BioIn the ever-fluctuating, mercurial culture of hip-hop, very few groups, let alone solo rap artists, have sustained longevity. Enter the ShapeShifters, the storied Los Angeles underground collective that's been making their own eclectic, brand of hip-hop for virtually a decade.
Indeed, ever since the group emerged out of the legendary mid-city, Los Angeles graffiti scene in the early nineties, the ShapeShifters, by virtue of their original, genre-bending and most importantly, uniquely creative musical sensibilities, have established themselves as one of the most reliable and downright interesting subterranean rap acts in recent memory, creating a virtual cult following in the process.
Originally based around LA graf writers Perk, Meck, Realm Ser and Rob 1 (all of the CBS crew), the ShapeShifters began to emerge as noteworthy rhyme crew in the early nineties. Impressed by what their peers were doing, graf writers from other Los Angeles crews and also other hip-hop collectives like Live Wires and The Chain Smokers, clicked up with the ShapeShifters, What resulted was a somewhat nebulous, ever-changing but always on-point crew who quickly developed a following of fans through creative and abstract sound, reminiscent of Project Blowed and The Good Life era of LA underground hip-hop.
"We thought that it would be dope to have strength in numbers, and be able to appeal to people all over the LA area as opposed to just one area," remembers Circus.
Innovative demos and mix tapes, which Circus would mail out to the group's burgeoning fan base, coupled with open mics at coffee shops and appearances at local battles, furthered the collective's reputation as a hip-hop group whose varied musical and cultura influences—from Johnny Cash to Run DMC - produced a sound that was always willing to push hip-hop's boundaries a little bit father.
A series of acclaimed indie releases from the crew - Planet of the Shapes, No Future, Adopted by Aliens, Soul Lows, and Soul Lows II - helped the ShapeShifters achieve a reputation as a group that was able to successfully and sonically make the transition from the LA streets to the studio.
Still, the ShapeShifters collective boasted so many members and was constantly in a state of a flux. What's more, says AWOL, "we were just a bunch of drunken vandals, so no-one was really taking things that seriously."
Times, however, have changed.
Now, with the ShapeShifters' musical motivation bubbling once again, the ShapeShifters stands poised to release their eponymous new album, Was Here, on Cornerstone Recording Art Society, the most comprehensive, tightly-woven and traditional effort the group has yet produced. Indeed with a bevy of tuneful and memorable beats (and some truly incredible pop culture snippets) courtesy of crew members LA Jae and Life Rexall, in addition to impressive cameos from the likes of Slug (of Atmosphere) and Pigeon John, this could very well be the album that ends up defining the ShapeShifters' long and productive careers.