THE SIX is a regular Q&A feature on 206UP with a simple format: One member of the local hip-hop community and six questions. For past editions click here.
Rapper Shelton Harris and his production partner Tyler Dopps made names for themselves on the strength of their 2013 five song EP The Fresh Start, a collection of glimmering, accomplished pop-rap anthems that belied the young ages of its creators. Dopps has a knack for looping addictive melodies over clean boom-bap and Harris is an efficient MC who rarely wastes a word, making beelines to raps-about-raps and the subject of being young and hungry while trying to come up in “the game.”
Their full-length debut album Lights — originally due last summer — is seeing its finishing touches added while a young and eager Seattle fan base, weaned on Macklemore and little else, awaits. Shelton and Tyler seem to be carrying the proverbial banner for a new local wave of positive, self-reflective hip-hop borne from the confessionals of Aubrey Drake Graham and the all-inclusiveness of Ben Haggerty.
Shelton’s popularity is an exciting new development that runs counter to the early aught backpack leanings of Seattle hip-hop artists (now entering their mid-30s and beyond) who helped nurture a devoted underground following. Shelton’s brand is also an alternative to the cloaked, substance-driven art-rap of movements like Thraxxhouse and Underworld Dust Funk, crews of a similar generation but whose points-of-view reflect a sort of updated streetwise version of Seattle’s grunge ethos of the early ’90s.
All of this adds up to a more balanced range of hip-hop in Seattle, a sign that the local scene is becoming even more of a microcosmic version of the greater hip-hop landscape in general — it takes all types, we say. Shelton Harris took time to hop on this week’s edition of THE SIX. Hit the jump for more.
206UP: For those that don’t know you yet, give them the autobiography in a paragraph or less.
Shelton Harris: I’m a 22 year old hip-hop artist born and raised in Bremerton, WA, but currently living in the Seattle area. I’ve always had a passion for music but unlike a lot of artists I didn’t start writing until about age 17. I always planned on being a professional skateboarder when I grew up. I was pretty quiet in school, not at all the type of kid you’d expect to see on a stage just a few years later. I currently work a day job and have some college under my belt but I’m definitely hoping to turn music in to a career. No matter where I end up I know that I want to do something creative. I just can’t imagine working my whole life to make someone else rich.
What are you hoping to accomplish with Lights, your upcoming album with producer Tyler Dopps?
Above all I’m hoping to deliver the most complete body of work to the world that I can. I feel like both of us really show a lot of diversity throughout the album, something we — or at least I — haven’t really done in the past. We’ve been able to keep our current fans happy but we’re looking for this album to really capture everybody’s attention. That’s why it’s taking so long. I’d much rather spend six more months fine-tuning and lose some buzz, than drop a less than perfect project. I feel the end result will be worth the wait.
Do you feel like you guys are leading the charge for a new, younger wave of hip-hop artists in Seattle?
I won’t say that we’re leading a wave, but I will without a doubt say that our style stands out the most from what seems to be the “Seattle sound.” I put that in quotes because it’s a term that’s used all the time, but in my opinion you can’t put Northwest music in a box. Everyone is very different, especially in this newer group of artists. I do feel that we’re making music that nobody else is making, though. The combo of Tyler’s production to my lyrical content is just something nobody else is really doing right now. Lights will reinforce that.
Name two albums on your iPod that people might be surprised you listen to regularly.
The Tour by Rich Gang and Days Before Rodeo by Travi$ Scott. I only say these are surprising because they’re nothing like the music I make, but are in constant rotation.
Who is your dream hip-hop collaborator?
Kanye West. I would say J. Cole because he’s my favorite rapper but I just feel like a Kanye West collaboration doesn’t happen too often and I know the results would be insane.
What do you want for Christmas?
My bills paid… Ha, ha. But if someone wants to cop me the Xbox One Madden bundle I wouldn’t be mad either.