Shellshahk Shahkim celebrates 40 years with a new standout album
There are a lot of ways a fellow could mark his 40th birthday, but for Shellshahk Shahkim there’s only one. On July 18, 10 p.m. at JJ’s Bohemia, Shahkim (aka Lord Subliminal) is releasing his latest and most impressive work to date, an album that was nine years in the making. The album is Lone Wolf Saga: Full Moon Assassin, and while it is partly homage to the classic martial arts flick “Shogun Assassin,” it is as much or more a personal manifesto set to music.
One of the most immediate and obvious differences between this and Shahkim’s earlier work is that it’s a concept album with a definite narrative framework. This imparts a higher level of cohesion and depth, presenting a superficial storyline that can be appreciated for its own merit while simultaneously serving as a stage for the moral, social and philosophical musings of the artist. In his own words:
“The message I want to convey is righteousness. I’m not holy, but I am righteous and knowledge of self is always my platform…I don’t sermonize, but I do teach.”
The album features 17 tracks and a number of impressive guest artists, including Prossess Emcess, White Lotus, 14th Century, Life Scientist, Golden Mastah, Vegas Posada, Sereph Gaurd and Godly Math. It was understood that guests should respect the overall framing of the album, but they were given license to express themselves freely, making for a diverse set of thought-provoking viewpoints. The executive producer of the album was the legendary Last Bronzeman whose trademark sound is perfect for the concept.
The marriage of hip hop and martial arts is nothing new. Quite the opposite—the partnership goes all the way back to hip hop’s formative years in early ’70s New York, when low-rent movie houses played Hong Kong kung fu films day and night. The films proved popular with the hip hop crowd, and the incorporation of one into the other was inevitable (Wu Tang Clan, anyone?). Forty years later, it is still very fertile ground. This latest installment from Shahkim is a sterling example of that synthesis.
The idea of combining his birthday celebration with the album release is something of a tradition for the big man, whose identity is so bound to his music that it would be bizarre if he didn’t find a way to combine the two.
He won’t be celebrating alone, however, as the roster for the evening includes performances by the Wolfhounds with the Molly Maguires, Natural Habitz and those gloriously weird kids from the Subterranean Cirqus (who will be introducing a lovely new member that evening.) Bring an appetite for Shahkim’s signature dish, curry goat, as well.
Saturday, July 18, 10 p.m. at JJ’s Bohemia. It’s a little bit business, a little bit pleasure, but mostly, it’s family, particularly that large, lovely family that’s grown out of the Chattanooga music scene for the last decade.