Island Fever: Darker Than You’d Think
This is the first rendition of 1+1, a new worldwide recording project by Norient and Sound Development designed to give audiences a look into how a track is produced. One of the first female Iranian rappers Salome MC and multilingual rapper Shing02 worked together in Honolulu, Hawaii for one week. What came out was a creative process that called on one of the artists best assets: their ability to adapt. For more material (tracks, videos, articles, photos) on 1+1 check the project website here.
«Here today and gone the next» is a notion that can seem frightening. Depending on how you interpret it, it either reeks of inconsistency or glows with possibility. For Salome MC and Shing02, it is the latter. This is reflected in their track, «Passenger», written and produced in one week in Honolulu, Hawaii as part of Norient's and Sound Development's new project entitled 1+1.
Salome MC, the first female Iranian rapper, was the first artist on board. She asked multilingual Japanese rapper, producer and director Shing02 to collaborate with her on this. The project must take place in one of the artists' residing cities. Salome MC lives in Japan and Shing02 is from Japan, but has lived in Honolulu for about two years. They decided to work in Honolulu since it is a fairly new place for both of them.
With only a week to write lyrics, compose the track and master it, the pair worked under conditions that were more fast-paced than they were used to. How long it takes to produce a track can hardly ever be predicted, but a week to complete any creative project effectively can be an arduous task. Salome MC typically works on her music privately, in her apartment in Japan and only when she’s not at work.
«When you’re alone, you can do all kinds of shit. I can experiment, I can go crazy. Some of it is going to sound awful and some of it is going to sound great and you can pick that one great part. And here, I felt like I can’t really go to a lot of crazy places because there are so many people watching and they’re going to be like, ‹What the hell is she doing?› So I played it a lot safer than normal», Salome MC said.
If Salome MC had tried to let loose with her work as if she were alone, it probably would have been fine with Shing02, since part of his goal in this project was to support her vision, which is what he does a lot of now that he often works as a music producer.
«We didn’t have any particular problems. We gave each other a lot of room and freedom to do things and we didn’t feel that much pressure. We just try to constantly improve on the track … We even finished technically ahead of schedule», said Shing02.
As with any collaboration, figuring out how to fit two creative entities together can be a challenge, especially when they come from two different parts of the world. It could have been an area of collaborative difficulty, but in the end only proved to help the both of them in different ways.
«We have some common ground when it comes to the way we choose our subject matter. Sometimes it is heavy, sometimes light-hearted, sometimes we discuss universal topics or local and obscure ones. There is no limit as long as it is something worth being heard,» said Salome.
Both Salome MC and Shing02 are drawn to political issues concerning their respective home countries in their writing, and although it is not all they write about, this is what has made them so substantial in the rap world in the first place. Despite their ten-year age gap, Salome MC and Shing02 believe that writing needs to have depth and a food-for-thought quality, regardless of the subject.
«(We) make sure that when (we) write it means something, that it’s going to touch people and move people. It doesn’t have to be political, it can be something about love, but just approach it from an angle that is going to be new for people, that’s going to make them think a little bit and move them», Salome MC said.
This was certainly present on «Passenger», where the lyrics span from Shing02 talking about light-hearted high school crushes turning into something more:
a bit bittersweet, but better with age,
still sharp as a saber tooth
and the truth that we speak on the frequency
used to spit these hot sixteens
like a sophomore crush
looking back that was cute,
now i'm ready to shoot
to Salome MC defending herself against corruption in its many forms, including politics and mass media.
They say I am on the offensive, but I’d say I’ve been a defender
Ever since the day I developed an opposition against shoving info that does not match my eco-
system into my apparatus
My antibodies need to reveal the false so that I can heal
Since Salome MC has great respect for Shing02, she readily accepted his advice when it came to producing this track. And rather than acting superior, Shing02 displayed his trademark humbleness, not just because he has been in her place in a collaboration before but because it is just in his nature.
«I’ve worked with many people that are older than me that I never dreamed of working with, like DJ Krush, Ryuichi Sakamoto, The Pharcyde, Black Sheep, all these legends that I would’ve never dreamed of when I was just starting up. But, I also understand that for them it’s really the same situation. As long as I bring something to the table, then it’s worth their time to collaborate with me. I try to be open-ended on both ends. I see my peers and idols as equals», he explained.
Neither of them really had a specific message or objective when approaching this project and they were prepared to just go wherever the process took them. Interestingly enough, the end product, the track «Passenger», was lyrics that detailed just that: a process. A personal process of finding where one belongs.
Past Influencing Present
Both Salome MC and Shing02 moved around a lot as kids, and as adults they are finding themselves in countries and positions that have taken a while to arrive at.
«In childhood, we both had that feeling of being on the move, of being a traveler. We’re both kind of addicted to being on the road and being constantly on the move, so these are things we tried to portray in the song», said Salome MC.
Shing02 finally chose Hawaii as a place to live after commuting back and forth between there and California for 10 years while living in California for 25 years. In addition, he still visits Japan regularly.
«Everybody, especially in Japan, they’re interested in Hawaii but they don’t know about the deeper issues surrounding it. There are a lot of things in common between Japan and Hawaii, like military occupation in both places. There are a lot of common themes I can relate to and so I feel like I can be a bridge for people to learn more about both of those places», said Shing02, who speaks both Japanese and English.
Since the project took place in Hawaii, both parties thought that the laid back and chill atmosphere of the island would lend itself to generally upbeat and happy lyrics. This was not the case.
«Eventually it turned dark. I started thinking about what it means to be able to have this luxury of getting to come here. Having an Iranian passport for me, I’m one of the lucky people who can travel a lot. You think what it means that a lot of people can’t really walk the earth because of where they’re from», said Salome MC.
For Salome MC, one particularly special element of the lyrics is the chorus, which is taken from the aforementioned quote from Matsuo Bashō, a haiku poet whom Salome MC admires.
«I liked the fact that he was always on the road … It’s just a sentence from his travel log, but even his prose is really poetic. It turns out it sits well on our chorus. I thought maybe Shing02 might think it’s cheesy because he’s Japanese, but he liked it and that was a nice final touch that sealed the track», said Salome MC.
The song also has underlying themes of racism, not just pertaining to Hawaii but in America as a whole.
«For some reason, when I wrote the phrase, ‹ready to shoot›, it just came to (the American novel) To Kill A Mockingbird. That’s just a phrase that entered my mind. I didn’t really think of the book too much, but now that I researched it the sequel had just come out yesterday (at the time)», he explained.
«It deals a lot with racism in Southern America, so that was interesting and it relates to the first line in the song where I talk about the ‹middle passage›, which is the slave trade that has a deep connection to colonialism that now affects Japan and Hawaii as well», continued Shing02.
Working in Honolulu
Inevitably, they were still influenced to a degree by the city in which they worked. Much of the track was composed at Lana Lane Studios in Kakaako, which is near both the ocean and downtown, so they took some time to explore the area and record field noises for the track.
Many of the field noises made it to «Passenger», such as bamboo whacking against various surfaces and sounds of the ocean, albeit subtly. Also present is the sound of water sloshing around inside of a coconut. Shing02 had heard it at a concert once when a girl was making abstract sounds with it in the bass line.
Documentary on the Production Week Honolulu
«I realized, this is a really nice sound with the water inside, so I should just mic it. I always had that idea, I wanted to do it. And then (my friend) happens to be right here who can slice open a coconut for us, so that’s kind of fortunate, it happened organically. But imagine if you were somewhere else. You’d have to buy a coconut and get a machete to crack it open. So it was good timing for us», Shing02 explained.
When it comes to sounds on a track, Salome MC and Shing02 have had varying experiences. Salome MC has been producing for about two years, so it is fairly new to her. She is open to finding sounds wherever they are available and tends to experiment with digital sounds. Shing02 on the other hand, is not fond of software sounds and prefers what he can record himself. They decided to use both digital and live sounds in «Passenger».
«The end game was, I tried to be unique and original as possible, at the same time being something that you would listen to. So in this case, Salome provided the foundation so I just tried to chip in here and there to try and make it more warm and organic … I think we have a good balance of having these live elements together and of course Nick (Kaleikini) topped it off and gave it a good vibe. Having more of a human element», Shing02 explained.
Kaleikini provided the saxophone on the track in a way that compliments Salome MC’s haunting vocals and the duo’s message of wanderlust.
«When I heard the saxophone, I wanted it to be ethereal, not so much in your face, but dreamy, so I added a big reverb to it, like a really light delay, just so that that way it kind of feels like you’re being swept off by the saxophone», said Jules Washington, the Studio Manager and Lead Engineer at Blue Planet Sound Studio Hawaii, where the track was mastered and finalized.
The end product turned out to be a collaboration between more than just Salome MC and Shing02. Since Shing02 lives in Honolulu, he was able to bring a lot of local media workers on board. Kaleikini was also brought on by Shing02 to add the saxophone, as well as other musical friends who came to hangout in the studio during the week.
Shing02 has also worked at Lana Lane Studios in the past, which is in part why 1+1 was able to secure the studio for this project. He is the one who got myself involved to document the writing portion, and he brought on other local media people to document as well, such as Vincent Ricafort for video coverage and Shaneika Aguilar for photography. Salome and Shing02 were also able to make an appearance on KTUH, the radio station at University of Hawaii at Mānoa, thanks to Reilynn Yamane, a local DJ.
«Every day is a journey. The journey itself is home», this, according Bashō’s travel log, is the essence and inspiration for not just the song, but the entire process leading up to it. It was a process that called on one of SalomeMC and Shing02’s best assets: their ability to adapt.
Podcast on the Track «Passenger»
By Reilynn Yamane, Honolulu, Hawaii feat. Beatboxmike aka «Mikee Mic».
Published on March 07, 2016
Last updated on April 05, 2020