From Brooklyn to Vancouver, independent rapper Aktu El Shabazz’s The Nigga Tapes is a cool-headed force marrying influences from both coasts. Released under the moniker MF Shabazz, one of Vancouver’s most promising hip hop artists is slowly gaining listeners. He appears as a guest on many local radio stations and open mic shows, oftentimes freestyling and performing his most recent work. F.L.O.W Vol. 1, the 18-track mixtape he dropped last year, was filled with funky old-school beats, but this summer’s The Nigga Tapes brags some of his catchiest, vibin’ hooks.
On tracks like “Low,” he raps with well measured bravado, “Duck down below / This some shit to ride to / This some shit to die to / This some shit to vibe to / Smoke one, get high to.” Fitting to this steady rhythm, other songs like “ACT 2LE” and “Fuck You” roll out jazz-R&B beats, where “Flatline” and “O.M.L.” let Shabazz show up with one-hitting one-liners. The B.C. rapper is not shy to compare himself to some of hip hop’s greats, and although that may be ambitious, he’s not wrong about his legend-demanding flow. He starts “Swerve” with a devotion to what he does, “I’ma keep rappin’ til the death of me / May my raps live forever / Fuck the rest in me,” and ends “ACT 2LE” without effort, break, or sweat: “Aktu El-ly / Turn your necks and back / And back bones to jelly.”
Sure, Vancouver hasn’t exactly thrived in producing iconic hip hop, but for unsigned, self-releasing rappers in West Coast Canada, MF Shabazz sounds like he’s ready to take it all. The Nigga Tapes is a seven-track, 19-minute soundtrack of a rapper rapping about rap, but its hooks and melodies grant MF Shabazz some high praise for putting it out there.