Album Review: Shyheim Nwadiei — Calls of the North Wind
Hibachi!!!! Not the grill but the greeting used by Tulsa artist Shyheim Nwadiei . The self-proclaimed “Shy Guy From The Northside” burst onto the scene with the release of his first project “Shy Guy: The Midwest Masquerade” . But if you listened to any of his music than you know that when he raps, he’s anything but shy. He’s got bars. He’s got a crazy delivery. And a flow that is sure to have you tongue-tied when trying to recite his lyrics. There’s no doubting his gift . And it’s these same characteristics that helped him land a spot on of the The Fire In Little Africa project, the most influential albums to ever come out of Tulsa. A project that featured over 60 artists was a space where Shyheim was able to shine and show why he was picked for this once in a lifetime project. The Fire In Little Africa project isn’t the only thing that Shyheim accomplished this year because the whole time he was working on his own project. Something that would further push him to his calling. An album, “Calls of the North Wind” . An album we will deep dive into. But first let’s understand just what the word Hibachi means.
[Hibachi] Really just means fire to me, and everything that entails that. Something that’s dope of course, and of course energy, something that continues and never dies, as well as passion and strength.
Calls of the North Wind features 9-tracks that starts off with Shyheim Nwadiei in conversation about finding the North Wind so that he can embark on a journey home. The African style drums insinuate that home isn’t Oklahoma, but a place further like Africa . The home. The motherland. A wise calming wind sounds in the background of the track. This is the North Wind which usually signifies the changing of seasons or in this case a way to change within . And it’s at the end of track 1 that Shyheim foreshadows into some of the tracks and subjects that make up the project.
Then track 2 starts, Aye Scissortail (Tap in!) . Oklahoma’s state bird is the Scissortail Flycatcher. True! But it seems deeper that just that, especially with the line. “A birdie full of poison” . This reminds me of the canary birds that would go into mines. They went in first because they are more sensitive to dangerous gases than humans are. If the canary died, the miners knew there were dangerous gases present and would they would leave the mine. Is Shyheim leading us to the motherland while at the same time realizing that he himself has evils that he needs to shed along the way? He repeats, “I’m just tryna be righteous!” The first verse is the representation of all the interactions you’ll see or experience in Tulsa. He vivdly paints the mindset you’re in when from Tulsa . The second verse sounds like the internal struggle of trying to grow vs what others expect you to be, which is a subject that will be revisited throughout the project. “My wings clipped by hope.” you can tell this isn’t a microwave album. And that’s Shyheim, nothing is surface level. There is always intention and reasoning behind what he says. Even the ending of the track that listens in on a conversation where Shyheim realizes that he needs to leave the northside to find his way. This is an album with a concept, a meaning, and most importantly substance.
So I can burn the crops of yesterday
Your the garden for the sprain that keep me bolted to this frame
Like I can’t leave this narrow path because of pain, my nigga
Leaving the northside is not a new idea, Many have left, many have left Oklahoma altogether and went to Texas. So when you get to Posted (Stoop Kid) you immediately know this feeling. A feeling that keeps you from growing, keeps you from having new experiences. Luckily the North Wind is pushing Shyheim to his calling. But in the same breath there is still that little doubt that tries to hold him back. The saxophone captures this tension but more so of an internal battle that occurs whenever you’re wanting to try something new. This line line sums up just that. “Posted! I’m the ghost of who I be”. The ghost of who you are that’s causing this internal conflict. That will try to anchor you in uncertainty of leaving the Northside. But again it’s the North Wind that helps to propel him forward and also throughout the track he’s gives some dope advice Like in the line. “Be symbolic for uncomfortability.” If that don’t motivate you to grow then nothing will.
Isselle. I’m gonna be honest. I don’t even know what this word means. But the real question is. What is this place? Toward the middle of the track, the strings dance along the beat and set the stage for Shyheim to explain just where this place is that he’s calling home. Issele-Uku . A city located in Nigeria that is heavily populated with Nwadieians. “You trapped inside the circle of the commas”. It’s this imagery that makes you see just how different the American way of living is, it’s one of the evils that must be shed before returning back home.
I lay her down like tar
Let my rock invade her cave
See stars on her breathe escape
How much can she take
When I deescalate
Talk to Me is a track where Shyheim is looking for answers. He even says, “I’m tryna find my Hibachi.” This is a song that really showcases his ability, he comes out of the gate slicing through the beat like a ninja with a finely crafted Katana, his clever bars puncturing the exhaling saxophone. At time his sword moving so quickly that he barely has time to take a breathe to get to the next bar. But we still need money with the answers, “Make it Rain Dollars for a young scholar”.
Make it rain dollars. Flood my people out the hood.
What if you could be a billionaire ? More specifically, what if you could be the billionaire from Tulsa named George Kaiser? Shyheim answers this question on his lead single “Kaiser” . The track has an up-tempo pace and a BeBop feel with an improvised ad-libbed intro that you would hear when listening to Jazz. Interestingly this is also the only track that has a credited featured artist, which happens to be the talented Zzaj , I like how it’s a lyrical track but also the fact that he lets the track breathe. You get to vibe out to it. The video is a testament to the feel-good vibe of this track. Shyheim is seen two stepping, living carefree. And Zzaj at his side. This is how we imagine all Kaisers’ live. But it’s also nice to dream about how the other side lives. No doubt if Shyheim had that kind of money that the world would be a better place .
Bayonetta is so deceiving of a song because Shyheim’s delivery is so smooth and player that even if he said the word bitch. I don’t think you could be offended. But also Bayonetta is a Japanese video game about a female heroine that also has the ability to manipulate the wind. Could this be a woman somehow detouring him on his way home? Either way you can tell by the way he raps about her that this ain’t no puppy love.
Badger is interesting by the title alone. Sheim may be one of the first rappers to have a song titled Badger, as well as a little history lesson about their winter patterns. His metaphors burrow deep into the beats. But don’t hibernate on this track, because it’s easy to get caught into the bop of the track and get lost in Shyheim’s smooth delivery. His words jumping from bar to bar like a gymnast. His delivery powerfully punctuating like a gymnast sticking the landing.
“Praying for a day where the blue and red don’t pay my landscape”. The way that Shyheim comes in on Heliocentric Theory (Where The Wind Took Me) makes you want to rewind the track just for those 7 seconds of acapella verbal assault . This is the one I need dj noname to drop a bomb on! This track ups the caliber and lets people know that he really does this rap shit. There’s no holding back . This is part of the journey. Showing that you’re strong enough to endure it all. And if need be you can show them that you can dish it out too. The album ends with Shyheim still on his journey home. The wind carries his words and this album throughout the winter or better yet, hibernation.
What can I say about “Calls of the North Wind” that hasn’t been said. One thing is that Shyheim is credited with producing 4 tracks on the album. For such a cohesive album it makes sense that he would want that extra level of creative control. Secondly, what I like about the album is it’s Afrocentric beats, and rhythms, the jazz instrumentation , the improvisation, and the ability to make a way when there wasn’t supposed to be a way that makes this album so great. This is an album that you can’t just listen to once. Because I guarantee you’ll miss something. Each listen is like unlocking a new level even if it’s just a mini-level that takes you more inside of the mind of Shyheim Nwadiei. The album is Hibachi!!!
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Originally published at http://www.tulsalines.com.