Feel the euphoria: Why Shygirl is reshaping classic club sounds

today14/02/2024 3

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Rapping or singing, the artist and producer has an addictively laid-back vocal style, unleashing deliciously cruel earworms that are juxtaposed with raucously sensuous, genre-subverting production. “It’s important my vocals are always calm, as shouting never sounds genuine for me,” she agrees. “If you shout or lose control then sometimes that’s the only message that comes across. You read up about all the great poets in history and no one talks about them screaming the words, right?”

On ‘NVR’ she sampled a spray can tagging a wall, while there are a lot of Shygirl songs that include human groans or bird song, which are both buried into the very fabric of the beats. It’s clear Shygirl is fascinated by the magic that happens when you take a field sample from everyday life and melt it into electronica or hip hop. She talks to me like someone who could sit on the tube and hear a symphony in her head just from experiencing all the interlocking layers (air whizzing by the window, human coughs, distant headphone music, ominous announcement warnings to “mind the doors”).

“That’s where the magic ground kind of comes in,” she beams. “I always loved the little insignificant details. I love sounds that people experience all the time and tend to look past, but without them, you wouldn’t have the beautiful scene that you have right in front of you.”

Growing up, Shygirl’s mum would make personalised bookmarks that had poems neatly written on them, something her daughter then imitated, “writing the most sentimental shit ever and making family members cry” on their birthdays. This nostalgic, poetic lens evolved into more of a fiery, X-rated rap sensibility later on. After leaving university and a course studying photography, her 2016 single ‘Want More’ (produced by Sega Bodega), with its prioritisation of orgasmic female pleasure and daringly futuristic production, set the tone for everything that followed on releases like 2018’s ‘Cruel Practice’ and 2020’s ‘ALIAS’.

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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