Alberta, Canada, rapper Shifty Eyes struggled growing up. “I seemed to fit in with the kids from way harder families than my own,” he tells AAHH, “that lead to all sorts of unwanted exposure for a young kid … really, music was like an antidepressant and a vent even before it was a career craft my headphones were my go to.”
He was introduced to drugs at a young age; “I was introduced through prescriptions, which also led to other nasty things we won’t mention,” he says. “I didn’t break free till I found hip-hop as my vent in 2006—I got out from the self-inflicted bottom and started climbing to the point of self-awareness and confidence, which as an addict of any kind is extremely hard to do.”
“I kinda switched the addiction from cheap thrills and expensive life draining drugs to music and the hustle of real life responsibility,” he says.
We sat with Shifty, and he told us about his music, his life, and much more. Check out the full interview, below.
Explain your angle, Shifty.
I represent the devil kids the ones who don’t think they have the worth to make it out, and you don’t have to be raised in the ghetto to put yourself in the same situations, its lifestyle choices ultimately, and hip hop is the positive version of that lifestyle. Now as time has passed I have had three children and am focussed on building them a future that’s not defined by the same trials and tribulations or the false career limitations we seem to think there is while we grow up in this society.
Tell me about the music — describe your sound.
My sound is different, its like if you mixed boom-bap with trap threw some ice cube on it and shook it up like a Bond martini. To be honest, sometimes I feel the sampled boom-bap sound, and some days I am in super trap mode, but I tend to mix both genres and talk a lot of different contexts. I don’t know how to describe my sound as I don’t have a goal for it sonically I think that would limit my creativity, so who knows today you could hear me on some ATL Trap sound and tomorrow you may catch me on some rock crossover joint. I have fun with it all the same and am the same weirdo all the time, so really I like to think I got a little something for everyone in my bag of tricks even your grandma.
How did you get involved in music?
I have always been creative, but when I was about 13 years old, that’s when I was introduced to the art of Freestyle Rap. We were just young street kids getting into trouble around town, so really it was our way to pass the time, one of my older homies was really good at the time, and I remember we all would just waste time, years passed most of us got into even worse trouble none of us kept rapping really or made it into anything of a career venture at that time but later at about 16 after addictions and a heavy weight on my shoulders from bad experiences I used Freestyle as a vent and started to pursue it every day. Once I had my first son though I began to think about career options, where I’m from you, don’t have many career choices more like occupations. I did the whole 9-5 thing in many industries and kept rapping on the side, but one day we got a show and ran the venue, which was ridiculous, we had no clue what we were getting into. After that, I opened my first company, and we started throwing events. We threw our events that we would just perform at first but there were no others doing this in town at the time so with each show we had more artist who would want to get involved, which then turned to us throwing more significant events with more tremendous acts to help platform myself and the artists we worked with. This all led to me touring and changing the formula entirely, although now I am focussed on my craft a lot more and have the time to create the high material I need to keep myself satisfied.
Who/what were some of your influences?
As a kid growing up I think there was only a handful of us who listened to hip-hop, I think I got my first tape in 96 a Snoop Dogg tape, I remember my mom not liking the music that was on the tape and having to hide it! That whole experience birthed what is my career today, artist wise I would say the ones that pioneered my passions for hip-hop would be Notorious BIG, Tupac, Snoop Dogg, WU Tang Clan, Bone Thugs, 36 Mafia, Busta Rhymes, The Fugees, and more. And as for newer artists, I would say 50 cent and G-Unit, Game, Trae The Truth, Z-Ro, as well as artists like Lil Wayne and Kendrick Lamar; they’re the ones that had influenced me to use my original talents freestyling and to keep the organic to my music alive in more recent times. But, like I said, I like all music so this new stuff even the boom-bap and the trap is all very inspirational and a great example of how this art is continuously evolving from artists pushing to be different and more elite.
What have you released?
I have released a decent body of work over the last few years from singles and music videos to my mixtape A New Day that I released in 2015. But I have just started releasing the album material I have been building, and I am confident that my new content is going to double my numbers at least with the first release “Beast” already catching a great buzz. From multiple mixtapes ready to drop and a cache of visuals that meet my standards and exceed I think 2018 is going to be a busy year for sure!
What are you currently working on?
I have been shooting visual after visual recently building a cinematic story to go along with my debut album. At the moment we have a lot of material ready, but I am still in the studio making more records for the album until this upcoming summer, I am also tying up two mixtapes I plan to release in 2018, they are done, but I keep adding more music, so its time to just release the lot of it. We are in the studio tho over the next chunk here working on club bangers and radio singles, so I am sure we will have some more summertime heat to add to the fire later in 2018!
What have been some of your most significant achievements thus far?
This is a funny question, for me, I continually push myself to do better, so my goals are always advancing so I always seem to forget how far I have come. I have toured the US a few times now, performed festivals such as SXSW and AC3, got a feature with Kevin Gates in 2013 that I released on my first mixtape in 2015 which actually did great numbers on streaming platforms such as Apple Music and Tidal, though most recently I have got to shoot the visuals I have always wanted and to add to that got to co-star with a young Tiger in L.A. for my highly anticipated video for “Beast” I think I am the most excited to see things coming together in my vision as I’m the most critical person when it comes to my craft. This is stuff that I dreamed of doing five years ago but didn’t think I would be doing at all. But like I said its a funny question I would like to believe that I haven’t accomplished anything really to keep the hunger alive and stay humble, although I am proud of the work I have done and greatful for all the blessing I have had and have been able to pay forward as well!
What are your goals in the industry?
I plan to make a footprint, really that’s all the plans ever been. I want to make music that reflects my outlooks and experiences in my way while using positive actions to reflect what I am about. I feel the music is only a small percentage of my overall goals in the industry, and I plan to branch the brand out into as many outlets as possible to connect with as many people as possible. I think with being an artist we have a responsibility if we are doing this as a career, I want to help as much as I can to advance the culture more and more as it grows. I plan to keep supporting artists like myself find pathways to their success along with my journey as well. There is just a lot of two-bit hustlers all over the industry who won’t work for you passionately, so I think the more of us who are actually helping other dedicated artists reach the right platforms than the music is only going to flourish more which means the fans will have more access to some of these artists as well!
What’s next for you, professionally?
Well after we release some visuals over the holidays I plan on touring in the new year to promote the upcoming album and single releases. After this, though I plan to stay performing as much as I can and making music in between to keep evolving as an artist always. But yeah, the primary goal now is to meet the fans and potential fans and stay working as much as possible till the album drop next year after that its back to touring I want to be face to face with as many people as I can to share the energy I have when performing.