Showtime for Shamir Lee
*Photo by Daniel White
Shamir Lee will crest the stage as part of the Creative Infusion x Carolina Waves GHOE Showcase, hosted by K-97.5, on Oct. 25 at the Artist Bloc.
“Darlene hooks it up with a dope meeting place for artists across the board,” the Greensboro hip-hop artist said of the venue, which will host his first appearance related to the annual NC A&T Homecoming Weekend celebration, affectionately known as the “Greatest Homecoming on Earth,” or GHOE.
A dude of many hats, Lee carries titles beyond rapper as a producer, writer, WUAG DJ and more. Greensboro-affiliated since 2007, he hit the stage officially in 2011 and has kept his motormouth running.
“I loved music as a kid. I was in chorus, orchestra, did some plays, got into poetry and eventually started rapping,” Lee said of his upbringing. “At first, everybody fronted on me as a rapper, and wouldn’t give me any beats, so I started making my own. It’s been a journey ever since,” he said of his entrance to producing, and ultimately, the stage.
“I like to speak on things within society, the powers that be trying to keep a foot on our necks as a people, the negative effects of that,” he said of motivating forces. ”My more recent projects look more inward, and speak on how those things influence myself and the people around me.”
And of those people, “it always takes a village,” Lee noted of the communal nature around crafting releases. “My friends in and outside of music are always involved in what I create. If not by directly collaborating, it’s by morale-boosting or just being the inspiration.”
It’s that outlook that helped forge his artistic rebirth following the 2018 record SHAMLEEMUSTDIE, which plays like a self-introspective phoenix, rising from the ashes of an “ego death.”
“I noticed my own ego getting me into situations that were hard to navigate through,” Lee explained, with X-men movie references. “Bishop was killed because of his strength, which became his weakness,” he clarified, “the anger that was fueling me artistically was beginning to hinder my growth as an artist.”
“In hip-hop, well, at least the cloth I consider myself cut from, we tend to romanticize this idea of aggression being used to validate leadership roles and the voice’s importance behind the mic and with performing,” he said. “I’m still growing and still learning; of course, I want my projects to reflect that part of my learning and growing process.”
His latest release, Shamir Lee Presents (The Potted Tape), the multi-artist and multimedia project put-out over the summer, is the latest product of that artistic growth. “I wanted to make my ‘the Chronic,’ my ‘Welcome To Detroit,’ where I was in the driver’s seat of production,” he explained. “My cousin, Steven Dunn, wrote a book that was turned into a short film and wanted me to do the soundtrack, and the opportunity presented itself.” Some of the artists featured on The Potted Tape include Dopey Graham, Tony Price, Sage Walker, and SunQueen Kelcey, amongst “the usual suspects” in his recording repertoire.
“I’m fortunate to be surrounded by talented people,” Lee insisted. “They pushed me to become a better producer, beatmaker, and writer while making that album. The show was bittersweet. It was a celebration of the release of the album but also was around the time Taylor Bays passed. Love was flowing through the whole building.”
As for national influences, Lee is a “huge” J. Dilla fan, considering “him the bridge between the Native Tongues and the Soulquarians.” But it’s the younger artists on which Lee is keeping his eye.
“At the tender age of 30 (which is like 73 in rapper years) younger artists motivate me to stay sharp and stay on my toes,” Lee confessed. “The new energy that the kids bring to this culture is beautiful,” he added. “Self-expression itself is beautiful. The fact that we have these gifts as people to express ourselves, speak our truths through art is inspiring.”
Beyond performing, Lee looks to reciprocate the therapeutic powers music holds. He hosts a weekly “#CLRTHRYRADIO” radio show every Tuesday from 11 p.m.-1 a.m. on WUAG 103.1 FM and beckoned local artists to send material to “throw on the air.”
For Lee, these outlets are platforms to spread music gospel—he ends every radio show with the same call for “Everybody to love each other and listen to each other because love and understanding are the only things that can save us now—that and a bomb ass climate change plan.”
And with that, he hopes to drop a few bombs of his own come showtime at the Creative Infusion x Carolina Waves GHOE Showcase, hosted by Mir.I.Am from K-97.5 FM, with Nunafterhours and DJ RNB, on Oct. 25 at the Artist Bloc in Greensboro.
Katei Cranford is a Triad music nerd who hosts the Tuesday Tour Report on WUAG 103.1 FM.