SHAWN LEE PRESENTS GOLDEN AGE AGAINST THE MACHINE.

SHAWN LEE PRESENTS GOLDEN AGE AGAINST THE MACHINE.

Shawn Lee’s new album, Shawn Lee Presents Golden Age Against The Machine, which was released on 5th May 2014, has been a labor of love. It’s Shawn paying homage to the golden age of hip hop, which influenced and inspired him. So much so, that Shawn decided to pursue a career as a producer. 

His career began back in 1995, when he moved to London and recorded his 1996 debut album, Discomfort, for Giles Petersen’s Talking Loud label. Since then, Shawn has released a string of commercially successful and critically acclaimed albums. The latest addition to his discography is Shaun Lee Presents Golden Age Against The Machine. It’s been described as a “passion play.” It could also be described as a love letter to the golden age of hip hop, which Shaun believes was between the mid-eighties and mid-nineties. Featuring seventeen tracks, Shawn Lee Presents Golden Age Against The Machine is a one of the ambitious albums of Shawn’s career, which is now entering its third decade.

Shawn Lee was born and grew up in the outskirts of Wichita, Kansas. From an early age, Shawn began a lifelong love affair with soul and funk. He grew up listening to Sly and The Family Stone, The Isley Brothers and Blaxploitation soundtracks. Later, he discovered gospel music, when he started playing drums in the local baptist church. This didn’t go down well with some of Shawn’s supposed “friends.” 

They disapproved of this. For Shawn, this proved the last straw. He decided to leave the Mid West. For Shawn this was doubly disappointing. Not only had his “friends” proved to be racists, but Shawn was enjoying playing in Lotus, a local band which featured a future country megastar, Martina McBride. However, Shawn headed across the Atlantic, to London, to record his debut album, Discomfort.

This was 1995. Now living in London, Shawn recorded his 1996 debut album, Discomfort. It was released on Giles Petersen’s Talking Loud label. Monkey Boy, his sophomore album, followed in 2000. Then between 2002 and 2003, Shaun released five volumes of his Ape Breaks series. So popular were the Ape Breaks series, that Shawn became the most sampled drummer of his generation. Following the Ape Breaks series Shawn released the first album by his newest project, Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra.

Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra released Music and Rhythm in 2004. Moods and Grooves followed in 2005, with Strings and Things released in 2006. Another seven albums would be released by Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra between 2007 and 2012. With each album, their genre melting music was finding a wider audience. The same year, 2006, Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra released Strings and Things, Sean released two further albums.

The first album was a soundtrack album, Rockstar Games Presents Bully Original Soundtrack. Then there was Shawn’s first release for BBE Music, Soul Vista. It was released to critical acclaim. Soul Vista marked a new chapter in Shawn’s career. So did two  collaborations Shawn was involved with.

In 2008, Shawn and Clutchy Hopkins released their collaboration Clutch Of The Tiger. Shawn also collaborated on the Under The Sun Original Motion Picture Soundtrack with Afro Dizzi Act, Band of Frequencies and Low Pressure Sound System. Then in 2010, Bei Bei and Shawn collaborated on Into The Wind. The same year, Shawn released another solo album.

Sing A Song was released in 2010. It was the latest addition to Shawn’s discography. With each album, Shawn was evolving and maturing as a producer. He’d established a reputation as one of the most innovative producers of his generation. Shawn was also gaining a reputation as the hardest working producer in modern music.

2011 saw Shawn collaborate with Alex Rizzo, Elliot Ireland and The Fingers Malone Ensemble on The Organic Downbeats. This wasn’t the only album Shawn released. No. His latest collaboration made released their debut album in 2011.

Celestial Electric was the debut from  A.M. and Shawn Lee. Their sophomore album La Musique Numérique followed in 2012. Shawn also released another solo album in 2012, the genre-melting Synthesizers In Space. The following year, Shawn was part of innovative transatlantic project,

In 2013, Shawn joined collaborated with Herbie Flowers, Tim Lee and Barry Morgan. The result of the quartet’s collaboration was New York Trouble / Electric Progression. This was the just the latest innovative addition to Shawn Lee’s discography. The next is Shawn Lee Presents Golden Age Against The Machine.

For Shawn. Shawn Lee Presents Golden Age Against The Machine is a deeply personal album. It harks back to the music that influenced and inspired him. It’s what he calls the golden age of hip hop, which he believes was between the mid-eighties and the mid-nineties. This was what Shawn listened to growing up and when he was embarking on his career as a producer.

What especially inspired Shawn was sample based production. This was new. No longer did you need musicians and a studio to record an album. It was now within the budget of a new generation. Like the previous generation, they dug deep looking for samples. Around this sample. producers, like Shawn, could build a track. 

Often, it was a drum beat, guitar lick or horn riff. Sometimes, it was all three. This formed the basis for the track. Strings could be added. Possibly percussion or a snippet of a vocal. Maybe another sample or samples were added. Sometimes, the tempo was changed or effects added. All this was to disguise the sample’s identity. This describes how the music Shawn grew up listening to was made. It also describes what he did early in his career.

Shawn would play the drums while rappers vamped over Chic’s Good Times. He then graduated to playing Rufus’ Ain’t Nobody. Soon, Shawn had his own Linn drum machines, Dmx’s, SP 12 and 1200’s and MPC drum machines. His career was underway. He was a fully fledged hip hop producer. 

Now, nearly twenty years later, Shawn is approaching the veteran stage of his career. He’s held in the highest esteem among the hip hop community. They’ve come out in their droves to accompany Shawn on his new album Shawn Lee Presents Golden Age Against The Machine. It’s an all-star cast the accompanies Shawn Lee on the gloriously old school Shawn Lee Presents Golden Age Against The Machine. However, it’s old school with a twist.

The old school hip hop albums from De La Soul, The Dust Brothers and Prince Paul that inspired Shawn were all sample based productions. Not Shawn Lee Presents Golden Age Against The Machine. It isn’t a sample based production. No way. Instead, Shawn played everything Shawn Lee Presents Golden Age Against The Machine. This includes every one note stab, lick and drum beat. That’s what makes Shawn Lee Presents Golden Age Against The Machine such a compelling project. It’s also a fitting homage to the golden age of hip hop. Helping Shawn were a cast of guest artists.

Among the guest artists on Shawn Lee Presents Golden Age Against The Machine, are Braille, MC ThinkTank, Lightheaded, Ohmega Watts, Miles Bonny, Earl Zinger, Busdriver, Princess Superstar and Andy “Undertaker” Cooper. All these artists helped Shawn Lee produce Shawn Lee Presents Golden Age Against The Machine, which may very well be his an old school hip hop Magnus Opus with a twist. Is that the case though? 

Forward To The Past opens Shawn Lee Presents Golden Age Against The Machine. Straight away, it references hip hop roots. It draws inspiration from Chic’s Good Times, before a joyous fusion of soul, funk and disco unfolds. Blazing horns, chiming guitars and a funky rhythm section join forces with percussion and a strutting rap. The result is hook laden old school hip hop the new school way. 

Stay On Course features the first guest artist Braille. He plays a part in the track’s tougher harder sound. A myriad of grizzled horns, crystalline guitars, stabs of piano and scratches provide the backdrop to Braille’s swaggering rap.

Back To The Future is a real fusion of styles. It also has an eighties sound. That’s no surprise. This is when Sean grew up. Everything from electronica, electro and funk are combined as MC ThinkTank swaggers his way through the track. Bubbling synths and effects are added, resulting in a futuristic sound as we take a trip Back To The Future.

After this, a string of guest artists make an appearance. Lightheaded features on Rocksteady, where elements of reggae, funk and soul are combined. The arrangement is dominated by keyboards, while stabs of horns, crisp drums, scratches and bursts of vocal escape from the arrangement to this genre-melting track. Ohmega Watts plays a huge part in We Got The Jazz. He plays the role of jive talking hep cat to a tee on this jazz-tinged slice of smokey hip hop.

Slow, moody and dubby describes the old-school influenced Boom Rap. It features a jazz-tinged guitar and the crackling sound of old vinyl. Later, stabs of horns are added to the understated arrangement to what could easily be a vintage hip hop classic. 

Big Bad Wolf shows another side to Shawn Lee. It’s dark, dramatic and cinematic, as Shawn springs surprises during this magical musical mystery tour. It continues on Hip Hop Harpe. From the get go it’s slow and moody. Meandering, hypnotic, keyboards grab your attention. Sean’s other secret weapon are the drums. They plod along adding to the atmospheric, broody arrangement which again, has a cinematic sound.

The next few tracks see the return of the guest artists. Miles Bonny guests on the soulful, jazzy and beautiful Wake Up. Earl Zinger features on Jackie Chan. It veers between the atmospheric, disturbing, haunting  and hypnotic. 

Next stop is Christophe which features Busdriver. He unleashes a vocal at breakneck speed. Meanwhile the arrangement veers between soulful and uber funky. There’s even a brief nod to Canned Heat and  hint of blues and poppy harmonies. Mostly, it’s funky, as if inspired by Shawn’s love of Blaxploitation. Princess Superstar features on I Just Had A Baby. She mixes Nu-Soul and hip hop with humour and hooks. Andy “The Undertaker” Cooper features on the wistful, dramatic hip hop anthem Ashes To Ashes. His vocal and the keyboards are at the heart of a track that’s dark, dramatic and anthemic.

School House Funk sees Shawn roll back the years. He replicates the youthful exuberance and energy of the high school band. This can’t help make you smile as Shawn’s musical journey continues.

Straight away, Baby Breakin’ reminds me of Queen’s Another One Bites The Dust. It’s an old school track, that reminds me of hip hop’s early years, especially Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Featuring MC Shawny Shawn’s rap, it’s a homage to hip hop’s early years.

Marimba has a wistful introduction. That’s before the thunderous drums gallop in. They provide a contrast the the melancholy sound of the Marimba. Swathes of strings, keyboards and drums combine to create a wistful, sixties sounding cinematic track. Muson Magic closes Shawn Lee Presents Golden Age Against The Machine. It has futuristic, space-age sound. Add to that elements of funk and Kraftwerk and Muson Magic sounds like the soundtrack to a cult sci-fi film.

So that’s the story of Shawn Lee Presents Golden Age Against The Machine. This was Shawn’s Magnus opus, his love letter to the golden age of hip hop. Described as a “passion play,”  Shawn Lee Presents Golden Age Against The Machine is anold school hip hop album the new school way.

By this, I mean Shawn eschews sample based production for playing each of the parts.  Shawn played everything on Shawn Lee Presents Golden Age Against The Machine. This includes every one note stab, lick and drum beat. That and a cast of guest artists is  what makes Shawn Lee Presents Golden Age Against The Machine such a compelling and critically acclaimed project.

Among the guest artists on Shawn Lee Presents Golden Age Against The Machine, are Braille, MC ThinkTank, Lightheaded, Ohmega Watts, Miles Bonny, Earl Zinger, Busdriver, Princess Superstar and Andy “Undertaker” Cooper. Each and every one of these guest artists played a part in the success of Shawn Lee Presents Golden Age Against The Machine. However, it’s Shawn that deserves the most credit.

Not only is he a talented producer, but a talented musician. Unlike many modern producers, he can actually play an  instrument. He proves that here on Shawn Lee Presents Golden Age Against The Machine’s seventeen tracks. Shawn draws inspiration from everything from Blaxploitation, electro, electronic, funk, jazz, Nu-Soul, pop, rock and soul. The result is a captivating and compelling musical tapestry full of subtleties and surprises. Shawn throws a series of curveballs as he sets about winning friends and influencing people on Shawn Lee Presents Golden Age Against The Machine which will be released on 5th May 2014 on BBE Music.

Shawn Lee Presents Golden Age Against The Machine was an ambitious project. After all, trying to create an album that paid homage to the golden age of hip hop was never going to be easy. After all, many a classic album was released during this period. These albums are part of hip hop’s fabric and history. They represent part of the evolution of hip hop. Not only that, but they were the soundtrack to Shawn Lee’s youth and the start of his career as a producer. So, it must have been with a degree of apprehension that Shawn set about making Shawn Lee Presents Golden Age Against The Machine. However, in Shawn Lee Presents Golden Age Against The Machine, his love letter to the golden age of hip hop, he has made not just a fitting homage to hip hop’s golden age but an album that one day, will become part of hip hop’s history.

SHAWN LEE PRESENTS GOLDEN AGE AGAINST THE MACHINE.

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