The single release comes with two remixes, produced by musician and actor Benjamin Patterson (OWN’s Greenleaf), which give a distinct feel to each track. On the remix he melds his signature funk style with edm elements for a fast paced sound fueled by the urgency of Shaka’s message. The piano mix is a delightfully stripped down version of “Stay Strong” that underscores the gravity of the injustice this defiant piece highlights.
Artwork as strong as all of the tracks complements Shaka Smith’s captivating style of rhyme as he offers words of encouragement to those wrongfully incarcerated, while shedding light on some of the issues they face within an unjust justice system. With 20% of proceeds donated to the Innocence Project, Shaka Smith proves that he is more than just talk. He is committed to social justice and meaningful systemic change within the system.
After living with “Stay Strong”, it will be apparent to listeners that Shaka Smith is here to be the change in the world he wants to see. Since chasing after his dreams, not only has Shaka Smith held down recurring roles on popular shows like, “Dear White People” and “Modern Family”, but has also has steadily built a fanbase of over 250,000 loyal supporters, letting the game know he’s here to stay. Check in with “Stay Strong” and the remixes on all digital stream platforms and check in with Hip Hop’s up next: Shaka Smith.
RESPECT.: Where are you from and how did you first find hip-hop?
SS: I’m from Miami, Florida. Living in a Caribbean household, I grew up primarily listening to reggae, so it was some time before I discovered Hip Hop. I remember a distinct moment listening to Tupac’s “Changes“ and realizing the power of Hip Hop and the gravity of the message it could contain.
RESPECT.: Who are your musical influences?
SS: My musical influences, are Tupac, Biggie, Eminem, Lauryn Hill, and Jay-Z amongst others. I feel fortunate that I got to grow up in an era where these legends delivered real messages about the issues that resonated with me and my community.
RESPECT.: What made you select the career you’ve chose and how do you keep it balance?
SS: I haven’t chosen a career so much as follow my passions and the things that fulfill me in the hope that I can be of service to others. Shifting between wearing hats as a lawyer, actor, host, fitness model and musician hasn’t been easy. The entertainment industry likes to put artists in boxes. However, I don’t ascribe to the idea that any artist needs to stay in one lane. When it comes to the stress, I have focused on physical fitness, yoga, and meditation which keep me clear and sharp.
RESPECT.: What inspires you to make the music, the sound or the lyrics?
SS: Lyrics more than sound inspire me to make music. Songs always start as a story I want to tell in my head, the words come and usually dictate the sound. I love when I get a track to work with though. Its so much fun to get a beat and see what my mind cooks up.
RESPECT.: As we see in front of our eyes our voice gets silenced in the confusion around us. The single “Stay Strong” speaks volumes why now to release something like this to heal us when it looks like we are being preyed upon?
SS: This is such a heavy question and I have to say it largely comes down to faith, but it is because I have also seen what happens when we do stay strong, lift each other up and give voice to those in our community that can’t speak for themselves. From wrongful convictions and unarmed shootings to poor medical care amidst this pandemic, we have to be stronger now, more than ever. We’ve also seen exonerations, arrests, and a focus on our communities to change the uneven medical outcomes during the current health emergency. The recent case of Ahmaud Arbery finally resulting in arrests highlighted what we can accomplish when we are strong. We are extremely effective when we find strength in one another and I hope, especially in the moments when we are tired or weak, this music can offer some modicum of strength or inspiration to keep moving forward.
RESPECT.: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the industry?
SS: As a relative newcomer, I’m still learning so much, but trusting myself, my voice and the message has been my biggest lesson. I’ve been writing and creating music for awhile, but I judged myself on whether the story or messages behind what I was trying to convey would be received in the right way. This way of thinking limited my growth and kept me from releasing music for so long. I have been struck by the messages I’ve received supporting my first release and am excited to continue trusting myself and releasing new music.
RESPECT.: What are you currently working on?
SS: I am working with producer Benjamin Patterson, a musician/actor who also stars on OWN’s Greenleaf. He’s given me great perspective on balancing the entertainment industry and has an amazing ear for music. He produced the two remixes of “Stay Strong” and we’ve got a few songs in the works with a really unique sound that I can’t wait for everyone to hear. New music will definitely be coming in June.
RESPECT.: What advice can you give our next generation about protecting your voice and preserving the wisdom instill in us all?
SS: Honestly, I’ve been so impressed by the next generation.They don’t shy away from anything and they own their authenticity in a way that has almost forced every other generation to catch up. I’d say don’t forget who you are and the power you have sharing your authentic self with the world, but always remember you have something to learn from everyone, regardless of generation.
RESPECT.: What’s next for you in 2020?
SS: In addition to more music, I host a weekly podcast, Fit Club on the Black Hollywood Live Network (AfterbuzzTV). Its always been important to me to get out the health information in our communities that is typically not given or aimed at us. The disparity in health outcomes is simply awful and the right information can do much to change that. We stream live on YouTube every Tuesday at 1pm PST and are available on all major podcast streaming platforms.
RESPECT.: What does RESPECT. mean to you?
SS: RESPECT. is recognizing what moves you and having the confidence to share it with others in a way that honors a positive intention. Ultimately the greatest respect is the respect you have for yourself.
Stream and listen to “Stay Strong” below.
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