Shadez The Misfit: “Black lives have always mattered from being the catalyst of culture, lifestyle and more” [Interview]

South-London based rapper Tazar Sancho, more commonly known as Shadez The Misfit, has always had a convoluted and meticulous approach to art. In early releases such as ‘What It Is’ his poetic approach to the mic is instantly magnetic, Sancho using his vocals as an instrument towards the latter-half of the single. Visually, he sparks even more intrigue, often toying with tones, perspectives and shots throughout his career. Across his debut EP ‘Ne Plus Ultra’  — translating to “the highest high” in Latin  — Shadez explains that he likes to “take his time” and he has honored that exact sentiment, honing in on developing his artistry. He tells me that he “likes to let things marinade” during our conversation and is considered with his artistic outputs.

Shadez The Misfit has also experimented in fashion, attending the London College Of Fashion in his early adulthood. His foundations in the field have left their mark on his career as he often implements style into his artistic offering. In 2020, the rapper is more than ready to step back into music and recently released his first song in over two years ‘2B3’. Standing as yet another introspective single, Shadez shares that he felt particularly spurred to release due to the latest developments in the Black Lives Matter movement globally. “We need to remove the victim mentality and really organise moving forward,” he states.

As he readies ‘2B3”s housing mixtape ‘South Side Raised Me Father God Changed Me‘ Shadez The Misfit talks to GUAP about the music business, artistic growth, travel and blackness.

Shadez The Misfit | Photo Credit: Shenell Kennedy

GUAP: You’re an artist who has a strong history within the fashion industry. What was your journey in that industry like?

Shadez The Misfit: I would say my first major shift within fashion and understanding the industry was from a young age being a teenager and at the time everyone looked the same due to trends. JD and Footlocker were the first place for attire and footwear and just being fed up of looking the same and giving in to this peer pressure-based concept of clothing and footwear. This time forced me to look into creating my own out of pure individuality but was inspired predominantly by Pharrell, André 3000, and the actor Robin Williams, who took clothing and style to a place I wanted to go personally and just admiring their taste, this helped me to understand fashion and style further.

Due to my passion for the arts  — clothing especially — attending Ernest Bevin which is a sports college, I was selected for a young and gifted program to do a short course at London College of Fashion in Menswear. This helped me to understand the fundamentals of crafting clothing from pattern cutting, sourcing fabrics, learning techniques to creating mood-boards, research and concept creating.

Name your top three fashion brands and tell us why they are essential to you?

With fashion and style, I often look further into brands who are known for doing a particular item very well. For example, Louis Vuitton is mainly known for luggage, Moncler for jackets etc. When delving deeper into clothing, accessories, footwear and fashion as a whole from an outfit perspective, I personally purchase or wear from the intent of style, comfort and what honestly suits my silhouette day to day even down to functionality.

My top three brands I would say in current rotation with the personal intent in mind would be a blend of both luxury and affordable items. I love the simplicity of brands like Cold Laundry, Mc Overalls, Arhto fused with high end accessories and items from brands such as Burberry, Ice rocks from mixing with footwear mainly from Nike, Converse, New Balance and Dr Martens. For me it varies based on the occasion, the intent behind the outfit and just personal comfort.

As an artist’s name, what does ‘Shadez The Misfit’ mean?

The name ‘Shadez The Misfit’ has developed over time during my career but was created to remind me that I’m not here to follow the status quo in anything I do or pursue. ‘Shadez’ when I was younger was synonymous with just being the cool guy and was birthed from just being popular in school mainly because I was able to be cool with everyone. When watching cartoons every character that was cool had shades on, now the meaning is more personal and for me a meaning that I’m a shadow in God’s light with ‘The Misfit’ meaning to stand out and follow not just my own beliefs but that gut instinct that has separated me from the rest.

Shadez The Misfit | Photo Credit: Shenell Kennedy

Were there names prior to Shadez The Misfit or has this been a consistent moniker?

Shadez The Misfit wasn’t a constant name due to my street affiliations and ties; I was mainly known as Younger Birdie Roth for a huge period of my youth/teenage life being involved in gang culture and that name alone came with its own expectations representing PDC [Poverty Driven Children] even down to my family name, my last name being Sancho. I think the name Shadez was paying homage to the past but not wanting to be a shadow of others, expectations including a lifestyle that a lot of people wouldn’t be able to survive, whilst shining a light on that darkness and the life lessons learnt. 

You have frequently cited André 3000 as an influence before. What specifically inspires you and how has this helped your career to date?

I have always admired André 3000 as an artist from his avant-garde approach to music and song writing. His raps and how he conveys storytelling in such a way that makes you think further to even his unapologetic style and taste, having that same perspective of being from the hood but wanting to better yourself as an individual let alone a man in progress. 

What really inspires me personally is anything that allows my creativity to thrive whilst exploring the energy and intention behind the creation. To create experiences that go beyond the realm of online and offline and connect people, help them to understand and at the same time evoke emotion that speaks to them and to those who don’t necessarily have a voice. This has helped me to always have a holistic approach in everything I do, making sure I have a concept throughout with key themes and imagery, even down to how I would like people to receive it before I even start to create the music and sound design. Collating images and music that make me feel emotion or evoke emotion so I can understand and interpret in my own way when carrying out the concept-based music projects I release.

Your last project was ‘Ne Plus Ultra’ released in 2016. How long did it take you to create this project?

Creating ‘Ne Plus Ultra’ didn’t take that long, I would say it took a year and a half to create the songs but to further develop the sound design, the collaborations and receiving the parts to construct the holistic theme pushed it further a good few months so two years in total. I’m always mindful of time when creating a project but also letting it sit and marinate for a while to come back with a new perspective and clear head when finishing it off. It’s easy to get lost in a project when you’re in the thick of it so taking a step back allowed me to really appreciate not just the process but the body of work when completed.

Thematically ‘Ne Plus Ultra’ translates in Latin as something that is essentially “perfect”. What urged you to explore this particular theme? 

‘Ne Plus Ultra’ was exploring and pushing the boundaries of wanting to elevate in taste, in artistry and just in life despite the setbacks faced and the constant barrage of life’s obstacles. It was challenging the concept of perfection and realising real elevation and perfection is accepting yourself flaws and all, being accountable, failing forwards learning from each moment and strengthening myself mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually whilst being an example to motivate others to do the same thus introducing an overall ethos and value of “onwards and upwards”.

Prior to your latest single ‘2B3’, you were on an unofficial “hiatus”. What did this hiatus teach you and why so long?

I wouldn’t say I was on a hiatus, I just locked myself into the studio and took time to take in the things I learnt from releasing the ‘Ne Plus Ultra’ EP, pushing my craft and performance with live shows and festivals and more by working with brands and raising my overall profile. Importantly, living life and using the time to really explore perspectives, further develop concepts for the next music releases and understand my voice ultimately as an instrument whilst exploring sounds that added value to what I wanted to showcase to the world. 

For me it was important to not just evolve, but to take the time out to understand components that worked and to strengthen the aspects that people didn’t initially understand. In this space where music is so easily digested and so accessible without people taking the time to really dig deep, I wanted to make sure every experience you have with me whether it’s music, a brand campaign, a performance became a defining moment.

‘2B3’ was actually recorded in 2017, was it always going to be a single or a project cut?

It’s crazy to think that I recorded this in 2017, the song has greatly developed since and took further shape with the help of producers T. Hemingway and Palimath with their sound design allowing a canvas for me to really create from feeling. I always saw it as a single and statement piece but more importantly a lead single for a project and kept this in mind when working on the project as a whole. I’m always mindful of those stand out singles in the lead up to the bigger project and how to utilise it creating an experience to generate the necessary buzz also. 

‘2B3’ references sirens a lot and tries to “break cycles”. Are these lines a direct reflection of your life and experiences?

Everything I write comes from a place of not just honesty but a real-life diary-based perspective. The song initially came from personal frustrations of how a person can be perceived just off their looks and branded as something they’re not, let alone the colour of their skin. I have always wanted to create a song which gave hope and was high energy but the topic being somewhat the opposite where I tackle key themes in the situations, I know myself and others face on a day to day basis. It was a way to challenge the listener to see if they’re really listening, change their perspective and a way to give insight on how we may feel especially and ironically knowing that this also gets overlooked in real life.

Shadez The Misfit | Photo Credit: Shenell Kennedy

‘2B3’ also touches on the current political climate. What are your thoughts on “Black Lives Matter” and its 2020 amplification across the world?

I felt the song was perfect for the time now, honestly black lives have always mattered from being the catalyst of culture, lifestyle and more it’s this misconception that we are ignoring everyone else but all lives can’t matter if there is a constant massacre of black people. The desensitisation of black trauma has been shocking and despite making it loud and clear that we don’t accept this it continues to play out day by day, so navigating around that energy has been very draining but it is a necessary fight that can’t be stopped especially in regards to bringing awareness.

We need to remove the victim mentality and really organise moving forward. What I’m not a fan of and won’t allow is us as black people to just be a trending topic or fad, for the awareness and collective efforts for real change to go in vain when people are really losing their lives for next to nothing without the real accountability from those in the wrong.

We have proven time and time again how great we can be despite the things they throw at us. We constantly overachieve and will continue to be a force with not just our voices, but with our actions to stamp out the injustices faced.

In the visual for ‘2B3’, you juxtapose pictures with visuals of yourself in various settings. Describe the concept behind this?

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[‘2B3’] is directed by Razvan Pestean, the concept of using pictures with visuals was to play with previous versions of myself at particular parts of my life and by looking at these images the viewer creates immediate assumptions about who I am or was. More importantly through this concept adding the theme of just wanting to be free from that primitive judgement regardless of skin tone, struggles faced, and cards dealt, that there is more to it all beneath the surface of anyone’s initial thoughts and using this concept to further bring awareness to the current situations around black trauma and black lives.

More widely, you’re an extremely visual artist. What pushed you to take this part of your craft so seriously?

I love the art of aesthetics, the power to say so much by showing key themes, emotions and iconography through the use of compelling imagery. Understanding that visuals are the gateway into people understanding not just your taste, thoughts and perspective but an entry point into your universe, your brand, your soul’s purpose. It creates a stamp of quality but for me I have always explored the visual arts whether image, video etc as its synonymous with music it allows there to be room for the bigger holistic picture. It adds immense value to sound and music and vice versa. It tells the story and gets the point across in a way that words can’t at times. It personally feels like the middleman for emotions and feeling to meet with other forms when brought together with music and sound. 

Shadez The Misfit | Photo Credit: Shenell Kennedy

‘2B3’ is placed on your upcoming mixtape ‘South Side Raised Me Father God Changed Me’. Unpack the themes and stories behind this project?

‘South Side Raised Me Father God Changed Me’ is an audio film experience and visual audio project that explores Shadez the Misfit, his defining moments from the streets and his environment in a unique and creative perspective vs. the usual aggressive outcomes seen via the platforms chosen via audio and film. This experience aims to draw you closer into the creative world of myself as an artist and creative and allow the consumer to understand the intent, emotions and thought processes experienced in these situations as well as environments exposed allowing an immersive narrative online and offline.

‘Southside Raised Me, Father God Changed Me’ tackles themes of hyper-masculinity, confinement, anger, pain, love, expectations and how all these including the reputation of an individual, environment/area shape the growth of an individual. Understanding these contributing factors further but also acknowledging the defining moments and chapters that continue where Shadez has left off musically. Allowing space for what is to come with future releases thus bringing these important issues to the forefront for a wider discussion.

Shifting gears. You currently own your own record label — and have done for years. What has the business side of music taught you so far?

Ne Plus Label has been such an amazing canvas for me and has been a home to the ideas and experiences I aim to execute. For me I wanted to create a multimedia network and record label that represents the ethos and values that help add value, being purveyors of taste and timeless music whilst helping others as well as the artistic roster on Ne Plus evolve towards their best and highest forms of achievement.  

Still a work in progress, owning your own label is liberating and forces you to have a sense of accountability, ensuring that those who represent it and are part of it not just do well but collectively coming together for a bigger cause, highlighting each other’s strengths but strengthening each other’s weaknesses. I have been shown how ruthless the business side is, that it is not for the faint hearted but with this the importance of organisation, knowing the music business, terms, contracts and key components to ensure successful releases from marketing, branding and promotion to even on the back end with PRS, PPL, publishing, bookings, touring and more. It has allowed me to appreciate how much really goes into the success of an artist but in this forcing myself to be multifaceted.  

Are you following the conventional artist journey of building up to a debut album?

I can say I am building towards an album without a doubt but creating  themed bodies of work that stand on their own merit and create the necessary demand for there to be an album that doesn’t just make sense but creates a defining moment pushing boundaries of creativity as a whole (music, visuals, collaborations, experiences and more). 

In 2020, are conventional blueprints in music important?

I feel like blueprints don’t really work nowadays as there is no wrong or right answer in your musical pursuit, I feel you can only follow your truth and everyone’s truth is different. I can firmly say that my journey hasn’t been the most orthodox way, but I also think this adds to who I see myself as an artist and going back to what Shadez The Misfit stands for which is not following the status quo. 

Having followed you for years, I know that you like to travel. How has COVID-19 impacted your ability to do this and create, if at all?

Travelling has been not just a great way to explore perspectives and push myself creatively, it has also exposed me to different cultures and has been something that has also brought me peace of mind allowing me to break away from the stresses, busy lifestyle, hustle and bustle that London may bring subconsciously. COVID-19 has definitely affected me as it has halted my main travel plans as I often visit Portugal in the year to relax, create and catch up with friends and family. On the other hand, I am grateful for this time during COVID-19 for that same reason allowing me to really slow down and catch up with life, myself and my personal goals and ambitions. It has allowed me to explore things I wouldn’t have had the time to do on a regular day from learning new skills, watching a TV series I didn’t have time to previously to even pushing myself musically.

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