The London-based wordsmith and all-round champion of women in music talks us through the tracks that have profoundly influenced her career thus far
Date published: 27th Sep 2021
For those of you yet to learn of her talent, let us be the first to proudly introduce you to a future star of the UK hip hop and grime scene – Shay D.
Born to Iranian parents and raised here in Britain, Shay D’s emcee proficiency has been pricking ears and turning heads on the underground for some time now. Known for her already mastered flow and ability to produce pensive lyrical content, her sound resembles that of a jigsaw, bringing together various pieces and influences from her multicultural and exceptional upbringing. From spoken word Persian poetry, upon which she was raised, to the still resonant sound of ’90s American hip hop and contemporary UK grime – there’s a great deal to dissect and listen out for in her unique arrangements.
Shay D’s latest album, Speaking in Tongues is out now. Check out a teaser of the record below…
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Not quite content with just trying to conquer the male-dominated landscape, she finds herself operating within, Shay has also committed herself to champion other female rappers and artists. In 2019, she produced, managed and appeared on the first-ever all-female UK hip hop tour, the ‘Queens Of Art Tour’, which saw performances from the likes of MC Kiss, MC Deelaydee, Rap Cypher and DJ Ellie Prohan.
Still not impressed? (Dang, you’re hard to please) She’s collaborated with the likes of Nike, Reprezent Radio and BBC1xtra, performed on stage at world-renowned festivals the likes of Glastonbury, Shambala, Elle A Soul Festival and WOW Festival and has also released a track alongside Boy George, which very few are aware of.
We recently got the chance to catch up with Shay, to talk about female-led UK rap music and the artists that inspired her to pick up the mic. Check out her top ten selection below and read what she had to say about each of the artists and records below.
1. It Takes More – Ms Dynamite
Shay D: “This song was everything my personality could identify with and I found my fitting with Ms Dynamite. Her whole angle, views, social commentary was like mine and I identified with how she carried herself and it made me do it so proudly. This album was amazing but this song it particular to this day makes me feel empowered, strong and represents the community we grew up in. This is a uk anthem in my opinion.”
2. Dollar Sign – Stush
Shay D: “Stush’s voice was so distinct and every rave we went to, when this came on we would go MAD. She killed the delivery on this beat and I rated her as a MC. I think this tune still works in the dance and being timeless like this is what music is all about!”
3. Unorthodox Daughter – NoLay
Shay D: “I loved Nolay from the moment I heard this song drop on the Run the Road CD that I still got! Nolay is so strong with her lyrics, flow, delivery and was one of my favourite MCs growing up. This tune is levels and I think in present times can give most top 10 tracks a run for their money! This video reps our time growing up as well, its so London.”
4. Boo – Ms Dynamite
Shay D: “The queen again, teamed up with Sticky, this is a UK CLASSIC! Ms Dynamite, similarly to Lauryn Hill, is known as a rapper although on the majority of her work she sings. But when she raps, she RAPS! Boo! It’s one of the greatest songs, the drop, her flow, the lyricism – it’s a perfect tune!”
5. Getting Late – Floetry
Shay D: “I had the floetry CD I would listen to on the bus to uni, on my discman!! These two girls found a vibe that hadn’t been done and just smashed it. The gentleness, Floacist raspy voice, Marshas melodies and vocals, they had the best chemistry and this album is an all time great. I still play all the songs now. For me it was both sides of my personality and I hadn’t heard anything like this in our accents, from the UK ever like this. This song – woooo – is just amazing. If you know about this tune, you know!”
6. Blue Lights – Dibo
Shay D: “When I heard this song a couple years ago, I instantly loved Dibo’s voice and the pain she spat with. I supported it on my Reprezent Radio show and reached out to her. She has now become a friend and we have our own song together and she was part of my Queens of Art all female hip hop tour. This song over the infamous beat, just gives it a new life, and the realness Dibo spits with is exactly the Rap I love.”
7. Half Action Man, Half Barbie – TrueMendous
Shay D: “True is another friend and rapper that I had to take on the Queens of Art tour! She was a rapper that I championed and put on every platform I had, from radio to live gigs to the tour because I wanted people to hear her. This song in particular is one of my favourites and I think is important especially for people who are tomboy style, sometimes girly, even within the LGBT community, just has an importance of identity but she story tells, flows, and the hook is so relatable. The beat is what makes this tune bang so much! The drop is dope!”
7. No Silence – Lady Ice
Shay D: “I knew of Lady Ice but I was watching Rap Game UK and actually respected and rated her so much more seeing how she delivered and carried herself. I also felt like she should have been respected more on the show. But she made this song especially around the BLM movement and the rise of racism awareness in the UK, and I thought it was so important that a female voice was heard and that she made this song to capture the time.”
8. Raindrops – Reiss Boogie
Shay D: “I rate this video and I rate Reiss’s work rate and how much she does for other women and people around her. I think this tune is dope. It’s important that people can change their lives, rap about deep experiences and be on their grind. I think putting this into music like this is very dope.”
9. Say Yes – Floetry
Shay D: “I couldn’t not put this song in. This song has been in my life during many shifts, obstacles, relationships, places, emotions it’s mad. The rap flirts between spoken word, and it influenced how I would mix spoken word poetry with bars as well, in my Human Writes album there is a poem between each song. I think Floetry had an influence on me a lot. This song is stunning.”
10. Land Far Away – Poetic Pilgrimage
Shay D: “These women are amazing. I know them personally but they made a bold statement in the UK Hip Hop scene, being two strong talented black women with hijabs on, rapping on stage like that was quote controversial and brave, and they smashed it. Its not often you see women in hijabs going in with their bars in the UK, so for me they were groundbreaking and positive disruptors. They had to be on the list!”
Got a Spotify account? You can listen to the above selections and more in our first Women of UK hip hop playlist, below.
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