|35mm-Progress #1. Courtesy of Tay Shakir.|
Sometimes the best expectation is no expectation at all. The element of surprise is a complementary ingredient to the element of jubilance. The two can naturally go together if cheffed up correctly. This is the best way I can describe my initial feelings for how it felt rocking out to Progress by young Baltimore producer extraordinaire Tay Shakir.
Last time I heard from Tay Shakir, he had just dropped a brand defining, notable collaboration project with Rahkai given their journey together and candid perspectives on their hometown. “Switching My Lanes” became a bop for months to me and got me through my China adventures. Rahkai obviously shined on the project, but many times, Producers are unsung in the levels of dexterity that it takes them to produce hit records. There are countless examples to state in this modern musical climate, but the focus is not on them today: it’s on Tay Shakir and his Progress project properly showcasing him as a cogent producer and curator.
When you hear Progress, Tay Shakir is THEE star in his own world as other notable characters of his universe join for effortlessly good collabs. This canny ability of Tay Shakir’s to draw great people together for a project centering himself for once simultaneously speaks to his ability to have good friends in good ass rapping places. Each track of Progress retains Neoclassical Hip Hop sounds in this modern time without sounding forced or feeding into the negative, pedantic stereotypes of the Boom Bap instrumental paradigm. I played the entire project through 3 times with no skips from my speakers. My future children are just going to have to realize that when they hear Tay Shakir’s beats blasting on Sunday mornings, they’ll know that it’s time to clean the house.
Let’s chat about the features. We had 3 artists, but quality over quantity was emphasized with Progress. This is a funny juxtaposition of a statement given that the project itself contains 18 tracks, a number much more than the number of tracks on an average project. In addition, each track averages no more than 2 minutes and 30 seconds for most tracks on Progress. All in all, you love to see it.
Samurai Lim captured my ear and attention with his guest production on Tay Shakir and Rahkai’s WELCOME TO KHAOS, and he has shown me that lightning can indeed strike twice. The Samurai slices up the beat with a filthy ass bar structure throughout his verse on “Vijnana” (Track 2), once again holding up Ahriel Nari’s Golden Track 2 Rule.
Got to keep it simple
Ain’t multiplying with the fam, you get subtracted
Exponential growth the change you see in me drastic
I don’t do a lot of talking, I execute action
Stretch you to your limit and then pop you like elastic
The last two features appear in Track 6, “Love Me Tonight” feat. Rahkai and Destynee. Rap is the most poetic musical genre in history that also happens to be the closest musical genre resembling William Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter (argue with your favorite respectability politics music gatekeeper), so it makes sense that well-done rap love ballads are fantastic as they are natural. Rahkai is a hardcore ass dude [#IYKYK] , but he steps out his Warrior element of the Divine Masculine as exemplified on Khaos to storytell in the Lover element of the Divine Masculine about a beautiful one night stand.
I’m not psychic, but as soon as I stepped in, you hit the light switch,
Jumped on me, loved on me/
Had me pinned down, I couldn’t buzz shorty/
But please don’t hold a grudge, because after that it’s over/
Past relationships left my heart colder/
When I woke up, you was still at my place,
Looking over my shoulder, with a grin on your face
As cool and excellent as Rahkai is in delivering his Method Man “All I Need to Get By”-like vibes and clever rhyme schemes, Destynee’s innocent sentiments and layered raps paint vivid pictures of the beauties that can come in letting the wonders of sexuality just be. Destynee’s verse + outro singing vocals are the musical personification of butterflies passing you by in a group as you stare into the distance of a lush flower field. Whereas Rahkai did a lap up on his verse, Destynee slam dunked hers.
We finna build
Think it, into existence
I may have thought of the future more than you
But right now–we know what we finna do now; do you!
Wouldn’t move, your eyes from mine, third mind, said it was full
…Hand to face, hands from waist, hints from face
Up to another dimension, next day I gotta mention….
You can pick your favorites, but sequencing truly does matter if trying to fully enjoy Progress. The experience for me was having a smooth platform that allowed for the songs to flow into each other one after each other. That is the Maurice Valentino recommendation. My other favorites included “All Night Long”, “Fantasy”, “Men Cry Too” and “Hold You Close”.
Lastly, I grilled one of my Baltimore favorites on additional questions I had behind the making of the magic.
MV: How long did it take you to make such a project?
TS: Well I started working on this project in April, but in order to get to this level i has taken me 4 years. I started producing in 2015 so technically 4 years.
MV: What were you favorite samples and why?
TS: My favorite samples on this project are:
“Julia” by Ramsey Lewis which is the sample for Vijnana. It’s such a beautiful song and a perfectly structured jazz song. I had a lot of fun chopping it.
My second is definitely Gloria Taylor’s “How Can You Say It”, which is what I sampled on “Men Cry Too”. It’s a perfect example of soul music; and in my opinion, it is my best sample chop I’ve ever done. If you listen to the original and compare it to my version, it’s crazy.
MV: Why the name Progress?
TS: This album was originally named Vijnana which means “consciousness”. But, after a while, I wasn’t happy with it so I started over with a new name. Then, it was called Progress & Violence which was to symbolize the connection between violence in the Black community and how it hinders our progress as a people. Soon, I became unhappy with how it sounded, so I started over again but this time I dropped the Violence & it became Progress. It was to symbolize my personal progress as a artist and Black man.
|35mm-Progress #2. Courtesy of Tay Shakir.|
It ain’t hard to tell like an Old Skool Escobar rap track that Tay Shakir has a brilliant mind, using it as a loaded weapon in the world with his art as ammo. Intentionality means a hell of a lot, and not only does this Baltimore gentleman incorporate this concept, but he balances it with a valiant level of ambition in order to make his impact in changing the world. If Baltimore has more Tay Shakir’s, then the city’s future is in great hands.