Shael Riley is Not Hip Hop


Beyonce Naked

MC Lars already taught us all that Hot Topic is not punk rock, but I now want to tell you that Shael Riley is not Hip Hop. Then why include him on Hip Hop Week, you ask… simple, it’s because I said I was going to and I’m stubborn. Despite his pleas to be classified under beer because he believes he is “malty” like a “fresh Spaten Optimator” (which is a fantastic beer, by the way), I am sticking to my guns.

If you don’t know Shael Riley, you have been missing out. Wikipedia says that he is “a nerdcore hip-hop artist and guitarist currently residing in New York City, New York.” He’s worked with Beefy, Frontalot, Schäffer the Darklord, and Optimus Rhyme to name a few, so his Nerdcore credibility is certainly there… but now he proves once and for all, he’s not a rapper, but a musician and entertainer well versed in numerous styles of music. His claims that this album are not hip hop are 100% true, in fact the most prominent influence that I can hear is one of my favorite artists ever, Ben Folds. Lyrically and sonically, so much of Songs from the Pit reminds me of my favorite nerdy piano songsmith… there’s even a piano version of one of the songs on the release.

Now that you know Shael Riley is not simply hip hop and that I’m only reviewing him during Hip Hop Week because of my own stubbornness, let’s break down this pop rock release in more depth. First off, let’s talk packaging. Shael Riley and the Double Ice Backfire’s Songs from the Pit is a freakin’ CASSETTE TAPE. Remember those? Of course you don’t… well… cassette tapes were what most music was distributed on prior to the invention of compact discs, which have since been eliminated by digital music downloads. Thus, in order to listen to Shael and the gang, you need decade old technology… which of course if unassailably cool to any nerd like myself who thinks that going analog is a sign of being awesome.

Second, let’s talk music. This is a solid outing. I’ve read other reviews of this album that have described the album as “NES Rock” and I’m okay with that tag (the synth sounds and the lyrics make this assessment accurate), but all in all, the best assessment of this album is to describe it as a hook laden, pop oriented dork rock… or perhaps, we can just call it “malty”. Whatever we call it, here’s what I think about each track:

Track One: “Publishing Rights”

This track fits that “NES Rock” label. Straight out of 1985, Nintendo blips and bleeps can be throughout the track, augmenting the fantastic rock tune. Shael’s vocals are solid and Mark Schaffer (aka Schäffer the Darklord) lays down a phat verse. And… on top of this already being a great track, Mr. Riley promises a remix by his good friend Kasparov (a remix I hope to include on September’s Monthly Mixtape)

Track Two: “The Other Side of Memphis”

Here is where I begin to hear that Ben Folds type songwriting… while no piano graces the track, the keyboards are somewhat reminiscent of my favorite singer/songwriter. What is much more Folds-esque in the track is the song structure and lyrical quality. I’d expect that other fans of Ben would agree that this is a fantastic song.

Track Three: “How to Fire a Gun”

Riley’s vocals stand out as my favorite element of this track, although the bass lines are quite awesome, as well. And the idea of writing a 2D video game that is based off GPS technology is a great idea that someone needs to work on.

Track Four: “Asian Kids Have All the Best Moves”

What is there to say? The title of the track alone makes this a great track because of how true it is. This is another track that screams Ben Folds to me, especially the vocal delivery. This may be my favorite track, although it is difficult to decide, because I like the entire cassette.

Track Five: “Hipster Hoax”

A fun, dancey pop song… kind of makes me think of a Panic! at the Disco song without the punk influence (or at least less of a punk influence). If you dig on the dancey synthesizer pop rock of bands like Cobra Starship, this is a track you’d dig on. There is a rad breakdown on the bridge. Overall, maybe the most fun (original) song on the tape.


Track Six: “Chinese Ninja Warrior”

The reason “Hipster Hoax is only the most fun original track and not the most fun overall track is that Riley and his band cover “Subzero (Chinese Ninja Warrior)” by The Immortals. It’s awesome… they took a cheesy, hilarious song about Mortal Kombat’s Subzero and made it sound like a semi-serious indie rock song. The synth and the high pitched wails of “freezing vibrations” are what keeps it from being a strictly serious cover and make sure to keep the lighthearted nature in tact.

Track Seven: “tip eht fo mottob”

The beat on this one is the closest thing to Hip Hop on the cassette. This is an awesome track. Kinda makes me think of Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner” in sound… though I’m not exactly sure why.

Track Eight: “Asian Kids Have All the Best Moves (Piano Version)”

Piano version of track 4… if I didn’t already make the Ben Folds comparison, then here is where it’s all too obvious. Another track in the running for my favorite on the tape. Vocals shine in this stripped down alternate take!

So overall, I dig Shael Riley’s newest venture. In fact, dare I say, “It’s MALTY!”


~ by thepaintedman on August 11, 2009.

3 Responses to “Shael Riley is Not Hip Hop”

  1. […] been trying to write new songs for the full length Double Ice Backfire release, primarily. Working on a little bit of Grammar Club on the […]

  2. […] Shael Riley, Beefy, and a bunch of other cool cats have this group called The Grammar Club. Here’s a great older track of that they put up on their site for free: Download “Underbeard” here. These are the nerds that created the kickass backing music to Zangief’s stage in Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, which is also available for download on their website. […]

  3. […] the big four, this illustrious site has covered the likes of Beefy, Shael Riley, Dual Core, and The ThoughtCriminals/Mikal kHill, as well as nerdy acts that don’t identify […]

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