We tap into Shakka’s sentimental side and ask him to list eight songs that mean the most to him, or have inspired his career thus far. Difficult task given all the amazing music in the world, but he did a stellar job. Have a look at his selection below…
Daft Punk – Digital Love
This came into my life when I was about 14 or 15. I had no idea who the song was by, I just knew it was on tonnes of different adverts – their publishing label were definitely doing something right [laughs] – I just never knew who it was. I asked around and spent ages trying to find it, then one day it just came up in passing conversation with my sister and she was like, ‘oh yeah, that’s Daft Punk. The album is called ‘Discovery’. I was like, ‘what!? I’ve been trying to find this song forever.’ I went home and listened to the whole album. That album was a turning point for me, because I never knew sounds could be put together in such a way… soul and funk in such a hybrid fashion. It was one of those reality check albums that directed me into making music… or wanting to make music.
OutKast – Prototype
This was a late one for me. I heard the album [Speakerboxxx/The Love Below] in 2003 when it came out, but this didn’t sink in at all. I was too high off song like ‘Spread’ and ‘Roses’, ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’ and the rest of the songs. I had a prom in Secondary school… it was a euphoric time. We had all passed out exams, we were all pumped up, we all wanted to do something stupid but we were too scared of the repercussions, because that’s what London is like… [Laughs]. We were just jamming and I performed a song with my band. A friend of mine was a dancer and had a mix of different songs to perform with and at the beginning of it was ‘Prototype’. To that part of the music, he pretended to be waking up and that song and that visual for some reason just stuck with me. It just reminds me of that time, being and feeling so euphoric. There’s nothing advanced about it, there’s no fanfare or bells and whistles. It’s just a guitar, a bass line and a drum pan – and simple drum pan albeit. This song provided the soundtrack for many different parts of my life, including relationships and all that stuff…
Sweet Like Chocolate – Shanks & Bigfoot
This really put emphasis on how important UK garage was/is to me. I saw this hit number 1 on ‘Top of the Pops’ and I saw it stay at number 1 for a while. I was 11 when that song came out, so I wasn’t in the raves with everyone else listening to this music. I don’t really feel the same sense of ownership for UK garage as I do grime or any other UK hybrid music, but when I heard this song and saw the video being played on TV, I felt like I was part of it. I felt a little bit more ‘cooler’ about who I was; the way I spoke, the way I acted with my friends… This was competing with songs like ‘Miami’ by Will Smith and ‘Thong Song’ by Sisqo and all those types of songs that were around at the time. So when this came out I was like, ‘what the hell is this?’ It was a powerful thing. It had a powerful impact on me.
The Pharcyde – Drop
There’s an amazing producer called J. Dilla and I discovered him when I heard Pharcyde, ‘Drop’. I went to music school (not many people know… I attended music school on a Saturday. It was called The Centre for Young Musicians) and there was a lesson called creative song writing, or song writing class… and the teacher was called Sorana Santos. I’ll never forget her name. She’s still a good friend to me to this day. She thought it was very important to have this lesson so that you could express your musical tastes and how you saw music in addition to learning the piano and guitar etc. So in this lesson she played the video for Pharcyde ‘Drop’ and for those who know, it’s one of the sickest videos ever made because the whole video is backwards. It’s a sick video, the beat is bananas and the flows were stupidly amazing. I was just like, ‘what!? People rap like this? Songs are structured like this?’ It was just so sick for me. It was kind of a turning point because I loved rap, but I didn’t know this sort of rap existed. I guess that was sort of my research period. Around 14/15yrs old when I found out about Daft Punk, found out about Dilla… I wanted to know more about those musicians and how they did their stuff.
Adele – Hometown Glory
I was jealous when this song came out. I heard her voice and I was just like, ‘this isn’t fair.’ It was undeniably British and it was exquisite. I love the way it was written. I didn’t hear an American accent, I didn’t hear jive talk from the 70’s and 60’s I heard Adele and it just resonated with me. “I like it in the city when the air is so thick and opaque…” and you’re just like ‘Yes! Yes! I do’ She never once mentions London, but if you know, you know kind of thing. Gladys Knight used the phrase ‘caressing the notes’ as opposed to singing them and that’s what Adele does and I hear it. She’s not thinking about singing to perform, she’s thinking about telling a story and taking you somewhere. It’s very good escapism music and inspired me to write more stuff that was me… if that makes sense?
Bob Marley – Waiting in Vain
There are so many reggae songs… I could go off on reggae and I know I’m going to kick myself when I read this back for not mentioning certain songs, but this song… Pffffffffttttttt. There are musicians and there are songs, and there are artists who are timeless. There are very few songs that just connected with everyone, that’s damn near impossible to do. Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Bob Marley did something that was virtually impossible, this song more so as reggae started in the ghettos. Reggae was left over music made by people who supposedly didn’t know how to make music. Rolling Stone magazine and many others were calling it ‘three chord music’ until ‘Catch a Fire’ and ‘Exodus’ came out and it was realised how much of an impact this music was having on people’s lives. I’m such a sucker for songs that say everything I want to say to a girl “from the very first time I placed my eyes on you, girl/my heart said follow through” It’s so spot on. It’s just simple, honest lyrics and then the groove! It’s ‘Waiting in Vain’, Bob Marley. I can’t say anything more than how amazing that song is. If you had a speaker the size of a building and plugged your iPod in and played that, the nation would dance to that song. No one would care about noise pollution on that day.
Wiley ft. Dizzee Rascal – Take Time
I don’t even know if this is still on YouTube, but Wiley made a song called ‘Take Time’. “You’re growing up too fast, take time. Slow down, look after yourself/So, don’t worry about the street, take time. It’s all good if you hold it down/So, don’t be involved in the trap, take time/You don’t know them people, you’re beggin’ it…” Grime was always very dark. Grime has always been dark. It was kind of like a defence mechanism for MCs. If you were hard, no one would challenge you and grime obviously borrowed many aspects from hip hop, including the braggadocios elements. So when I heard that song, it became a lot easier to defend the art form as an art form. I could tell someone, ‘it’s not just about this or it’s not just about that.’ Before this, it was difficult for me to explain to people why Dizzee’s first album was sick, or why he is such a good MC. Rock heads or even hip hop heads… there were just some people who didn’t like grime. They didn’t connect with it. It just seemed like a niche genre, or a little boy genre that wouldn’t go away and now its dominating the charts. People like Labrinth doing songs like ‘Neva Soft’ with Ms. Dynamite, or Tinie Tempah doing ‘Pass Out’ …it was so necessary for that genre to grow, so that people could see how it actually does connect… (And it was British).
Words by Trina John-Charles