When Elliot Haslam AKA Shaodow went to China to learn Shaolin Kung Fu at the age of 18. It was not only a martial art that he learnt, but also a discipline and a mindset which he has carried with him ever since. He explains, “it was very informative in building who I am. The thing I love about martial arts is that the ethos and literal translation of Kung Fu is hard work. You have to put your head down and learn. There's no short cuts... So I apply Kung Fu to my music.” In a world where people are all too willing to take short cuts to success, by applying Kung Fu principals to his music Shaodow's hard work is paying off. After graduating with a law degree from Oxford, Shaodow made the brave decision to follow his heart and pursue his love of music as an independent rapper. To date he has sold 15,000 copies of his album and reached number 25 in the iTunes Hip Hop chart – and without any studio backing whatsoever that is pretty impressive.
By travelling around the country and meeting people to showcase his music, Shaodow has become the best advert for his music. When I spoke to him he was on his way to Wales to try and build up his every growing fan base, The DIY Gang. The response he gets from sharing his talent with the people he meets has ensured that he is building up a loyal following wherever he goes. But does he not feel that signing with a record company would save him some of the leg work?
“When I first started my career my thoughts were like any other artist, I'll do what I can and try get a label interested and get signed and everything would be cool from there. But the more I did by myself I started to realise that I don't need or want a record label to do anything for me. The amount of work I've put in myself, it didn't really make sense in my mind to go to a label and ask them to do what I can do for myself.”
Whilst social media has played a part in creating Shaodow's exposure as an artist, he prefers to build his fan base via a “real world response.” He continues “ looking people in the eye and explaining my music to them is much better that if they've just heard a few tracks on line.” This method of self publicity and promotion may seem like something alien to us in the UK, but Shaodow tells me that although it's a different approach, in the US it's not uncommon for artists to sell their CD's from the boot of their cars to create a fan base.
It's a huge jump from law and martial arts to rap and whilst he acknowledges that he's always loved music what inspired Shaodow to turn to rap? “I was into poetry in secondary school. I loved the way you could express yourself through words that rhyme. I started to listen to So Solid Crew, Busta Rhymes and Ludacris. I heard stuff I liked but I didn't hear a lot of what represented me. It was all about the lifestyle and the money, fast cars etc. and that wasn't stuff that interested me. So I started to write lyrics to express myself and found a large section of people that had a similar feeling.” With people all over the UK and Europe responding to his truthful and relevant lyrics, Shaodow's music is accessible no matter what your musical taste. He says that he wants “people who like music to like his music”, as a result he incorporates everything from rock, to dance to grime an hip hop and everything in-between.
The enthusiasm and drive that Shaodow has for his music and the passion for wanting to share it with people is inspirational. “You only have one life to live and you may as well live and be happy. Although being a lawyer or solicitor is a perfectly respectable career, it didn't feel right to me.” With his ever growing success and an independent artist, it looks as if he made the right decision.