Oakland, CA — Shy’an G isn’t looking to be stereotyped, nor does she seem interested in people’s expectations of her anymore. For this very reason, the rapper seeks to be versatile in not only her sound but in her lyricism as well. From political activism to her own personal struggles, Shy’an G’s latest effort is as candid and sincere as a true emcee can get.
I recently got the chance to sit down with East Bay rapper Shy’an G to discuss her new project, "The Reset." The five-track EP represents Shy’an G’s growth as an artist and the journey to a new era in her life. Although she was originally a part of YR Media’s Remix Your Life program when she was a teenager, her interest in hip-hop began at the tender young age of nine. Since then, she’s graduated college, opened up for her idols and even rapped in cyphers internationally. At 23, the rapper has been mastering her craft for over a decade, and she’s ready to share her evolution with the world.
How old were you when you first joined Remix Your Life and how did that relationship come about?
Well, I was fifteen. I was downstairs learning how to make beats in the CORE program. And one of the former Remix Your Life program directors approached me about coming to a writer's workshop and initially I always wanted to go into the studio. So I figured it was a way for me to make it to the studio. That lead to me developing strong relationships with people in that program.
In what ways did RYL influence your artistry?
It influenced my artistry by showing me how to practice and develop rhyme schemes and how to study rhyme schemes. How to study music that exemplifies particular rhyme schemes and poetry techniques. It informed me to want to approach all of my lyrics as also poetry from that point on.
What does your relationship with RYL’s A&R team consist of? How is it working with RYL now versus being in the program when you first started?
It consists of fresh perspectives. I'm learning about how to develop my brand and my professionalism as an artist from an older generation and a younger generation at the same time. I would say RYL has turned more into a production-based company where the focus is on making music.
What inspired you to rap and write?
The moment that first inspired me to rap and write, I would have to say was when I saw a young girl performing at a Fourth of July festival. I was like nine years old. I think she was like 13 and she was rapping and singing, and I thought it was so cool and I wanted to do it to. I went up to her I got her autograph and just started, like as soon as I went back to school. That's when I just started listening to 2Pac and Biggie, and kind of studying them first, that's when I wrote my first raps.
When did you first start producing and what made you want to take it up?
I started producing at 15. I got really tired of waiting for producers to send me beats and I didn't have a budget to buy these from people all the time. And I didn't want to keep ripping beats from YouTube. I was already pretty much influenced by a lot of producers like J Dilla, Madlib, Q-Tip, Nujabes, 9th Wonder, Black Milk. I started studying them a lot. Not only was I writing to their beats but I was also studying their beats too, and so the first program that I made my first ever beat on was on a demo version of FL Studio. I took all the demo tracks from it and then I put it on this recording and mixing session software. So I just put everything there and then I recorded through there, and I created my first song. And it turned out terrible of course, but that was the start to me producing on my own. And I just started going crazy ever since and using Reason.
What does "The Reset" symbolize for you?
"The Reset" is the release of everything. In the past I would stress over everything that taunted me. Everything in the past that I thought I needed in my life and to actually finally close the book on all of those chapters that I would still pull with me into the next chapters, and just scratch all of them. I’ll keep them in my archives in my life, but I'm really ready to not even move on to another chapter about how I feel, I feel like I'm moving on to a whole other book, like so many chapters that I filled up with the last book in my life and I'm ready to start a whole new book. So it represents the rebranding of myself and it represents a new approach to how I'm living my life, how I want to live my life moving on.
What first inspired the vision for this project?
Well, I released an EP about two years ago called "I Just Need A Minute." I didn't get as personal as I wanted to. I was still censoring myself and I kind of wish I didn’t, but I was still using that as a coping mechanism and as a resource of therapy for me after everything that I encountered in 2017. I encountered a lot of the stuff that whole year. I had a emotional breakdown and I decided to put it all in music that I created in like three months. In my head I was always like, since I released this project I figure I should follow up with something to let people know “Okay, I'm good now and I feel different.”
What the name of the track that you produced yourself and what is it centered around?
“Shot Clock” is the song that I produced myself. It is centered around the idea of finishing whatever it is that you're going through strong before you take on a new challenge. I used to play basketball in high school and I can remember a specific moment where I would get hurt, or I would miss so many shots, or I wouldn’t execute a play correctly. But I always did what I could to finish strong. So I look at this song as a symbol of me kind of looking at what I lost in my life at that specific moment but I finished strong by not running away and by tackling it on head first so that I can move on to something better.
Why was it important to note your change as an artist?
I always have been infatuated with evolution. My first ever mixtape that I released was called "Rejuvenated" and that was even a point when I felt like I was becoming a different person too. Because I was never comfortable performing and sharing my music with anyone in public. So I feel like I needed to refresh my feelings about performing and creating music, and to rejuvenate my mindset into just putting it out there and putting forth effort into executing the need and desire to connect with people. This time, it’s really evident that I really hit a breaking point where I've evolved a lot and I just hope that that's reflected well in this project.
What is your writing process usually look like?
I would do some reading or listen to music that relates to a feeling I have until I find something that triggers a concept and I would write about it. I would usually write it as a free journaling style or as a poem and then I would turn it into rhyme, and then a full song or verse.
So what was it like to step out of your comfort zone and experiment with new sounds?
I was ready for some new sounds. I want to see how versatile I can get with the sounds. I always want to connect with different styles and sounds of music, and I definitely want to connect with the younger generation. I feel like I've been focusing more on the sound preferred by the older generation. I want to see if I can bring those two generations together and find my niche in a new sound that isn't too far fetched. Working with both generations has challenged me a lot to think outside the box and think more creatively about not just how I deliver a verse but how I paint it.
In the beginning of “Top Down”, you say “I'm sorry if you don't like me / Impressing you ain't a priority.” Walk us through your journey of learning the art self confidence.
I definitely had to acquire it over the years. I always wanted to impress people before I even started writing and performing the rap in this stuff. My whole approach in life, every day that I got up, was always about “What shoes should I wear to get someone's attention? How should I wear my hair?”
I just recently went natural, so I'm ready to like step outside in the world and just wear my hair natural and just not care about what other people think about me. Even before I started making music, putting myself out there as an artist was the representation of me no longer caring about what people thought about me, and no longer caring about impressing people.
How has your music and subject matter evolved since when you first started? Are you more confident talking about certain things now than when you first started?
My music evolved mostly in my delivery and my voice. I just want to make sure every word that I'm saying is coming out clearly. My sound, my music evolved mostly based around my tone of voice and the knowledge that I've acquired over the years. I've always been big on acquiring knowledge over the years that I can apply to my music. I never wanted to get personal in my life. So this time around, I've been getting a little bit more personal instead of political or socially conscious, that's something that I'll never leave. But back then, I was always talking about conscious issues. I still do in a sense, which you can hear on this new project in my song “Go Off.” I’m talking about some issues, as far as the fabrication of political activism in the media. But then I also have a song about everything that I've struggled with in my life so far and what I intend to do from this point moving forward. Sometimes I just want to have fun and live my life carefree with the top down you know. That's what “Top Down” is about. I tried to show as much range as possible in this project and I have to do that in the future as well.
What is one lesson that you’ve learned from when you first started out as an artist up to now?
I guess just follow my own preference and my own style. I never really had a problem with doing that and I never really followed a trend to get noticed by people. Now, I'm not calling out anyone who does that. I just don't want to be looked at as a woman who raps and be assumed to talk about certain things automatically. I don't want to be stereotyped as a woman who creates hip hop music. So that would be the lesson — to kind of stay true to my craft as much as possible.