The calm after the storm

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Dr. Martens kicks off the opening of their new shop on Antwerp's Meir on 21 September with a live performance by none other than Shaka Shams. The Antwerp talent is now well-established in the Belgian hip-hop scene: he has already collaborated with Blu Samu, Coely, Rare Akuma, among others. Get cosy as we talk about work, fashion and what's in store for the future.

Hey Shaka, how is it going?

I’m fine, it’s pretty quiet at the moment [laughs]. I’m going on holiday soon to relax a bit, so I’m taking it easy for now.

On 21 September you will be giving a live performance for the opening of the new Dr. Martens store in Antwerp. What can the crowd expect from your performance?

I got in touch with Dr. Martens through my booker; I thought it could be a nice opportunity. Sometimes I don't really know where I'm going to end up, but when I heard the name Dr. Martens I immediately thought: ok, dope! I don't know exactly how long my set is gonna be, but I'm going with something uptempo anyway: dancy, jumpy, just high energy. In short, I'm gonna try to bring a good atmosphere. It will be short but sweet.

I'm gonna bring a good atmosphere

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What does Dr. Martens symbolise for you?

Well actually, the Dr. Martens I chose are my first Dr. Martens ever. In this case, it mostly symbolises generosity now [laughs]. I did always like Dr. Martens, but I just rarely had the clothes to match the shoes. For example, I recently went to a Dr. Martens shop in London where I saw a nice pair that I would love to wear, but I couldn't find them anywhere in Belgium!

Dr. Martens’ new AW23 campaign plays on the idea of strength and shines a light on the strength and resilience of a new generation of DM’s wearers. What does being ‘strong’ mean to you in 2023?

Hmm, what does it mean? Being ‘independent’? [laughs] No, no: being strong just means daring to be vulnerable. I don't know, actually it is about being independent, but also about not being afraid to ask for help. It's hard to describe. Like, it's about resilience, consistency, realness: that's all about being strong. Someone who wants to please everyone is not a strong person, because you can’t get along with everyone. It’s also about daring to be open, which is one of the hardest things for many people. 

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Does the Dr. Martens’ brand aesthetic complement your own style?

A little bit, yes. The loafers I chose go well with some of the outfits I have. Again, I can't get these London boots - which I haven't seen either online or here in Belgium - out of my head [laughs]. I really liked them! You know, it's a bit 50/50. The brand is new to me, but some of their stuff I really appreciate.

The loafers I chose go well with some of the outfits I have

Which style of Docs do you plan on wearing to the Dr. Martens store opening event in Antwerp and why?

I chose some all-black loafers because I already wanted them and I don't have any loafers yet. I also love platforms, as long as they are subtle and not too garish. They also make me look a bit taller, so that's nice [laughs].

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Is the intersection of music and fashion an important one for you?

I'm not super into it, but I do think it's important. I've always had a little interest in fashion, but it's not my passion like music is. It's more of an afterthought. I am a visual guy, though: as soon as I make music, it immediately evokes images in me, so in that sense, I do think about clothes. So you could say I am working on it — like at shows, but it is not a priority. And fashion you know... [laughs and makes the money gesture] Hey, I'm not rich yet!

How did you grow into music? Did your upbringing – growing up in Antwerp, frequently staying with family in the UK, having South-African roots – play an important role?

Hmm, yes and no. I come from a fairly traditional setting, so in that sense, I didn't get a huge amount of encouragement from home. But I did end up in the right setting. Me and my cousin — I was 11 and he 13 — did make some stuff back in the day. It was fairly innocent, I just started rapping on his beats, but that was where it started. From the age of 14 it started to dawn on me that I was pretty good at it — I also speak English at home, so there was no problem in that respect. A lot of people think I learnt English, but I speak it at home. In that way, it gradually grew. Actually, I already knew by the time I was 11 that music was something I wanted to keep doing.

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On your new EP ‘Action Only Volume 3’ your music has a very ‘lived through’ feel to it; from jazz to drum and bass and from rap to house, you definitely seem to know your ‘masters’, as they say. While being diverse and refreshing, your work has a distinct soulfulness and refinement to it. Who or what would you describe as your biggest influences and sources of inspiration?

I don't have any idols or one person I think of. That's where it all started, but of course, there are artists who have heavily influenced me. Andre 3000 is one for example, and so is Tyler, The Creator, plus a bit of a mixture of old school and new school. I'm also the youngest in my family, which made me grow up with ‘older music’ like Nas, for example, but on the other hand, there’s also Joey Badass or Erykah Badu. Kaytranada too, for example. It’s not just rappers. Lately, I've also started to realise that most of the music I listen to and really feel, whatever genre, it’s all Black music. No idea why exactly [laughs]. People often forget that the roots of electronic music also partly started with Black queer people; I'm thinking of house, techno etc. House also evolved from disco, so that all forms one big tradition, you know?

People often forget that the roots of electronic music also partly started with Black queer people; I'm thinking of house, techno etc

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Is there a specific genre, sound, or type of music production you’re into now that would like to develop further in the near future?

I’m into electronic music at the moment. I currently want to move a bit away from trap, boom bap, all that stuff, and rap more on soulful house, garage, drum & bass.  That’s what I want to focus on for the time being. 


What does a regular ‘workday’ in the life of Shaka Shams look like? Can you give us a sneak peak into your artistic practice?

Well, I'm a full-time artist, but I'm in a bit of a ‘transition period’ right now, so I'm taking it easy. My days are looking a bit weird at the moment. You can describe it as the calm after a storm, one from which I’m currently trying to recharge.

 I'm in a bit of a ‘transition period’ right now, so I'm taking it easy

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What can we expect for the future? Any new projects or collaborations coming up? Spill the beans!

Uh...[thinks] One thing: I never tell people what I'm working on [laughs]. It's always a surprise. I'm always busy, so you'll have to make do with the hint that I'm going to focus mainly on electronic music. Other than that, I'm not giving anything away! [laughs]

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<div class="editorial-banner"> <div class=“editorial-credits”> @shaka_shams / @drmartensofficial <br/> To launch their new store at Meir 45, Dr. Martens is having an opening party with local talents Shaka Shams and Floridada. The event is co-hosted by Different Class. Entrance is free & open to everyone! <br/> Facebook RSVP here! </div></div>

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