EP Review: Shawn Storm - The Real Sivva EP
by Dan Dabber
Shawn Storm Campbell, the talented Gaza artist who stood trial alongside Vybz Kartel in the most publicised murder case in Jamaican history, describes his new EP, The Real Sivva, as, “The first I'm doing a full reggae EP dedicated to uplifting ghetto youths and poorer class of people.” As implied, this is a bit of a departure for an artist who primarily sticks to writing dancehall tunes about bad man business and jiggling lady parts. However true Shawn Storm fans will note that Campbell has also recorded many inspirational reality songs throughout his 10 year career, beginning with his breakout 2009 hit, Be Wise.
The Real Sivva EP isn’t exactly a collection of reality dancehall tunes, though it does have a similar appeal. The project is more accurately described as edgy, contemporary reggae that borrows heavily from dancehall, R&B, and hip hop, with the option of explicit lyrical dancehall flavor on the “raw” version of the EP. All dirty words aside, The Real Sivva is remarkably mellow, featuring four acoustic-style songs on the seven song offering and a generally softer, more melodic delivery from Campbell. As the artist promised, most of the lyrical content relates to the harsh realities of struggle, poverty, and desperation, but the overall tone is pedagogical and upbeat, generating inspiration, hope, and glimmers of universal oneness.
The Real Sivva leads off with an acoustic set spearheaded by the first track called Infliction - a thorough critique of the system sparsely backed by piano, acoustic guitar, and synthesized hand drums. The second song, When Life Get Hard, is very similar to the first, but Campbell approaches the systemic problems discussed in Infliction from a more personal perspective and the instrumentation, though still spare and completely devoid of any kick or snare drums, is a bit fuller. The acoustic vibe carries over into the third tune, Virtuous Woman, which stands out as one of the better songs from The Real Sivva. Skip ahead to track five, High On Life, and you will find even more acoustic guitars and powerhouse songwriting from Campbell, accentuated by the judicious use of low pass filters creating a futuristic counterbalance to the more primitive, minimal instrumentation.
In between Virtuous Woman and High On Life is a short skit and a poppy, dancehall-influenced song called Focus, which may be Campbell’s most didactic lyrical performance on The Real Sivva. Backed by crisp drums and soothing, candy-coated synths, Focus steps up the energy on the EP, but without creating a rift in the structural continuity or content of the project. The last two tunes on the project also have mellow pop-dancehall appeal and help to further define The Real Sivva’s musical themes. Of the two, the penultimate track, Dutty Heart, stands out with a catchy hook and more lyrical lessons from Shawn Sivva Storm. Dutty Heart also has more of an R&B sound, a vibe that is only slightly disrupted by the pan flutes that accompany the hook and help fill out the frequency range.
I think it is odd for a man who is currently serving time to offer guidance to underprivileged children through optional vulgarity, acoustic guitars, and a 808 kit with dusty pads. The title is a mystery to me too because, even though Sivva has been an off-and-on part of Shawn Sivva Storm’s identity for at least five years, I still have no idea what the real meaning behind Sivva Siv is. The artwork for The Real Sivva is even stranger than the music, the message, or even the title of the EP. It features a bow-wielding centaur that is up on its hind legs and firing arrows across a desert landscape into a giant, flaming eighth note. With the exception of the artwork, which is as poorly executed as it is weird, The Real Sivva EP works quite well as a whole, despite some confusing and contradictory elements. I think reggae fans in particular should give the dancehall artist a fair trial on this one, though I do suggest acquiring that clean version if you are offended by foul language.
Shawn Storm - The Real Sivva EP
DIGITAL RELEASE [Kwashawna Records]
Release date: 01/27/2017
02. When Life Gets Hard
03. Victorious Woman
04. Sivva Skit
06. High on Life
07. Dutty Heart
08. Nuh Love Likes