Shy High has been making waves throughout the music industry within the last year due to his refreshing style of boom-bap-inspired rap, which is on full display in his breakout song, ‘independent films’. A rare find, Shy is a self-produced rap artist, who uses well-selected samples in creative ways to add spice to his instrumentals. After finding his footing on TikTok, Shy High has steadily built a sizeable listenership; a group of fans that live and breathe his music. With his witty lyrics and catchy flows, the 20-year-old is continuing to blow past the barriers set in front of him.
His most recent release, ‘clam chowder’, is the one that thankfully brought me to find the rising star. The song is full of intricate rhyme schemes chock-full of lyrics that seem to effortlessly flow out of Shy. This would make sense when considering he hardly ever hits the “delete button” when writing his songs, and when it comes to his pen game he doesn’t seem to miss. The chorus, which found traction on TikTok, exudes an extremely catchy melody that finds a way to replay in my head throughout the day. The production in this release bears resemblance to his past discography, full of chopped samples, a simple synth melody, 90s rap drums, and an 808 that’s sampled from a Star Wars movie… cause why not?
Following the song dropping, I got the chance to link up with Shy High for half an hour to talk about his journey with music, his hometown, what he’d bring to an abandoned island, and more!
Let’s talk about the beginnings of Shy High… How long have you been making music? Is this your first artist project?
“Damn, I been making music since I was 11 or 12. I put my first original song on Youtube when I was 12. I was on some Justin Bieber shit, you feel me? I was singing wherever I could… I was singing karaoke at places and doing talent shows. I started writing lyrics young…I rolled with that for a while. I started putting stuff on Soundcloud, because my older brother was producing in Ableton so he put me onto some beats. That project was under ‘Channon’, which is my actual name. I went with that all the way up until 2021. I released multiple projects under ‘Channon’ on all streaming platforms. Then I got to a place where I felt like I was artistically and mentally developed to the point where I can take this further. And so, a name change just felt right.”
So why choose the name Shy High?
“Yeah, there’s not a lot of meaning honestly… I don’t know if you are familiar with the NBA but, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, I thought his name was pronounced “Shy” and I thought that was a cool name. Then I found out it was pronounced “Shay” so I took “Shy” for myself. Then I thought “High” sounded cool with “Shy” so that’s what I went with, that’s all it is.”
Moving on to ‘clam chowder’… What does the song mean to you? Out of the songs you’ve released is this your favorite?
“That’s a good question, I haven’t even thought about where it ranks favorite wise honestly. I’ve been claiming ‘Lawsuit’ as my favorite for a while just because I love that song. Although, I do really like ‘clam chowder’. The way I started approaching my music since ‘independent films’ has really just been writing whatever comes to mind and just riding that wave. I stopped putting limitations on my instincts. I made the beat for ‘clam chowder’ and for some reason the line “if I’m at the beach clam chowder” came to my mind, and I was like “that shit sounded so cool.” And yeah, then I wrote the hook and it was dope, and I don’t even know where that line came from but it’s facts honestly! If I’m at the beach I’m getting clam chowder. But yeah, I think, damn, ‘clam chowder’ might be my favorite? I don’t know.”
So when you are writing lyrics, you are just not hitting the delete button? You are just riding with whatever you write?
“Pretty much yeah. I started to find if I spent too much time on something I’d start to overthink it. If it’s not there, then it’s not there, you know? If it’s gonna come together it’s gonna come together fast. It’s kind of a weird thing for me to come to because I consider myself a writer, like not even just on some music shit, but even academically and shit I’m a writer, and so I’m used to spending time on stuff I’m writing, but I started to pick up on the idea that musically, for me, it’s all about my instinct and if there is not an instinct then I’m moving onto the next song. It really comes out or it doesn’t and I’m really not revising all that much nowadays. Sometimes I’ll write some shit and I’ll think “damn, that sounds freaky as fuck, maybe that’s too far” and I’ll change it a little bit, but for the most part it just flows.”
Let’s chat TikTok! You’ve seen much success on the platform. I’m wondering when you started on the app, whether it’s something you’ve enjoyed doing, and how it has benefited you thus far?
“Yeah, it’s kinda complicated. I started with TikTok originally in early 2021 not really taking it seriously. I was posting mostly fashion and thrifting videos. I would use my music as the sounds in those videos because I thought that was gonna help, but I realized no one really noticed it was me. I was getting hella views, I had like 20,000 followers at the time. Although, since no one knew it was my music in the videos I was in a weird position for most of 2021. Then in October I just said fuck it and started pushing my music because that’s what I wanna do. So I randomly posted ‘independent films’ and it got like 1 million views and that just shifted everything about my TikTok account. I just completely started posting about my music only. For me, I like doing TikTok. I started to think of it as an Instagram story, or like a Twitter feed, you don’t need to think that deep into it. Just put your thoughts out there. I do have an understanding of what the algorithm will push and what it won’t, and I don’t think I’m trying to get a viral video every time I post something. A lot of my videos are for my pre-existing fanbase, just to tap in with them. I understand as an artist you don’t wanna be too tethered to any given platform, you always wanna be looking to ground yourself in other places. But yeah TikTok is fun man, it’s powerful and it can change shit so fast.”
Is there any advice you’d wanna give to artists that are trying to do the same thing you’ve done, break-through on TikTok?
“I would say don’t finish music before you post it. I know that sounds like a bad idea, but for me personally, it takes me a long time to finish songs. I need to be posting songs and getting feedback on songs faster than I can finish them. So when I posted ‘clam chowder’, what I posted was everything I had. There was no song, it was just those 20 seconds. I probably wouldn’t have finished it if it hadn’t blown up, and the same is true with ‘independent films’. So I am posting stuff, and if there is no demand for it I’m not gonna finish it. That’s the beauty of TikTok, you can get feedback in real-time, and you can figure out what people want because it takes so much energy to put shit out by yourself. If there are no people anticipating it, I don’t see the reason behind it. Obviously, there is artist integrity and all that, but you got to grow at some point.”
I wanna talk about ‘independent films’ too… you shot a music video with Overcast for that song. I know a few of those guys and I wanted to ask about the experience. How’d it come about? How’d it go? Was it what you’d thought it would be? The video was sick and it seemed like a lot of fun.
“It was super fun. I think both Tommy and Danny had DMed me but I hadn’t seen it. So they hit my manager and said “we wanna do a video for ‘independent films'”. I honestly hadn’t heard of Overcast, I am not that tapped in, I kind of just stay in my own world. We started looking into them and we were like “woah they are actually really tight, a video would be so cool”. We flew out there [to Arizona] and they were all so chill, it was just like hanging out and skating and shit. The vibe was just so natural and it did come out so cool. Those guys are super cool, was super fun to shoot.”
So skateboarding, I can see the influence in your music. Is that something that is super important to you? Did music or skateboarding come first? Was the dream ever to be a pro-skater?
“Skateboarding did come first. My brother and I started skating when I was like 5 or 6. I was never very good, you know? I was just okay. I skated all through my childhood and I loved it obviously. Once I started getting into music around 11 or 12 that kind of took a backseat. But skating was such a big part of my life early on, and even to this day. I feel like I’ve gotten so much influence from that culture, and it bleeds into my music in such a nice way. I’m not the biggest skater, I couldn’t of gone pro, but I can hold my own. I’m solid, but it’s more so just an inspiration for me, just blends nicely with my sound.”
Are you getting videos on TikTok to dudes skating to your songs?
“Yeah, I have some people who are posting clips to the songs. I had a good amount of people who posted clips to ‘independent films’, and some who posted clips to ‘princess’ because of a TikTok video I did.”
I feel like we all have inspirations. You’ve definitely inspired me sonically as of late. Who has inspired your sound thus far? Who do you listen to and draw ideas from?
“For me, I don’t like to listen to music and think “oh I like that, I should try that”… I try to really pick up on what artists can do to make their music feel authentic and what they do to push their song further in that authenticity and originality. I listen to a lot of Blonded Radio, Frank Ocean’s gig. I think he’s so good at curating that authenticity. I guess my go-to artists are probably like Pharrell, Kanye, Tyler, but I really do listen to Blonded first and foremost, and that’s a whole mix of different genres. I think that it’s important to pull inspiration from music that isn’t necessarily what you wanna make… sometimes I think that is the best way to do it.”
Let’s talk about home. Where is home for you? How has your hometown had an impact on your music? Growing up did the people around you support your music?
“I live in Albany, Oregon, but I was born in Los Angeles, however, I only lived there until I was like 6 so I consider Albany my hometown. It’s small, there’s like 50,000 people here. As I said, I’ve been doing music since I was young. I think the majority of people here don’t fuck with my work. I think it was always guys that were mad because their girlfriends liked that I could sing and shit. So I always getting hated on for that. Yeah, there’s really no music scene here and I think that contributed to how I’m not that tapped into the whole music industry, I like to stay in my own world. To an extent, I think that’s been viable because that influences my originality. Although, I think it’s important to collaborate so I’m gonna have to step outside of my hometown for that. Also, I think engagement with the natural world has also been beneficial for me. Oregon has hella trees and all the nature shit… that’s been dope for me, being able to pull influence from that.”
So moving on to some fun questions… if you had the ability to go back in time and give advice to your younger self, what would it be?
“Oh man… I would say “just don’t give a fuck about what anybody thinks about you.” I remember being a little caught up in that throughout high school… thinking people were caring about what you’re doing when they’re not actually. You could spend all that time tapping into whatever is inside you that is valuable and good. I just wish I had figured that out earlier, but that’s so hard to do, you know what I mean? To figure that out at a young age. Just don’t care too much and worry too much about what people think.”
I agree, I think everyone wishes they learned that lesson sooner. You are left on an abandoned island, your necessities (food, water, shelter) are all covered. You can only bring 5 things, what are they?
“Is there concrete on this island?”
“It’s just sand and shit? Okay. It’s pointless to bring my MacBook because I can’t charge that shit. I guess I’m gonna bring a guitar and a drum. I’ll bring a surfboard, I don’t even surf but I’ll figure it out I guess. Then, I got two more. I’ll bring a pen and paper and make my own books. There you go, that’s five.”
Damn, that was the quickest answer I’ve ever received to that question. Before we go, what is your sonic process like? Do you write lyrics first? Or produce first? Do you produce all your stuff? Take me into the studio.
“I’ve produced everything I have out right now. Although, I am currently working on a song that is a beat that someone sent to me. That would be the first song that I haven’t produced. For my process lately, I start with a beat. That’s just been a better way for me to get into a vibe. I usually put the beat on and then flow into a mic. It’s gibberish. Then I write into those melodies. I like doing that because I’ve come to realize how important flow is and I think that is a good way to establish that early on in the process of making a song. I work with a lot of samples, I’m a pretty much exclusively sample-based producer. I mostly do samples off youtube… random old songs and shit.”
Had any clearance issues so far with past sample use?
“No bro, thank god. I sample hella shit. I’ve sampled many songs you would know. You brought up the 808 in ‘clam chowder’ earlier, I used it in ‘princess’ too… it’s the only 808 I use. What is it you ask? It’s a sound from Star Wars where they turn the spaceship off and it goes “Vrooooooom”. It’s the hardest sound ever, and I was like “that’s an 808 right there”. That is the only bass I like to use.”
So what is next for Shy High? Shows? Tours? What’s in the books?
“We are lining up some shows for Spring of 2022. I have a venue locked in for a place called Eugene, which is a college town close to me. Also talked to some places in Los Angeles. Musically I am gearing towards a project, I’m not rushing it, but it is definitely on my mind and I am working toward that. I am hoping to have that arrive in the Springtime as well.”
For the last question, I ask you who are you counting in? Meaning, who are you listening to lately that we need to know about?
“What have I been listening to? One new song I’ve been messing with is ‘Dance’ by Jay Safari, that’s the dude, I recorded a verse for him… I need to get him a song too, that guy’s dope. I’m always bumping ‘In Search Of…’, N.E.R.D’s album. And then just Blonded Radio really, but he rarely ever publishes new ones so I just listen to the same 12 over and over again.”