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.”

Concert Review: Jalin Roze, 1200, Touch AC & The Smoke Shop Kids, Shadowpact at Mercury Ballroom

LEO WEEKLY

Anymore it’s a herculean effort to drag my sorry ass out of the house. I have a baby girl at home. I’ve tried to teach her to cook for herself, and have even signed her up to Career Builder, because she’s got to pull her weight, but she’s just ornery like that. And at four months old, so you know, she isn’t always exactly sleeping, which means neither am I. That also means that the idea of going somewhere has landed somewhere near the bottom of my list. Regardless of the fact that the show Saturday night featured some of best hip-hop acts in the city and that it was free, this dude just wanted to doze off watching Twin Peaks at 9:30, because that’s how my life is now.

But, I ended up actually dragging my sorry ass out of the house, even convincing my gracious wife to make it a date. We got to the Mercury Ballroom early, like the un-cool codgers we are. The venue wasn’t quite so packed as I figured it would be, although that wasn’t an issue for long. The folks at DO502 had a Wheel Of Fortune-type game set up, which I gladly played because “free drink” was one of the prizes. And I got it, because the power of my mind is fierce.

The show opened with Shadowpact and goddamn those kids brought it full-force. The crowd wasn’t quite fully formed yet, as people were still slowly filtering in, but they played like they were performing in a stadium. As is often the case, the sound man wasn’t especially generous to the opener, giving them something noticeably quieter and with less impact, as if there was some kind of premium on volume or righteous beats. This seems like a common practice, and one that ought to be retired at this point.

Touch AC was up next, joined this evening by the Smoke Shop Kids, a live hip-hop/funk group. It was great, and built on that energy established by Shadowpact in a complementary way. Touch balanced his own material and collaborative work, which made for a nice mix throughout. Jalin Roze brought a similar energy, backed by many of the same members for a set that was equally memorable.

It’s safe to say that 1200 stole the show — surprising when you consider his time spent performing is, I believe, less than a full year. Like Shadowpact, 1200 was backed by DJs, but he also brought back-up singers, and had all sorts of fun crowd participation moments — and it was more than the traditional throwing of your hands in the air, a good thing as my inner-punk rock kid bristles at being told what to do. And it was incredible. His set was such a rowdy banger, with beats thick with sub-bass combined with his background in classic composition and untouchable emcee style.

Whether he was jumping into the crowd or having roses thrown into it, 1200 commanded the audience like a fucking boss, and brought the hype to my tired old bones, despite it being well passed my bedtime. It was truly a banner night for local hip-hop.

REVIEW: A FREE NIGHT OF LOUISVILLE HIP-HOP

Louisville.com

“Free” usually comes with the connotation of poor quality, but this couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to DO502‘s first Free Week series. In fact, last night’s final show at Mercury Ballroom proved it to be a complete success. Powerful, engaging performances from Jalin Roze, 1200, Touch AC, The Smoke Shop Kids and Shadowpact made Saturday a memorable night for Louisville hip-hop.

Being fairly new to Louisville’s hip-hop scene, I can soundly say I am impressed and excited for what’s to come. These emcees blew me away with their ability to perform, collaborate with one another, and pack an audience. Everyone showcased original talent and more importantly love for their city and fans.

Shadowpact brought the initial vibes to the crowd with a confident duo. Modern Marvill and Sleye Kooper immediately engaged the audience with “No Comment.” These young dudes are fun to watch and pack some clever rhymes about seemingly nerdy pop-culture references.

While, Shadowpact was entertaining, I am always more engaged when a full band is backing an emcee. The Smoke Shop Kids were invaluable to the rotating cast of rappers. I really mean “rotating” too. During Touch Ac’s performance guest after guest shared the stage. It was honestly hard to keep up with, but I still wanted more. I kept thinking “if this is only the second performer; I can’t wait to see what’s about to happen next.”

I wasn’t let down. Jalin Roze has the ability to energize a room with a seemingly chill flow. Don’t get me wrong, his performance was definitely energetic, but there’s something about him that relaxes you and keeps you grooving all at the same time. I think he is so captivating because of his authenticity. It’s obvious he carries the essence Louisville’s culture right on his back.

1200 marked the end of the show, but not the vibes. An already untouchable energy pumped through the crowd and 1200 demanded more. He’s a showman. A real performer with a bold statement. “Was this really a free show?” He made me feel like I had paid to be there. Igniting musical emotion in the crowd and interacting with eager fans made for an intimate and powerful performance.