A talented group of Guyanese/British cousins, Chief Shadow is the collaborative hip-hop duo of Leicester's Jafro (also known by his inventive moniker Shango The Thundergod) and his brother in arms, Anansi, a multi-genre artist from South London. Although the two artists have been working together for a number of years, their focus has always been primarily on their own solo endeavours, cutting up the UK’s underground scene with a vast array of grime, rap and basement hip-hop.
Their debut album as a single musical force, ‘Why Am I So Tired?’ arrives as a hefty collection of twenty-four diverse hip-hop cuts, striking out with transient elements of reggae, indie, and gospel soul. Opening with ‘Prayer For Change’, the albums breaks ground on a melodic wave of melodic RnB, laying the foundation for the rapper’s manifesto to flourish. Seamless in its tone and melody, ‘Prayer For Change’ sets the tone for album, combining textured social commentary with expansive musical compositions. An impressive track, ‘Prayer For Change’ lays down the foundations from which the rest of the album expands, setting in motion that deft RnB sound that permeates through all Chief Shadow’s creative whims.
‘Need To Know’ flourishes through a vibrant stream of more pop-influenced sounds, while ‘Let’s Talk’ showcases an impressive stream of rapid-fire vocals that collide with moments of emotive, near-spoken word delivery. Further afield, ‘Solar Powered’ rattles with distinct Latin vibe, piquing your interest and parting the waves of the RnB sea, a neat creative trick that resurfaces in ‘I’m On A Wave’. Clutching to the same sort of erratic energy that comes in hip-hop’s novel skits, ‘Kush the Wave the High’ rolls forward, while ‘Being Broke Revolting‘ echoes early shades of Dizzee Rascal, holding tight to the grime aesthetic.
A monumental collection, the album continues with more diverse cuts like the self-referencing ‘Go Chief Shadow’ and the eye-rolling ‘Send Nudes’ and ‘Big D Energy’, incorporating more contemporary electronic influences alongside their more traditional RnB sounds. Aiming for romantic balladry, ‘She’s Bad’ slows the tempo before ‘I Need’ and the title track bring everything to a strong, rewarding finish.
One of the most expansive release we’ve come across this year, ‘Why Am I So Tired?’ is both blessed and cursed by its diversity. There are moments of genuine and unparalleled hip-hop originality where the duo managed to create their own sound and push their own message, but it’s falls between more generic cuts that, while pleasing, hit you with an instant sense of familiarity. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but in a time where hip-hop has become a vastly oversaturated market, audiences are constantly looking for something more, and while the sheer size of Chief Shadow’s debut record is impressive, it doesn’t always have that spark that holds you to it.