Melbourne: Zimbabwean-born dancehall crew Shottaz refine their core sound

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If you like your music funky, a bit different and full of good vibes, you’ll want to give this EP a go.

Renowned for their diverse sound, hard-hitting lyrics and energetic live performances, Shottaz are fast becoming Melbourne’s frontline dancehall crew and have just dropped their recent EP, Energy.

The brainchild of Zimbabwe-born, New Zealand-raised MCs Hlats and Max Shotta, Shottaz is a project that’s been years in the making, spawned from when the duo started working together in a crew called Yung Shottaz (YS), more than 13 years ago. Cutting their teeth bringing their own blend of Zimbabwean-influenced dancehall and hip hop to the NZ massive, it wasn’t until the duo relocated to Melbourne in 2018 that Shottaz was born.

Earning themselves a solid reputation for their unique brand of Afro Dancehall ever since, their latest EP sees the crew leaning back into their core sound, delivering slick lyrics on tough dancehall and hip-hop instrumentals.

Comprising four tracks, Energy is underpinned by infectious dancehall melodies and anthemic choruses, seesawing between Afrobeats/Afropop, reggae, hip hop and jungle, making for a truly transformative listen.

Weaving slick raps and engaging melodies with personal experiences, the EP sees the duo continue to uplift listeners with fun and catchy lyrical content, as well as imbue positivity into a COVID-19 world.

“All our songs are a reflection of us as a crew and individuals. ‘Ting Tun Up’ [featuring Brisbane based dancehall star, Slicker 1] and ‘Big Boys’ are what we would call ‘quintessential Shottaz tunes’ as they address our ideal turn up situations. We like to advocate for good vibes when it’s time to party. People should be able to have the maximum amount of enjoyment when they go out, the only caveat being there’s no fighting, harassment etc,” Shottaz explain.

With particular reference to Melbourne’s lengthy stage four lockdown, ‘Cabin Fever’ sees the duo combine a lively and fun beat with real and heartfelt lyrics that explore the distressing claustrophobic irritability and restlessness experienced over the last six months.

Fusing relevance and relatability with lush mid-tempo production and summer dancehall vibes, the duo managed to create an innovatively optimistic track for those feeling a little hopeless at the time.

While the duo began writing these songs with the intention of drip-feeding singles throughout the year, it quickly became apparent that these tracks fit the unifying theme for an EP – energy – which they released earlier this month.

“We started working on the music for Energy EP around March/April this year,” they explain. “At the time we were hoping to release nothing but singles whilst we work on an album, but as the year progressed, we decided to package these four songs into an EP release as they complement each other quite well.

“The EP also sounds like a natural progression from Vibes Up EP, which we released around the same time in 2019.”

Full of steady beats with an explosive musical palette fusing dancehall with other genres from around the world, the crew enlisted the help of multiple producers who each bring something incredibly different to the table.

Creating an immersive and varicoloured piece of work, producers Jusa Dementor and Paul Hauss jumped on board for ‘Ting Tun Up’ and ‘Cabin Fever’, respectively. Kiwi powerhouse Oakley Grenell (aka OG) lent his skills to ‘Watcha Say Now’ and Zimbabwe-based Afro Dancehall linchpin Sude Records worked his magic on ‘Big Boys’.

“We didn’t make a conscious decision to use different producers for this EP, it just came together that way,” they say.

“Jusa Dementor and Paul Hauss have been our go-to producers in recent times, having worked extensively with both of them on several releases in the last two years. Oakley Grenell, who provides the backdrop for our hip-hop tune ‘Watcha Say Now’ is a producer we rate very highly and have wanted to work with for a while.

“OG did a killer remix for our tune ‘Chimbambaira’ which prompted us to work on more tunes together. The last song on the project is produced by Zimbabwe-based Dancehall producer Sude Records, who we’ve only recently started working with but hope to create more big tunes with.”

Following a steady string of releases from the spirited duo, including 2020 single’s ‘Beef’, ‘Sickness’ and ‘Pray and their beat-driven debut EP ‘Vibes Up’ (2019), Shottaz’s EP Energy is yet another testament to the duo’s ability to excite and shake listeners with vigour.