There are many creators out there that vastly try to push the medium in ways other artists wouldn’t expect. Whether it be through abstract instrumentals like Flying Lotus, or being very articulate and poetic like Aesop Rock, these artists took a dare and pushed what made them unique. For most that try, the attempt falls flat; For 鷹Sage Shintendō鷹, the sound that he made, he completely owns. He paved his own path and it doesn’t wander too far from the main road. Delivering interesting, vicious lyricism backed by grabbing instrumentals, Sage and his group The TERRA Godz aren’t conventionally showing the streets of Chicago, they’re the ones that are living it and appropriating the violence into imagery that feels comfortable to them.
Listening to any of Shintedo’s tracks, you can filter one fact that’s true and clear; the dude’s beats and lyrics are heavily inspired by Japanese culture. You’ll hear the Japanese DNA throughout all of Sage’s songs such as “Another Day,” where he starts the track off with anime audio, progressing the instrumental into an impressive and intuitive boom bap alternative. The difference he illustrates doesn’t make you falter, it makes you listen. Because if you keep listening, he holds multiple layers to his tracks making it easy to describe, yet hard to truthfully characterize Sage.
With the December release of his debut album 64 Wonders, Sage drops the needle running over record with the self-titled track “Sage” featuring Kyd Wah-lee. The instrumental and the lyricism reminded me of the opening track to Wu-tang’s 36 Chambers, “Bring Da Ruckus.” Grabbing listeners with multi-syllabic rhymes like “this god in me concocted these ideals and modern policies” and lines that split themselves from the rest such as, “I don’t talk this shit I walk this shit/The TERRA gang can vouch for this/We pride ourselves on slicing necks instead of pushing lousy hits,” Sage rides the beat so well that his flow and lyricism throughout the album grabs you by the ears and demands that you sit and listen. With such a strong opener, it had me worried that the catchiness would be dependent on one song, but it doesn’t. Sage is consistent with his production and every song currently released radiates with sturdy, solid content illustrated mostly by the imagery of anime and video games.
From his tracks like “G1” and “Uchiha Seji” that portray visceral lyricism reminiscent of Viper Records, to songs of unreciprocated or forgotten love like “Sol Goddess” that recall Bishop Nehru or J. Cole comparisons, Sage’s qualities truly shine when you realize that he hits everything those artists do on the emotional spectrum through unconventional and attractive means. Yet in the end there’s one feeling that creeps into every crevice and crack of each track. Despite the humor, and strong imagery, despite the wickedness and severity of his raps, there’s this darkness and somber brother that sits in the midst of it all. If anything, the gloominess and dark, sad tinges you find amplifies and supports the experience as a whole, holding the other emotions as support.
Sage Shintendō will be out in New York from the 24th to the 25th of June, and will be back in Chicago to hold a show down at Brainstorm Comics on the 26th. Be sure to check out his website, supershintendo.com, and his tapes that are on his soundcloud with the soon to be debut of his EP here.