Record Review: Raleigh Rapper Shame Defines Himself on Genesis 98 | Record Review | Indy Week
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Record Review: Raleigh Rapper Shame Defines Himself on Genesis 98 

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An embattled scrapper, Raleigh rapper Shame is no stranger to quarrels with other local rappers and challenges in his personal life, but he's never tried to pose as the brooding tough guy. After a two-year stream of respectable mixtapes, singles, and EPs, he's finally got a full-length record: Genesis 98, inspired by the summer of 1998. The year was a defining era in hip-hop culture, delivering classic albums like Lauryn Hill's The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Outkast's Aquemeni, and DMX's It's Dark and Hell is Hot.

Shame's Genesis 98 acts as his own defining moment, to not only demonstrate that he can make a cohesive project, but to shed some of his baggage and make a statement about himself as an artist. He harnesses his summer of 1998 inspiration in a way that doesn't sound like a flagrant imitation, rather a solid interpretation. For the first four tracks of Genesis 98, Shame keeps a subdued, moody feel, best displayed in the track "The Edge." There, producer Arcane employs a steadily eerie horn sample, setting an ominous tone akin to early-nineties Spike Lee films.

However, the middle of the album takes a detour into more modern sounds with more energy, as on "No Smoke," which features vocals from R&B crooner Ethan Taylor, and "Drink and Smoke." The songs are good, but they out of place enough with the rest of the album that it changes the course of the rest of the project. Instead of maintaining the level of energy that "No Smoke" teases, the rest of Genesis 98 returns to a distinct nineties feel, and unfortunately doesn't come back up for the final three-track stretch. The album's later tracks comprise its heaviest section, especially in "Broken Souls," where the rapper unpacks details of a toxic relationship in haunting detail.

Shame's rap flow is impeccable, which he leverages effectively to sort his way through issues like his relationship with the mother of his daughter, social strife, and how it relates to him as a minority trying to make a mark in America. By the end of Genesis 98, Shame gives listeners a glimpse into his soul with a finished product that's emotionally heavy and requires multiple listens to fully grasp.

But Shame's lyrical heaviness, combined with his mostly stagnant adherance to a throwback atmosphere, keeps Genesis 98 from getting far off the ground. It's a well-executed catharsis, but it lacks the energy needed to propel Shame toward bigger, brighter spotlights.

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