone enjoys it as much as we did making it. Butterfly Trees represents a new beginning and how everyone deserves a chance to reinvent themselves. I think that’s a message that’s more relevant than ever right now. 

You released a video to the title track, Butterfly Trees, to support the release. What’s it about and how does it tie in with the song?
You could say the song itself is a form of social commentary. At the core of what motivates me to keep going and one of the things that stops lyric-writing from becoming monotonous or boring, is finding a way to contribute to society in a positive way. Naturally, I tend to write about my environment and as I’ve matured I can see how important it is to highlight some of these harsh realities within the music. Not only is it a form of therapy but it gives hope to people going through similar things that need it. I usually like to have a storyline running throughout my videos but for this one, in particular, I just wanted to capture the natural beauty of our area. Ultimately the song is about never giving up. I’ve worked with Kracken Cinematic for all my videos for this EP which include Friends, Breathe and Sunrays. We have developed a strong partnership and I think that has become evident in the videos. He’s really exceptional at his craft. We managed to hit a few spots for this one including Darlington, Middlesbrough, Stockton and Saltburn. I can’t wait for you all to see it. 

Jack Craggs features on the track. How did that come about and what was he like to work with?
I initially wrote the song for myself to perform but after working with Jack and hanging out more often I knew he was the man for the song. We get on like a house on fire. He is a multi-talented artist and a dream to work with. I can’t help but see big things for him in the future. 

Have you got anything else in the pipeline?
I’m not sure whether I will be concentrating on an album or EP this year but I am always writing and recording new songs. I really like the idea of releasing singles. I think that’s the route I’ll be heading once the EP is released. You can also catch me performing new music on The Georgian Theatre’s Facebook page on the 4th April. I can’t wait for that!

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