For East Bay Rapper Shy’an G, a New First with 'The Reset'
I can’t wait for Shy’an G’s sister, Sharick LaMay, to read this. It’ll be the first time she learns what happened to her All Eyez on Me CD.
See, the story goes that when Shy’an G was about 9 years old, she stole the double-disc album from her big sis, and quickly brought it to school. While listening to Tupac’s raps on her Discman, Shy’an G sat under the play structure and penned her very first lyrics.
“She doesn't know that, but uhh... now she does,” Shy’an G told me a few weeks ago, anticipating this article while sitting on the couch at her cousin’s apartment. The MC, poet and producer laughed. “I hope it was worth it, because for me it was worth it—I hope she finds it worth it.”
Voluntarily or not, that instance was one of many acts of family support that helped mold Shy’an G into the up-and-coming East Bay artist she is today.
Looking at Shy’an G's accomplishments, there’s plenty reason to believe that sacrificing a Tupac CD was worthwhile: she's gone from writing raps on elementary school playgrounds to attending classes at YR Media (formerly Youth Radio) and on to graduating from Cal State East Bay.
And today, Shy’an is set to drop her latest project, The Reset.
Before the The Reset hit the internet, I got a chance to hear it. In fact, I needed to hear it. I’d been suffering from writer’s block, and I needed a reset. Her album served as a reminder to get the stress out, and to let creative vibes come alive.
And when you do that, family will be there to support.
The five-track project is succinct, to the point. It starts off with the track “Shot Clock,” which features the play-by-play call of a WNBA game of Alena Beard beating the shot clock in the finals. I asked Shy’an G why she included it.
“I wanted to incorporate a piece of a basketball game,” Shy’an G told me. “And I specifically chose a women's basketball game because I have basketball background as well, I used to hoop. I still hoop every now and then. And also I just want to embrace women basketball players—they’re out here killing it... Brittney Boyd, Candice Parker, Brittney Griner , Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoops, Maya Moore, Diana Taurasi, the list goes on and on.”
As for the theme of "Shot Clock," she told me that the intention was to simply show what she had been through in her life as of late—“you know, beating the buzzer.” It’s an idea she explored on her last project, I Just Need a Minute. “I was giving it my all while I was venting," Shy’an G said. "So, now that I'm done, I'm ready to restart that clock. And I was able to beat that buzzer.”
When you listen to her new album, you hear references to why she’s coming anew.
On the track "From Now On," she doesn't hold back: “Look bruh, I lost a couple bands in a court case / Lost an apartment ‘cause I lived with scammers, acting fake / Got fired cold, and still denied my unemployment pay / Got my degree, but I’m in a warehouse, minimum wage.”
On the track "Go Off," she takes gut passion and mixes it with a bass-tinged vocal tone, a chopped sample of what sounds like Nina Simone, and rapid hi-hats. It makes for a song that’ll have you questioning if she still listens to Tupac when she writes her raps.
And in the single "Top Down," there’s more gloss than grit. It’s lyrical, all the same, but definitely something closer to what you might hear on the radio.
What I found interesting about "Top Down" is the image she chose to use for the art. It’s a Polaroid of her father: scarf over the face and nose, glasses over the eyes, hat on but top down on the ride. I asked her, why?
“Because he always lives his fullest best life with no boundaries, no figurative ceilings over his head,” Shy’an G said as she sat on the edge of the couch. “He wants to be able to see and embrace every part and angle and aspect of his life, and that's what my song is about. Live life with the top down. Don't keep yourself cooped up. So he was a great symbol for the concept and for the artwork.”
(That mini-sermon earned a new follower of this “reset” mind state. She didn’t know it at the time, but she took me out of my 2019 writing slump—and saved me the hassle of having to steal my big sis’ music to find inspiration.)
Shy’an G drove it home with her next point. “I felt myself putting myself in boundaries, so much, to the point... it took for me to encounter some really tough situations, and I got sick of it. I was just like, 'You know what? I'm going to live my life with the top down, taking myself out of the box. And I'm going to start by making this song right here.' And I looked at my dad as a great example to go by.”
Beyond a metaphor for living your best life, that Polaroid on the cover of her single is an extension of the full artwork for The Reset.
The album cover features eight photos, framed in the same Polaroid fashion. They’re all images of Shy'an G starting things: her first basketball game, first graduation, first time touching the mic. And of course, one from the day she was born.
“And my first profound memory of my relatives,” Shy’an G said. “They all kind of helped to shape in both the beginning of my journey and finding myself, and also finding my purpose and how I want to impact their community.”
I thought about how All Eyez on Me was Tupac's own "reset" album. How he'd recently been released from prison and getting back to work; pulling from the past and laying a new track for his future.
“I wanted that," Shy’an G said of her art. "I wanted to tie that back to my process of resetting my life, and my approach to making thought-provoking lyrical creative music again.”
Shy’an G hosts an album release party on Friday, Jan. 25, at the Second Half Bar and Grill in Oakland at 8pm. Details here.