MORE than any other genre, rap music carries a lot of baggage.
People from both outside and inside the industry expect rappers to be hyper-masculine and talk about money or guns or drugs or a gangster lifestyle.
It’s something which 28-year-old independent rapper ShaoDow – real name Elliot Haslam - from Catford rails against.
He tells me: “I have to be very professional. There is a stereotype associated with rap and rappers and I’m not like that.
“There’s a lot more to hip hop and rap than that. There’s a very strong sense of lyricism and intelligence.
“That needs to be put forward more, which is why I conduct myself in a certain way. You have to fight against the sterotypes and break them down.”
ShaoDow has just released his second album Kung Fu Hustler and is promoting his new single Gas Mark 10.
His first album Cut the Bullspit has sold 15,500 copies to date and peaked at number 25 on the iTunes Hip Hop chart – not bad for an artist with a true DIY ethos who is fiercely independent.
Aged 18, after saving up money at a call centre job, the young Kung Fu fan took himself to China to learn about the martial art. It is there that he considers his career to have begun.
He says: “I’m very much into martial arts – not just punching people but the mentality, the determination.
“When I was over there, I was writing lyrics in my downtime.”
Despite those beginnings, the former Haberdashers’ Aske’s pupil – who admits he finds learning easy because of a photographic memory – went on to Oxford Brookes university to study law.
On leaving he decided to pursue his dream full time.
He says: “I look at it as a leap of faith. I put myself in a position where it was sink or swim. If I didn’t make a go of it, I wouldn’t be able to eat.
“I had the choice of being a lawyer, so it wasn’t the case that I’m doing music because I want to be rich.
“It’s something I genuinely love. If you make music for the sole purpose of making money, you are doing the wrong thing.”
Shaodow put together some music and enthusiastically took it around the country – and even the continent – meeting fans, selling CDs and performing.
The personal approach has gained him a small but dedicated following. So dedicated that two fans have even got Shaodow tattoos.
Like his hero, independent rapper Tech N9ne, Shaodow doesn’t believe a label is necessary but realises that in order to succeed he has to work hard.
He says: “You have to treat it like a legitimate business.
“It’s a job at the end of the day. As much as you love music, love doesn’t pay the bills.
“You can’t keep your lights on through hugs.”
Gas Mark 10 is out March Go to