"Please tell me if my philosophy's wrong/I've got to know the truth/I don't mean to offend anyone but/you know it's something I do" —The Jam
Last week, I, like a few of you, received a one-word e-mail from Toby "DV One" Campbell: Guilty. As in Guilty of Assaulting a Cop. I was angry but hardly shocked; I was surprised to hear that 10 of the 12 jurors will be present at his sentencing to support him. If they support the man so much, how come they just put an F on him? God bless you and your family, DV; a whole lot of people's thoughts and prayers are with you, man. The true colors of this faux-liberal nuthatch break my heart all the time. And I ask y'all: Am I some kind of p-noid asshole if this verdict, the Jena Six, the noose on the neck of the Tupac statue, hiphop's rediscovered status as Public Enemy Number One, and Nightlife Nickels's campaign to bitch up Seattle all feel like parts of the same tapestry?
Like a lot of us, Anthony Shears (www.shearsmusicgroup.com) is a cat with the odds stacked against him, as much a recurring theme in his music as it is a reality regarding my feelings on it. That can't be helped: The first time I ever heard of the young MC, it was at Obese's inaugural Make It or Break It showcase. After I read his ridiculously self-important bio, he proceeded to run through an intense set of show clichés, including some Ja Rule pain-is-love shirt doffing for the modest crowd.
Still, I wanted to like the guy. Shears can rap, that much is clear. It's just that he seems to constantly sabotage himself—with recycled-reduced-reused ideas (for starters, his last record, Welcome 2 Seattle, had the same name as a popular song by Boom Bap Project; his new one, The Growth, is the same name as Joe Budden's long-awaited next album) and with the legal issues surrounding an alleged assault of two female partygoers at a UW frat house in April.
On The Growth, a track about domestic abuse, "Tears in Your Eyes," is either his answer to that situation or an unsettling irony: "As a man, I just wanna say I apologize... Your pain is a memory I carry with me everywhere... The tears from your eyes gave birth to this song, which gave birth to your hope." A genuinely moving song, and well done. But that shift to absolved martyr-storyteller comes off as arrogant.
"Pop a bottle/we gonna toast to ourselves," Shears enthuses on another song. One thing that characterizes Shears is an excess of sheer hubris to shame even the cockiest big-name rappers; it's hard to swallow his I-run-the-town rhetoric when most local hiphop fans have never heard of him. This cocky front, and his frequent unimaginative greasy talk, obscures the real heart of The Growth—soulful came-up-hard, world-on-my-back inspiration that actually works really well, and goes a long way to setting Shears outside the pack. This gift of succinct introspection—combined with an actual presence on the live circuit here—could one day justify some of Ant Shears's self-perpetuated legend.