Almost every person, place or thing I’ve ever encountered had a song attached to it. Sometimes it was a song of nature and sometimes it was a song of man… but nevertheless it was there. I have been lucky enough to hear life’s songs and I try to write them down when I can to share them with others. Sometimes that can have me up at some weird hours. Now, I know I’m up pretty late right now… but I have good reason: I’m inspired. Inspired to write a song for someone special.
The fact that I’m writing a song, or even that I’m up late might not be such a big deal, except for the fact that I haven’t been inspired to write a song for someone in a very long time. For the inspiration to come to me tonight is like visiting with an old friend I haven’t seen in months… I wouldn’t miss the opportunity.
This song came to me like many of them do, at the piano. I was running my fingers across the piano keys haphazardly looking for a sound that stuck with me… and all at once there was this beautiful melody. Immediately this person’s image crowded my thoughts and the words began to flow from my mouth like water… I had to find something quickly to write it all down with before I lost it.
At first glance the 6-member group – with Duke Sims and Baby G on vocals, Alien Lex on bass, brothers Maniak Mike and Terminator Dave on guitar and drums, and rounded out by DJ Axis Powers on the wheels of steel – is a mashup of hip hop and rock that many bands have attempted, but few have successfully achieved. But for every 15 epic group failures, you occasionally stumble upon a band like Shinobi Ninja who convincingly grabs the rap-rock mantle handed down by legends like The Beastie Boys and Public Enemy, and carried by contemporaries like Linkin Park and Rage Against The Machine.
Thanks to the band’s generosity (shout out to Dave!), TLM got a chance to check out songs from their 2011 album release “Rock Hood”, as well as the 2012 ILL ISH single (with Rusty Stab as the B-side).
On all of the tracks we heard, the band showed strength and a genuine combined skill in both genres of music. Their body of work comprises a seamless collection of heavy hitting, head pounding, hip hop/rock tracks that display an abundance of neighborhood front-runner swag. You know what I mean… Shinobi Ninja is like that guy you often see around the block where you can tell he commands respect and admiration just by the way he walks. Yeah, like that.
Duke Sims delivers vocal agility and a strong sense of tone; never letting the melody or lyrics get lost in the depth of sound produced by the tight instrumentation of the musicians supporting the cause. His delivery, on several levels, manages to maintain hip hop credibility while singing a strong counter-melody to the phat beats and thumping bass lines.
Baby G shines on the band’s recordings and in particular during her spotlight moments on tracks like “Nah Nah” and Shinobi Ninja’s cover of Montell Jordan’s classic “This Is How We Do It”, which offers up a salute to another hip hop classic during a genre-blend near the end of the song. Baby G is authentic Hip Hop, not some contrived, sloppy reproduction. Because of this, you are released to just enjoy her instead of being caught up in the disappointment of a bad attempt.
The album is full of energetic calls to action on tracks like the eponymous “Rock Hood” and “Jump To This”, party anthems which compel you to play the tracks as loud as possible, and make you wish you had a stadium in your backyard just to fully appreciate the intensity of the top-notch production. When I say you can’t sleep on this album, I mean you literally WILL NOT be able to come down from the high this group achieves from the very first track to the last. It’ll make you want to say, “Where the party at?!”