The Narrative Shadowpact (Self-released)

LEO Weekly

There is a certain early-’90s quality to the production and raps on “The Narrative,” the debut album by Louisville hip-hop duo Shadowpact, and this is a good thing. The beats, courtesy of Artemis the Archer, are a little gritty, with plenty of jazz qualities thrown in for good measure — like a lost Digable Planets or A Tribe Called Quest record. The music skews toward minor key changes and thick bass lines, appropriate accompaniment for the personal rhymes laid down by emcees Modern Marvill and Sleye Kooper. That the two rep nerd culture, with references to “X-Men” and “Star Wars,” alongside raps about serious subjects like relationships and oblique political nods, is a testament to the breadth of the album, which cleverly jumps from subject to subject, remaining fresh throughout.

INTERVIEW: Shadowpact Gets Real About the Best Raps, the Whackest Sports, and Answers the Eternal Question of Star Trek or Star Wars!

Never-Nervous.com

Like a hip-hop Captain Planet, Sleye Kooper, Artemis the Archer, and Modern Marvill form to Shadowpact, which as you will read below is a speaking, thinking entity. Check this: they are the uni-mind. Suck on that Kree Supreme Intelligence. Recently they put out “The Narrative,” their first full length album, that we here at Never Nervous think is pretty fucking dope. We caught up with them for a rap session about their newest release, and to touch base about writing, music, and their preference in Star Trek or Star Wars. Read on for that answer.

Never Nervous: What got you into music? What did you listen to as a child that got you motivated to perform as an adult?

Sleye Kooper: I love being able to make a crowd of people smile and music is like the perfect way to do that. Well, my mom was a huge Elvis fan and I always wanted to control the crowd like him.

Artemis the Archer: I’ve always been passionate about music honestly. I’d say that Modest Mouse is what got me motivated to make music on my own. I wanted to create something as unique and inspirational as they had.

Modern Marvill: I was into music at a very early age. I remember listening to my dad’s cassette tapes of the “The Score” by The Fugees, and “Ready to Die” byNotorious B.I.G a lot, those might have been some of the first albums to really peak my interest in music as a whole, even though I was just a young lad.

NN: How did the three of you come to form Shadowpact?

Shadowpact: At the beginning, we were all working on solo projects, through a mutual friend and producer of ours, Zach the Ripper. Through him, is how Marvill and Sleye linked up, as Sleye was a featured guest on Marvill’s solo project, and vice versa. Then, as our projects progressed, we decided to start recording them over Artemis’s house, as she had awesome equipment and really knew her way around mixing and editing tracks. From there, Modern Marvill, Sleye Kooper, and Artemis the Archer all decided to do a group project, and Shadowpact was formed.

NN: How did the name Shadowpact come to be? Is it a comic book reference as one of our writers assumed? Tell us that story?

S: Honestly, since all three of us really enjoy comics, and superhero lore, we wanted a group name that would reflect a strong and powerful team, who worked together effortlessly to solve problems, and fight crime. We scoured some material, and ultimately came across the DC team Shadowpact. We all felt the name was perfect, so we decided to use it. Don’t sue us DC, we love you.

NN: Is the album title “The Narrative” meant to imply that there is one central or overarching theme to the album? If not, how would you define the title?

S: That’s sort of a yes, and no. We noticed during the making of the album, a lot of our tracks were conceptual, yet, they all still had an overall theme, or message, that the listener would have to put together themselves to figure out. So, while one track’s subject matter was about the highs and lows of relationships, and another was about secret government agendas, both still could be threaded into a complete Narrative about us as a group, who we are and what our message is. It’s up to you guys to figure it out.

NN: Do either of you play music, or do you just emcee? If so, what do you play? If not, why? What instrument would you want to play that you cannot play?

SK: I used to play bass really well, but kind of stopped as I got older and into hip hop. But, I want to learn how to play the banjo so I can go to the deep south and start bar fights.

ATA: This question isn’t really directed towards me, but I think I’ll answer it anyway. I started out playing guitar and still do from time to time, but from there I moved on to making instrumentals on my computer with various equipment. I actually rapped on our first ep though, that was pretty funny. I enjoy writing lyrics I just don’t think performing them is really my forte.

MM: I played the Flute when I was in elementary school, and failed miserably at it. Then I played the piano for a while, but ultimately stopped and never picked it back up. So mainly I just emcee. I really enjoy writing lyrics, it’s a release for me as opposed to putting together a melody on an instrument. However, if I could I would probably go back to playing the piano; it’s one of my favorite instruments, and I’m pretty bummed I stopped playing.

NN: How did you hook up with producer Artemis the Archer? What about honorary member Dr. Dundiff? Those two seem pretty busy making beats these days…

S: As we mentioned earlier, we hooked up with Artemis through a mutual friend, and she’s been a member of Shadowpact ever since. Dr. Dundiff however, we first met at the first show we did at Solidarity. He was spinning for N-Fact’s set, and we really enjoyed it. So, we attempted to connect with those two, and after a while we finally got a chance to. Dundiff did an instrumental for the EP we were working on at the time, “Tomorrow People“, and N-Fact was a featured guest on the track. It turned out so well that we really wanted to work with Dundiff on our album, and have him split production duties with Artemis, since their styles were similar. He agreed, and the rest is history.

NN: It seems clear that the division of labor is the producers make the music, and the emcees write the lyrics. How does that collaboration play out? Do you ever say no to a track or an approach to something, because it doesn’t fit the vision for your writing? Or do you write specifically to the beat?

SK: We work really well together, I don’t think we have ever said no to an Artemis beat. She usually does a fantastic job. We always write to the beat and let it tell us what to say.

MM: Usually if the instrumental is something I like, even if it doesn’t fit the vision for what I want to write about, I try to make it work. I’m pretty easy going when it comes to that. I like to write my lyrics to correspond with the instrumental, so I can usually switch up things to make them meld well. Basically, unless the beat is terrible, or something WAY left field, I can usually make it work.

NN: Tell us about the best show you’ve ever played. What about the best show you’ve attended? What makes for a good performance?

SK: I’d probably have to say the best show we played was our release show. There were a lot of people there with incredible energy. Artemis and I went to see Modest Mouse in Atlanta at the Shaky Knees Festival and I can’t describe how unbelievable it was; it was that good. We stood in the pouring rain for over an hour and I think that wait actually made it better because it made us appreciate the performance even more. I think to have a good performance you need energy and self-confidence.

MM: Hands down, for me at least, the best show we’ve ever played was our album release show. There were so many people there supporting us, way more than we had expected, and we received an encore, which I don’t think happens too often at local shows. That was just a very special night, I’ll never forget, and I think both Sleye and I were in top form, performance wise. Best show I’ve attended was Aesop Rock with Rob Sonic & Busdriver in Newport, Kentucky at The Thompson House. Aesop is one of my biggest inspirations, if not the biggest, and to see him live was amazing. His stage presence and ability to connect and interact with the crowd was top notch, and that’s really all you can ask for when it comes to judging a good performance.

NN: Lyrical content is clearly important in hip-hop. What makes for good lyrics? How would you define bad?

S: Rhyme scheme and subject matter are the main things that determine how “good” the lyrics are. Your vocabulary also plays a big role in lyrics. Basically those three work together to make something really powerful. Bad lyrical content is simplistic, not cohesive, and usually just about something really stupid.

NN: Is there any one thing that if someone does or doesn’t like, might make you suspicious of them? For example, I may question the tastes of someone who loves Def Leopard, or who hates tacos. Not saying it’s a deal breaker or that we couldn’t be friends, but I might not take all of their advice.

SK: I’ve been dating Artemis for three years now and she is the only exception to my rule that if you don’t like Dragon Ball Z we AIN’T cool.

ATA: If someone’s favorite band is Nickelback or doesn’t enjoy watchingFuturama….I’m judging you.

MM: Hm, not really. I feel like I’m pretty open minded to whatever interests or likes a person has, even if they drastically differ from mine. I might give them a funny look if they tell me that One Direction just put out the album of the year, but I’m not going to label them a terrible person and never talk to them again. Well, then again, maybe I would.

NN: Star Trek or Star Wars? Why?

SK: Star Wars…Natalie Portman.

ATA: Definitely Star Wars. I think my family sort of nudged me in that direction because they’re all nerds and prefer it to Star Trek. I’ve always loved everything about it though, the movies, the television shows, the toys, the video games, etc. I wish I was a Jedi…the closest I ever got was having a Padawan braid.

MM: Star Wars. I never liked Star Trek much. Granted, I never really watched it either. I did really enjoy the J. J. Abram films, though. That aside, I watched Star Wars and fell in love with it first, I don’t think Star Trek can compete. Shatner is the man though. Shouts out.

NN: What is the whackest sport of all time? Defend your position.

SK: The one where the dude slides a disk and two other dudes sweep, like I can do that in my kitchen; it doesn’t seem that fun.

ATA: Cornhole. Its popularity just shot up out of nowhere and I don’t understand the appeal.

MM: Golf. I can’t even give you a definitive reason really. I’d just rather watch paint dry than watch someone play Golf.

NN: What are your non-musical interests lately? Anything in your world worth reading or watching?

SK: Well I recently watched Samurai Champloo, which is an awesome hip hop culture infused anime and I saw Guardians of the Galaxy the other day and it was pretty great.

ATA: I’m about to start reading Bukowski’s Factotum, I’m pretty excited about that. Other than that I just beat Assassin’s Creed Black Flag and watched Son of Batman, definitely recommend both of those. Practically all DC direct-to-video animated films are worth watching if you’re into superheroes.

MM: Besides music, I love movies. I’d like to consider myself a bit of a film buff. The last film I saw was Guardians of the Galaxy and it was just fantastic. Before that I watched a horror film called House of the Devil, directed by Ti West. My really good friend turned me onto the director and the film, and it was brilliantly shot, like a retro slasher flick from the 80’s. Loved it.

NN: Finally, what have you been listening to lately, and why should we?

SK: Well, I have had the new Touch AC album on rotation for a few days now and it’s probably one of my favorite hip hop albums of the year, dude is ridiculous. Support the local homie.

ATA: The last CD I picked up was from Classy Mongrel from Owensboro, KY, if you enjoy M83 then give him a listen. Besides regional acts I’ve been listening to Modest Mouse (of course), (a Danish indie pop artist), and Deltron 3030 (who are incredible live, by the way).

MM: Lately, I’ve been listening to this hip hop artist from Chicago named Mick Jenkins quite a bit. There’s a song and accompanying video called “Martyrs” that is absolute genius. The social commentary behind the track is perfect and very thought provoking. I love his kind of odd ball flow, and the way he structures his rhyme scheme. His lyrical content is also top notch. He’s a really interesting artist. No official album yet from him, I don’t think, but there are a few ep’s he has released. I’d recommend him to any fan of hip hop, honestly. I think he can translate well with the indie, underground fan base and the more mainstream. Check him out!