BEST NEW TRACKS: MALAY AND 6LACK - SHAOLIN'S THEME/PRAY
On “Shaolin’s Theme/Pray” producer/rapper duo Malay and 6lack capture the menace, mystery, and nuanced life of Shaolin Fantastic, from the original Netflix Series The Get Down.
Shaolin Fantastic, brilliantly portrayed by Shameik Moore, is a complicated character - which is likely true for most young black men struggling to survive in the urban jungle of NYC in 1980. While the rest of the Get Down Brothers are coming from a place of privilege, being young enough to still have a safety net, Shaolin’s out on the streets, getting it done and doing what needs to be done to survive. It’s a case of the ends justifying the means, with Shaolin going to any lengths necessary to become the new Grandmaster DJ, spreading the ecstacy and the endless party of The Get Down - a name for the new style of mixing instrumental cuts, or breaks, from soul, funk, jazz, and rock ‘n roll records.
SHAOLIN'S THEME/PRAY - MALAY AND 6BLACK
It’s hard to say whether or not Shaolin Fantastic is even a good person - although he is undoubtedly a wicked turntablist, that much can’t be argued.
On “Shaolin’s Theme/Pray” rapper/producer duo 6Lack, backed by Malay, capture this shadowy, complicated existence, with trancey persian string samples; locked, hypnotic rhythms; and 6Lack’s call-to-prayer. It’s not the first time the street life has been given a nearly mythological, religious spin - think “Gangster’s Paradise” by Coolio, with its gothic church bells accompanying stories of violence, redemption, and doing what must be done to protect yourself and your loved ones in a system that not only WON’T, but is actively antagonizing you.
“Shaolin’s Theme/Pray” doesn’t keep with The Get Down’s throwback electroboogie sights and sounds, interestingly enough, sounding entirely modern and au curant with its gauzy beats and hazy melodies. It offers much more depth and emotionality than a lot of male-fronted hip-hop from the early ‘80s, which was still in the “Hey/ho/put your hands in the ay-ai-r!’ mode, at that point. Malay’s production showcases Shaolin’s inner world, making it not only a totally banging new single, but also outstanding soundtrack work, ADDING to the scene, rather than taking it over.
Does The Get Down ever get old? At We Are: The Guard, we say NO!!! It just keeps getting better, apparently - like retro Pumas and Kool Moe Dee 12”s.
J. Simpson occupies the intersection between criticism, creativity, and academia. Based out of Portland, Or., he is the author of Forestpunk, an online journal/brand studying the traces of horror, supernatural, and the occult through music, fashion and culture. He plays in the dreamfolk band Meta-Pinnacle with his partner Lily H. Valentine, with whom he also co-founded Bitstar Productions, a visual arts collective focused on elevating Pop Culture to High Art.