Jammu-bred hip-hop artist Shayaan Bhat aka Shen B released his second EP Kaafi this week, which poses as a pleasant push for all of us who always wanted to take that first step towards our dreams.
Shen B’s bold songwriting has evolved over the last few years and releases, along with his debut EP titled Zamaana, which covered themes of corruption, censorship, and bullying. His visibly consistent style of writing often chews over topics about societal issues and personal struggles that are well under the surface. The same kind of substance and depth is seen in the new EP Kaafi, but here, we see Shen B speculating inward more than out.
The record sets off with a slap of reality embodied as ‘Khud Me (Intro)’, in which Shen B lays tight the general mood and theme of the EP, lyrically, while laid-back synths and vocal ambience gives the song an introspective wash.
‘Kaafi’ comes soon after, much in contrast instrumentally to the opening track. It’s now when the production levels match and make sense of all of Shen B’s previous releases, industry levels paralleled. If ‘Kaafi’ had a beat that was complex in its syncopations, ‘Yaqeen’ surpasses the standard with its alternative style beat supporting the verse. The unexpected rests keep the listener gripped regardless of the repetitiveness, until the bridge offers a welcome breather in the form of a guitar riff and melody which could wholly be mistaken to be a song of another place and genre.
For a project that Shen B executed solely by himself from scratch, it’s a valiant effort regarding its skilfully capricious instrumental arrangements. ‘Taaron Ke Neeche’ stands to be a cinematic segue into the second act of the EP. Full of life and drama, this track features Shen B recollecting memories of his mother and general childhood. The backing beat is generic; however, the chorus is arguably the most melodic of the whole EP. Almost like something out of a Bollywood score, the chorus sees Shayaan crooning “Kya khoya, kya paya, khwabon ke peeche,” pouring his heart out, a surprise given the theme of the record. Towards the end, the familiar toned-guitar taking over the outro comes off as a bit sludgy, and is possibly one of only a few instances wherein you can guess that this project was entirely self-made.
The style of ‘Jazbaat’ seems like an easy-going penultimate filler at this point, albeit a comparatively groovy one. It sets the stage for Baat (Outro), which is more of an epilogue than a song in itself. Shen B shares the story behind the EP, and the obstructions he had to conquer to bring it to fruition. The making of this project has been a startlingly lonesome, demanding oeuvre for the rapper, one that needed persistence and determination to see the light of day. Nothing but sheer will and faith enabled him to get ahead of himself and through his sophomore EP, he wishes to impart the same strength and good will to his listeners, urging them that they are enough (‘Kaafi’).
An overall bold and introspective feat, Kaafi stands to be a statement more than a project. Shen B’s unique process of documenting his personal journey whilst overcoming struggles and preserving history is always a welcome addition to the independent hip-hop scene.
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