Still Shadey: The Croydon Baby who's emerged from Britain's hip-hop underground

Thursday 24th October 2019

Tony Cummings spoke to the Croydon-based rapper with the string of xRhythms hits, STILL SHADEY

Still Shadey
Still Shadey

Britain's rapper Still Shadey has been making steady progress and 2019 has to be his best year so far. Shadey (real name Luke) took the big step of going into full-time music this year, his tracks "Everything Changed" and "Rhetorical Questions" have made it to the xRhythms playlist and now his latest and best album, 'Croydon Baby', has produced three more songs - "Shadey's Sermon", "Follow You" and "Oily" - which you'll be encountering on xRhythms in the coming months. Clearly, a talk with this passionate emcee was overdue.

Tony: Would you answer to the name Shadey? What is your real name?

Shadey: "Yeah, Shadey is cool. My real name is Luke though and part of the story is that my name means 'to give light' so that explains the background of why we're still walking in shade and you can't have shade without light shining."

Tony: Did you pick up the name after the Eminem record came out?

Shadey: "I would say it's a strong coincidence but 85% of the jokes I get are to do with 'The Real Slim Shady'."

Tony: Tell me a bit about your life? Have you always been South London-based?

Shadey: "I'm 23 years old, born in Brixton. Our family house burned down when I was three or four so me and my family moved a bit deeper on the South side to Croydon and we've been there for 20 years now."

Tony: Croydon has quite a reputation for being the home of grime and drill. Would you have considered yourself an artist of either genre?

Shadey: "I consider myself a Kingdom artist. I believe everything was created out of his hands. Boxes are something I really frown upon as I dabble in a lot of sounds, mixes, melodies and tempos. I've explored naturally as I've been exposed to the grime and caught on a lot less to the drill side but some of my music picked up bits naturally. Rap has always been my first home; growing up on Nas, Jay-Z - artists who really took their sound slower to 90-100bpm. So I'm a rapper with rhythm and poetry and you can't put too many poems on the faster, grime beats."

Tony: Before we move on, I notice that Hope Dealers are from Croydon. Do you have any dealings with those guys?

Shadey: "Yeah, I've come across them as the area is a small place - they've been, should I say, the ambassadors of gospel drill? In all things, give thanks I guess."

Tony: Your album, 'Croydon Baby', is out now and it's got a lot of tracks on it - 17 in fact - was that recorded over a long period of time?

Shadey: "I work quick but I'm also happy to take time. The first song was completely produced at the end of 2018 with my team of two producers and an engineer. Intentionally though, I wanted to make a body of work that had longevity when we're in a 'junk food period' of music where people want it now and they want it quickly - consumption is crazy. I felt very ambitious with this project and wanted to prove across that grain that music can still last. Like when I was younger, there were vinyl with 23/25 tracks on them so I wanted to bring it back to that stage and have people not listen to it all in one sitting, instead taking a few listens to experience the depth of creation that was put into the record."

Tony: You mentioned using the two producers; do you always use the same guys?

Shadey: "For a long period of time I've worked with Emmanuel Sampa and he's one of the main producers on the album. I believe in fellowship with creators along the board so coming across new styles through different creators/producers is quite an active thing of mine. But with this project being very personal to me, it took people really understating the mind of the creative so I preferred to sit in a small circle with them and fully understand the process. So very small, very tight and long term. But I'm not going to boarder myself off from other parts of the body that love to create and have my type of sound, that's still important."

Still Shadey: The Croydon Baby who's emerged from Britain's hip-hop underground

Tony: Is your music targeted at non-Christians, Christians or both?

Shadey: "It's both. Every time I'm creating a song I have to really gauge what my intentions are; who is this song for? What is the topic? Why am I writing it? I've been a Christian for three years now and I believe the mission of a Christian is to speak with the masses - not as in terms of great capacity, but in the terms of everyone around the world needing to hear the message. I believe every soul matters and, as a rapper we're really evangelistic so I feel like I have a desire always to package it in a way that non-believers can hear it but regardless of that intention, we can never lose ourselves by edifying our brothers and sisters by realising that we are different and the world isn't going to like us at the same time. It's a crazy balance to try and maintain your intentions and keep them healthy because I've seen, heard and learned how peoples' desires should be credible and received by the world can lead them to a destructive place. This music is for the world."

Tony: Two tracks off your album have made it onto our playlist and I would like to talk about them a little more. The first one is "Everything Changed".

Shadey: "That one is very personal to me. I literally wanted to create a moment in my musical journey to pinpoint a dramatic switchover where everything changed. It was a 2018 release where I was celebrating the transitions of my life and my decisions to lead me to where I am now; having joy, having peace, having love and having purpose. I wanted to celebrate that in a cool, charismatic and charming way and that just created 'Everything Changed'. It was something I wanted everyone to enjoy and relate to."

Tony: Before we move onto the story behind the other song on our playlist, I'd like to hear about your personal testimony and what were the circumstances which led you to become a Christian.

Shadey: "All in the name, Still Shadey; a man that was in the shade which we can depict as darkness and mystery and being dodgy. Those were a part of my lifestyle at one point - one person that was involved in gangsterism, crime, violence and drug trafficking; all the things that make my heart grieve at this very point of my life when I think how can I be in such darkness. I asked God that question and it really was a revelation of showing me that, despite those places I was in, his grace was still there, just I couldn't access it. Now I see that darkness no longer as a place of darkness but shade; I found hope, retribution, reformation and transformation. So I feel like being in that life really exposed me to all the things that the world could offer and it was scary for a young man like me to go through all of that and none of it was satisfying. I had a void in my heart that none of those things that I was chasing could fill."

Tony: Reading between the lines, does that mean you were brought up in a Christian home and that there was some sort of churchgoing going on before you made a full-on commitment?

Shadey: "That's a great discernment. Yeah, I was brought up in a Christian home. Had a bad relationship with the encounters I'd had at church which made me quite rebellious in my early teens. I would say personally I'd never had an established relationship with Christ until that place when I came to see his saving grace for myself at age 20 and that's when it completely transformed my whole viewpoint on life. That's when I came to know purpose and true fulfilment."

Tony: Were you rapping much before then?

Shadey: "Definitely, I wrote my first song at 13. My old stuff is still out there on the internet today. I keep it there as evidence to the testimony."

Tony: You have an album called 'The Light In Shade' which has a lot of swearing on it.

Shadey: "Not too much. 'The Light In Shade' was my transition. It was 2017 so still off the milk of the Word and growing in my faith. I see the innocence, the desire and the heart of a young Christian who is seeking to put out a message but is still going through the sanctification."

Tony: I understand you're now full-time.

Shadey: "We went full time at the start of the year. We're growing and God's been faithful in 2019 and just with the response to the album itself and being able to talk to you. We've got a headline show at the start of December this year and planning to do a UK tour early next year. Signed on with KB Records, an independent label of which I am a partner, that was founded by my producer Emmanuel. Creating avenues to champion excellence in the Christian community."

Tony: Back to the other song I mentioned earlier - "Rhetorical Questions" has had a lot of exposure on xRhythms. Can you tell me a bit more about that track?

Shadey: "'Rhetorical Questions' is the perfect example of a Christian who needs to be speaking on topics that the world has a heart and a relationship to. I was touching on a lot of themes of society that was occurring today in London and in the UK as a whole - like knife crime, drug trafficking and gangsterism along with a little bit of politics as well. Touched on a lot of those themes and released it at the start of the year with the intention of engaging with an open audience with a heart and a viewpoint and why I feel some of these things are happening. I spoke very clearly at the end why I feel these things happen; the absence of fathers in our homes and how that has the effect on some of the issues that I am asking about. That was a personal one of mine, 'Rhetorical Questions'."

Tony: Any plans for overseas touring?

Shadey: "Yeah, hopefully. We have a few European dates in the pipeline - Edinburgh, Paris has a date booked but I'll go anywhere that God takes me. I learned earlier on a proverb; 'Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand'. And that's just revolutionised my perspective but I really like planning. After all, we do need to plan but being reminded of the words of James; 'what is our life but a vapour, planning tomorrow when it'll plan itself', so balance is key. I can tell you a bit about the blueprint of the mission that we're looking at but I'm really excited to see where 2020 is going to take me. Around the globe, prophetically already seeing that this message needs to go to certain parts of the world. There's still a perspective of music in the Christian scene is not good, especially in the rap culture, but we want to dispute that because not only are we great but we are the best and we know where these gifts come from and we really need to honour that by putting it on a standard that the world can see and be moved and touched by along with receiving that same desire to know how and why we carry what we carry. Ultimately that is Jesus, that is the mission and where that needs to take me the Lord's will be done. I hope to do this for a long time." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Tony Cummings
Tony CummingsTony Cummings is the music editor for Cross Rhythms website and attends Grace Church in Stoke-on-Trent.


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