“I’m not trying to do it better than the original…because, who am I, you know? I just want to do something different, and if people like it, then good!” Shash’U leans back in his chair and smiles. The smell of espresso wafts through the air as a girl in a tuque and glasses serenades the café crowd with Joni Mitchell-esque folk music. This, out of all places, isn’t exactly where you’d expect to find a hard-hitting, electro-funk DJ hanging out on a Saturday afternoon; but Shash’U is not your average DJ.
When speaking about his remixes–specifically that of Drake’s ‘6 God’ released earlier last week–it’s clear that his music isn’t created in the pursuit of fame or fortune (although both are welcome results), but instead derives from a place of honest curiosity – seeing if an idea works and then running with it; putting it out into the world and hoping that somebody, anybody, can genuinely connect with it. “If you want a song to be something that people go back and listen to, you have to create an emotional connection. That’s what’s important for me. Music is timeless only if you want it to be.”
Nothing is subtle about Shash’U when it comes to his music. His beats hit hard: heavy bass lines are paired with persistent drums to create a retro, future-funk sound that his rabid followers eagerly eat up. His style–self-defined as power-funk (and stylized as ‘PWRFNK’)–is a blend of erratic, energized beats that grew organically from street dance sensibilities; beats that feed off the movement of the dancers, rather than dancers trying to feed off the beat. “I feel like that energy is missing–in general–for club people,” he says, “I feel like people have that certain insecurity of ‘should I like this song?’ or ‘should I put my hands up?’ I notice that when I’m mixing. I take the time to look, to check and understand what’s going on.”
As it goes with most musically-inclined people, Shash’U got his start very young. Growing up with a dad who had “stacks of records everywhere at home” and who played classical guitar, Shash’U started with the drums, playing at an early age, and making it into the school band at the ripe age of nine. From that point on his talent grew, thriving within an era that worshiped the likes of J. Dilla, even before they knew that Dilla was the person behind the most sought-after hip-hop tracks. “I was a late bloomer in terms of research,” he says, “a lot of people know him from his more soulful stuff, and I know him from the beats, and how he explored and sampled records like Jean-Michel Jarre, or Tomita, and I dig that! Freaking synth… mangling sounds, and then flipping that in your own way – that is what I appreciate with him, how he was able to fuck with any type of thing and make it his own.”
Shash’U has been slowing but surely charting his course through the Montreal electro scene, which, to many, is becoming increasingly known as a ‘renaissance’ of sorts – peers like Kaytranada and Lunice leading the way internationally with their established piu piu beats. About two years ago while spinning at Blizzarts, Shash’U caught the attention of none other than P-Thugg, who after a few sessions of just “talking music,” and then going back to his studio to smoke a J, introduced him to A-Trak, and now, “the rest is history.” Shash’U’s first EP on Fools Gold Records is now in the middle of being released in two parts: the first ‘Thru Da Night’ was released online for free two weeks ago, working as a five-track teaser for part two, aptly titled ‘PWRFNK’ which drops today.
Described by Fools Gold as an ‘afrofuturist b-boy, remix alchemist,’ and ‘legit funk-phenomenon,’ it’s clear that the label expects Shash’U to blow up in A-Trak level proportions. Shash’U, to their delight, shows absolutely no signs of slowing down anytime soon. “I’m a planner,” he says with a serious tone, “I have a lot of content. I have a lot of ideas that I’m working on that are waiting for the right moment to put out in the world.” So in that case it would be best to consider the PWRFNK EP not just as his label debut, but as a sign of massive things to come.
He’ll premiere both Thru Da Night and PWRFNK live today (Jan. 31st), at Le Belmont alongside openers Radio Radio and Koriass, as well as guest VJs Simhalak and Karim Ouellet. Get all updates on Shash’U by following him here!