Meet Shygirl, the London rapper bringing the depths of club music to hip-hop
Regardless of whether it's features with Arca and GEORGIA or singles of her own, Shygirl always offers a glimpse of the future with everything she does.
Header image by Aidan Zamiri.
There's something special about an artist whose next move you can never predict, and London rapper Shygirl is someone whose had this behind them since the very beginning.
Over the last four years, the musician has constantly proved themselves to be unlike anybody else. She's a trailblazer who isn't afraid to push boundaries and experiment, whether it be as a keen collaborator who consistently brings a unique edge even amongst some of music's most distinct and celebrated favourites - she was a stand-out feature on Arca's latest record KiCk i, for example - or in her own right; a musician whose solo work is amongst the adventurous there is, regardless of whether you're looking at it from a hip-hop or club perspective.
It's within these two worlds - warping, experimental club music and fierce hip-hop - that the core of Shygirl's sound lays. Her earliest work often saw her unite with Sega Bodega for twisted, dark-lit productions guided by her twisting vocals, constantly flipping between energised rap and comforting singing often within the same few minutes. From there, her work has constantly grown and evolved - 2018's O took her to the outer edges of percussive club music while her Cruel Practice moved with a pace difficult to match, then came 2019's Beauts, which was comparatively ethereal and angelic.
Shygirl is someone who refuses to be pinned down to a sound (just look at how Beauts contrasts against UCKERS' screaming yells, or BB's darting club production), and that's been core to everything she puts out. You can never tell what Shygirl is going to put out next, and at a time where music's over-saturation means its more difficult than ever, Shygirl's uniqueness and versatility positions her in a place where she's developed a cult-like audience, full of people eagerly awaiting how she's continue to move forwards and carve new sounds in the process of doing so.
Freak, a snapshot of work to come that acts as her first single for the year, brings suggestions as to how Shygirl will continue to push boundaries, even amongst a specific musical niche that thrives on creative experimentation and left-field sounds. Once again worked on alongside Sega Bodega, the song is a twisting encapsulation of Shygirl's charm. It flips between warped electronic maximalism and pacing club music within the space of a verse and chorus; Sega Bodega diving into the depths of club culture's history as she flips this crunching, almost dub-sounding verse and makes it her own, only to do so again when the production picks up and turns into an embrace of UK rave culture and its long history.
Lyrically, it's dark and dirty but empowering and liberating all in one ("I’m a freak, yeah I know it / Know that you like to hear me say it / Can we throw it down," she raps with confidence), building off a platform she's helped carve with a rising legion of fellow female rappers that highlight sex positivity - and embracing that - within their work.
It's a whole lot of fun and it's something really special, and as she consistently keeps us on our toes with every release, there's no better time to take a dive into world of Shygirl so you can join in predicting what she'll do next (hint: you'll always get it wrong).
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