A link to the past: Shadowpact’s new video game themed EP, ‘Respawn’

LEO Weekly

After taking a break in 2016, Shadowpact has returned with Respawn, a video game-themed EP that takes risks with delivery, production and narrative structure. The hip-hop crew of Modern Marvill and Sleye Kooper and Artemis the Archer — whose last release was 2015’s Stone the Crows — receive extra life on Respawn through their collaboration with DJ Shaheed, who adds an airy lightness to the production, haunting and ephemeral, counter-balanced by tight trap work.

At five songs, the album is set up to thematically mirror the general structure of a video game, with each piece telling a part of the overall story. Shadowpact has explored the tonality of video games in the past, for instance on their bit-crushed debut full-length, The Narrative. But, where previous tracks have used the musicality of classic gaming as a sample source of inspiration for references, the material on Respawn is an abstraction, a sublime evaluation of gaming on a cultural level.

“It’s a video game theme more in conception,” said Marvill, who splits time on the mic with Kooper. “I mean, conceptually, we wanted to arrange it in the things that you see in a video game. The first song is called ‘High Score,’ the second track is ‘Respawn,’ about our rebirth, the third song is ‘Cut Scene,’ and we’re rapping back and forth. And we wanted it to be a strong comeback. We wanted to do something that reflected that. ‘Boss Fight’ is us overcoming all the stuff that happened in 2016.”

When I met them at the Hideaway Saloon on a recent Sunday night, we sat down at one of the many video game systems to warm up. Lifetime players, the members of Shadowpact brought the melee heat down on both ‘Super Smash Bros.’ and ‘Super Mario Kart,’ both for the GameCube. Everyone had their strengths and weaknesses at Smash Bros., but turns out that producer and live DJ Artemis is absolutely untouchable at Mario Kart.

It’s a lifetime obsession that started at a young age, in some cases part of family life. “I really liked Pokemon on Gameboy and Unreal Tournament on PC with my Dad. Stuff like ‘Duck Hunt,’” Artemis said. Unlike everyone else at the table, she claims to have never tried to kill the dog.

“He’s the worst character in video games,” Marvill added.

For Sleye, “I was in kindergarten or first grade, and the PS1 had just come out. The school that I went to had a card that would come out that would tell you about your behavior. My dad said if I got five greens in a row (green indicating best behavior), I could get a PS1. That Friday, my teacher laid some shit on me, and tried to give me a red. I told the teacher what the deal was and laid on my impeccable charm also shed a couple kindergarten tears and told her I’d be on my best behavior if she gave me a green. I lied.”

Backed by Bryan Puckett and Little Heart Records, the trio came out of the gate swinging with The Narrative, an offering that feels fresh, but never inexperienced. Featuring collaborations with Dr. Dundiff and Touch AC, the album established the prowess of both Marvill and Kooper as clever emcees, and Artemis as a producer with an ear for a solid hook. Their follow-up, Stone the Crows, saw Shadowpact digging into a higher energy, almost-pop-influenced hip-hop style with long-form storytelling and thematic exploration.

Other than a handful of singles, they remained relatively quiet in 2016. That time off had a profound effect on their outlook. According to Sleye, “I feel like people have stopped caring about our music and have forgotten about us so we are trying to stand out. Taking risks is what you have to do to stay relevant and to be original if not you just fall in the same wave as the other hundred million rappers in the world.” •

Shadowpact’s latest record Respawn is out now, and available to stream or purchase via Bandcamp.


Shadowpact: Respawn

LEO Weekly

It’s been a minute since the last proper Shadowpact release, with 2016 punctuated by a string of singles. While not quite the long play that you’d hope, Respawn is a fantastic addition to their slowly growing canon, and one that builds ably on its already remarkable catalogue. Here, the band plays on video game themes, not an unexplored continent for their work, but it’s a compelling narrative arc and one all too familiar to anyone under the age of 45, as gaming has consumed so much of the public consciousness. They dig into this less from a production angle, rarely using bit-crushed beats, favoring instead the ephemeral and atmospheric, rounded out by the superlative raps of emcees Sleye Kooper and Modern Marvill, loaded as always with nerdy references.

GAME WEENIE #3: Shadowpact plays Marvel Vs. Capcom!


As we mentioned before, we love talking about music here at Never Nervous, but when there’s an opportunity to write a few words about retro video games I really can’t help myself. That’s why we decided to create a new series of videos where we pit two members of the same band/group against each other as they play a retro video game of their choice from my library. We’re calling this series Game Weenie, which is a stupid play on words (Game Genie, get it?) but again, this is more or less a fun excuse to blend our love of games and Louisville’s music community.

The third Game Weenie episode features an epic Marvel Vs. Capcom showdown between Shadowpact emcees Modern Marvill and Sleye Kooper on the Sega Dreamcast. They stopped by to record a recent episode of The Never Nervous Podcast to talk about their excellent new EP Respawn (listen to that episode here). Afterward, we recorded this heated head-to-head MVC matchup.

BYMI: Shadowpact Respawns For A Killer Show with Dave. & Goodbar at Spinelli’s!


Saturday night at Spinelli’s downtown location was special. It was Shadowpact‘s release show for their latest EP Respawn. Upon entry, the uncommon essence of the show was apparent from the moment you walked through the door. Unless you were under 24 years old you probably felt pretty out of place walking through the concrete foyer into the Spinellis basement. “Why do I feel like I’m at a skating rink right now,” I asked my wife. I didn’t know about Trash Colony.

I don’t have video or pictures of Trash Colony because you couldn’t get to the front of their ultra young crowd. I could hear them however, and they sounded like if Wu-Tang were 16 and based out of Louisville. It was quality hip hop with great boom-bap beats. This may not be your thing now, but keep an eye on these guys, I know I will be.

Dirty Flannel Dave followed Trash Colony. He’s someone I’ve been trying to catch for a while on a solo show. I loved his Dirty Flannel album and he lived up to all the vibes of it. Dave is a unique thrift wordsmith who gives zero fucks about what you think of him or the way he dresses.

The highlight of the night was easily Mr. Goodbar. I think he’s graduated to “Dr. Goodbar” at this point. His live shows get better every time he performs and Saturday was an unforgettable performance. Not only did he and Dat Boi Dunn absolutely set the room on fire, but hearing Goodbar talk about his love for the city and the people in it was truly inspiring. If you haven’t been to a Goodbar show, change that ASAP!

Shadowpact came out like they had a point to prove, and to be honest that was the only way to do it following Goodbar. They certainly held their own and the tracks off of Respawn go hard live. They went so hard that it’s nearly impossible to catch a decent picture or video of them because they jump and dance so much. They put everything into their performance, including their own money for candy… such nice guys.

The true MVP of the night was “The Worlds Quietest DJ” Artimus The Archer. She DJ’d for Dave, Goodbar, and Shadowpact flawlessly. While she isn’t the “in your face” or “scream on your track” DJ Khaled type of DJ, it’s fun to watch her deep concentration on making sure the party never stops. Without her the show wouldn’t have been what it was.

Our six favorite local songs from February

LEO Weekly

Shadowpact — “Cutscene”

It’s a little uncomfortable that “Cutscene” starts with the lyric, “God this weather is beautiful / temperature typically suitable.” Delivered by emcee Modern Marvill, one half of the duo with Sleye Kooper, backed here by DJ Shaheed, there is something a little ominous. Combined with the chorus, “The calm before the storm / breathe in / Vietnam before the war / breathe out / before you grab your swords / know what you’re fighting for,” it’s hard not to take something equal parts beautiful and creepy. It’s February, and this weather is great, which is something to appreciate, but at what cost? Run that parallel to the current sociopolitical climate, and you’ve got a scary vision of the future: Enjoy your time now, but get ready to fight. This is a wonderful track that shows a lot of promise for their continued evolution.

PODCAST: Shadowpact returns to discuss their new EP, hip hop with live bands + more!


On the 32nd episode of The Never Nervous Podcast, we were joined once again by hip hop trio Shadowpact. The main purpose of their visit was to talk about their upcoming EP Respawn, which is due out March 4th. A release show is set to happen the same day at Spinelli’s downtown; go here for more details on the event.

Listen on as Jake, Thommy and I talk to Sleye Kooper, Modern Marvill and Artemis the Archer about their new tunes, video game soundtracks, and whether or not hip hop groups should utilize live bands at shows.

This episode of The Never Nervous Podcast is sponsored by Cumberland Brewery. For more information on this most excellent local brewpub, go here.

LISTEN: Shadowpact – “Cutscene”


Huzzah, jerks! Blessed be the day that new Shadowpact touches your earholes to sock your brain in the kisser. Are they bringing that Nintendo themed goodness? Yes! They have that magic drone and trap hits that you need. And that smooth, smooth flow, bay-bee boi. You put this on right now and bounce, because goddamn you need to. I hate to say this, because it’s kind of a big thing, but damn this has a kind of RTJ vibe going on, and I’m not sure that I can possibly lay out higher praise, especially considering that I’ve had 3 on constant repeat for about two months now. The production here by DJ Shaheed is as mentioned remarkable, matched only by the ever evolving and improving Shadowpact. That’s something, considering that to my mind they started off superlatively so; if they keep this ascension up they’ll soon leave behind their mortal coils and beam hot raps straight into your brain.

Look, I’m not going to argue about this. It’s riling me up today. Just put this on and see why I’m so hyped right now, bouncing in my chair at home, but not too much, because the kids are sleeping. Shush now for those quiet bops.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Be sure to tune into next week’s episode of The Never Nervous Podcast to get a detailed rundown on the making of “Cutscene” from Shadowpact themselves!

WATCH: Shadowpact, Mr. Goodbar & Shadwick Wilde at the NN X-Mas Party ’16!


For years, we at Never Nervous have continued to complain that there aren’t enough weekend shows that start earlier in the day. Seriously, why does every show have to start at fucking 9 or 10PM? I work a lot, I’m tired, and basically I ain’t got time for that shit, man. Whenever I get an invite to one of these shows that starts super late I want to scream like the Oklahoma St. football coach Mike Gundy: I’M A MAN, I’M 40! (I’m actually 33, but whatever.)

At last, we decided to take matters in our own hands and have a show/party inside NN Headquarters (My house) early on a Sunday afternoon. It was an invite only affair, so if you weren’t asked to attend, maybe next time. In addition to copious amounts of fun-making alcohol and delicious foods, there were sets from a few choice artists that have remained close NN companions. We were lucky enough to feature a trio of fabulous performances from Shadowpact, Mr. Goodbar and Shadwick Wilde (Quiet Hollers).

Our good friend Wes York was kind enough to document the event by making a video chronicling our mini-festival of good vibes and solidarity. For the most part, this was a celebration of not only Never Nervous, but of how awesome our community is in general. Everything went off without a hitch, and everyone had a fuckin’ blast.

WATCH: Sloe Pink feat. Shadowpact – “Crush”


Sloe Pink is back with some more fire visuals, this time for the song “Crush.” The track features Shadowpact, and the three together make an entertaining group on both the song and the video. The song is a grimey jam with an old school vibe, no straight hook, just three stellar verses.

The video is directed by Luis Bowman and, no joke, this dude is talented. Playing on the title of the song, “Crush,” the video features each MC being crushed in a different manner. Sloe under a shoe, Sleye in a bench vise, and Marvill between a car and a wall. As simple as those shots could be, Bowman is able to make them last through entire verses simply through a few angles of each and clever editing. It’s seriously an impressive video that only helps to back up an equally impressive track. Check it out below.

LISTEN: Shadowpact – “Stay Down” [prod. Nick B]


Another day, another single from Shadowpact. That may seem written in resignation, as if somehow wearied by the incessant flow of awesome from the dynamic duo of emcees Modern Marvill and Sleye Kooper and their revolving door of producers, but it’s anything but. A slow and steady stream of solid bops has, whether intentional or not, developed a tension for a new full length; can’t we get like half an hour of dope beats and clever rhymes, please? The world is a rotten place full of villains and villainy, and seems to get worse every day; what we need is more lines about nerd shit and going hard at life, because why not.

With Stay Down, Shadowpact have pared down the references for a more traditional lyrical take on hip-hop, the classic “we’re awesome, deal with it” routine made famous by, well, pretty much every rapper in history. There is a playful Beastie Boysvibe here, which is bravado infused with a little self-doubt, or at least so it would seem from my perspective. But then, and this is real talk, despite the fact that I have a BA in English and write on a daily level, I still get this kind of thing wrong on the regular. That’s the joy of art though: it’s subjective.

The beat is a little grimier than their usual, with production on this cut by the undeniable Nick B. It’s been nice to hear how the pair mix with outside collaborators, and they’ve proven that they have a good ear for quality. Still, it’ll be nice to hear more from erstwhile producer Artemis the Archer. And that’s not a knock at Nick B either. This track is great and he continues to shine.

Listen below and get into it. This track is a single from the now released Little Heart Records sampler, which you can get here.