Thug Shells is a Canadian rap artist and she is the type of artist you cannot compare to others… in fact, Thug Shells is her own type of artist and one remarkable individual that can spit rhymes with eyes, improvise and keep you hooked with her lyricism and charm. It was only recently Thug Shells was looking back on how much can happen in a year and it amazed her how quickly things change.
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Thug Shells began 2020 stepping foot into unknown territory. She had established herself as a performer in the Western Canadian scene, but she hadn’t quite found her voice, and definitely hadn’t built what her community is today. “I had a small local one around me – I used to host a freestyle rap night, but I wouldn’t say that I had a supportive group of people who were interested in my music,” Thug Shells adds. “[and] that was mainly because maybe because I didn’t have much music to name other than live performances and an album from my humble beginnings!”
Thug Shells looks back on 2020 and she is proud of her accomplishments. Not only did Thug Shells put out lots of music that she is proud of, but she built a beautiful community around her to share those creative endeavours with! “I started live streaming early on in 2020, and every day it gets more rewarding,” Thug Shells says. “I began this year as just a rapper, but as I buckled down and taught myself how to DJ – music just continued taking over my world.”
For the last year, Thug Shells has been live-streaming on Twitch, freestyle raps and DJ sets several times a week, and she now finds herself surrounded with wonderful people who just want to see her succeed: “For the first time as an artist, I am making a living doing what I love, and I am very grateful for the beautiful platform and my incredible fans that I get to share in wonderful moments with whenever I choose to go live,” Thug Shells continues.
“2020 was a year of a lot of trial and error, a lot of growth, and a lot of learning – and I am so excited to keep growing and learning!” — Thug Shells in her 2020.
Thug Shells in 2021 is ready to take on the world, with an incredible team at her side.
Stepping into this year – there was one big “resolution” Thug Shells wanted to carry with her, and it was to stress less, and to focus more. 2020 was a lot of wonderful hiccups along a glorious journey, but it was also a lot of unnecessary stress, a lot of fretting of things that didn’t matter, and too much unnecessary responsibility. Distraction is everywhere, accessible and taunting at every turn, and Thug Shells wanted to make sure that she carried with her into 2021 a confident calm that embraced going with the flow.
“As the world gets louder around me, I’ve been focusing the most on quieting my mind and making sure that I put my training and self care above all else,” Thug Shells expresses. “In 2020 I said yes to too many things, I put my attention into the wrong places, and I practiced at maintenance levels.”
However, In 2021, Thug Shells has learnt to say no. “I’ve stopped giving my energy to situations and people that don’t serve me – and I’ve realized that I have to have focused practice, every single day – if I want to be the best,” Thug Shells continues. “I had the honour of being a guest on Harry Mack’s ‘Happy Hour’ – and after hearing insight about his practice techniques and daily routines -I adopted some of my own.”
Creating a daily routine for herself (which Thug Shells calls her own “Happiness Formula”) has been crucial into levelling herself up, and feels like she has grown more in 2021 already, than she has in all of 2020. Thug Shells in 2021 found her voice, and her community. She’s excited to keep refining her sound, to make her homies proud. ”
“I feel very lucky to be doing well given the global climate,” Thug Shells continues. “Life has been crazy the last year – and I feel very grateful for the stage of artistry I was at when current events sent the world into a weird unknown.”
A lot of the music industry has been decimated given the global climate, and it breaks Thug Shells’ heart to see the people she cares about having to make dramatic adjustments because their sources of income were no longer. “I was on the other end of the spectrum,” she states. “When quarantine began, I was at the early stages of my artist career.”
At the time, Thug Shells had just gently dipped her toes in the water, and though she had been performing at live events for a couple years, she was not depending on her music as her income. “I didn’t give music all my time either, I was almost always juggling weird side hustles – whether it was designing graphics, saying yes to weird renovation jobs, bartending, entertaining at children’s parties,” Thug Shells emphasises. “The long winded answer to this question… is that when COVID hit – I was forced to finally say no to all the things taking up my time.”
There was no other option for Thug Shells. The whole world was put on pause. Suddenly she had all the time she had always wanted, and the world at her fingertips. Thug Shells decided to dedicate herself to streaming and creating music, because what else was she going to do? Never in a million years did she think that it would earn her a living, bring her such a community, or inspire her to push the boundaries of her artistry.
“The current climate has shown me how much time I have to dedicate to music if I want to pursue it fully, and it’s shown me the reward that following my passion with my whole heart brings.” — Thug Shells
“I really do miss the energy of live events, and I really miss the smiles on the dance floors… but I know one day we can finally all be together again and we will appreciate it that much more,” Thug Shells continues.
Rainy Day EP
Thug Shells’ Rainy Day EP, to her, is about finding the strength in vulnerability – and realising how okay it is to sometimes not be okay. “It is authenticity, it is real,” she emphasises to Eat This Music. “A lot of the music that I’ve put out has been created to be performed in fun environments, and it feels really right to create a piece of art that showcases a side of myself that I haven’t yet shared with the world.”
Thug Shells wanted to put a project out that fit a particular mood, and that mood was chilled out, groovy, thought provocative, perfect for rainy day listening. The Rainy Day EP buts into song the process of moving on and evolving as a person. We all go through lots of different trials, and the Rainy Day EP – to me – is a reminder that whatever you are going through, you aren’t alone.
“[I]f it’s even possible, the Rainy Day EP represents more of what Thug Shells wanted to say now than it did at the beginning of its creative process. Writing is a very cathartic process for Thug Shells – she works through a lot of emotions. A lot of her songs typically begin when she is going through a certain trial in her life, and as she works through those emotions and time heals – inevitably resolutions work their way into her lyrics.
“I feel like the beginnings of this project yearned for a way to be at peace with letting go of the life I knew, and by the end of this creative process – over a year had gone by,” Thug Shells reveals. “Many lessons were learnt, and much time – the greatest healer of all – had passed.”
This EP served exactly the purposes Thug Shells needed it to, it documented in soundscape a chapter of her life. It now exists to paint a beautiful picture of what it’s like to grow into the person you are destined to be.
Creative process and song breakdown
Too Sunny was written on a day that Thug Shells was just itching to say yes to distraction: “I’ll never forget bringing my dog to the park and wanting a peaceful day of writing by the river, yet everything going wrong,” she explains. Too Sunny, the single and first track of this EP, is the one Thug Shells would recommend people give a listen to because it has just got a bumping groove! “I feel like it really encompasses what I want this project to be – which is just an escape from the stresses of life,” Thug Shells adds.
Blooming was written to help process. In fact, the song weaves a beautiful tale of moving on.
The creative process for “Streetlights” stands out most vividly in Thug Shells’ memory; “I’ll never forget walking down the sleet-covered quiet road outside my home with only the cold wind blowing and the hook popping into my head, begging to be written,” she explains.
The creative process for 3 AM was one of the most interesting – it’s original concept was much slower and much sadder, but in production processing the energy of the beat swayed it into a song with a much more positive, uppity feel.
Not Alone was a song conjured simply as a test to see what Thug Shells could do if she separated meaning from lyrics. Not Alone, the very last track on the EP, was actually written and recorded over a year ago, and the rest of the project came together much closer to the release date! Not Alone is unlike anything Thug Shells has ever put out before.
In fact, there were other tracks that were written for the project, that didn’t end up making the cut for what Thug Shells wanted the EP to embody – and she had to be okay with making that judgement call.
“I am very lucky to have an incredible producer that works with me to help turn my dreams into a reality, and help bring forth the auditory experience to my listeners that I grasp in my mind. ” — Thug Shells
It’s been a very interesting process showing this EP to people, because almost every listener has had a different favourite track as a takeaway. I love hearing which track resonates with whom, because I feel like it gives me a deep glimpse into who they are as a person, and what experiences they have gone through. It also makes me really excited because it feels like if everyone chooses a different favorite… then that’s a good sign about the overall quality of the musical experience!
From start to finish, the Rainy Day EP is longer than Thug Shells ever expected it to be – but she is so glad that she didn’t rush the process. “A lot of the vocals had been recorded more than once, because I’m a relatively new musician and my singing/rap voice got a lot better as time went on,” Thug Shells explains. “I wanted to uphold myself to the highest standard, so I ended up rerecording and rewriting a lot of the songs on this project! Most of the songs wrote themselves, inspiration would strike by moonlight when a certain mood hit, and I was simply the vessel that put the song down on paper.”
This project was influenced hugely by Thug Shells’ own life. The Rainy Day EP (inspired greatly by Mac Miller’s late works) is very strongly based on her experiences, and it is the most vulnerable musical piece Thug Shells put out because of it. It captures the feelings and lessons learnt going through one of the toughest parts of her life – but that vulnerability is what she is most excited to share with the world.
For the listeners
With this EP, Thug Shells would like listeners to realise that life will never be all happiness – and that it is through our trials that we learn the greatest lessons. The “Rainy Day” EP exists to bring solace to those on their own paths to self-discovery by courageously putting vulnerabilities on record and reminding listeners of the strength that they possess within once they, too, learn to let go.
2021 plans and future prospects
Since a lot of Thug Shells’ musical roots began in the electronic scene, she is really looking forward to continuing to explore more traditional hip hop styles with her upcoming releases. Next on the horizons, Thug Shells has become determined to continue her conquests of creating Holiday Spe-shells!
“Halloween of last year I came out with a Spooky Scary EP, and Christmas I decided I wanted to present the world a “Christmas Wrap”… so it only seemed fitting that this Easter, I whipped up a hip-hoppin’ track that I will call Thugs Bunny,” Thug Shells continues. “It is in it’s very early stages, but holiday’s come up quick!”
Thug Shells will be working on that – as well as focusing on releasing some of the songs she has tucked away. Thug Shells also will finally be working on some more traditional hip-hop projects!
It feels like 2021 is the beginning of something wonderful for Thug Shells. “I don’t know yet what the year will bring, but every day I wake up with new opportunities on the horizons,” Thug Shells says. “In recent months I have been booked on lineups with huge DJ names I would have never thought I would find myself beside, I’ve received more streams on my music than I have before, and I finally feel a sustainable push for growth that is inspiring, instead of daunting. ”
In 2021, Thug Shells looks forward to putting more love and effort into the experiences that she brings to her online shows so she can give back to her fans even a fraction of the joy they bring to her.
“In 2021 I look forward to really cool collabs with artists that I admire, because the online world has opened me up to realizing how wonderfully interconnected we can be!” — Thug Shells
“I look forward to continuing to balance being a musician with leaving time to enjoy personal life experiences, so that I can continue creating art based on those experiences – because in 2021, I am gonna continue making even more music – and I know that with each project, I will only get better and better,” Thug Shells.