Shape - Raised Near the Power Lines
Label: Division East Records
Release Date: March 27, 2007
One doesn't usually think of New Jersey and immediately think of great MCs. However, the scrawny, white Jersey boy who calls himself Shape is clearly aiming to put his hometown on the hip-hop map.
Raised Near the Power Lines begins unconventionally with the sounds of a scratchy record player and distant horns. The track lazily flows into "Darkside of the Silhouette," where we first hear Shape's meandering flow. His words are bitter, but he doesn't spit them at the listener.
In the excellent "Rising up To the Top," Shape dedicates the track to Jam Master Jay while denouncing the senseless violence in mainstream rap, pointing fingers at artists like 50 Cent for encouraging kids to adopt the gangster lifestyle.
Shape's lethargic rhymes are very similar to other "backpack rappers" like Atmosphere and Aesop Rock. He also shares the unpolished style of these artists, rather than the highly produced sounds of Talib Kweli or Consequence. There are tracks where he picks up his pace, "Stereo Gun Unplugged" probably being the best example. This particular song is also notable for the line ‘Sometimes I rob like an emotional white guy / 'Cause all I wanna do is open shows for Bright Eyes.’
Periodically, the album has instrumental interludes that return to the record-scratch sounds of the opening track. Seeing as the album runs over an hour in length, these interludes seem a bit unnecessary. The tone of the album stays intact just fine without them.
Shape does a great job of using nontraditional instruments like pianos and horns to great effect, particularly the piano loop on "Something That Could Make You Do Wrong." Without the piano, the song wouldn't be worth noting, but with it, the song sticks in your head.
As stated previously, the album is a little on the long side - nineteen tracks clocking in at over an hour is a bit excessive. With a little bit of trimming, Shape would have an album that could put him on par with heavy hitters like Atmosphere and Jedi Mind Tricks. His lyrics are smart and he knows how to use interesting samples to catch your ear. If he keeps at it, people may begin to turn to West Orange, New Jersey, to find hip-hop's up and comers.
Doesn't really remind me of Atmosphere or Sage although he is clearly another white backpack underground rapper. His lyrics are somewhere inbetween trying to sound intelligent and throwing a simile in every other line(which doesnt always make you a great rapper[see lil wayne]). I can see a Cage resemblance in his flow and political open-ness but he is defiently a long way from all 3 in flow and lacks something that seperates him.. Although one noticable difference is his production. The beats feel like early grimey wu-tang, so much that at times the lyrics don't really feel themselves over it. But if you let your lyrics tell your story well enough, you can rap over any beat. Give him a couple years, if hes still doing what he does he'll be an underground hit. For now this is alright.