Listen to Cleo, a daring burst of dance-rap energy from UK experimentalist Shygirl
After sharing her ALIAS EP in late-2020, the South London club-rap pioneer continues to strive to new, daring heights.
Header image by Trinity Ellis.
It's difficult to find someone as boundary-pushing in hip-hop than Shygirl. The South London-based musician has become a pioneer in forward-thinking club rap, taking an upbringing indebted to London's rich club culture and uniting it with quick-firing verses that are often as outrageous as the warped, twisted productions they attempt to navigate. Over the years, we've seen this experimentalism grow from her co-founded NUXXE label - also starring Sega Bodega and Coucou Chloe - to her being heralded as one of music's most exciting next best things, to daring leaps into the unknown with everything she's put out.
Over the last few years particularly, Shygirl has become unpredictable as she has been experimental. In late-2020, her sophomore EP ALIAS twisted between daring productions brought to life by close collaborators in Sega Bodega and dearly departed SOPHIE, while her work since then has seen her invite some of music's most acclaimed boundary-pushers into her circle - including Basement Jaxx, Boys Noize and LSDXOXO for remixes of ALIAS tracks, and Mura Masa for her own remix of Lady Gaga's Dawn Of Chromatica remix album.
Then, came June's twisted and hyper-sexual collaboration with UK breakthrough slowthai; BDE - the first Shygirl original since the ALIAS EP the year prior - being an explosive return to form that saw Shygirl's vocal warp between another one of Sega Bodega and Karma Kid's productions, with slowthai joining in for a just-as-raunchy guest verse.
Now, comes Cleo, another new single that further delves into Shygirl's wild club-rap sound, furthering her vision to the next level with everything she puts out. Cleo plays with an interesting contrast between the grandiose and the down-right energetic, with cinematic strings moving amongst a lurching EDM production that feels perfectly aligned with the Chromatica universe Shygirl was invited to join earlier in the year; the cathartic nature of the dancefloor feeling central to the romanticism amongst Cleo's sound.
It's an invigorating listen - not that we'd expect anything less from Shygirl - and as she continues to lean further into the unexpected with everything that she's put out, Cleo feels like an exciting tease as to what's to come. In the meantime, take a dive into the new single below: