Talking with Shadowpact

LEO Weekly

Speaking with the members of Shadowpact, it’s easy to understand their appeal. Comprised of emcees Sleye Kooper and Modern Marvill, and producer Artemis the Archer, they are engaging and kind, which is reflected in their work. While it may not be an intentional aesthetic, there is almost no hint of that hip-hop braggadocio so part and parcel to the genre — replaced instead by an earnestness and passion for what they do, and backed by an undeniable confidence.

They got their start as you do, one foot in front of the other. Kooper and Marvill gravitated towards hip-hop in high school before meeting up with Artemis, gathering their skills along the way.

“I took my rap career from being drunk at high school parties to Dragon Ball Z puns,” Kooper said.

It escalated quickly. Since 2012, the trio has been performing and releasing records at a steady clip, including a string of singles, a full-length, an EP and some especially amazing sets.

“You look at our first show at Solidarity: It’s the same people dropping stuff. Dundiff. Touch. The scene really evolved at Forecastle. If the Louisville scene was a volcano, then that Mercury show was the start of that, then that Forecastle set is when it blew. What helped the scene evolve was the attention that the media [gave] after that Forecastle show,” said Marvill.

The members of Shadowpact have a deft handle on their pen, crafting some of the cleverest and pop-culture fluent rhymes in the game, a fun Easter egg hunt with each repeat listen. They know a clever turn when they hear one.

“Going into a Shadowpact track, we [only] curse a little bit,” Kooper said of their choice of words. “So our curse-to-verse ratio is already pretty low. I don’t know — when I curse, I want it to mean something. I’m not editing that shit out, because I put that shit in for a reason.”

That sharp wit cuts both ways. Sleye recalled a quick change made at a show that called for a little softer language: “So, we were playing an all-ages show, and this shit made me laugh mid-set, drop my mic, and walk off the set. On ‘No Comment,’ Devin goes ‘So I pooped on a loose leaf.’ We didn’t prepare for that. And I looked at him like, ‘You didn’t say this.’ I just died. I couldn’t breathe.”

That tension between pursuing art and keeping the lights on is very real for Shadowpact, and in limiting their time, it impacts their work.

“Some people look at it like, if you really love it, that would be success,” Marvill said. “Success to you would be to work off music. They might think that success is filling a venue. I don’t think that I will ever be 100 percent happy with a job. That’s our major goal — to be able to live off our passions.”

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Dom B. Feat. Shadowpact – “2016 Untouchables”
Is it possible to feel like something is too classy? Spoiler alert: no. But I challenge anyone out there to listen to this, and not feel like they need a smoking jacket and/or monocle. Well, that may skew a bit too “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” for this set, so let’s just picture that classiness in the back of a neon-lit bar, the cigar smoke in the air tinged pink, something on the rocks clutched in your hand and ill intentions on your mind. This is the kind of hip-hop that would inspire Frank Sinatra to ball — the sort where you imagine that a deal is being cut, and you might not like it, but dammit, you’ll respect it. Dom B has a measured flow, and paints a helluva picture, accompanied by Shadowpact, who compliment his work perfectly. Are they untouchable? I can’t speak to that, but this track will certainly make you think twice.

LISTEN: Dom B ft. Shadowpact – “2016 Untouchables”

I can accept the premise implicit in the title of the track: Dom B and Shadowpact are untouchable. I’m not sure if that premium expires at the beginning of 2017, but in the meantime I’m going to enjoy the righteousness of their rhymes. There is a classiness to this beat that I have to attribute to the horn section, but that is definitely backed by the lyrical prowess of all involved. Never has Shadowpact sounded grittier, here as back up for Dom B, who is coming out of the gates swinging with this track. There is a slow groove here that makes you feel like you’re going to sip bourbon in a dimly lit bar, hunched over in a black leather chair, decked out in a suit with no tie, the collar kind of open a little, because you don’t give a fuck. It’s cinematic that way and definitely gets into your head.

You can snatch this up on July 16th at the Mag Bar when Dom B drops his new full length. Based on the strength of this track alone we’ve all got a lot to look forward to. Clever rhymes and fly beats are the currency that Dom B and Shadowpact deal in, and our musical economy is all better off for it. Also, and I think this merits a little nod, but dig deep here for a dope shout out. Spoiler alert: blush. Listen below and try for a second to not feel like one ill motherfucker.

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Shadowpact – Ballad of Fallen Angels
Fuck yes. It’s been a minute since a new Shadowpact track, and apparently they’ve only been eating their lyrical Wheaties, so that they could come back stronger. As always, Modern Marvill and Sleye Kooper come hard with the clever rhymes and references, to the extent that requires your full attention to catch all the little bits. They’ve mastered that perfect balance of serious and fun, which somehow manifests itself in consistently excellent production, here by CAVE DWLR. Feel obligated here to put your shades on, and roll your windows down a little, when you hear the heat off this, which is less a measure of any kind of posturing, as the pair tend to eschew that particular hip-hop trope, and more about outwitting your problems.

LISTEN: Shadowpact – “Ballad of Fallen Angels”

It’s always a good day when you discover a new Shadowpact track. The always on point duo have a new banger by the way of Ballad of Fallen Angels, a sleepy cut that has a mild energy. At this point it’s a little difficult to come up with new ways to compliment the group, as they continue to satisfy on every level. The beat has a nice bounce to it, but that kind of thing that gets you easy chair riled, where you sit back in your jammies and nod your head to the beat, while you sip on your coffee. This is easy-listening hop, presented here as an asset. There is a bravery in keeping things light rather than relying on bright dynamics to propel a track, the sort that demands hands to be thrown in the air. Instead, Shadowpact have a confidence backed by their impeccable rhymes, and cemented by their flawless production values.

All told, this is a solid listen and offers much promise for their impending release. Relative to that, the text on the SoundCloud account lists that this album should have dropped yesterday. At the moment, I cannot find any trace of that, although that may be user error, and not a reflection of anything lacking here. Regardless, this is an encouraging glimpse into what’s to come. There is an easy air to this track reminiscent of something along the lines of Aesop Rock, Cool Calm Pete, orBlackalicious, a jazzy and ambient beat with a flow that reflects that. Listen below and dig into it.

WATCH: Shadowpact x Easterdaily – “Spacecars”

Hip hop trio Shadowpact are back with another video featuring a track from their Stone The Crows album. They spit bars on “Spacecars” and play video games with Charizard. On the couch at Spinelli’s, putting pizza in their bellies, Shadowpact and Easterdaily, fit together like toast and jelly.

Okay, that rhyme just took me 30 minutes and it’s not even good. This stuff takes too much time. I guess that kind of makes Shadowpact all that more impressive to me. I always thought this rap shit would be easy. Anyway, check out their latest video for “Spacecars.” It’s dope as fuck and makes you feel like you’re playing video games at Spinelli’s with your crew, even if you’re actually at some shitty office job where they don’t know they are paying you to write for Never Nervous. At least I’m not hungry…

LISTEN: Shadowpact – “Coup De Main” [prod. Artemis the Archer]

Battle raps are an intrinsic part of hip-hop culture, an aspect that I can mostly appreciate. I’m not a violent kind of guy and prefer diplomacy to rowdiness, unless you count any situation that requires a dance off to save a community center from greedy developers. I’m just not all that competitive a person, so when I hear someone run their mouth about something, for the most part I don’t really give a fuck. Who cares about being competitive? (spoiler: not me)

I’ve been called out for my writing before. Some of it was valid, and some of it read as the most sniveling crybaby shit that I’ve ever laid eyes to, but I’ve never felt compelled to get heated over it; you learn from life and move on. This is all to say that I’m a little conflicted over the concept at the core of the beef rap, as it can and has in the past skewed way too macho for my tastes, and I’m just not interested. Unless it’s funny. And goddamn do Shadowpact deliver.

To set the scene a little, back in the halcyon days of… fuck, I don’t know, sometime last year, Shadowpact played a set somewhere with an emcee named Illusive. So far as I can surmise, the central thesis to his beef here is that Shadowpact bounced early from the show, and in the process missed his set. You read that right: someone got angry (and maybe more than a little sad) and decided to throw down the gauntlet because another group had to go home. Because it was a work night, and, you know, folks have to get up early for work when they do that. You can refer to our first rule of Scene Etiquette for our thoughts on the matter, but I might also direct you to a different entry on that list that may shed some light on why anyone may put sleep above your set. And you can definitely point to this rule of Scene Etiquette about ol’ Illusive here, because as his name implies, he has no internet presence that I can find. Is this one crybaby or a pack of such? Listen below and get a taste of this wackness.

No more tears, guys. Honestly, it’s not the worst track I’ve heard, even if the central thesis is some seriously misguided fussiness. And yes, I wrote “fussiness” on purpose, because I know a baby when I hear one. The thing is, and this is what I don’t get: why not take the talent you have and spend it on making quality music instead of squandering it on this? I guess the answer is that no one would be talking about you unless you ride on the coattails of someone else, and I’m not sure why that logic is satisfactory for anyone. This track sat in obscurity for months and only got attention when it came to the attention of Shadowpact who do have the wherewithal to share things on the internet. Take that passion and turn it into something productive. Or have fun with it like Shadowpact did on their reply. Listen to that below, and get ready to laugh.

Fuck. These lyrics are killing me: “He’s the type that slits his wrists and cries playing AFI,” or “Slow dance to My Chemical Romance.” That’s some rascally haterisms, and while we don’t typically support that kind of thing you have to give credit to a funny turn of phrase, and one that equally eviscerates everyone involved: take that AFI and My Chemical Romance you’re collateral damage, bay-bee. Of course, Illusive has taken that piss in his pants (or their pants, whatever) and made a response to this, but it’s the kind of thing where people get called “faggots” and “bitches” and that kind of talk is horse shit. Fuck that noise, and get the fuck out of here. Get your plugs literally any other place than here.
And seriously: Shadowpact is not an Avengers reference you fucking twits.

Shadowpact Reveals Live Band

Since we’ve dropped Stone the Crows we’ve been focusing our energy on three things: our next full-length, collabing with other artists, and translating our instrumentals to be played by a live band. Being a hip hop group, our efforts to perfecting our performance is somewhat minimal. Artemis produces a track, we write to it, and we memorize our lyrics so we can perform the song at shows. Dealing with a live band is another ballgame; we’ve been practicing with the whole band once a week for over a month now and have played two shows and every time we’re sounding more cohesive. We plan to write some original music with the band and put out a short EP, but the progress depends on the response we get from our fans, which so far has been extremely positive. The band has chose to call themselves The Bad Wolves, taking obvious inspiration from Shadowpact’s clothing brand, Bad Wolf Apparel. Artemis is still behind the turntable and throwing samples in that enhance our tracks, but we also have four talented musicians on our side now. The Bad Wolves consists of Paul Robey (Blind Tigers, Common Collective) on bass, Neriah Romero (To Die Alone, Street Sense) on guitar, Jake Long (Street Sense, Middleground) on drums, and Taylor Marksbury as our vocalist. We look forward to seeing what becomes of this experience and hope you all do as well. 2016 will be one for the books!

WATCH: Shadowpact has a band now?

This video is from the Little Heart Records 10th anniversary show and it’s just under 13 minutes of Shadowpact rapping with a live band. I have so many questions. Is this permanent or was it a one time thing? Who are these dudes you’re playing with? The Shadowpact All-Star Funk Band? Are they going to record with this group? When are they releasing the brand new track “Liberty City” that they perform at the end? I’m not sure about any of that, but for now you can watch a piece of their performance below. Take the time out of your day to have a little fun with Shadowpact.

WATCH: Shadowpact – “Bats in the Belfry”

Are you ready to get spooked the fuck out? Well I wasn’t, but here we are. In fact, here I am 23 minutes after I was supposed to leave work sitting at a computer and typing about Shadowpact, because they’ve got that kind of power over me. That’s right: I could go home and kick off my weekend, but this video is fire like that and you all need to see it. Why you might ask? Because this song is the best and it’s super catchy. And the video is a fun, lo-fi horror romp that sees our protagonists apparently making an actual shadow pact with a bunch of robbed figures looming in the background who ultimately murders everyone and throws them in the Ohio river. That’s heavy shit, and a serious commitment to your craft that you would get into the Ohio on purpose for art; respect them.

The video is super fun and, I believe, shot by Allen Poe. It recalls the best of 80’s horror, which our man Phil here is obsessed with. It reminds me of those sorts of slasher films that would make Tipper Gore cry back in the day, the kind that freaks out all the squares and makes old people afraid of devil worshippers running around and ruining it for everybody, whatever “it” is. It’s just great to see folks having fun and leaning into the season with their work, and we are proud to debut this video here at Never Nervous, even if it means leaving work now half an hour after closing time. Watch it below and spread it to the masses.