Shane Eli talks Beats, Bikes and Hip-Hop in the Making [Interview]
Vancouver, B.C. – Shane Eli is quite a treat – he’s articulate, talented, and moreover, generous with those talents. Between producing for Earth Wind and Fire, scoring movies and conducting non-profit workshops for kids, Shane took the time to sit down with HipHopCanada and tell us a bit about his projects.
HipHopCanada: Tell us about who you are as an artist and what distinguishes and sets you apart from the rest.
Shane Eli: Who I am as an artist is hopefully the same as I am as a person. I think the music is a reflection of myself, my experiences, my views… I’m thought-provoking, I think I’m honest. I like to think of myself as a dynamic person so hopefully the music comes across as such. I like to experiment and try new things, I like to delve into a subject and really make a song about it. I try to really focus on making my music cohesive… And what makes me different than the rest, I think that there’s only a handful of cats who make their own music. I think that it’s funny that if you were to go talk to a rock band and none of the rock band could play instruments, they just all stood around, and they maybe wrote their own songs, you wouldn’t really consider them a rock band. Hip-hop’s always had that old school thing of the DJ/producer and artist duo, there’s always been that marriage. I produce all my own stuff so I have an idea of how I want something to sound before I even start working on it, and then it helps to shape the song.
HipHopCanada: You’re currently involved in something called Hip-Hop in the Making, can you tell us a little more about what that it entails?
Shane Eli: Yea definitely, I’ve always been about giving back and trying to be the positive influence on kids that my dad wasn’t. I’m a Big Brother, I’ve already done a lot of stuff with kids but nothing in that music space. So I was teaching some kids music through the Grammy museum and they had a great time but I probably had a better time than they did. There’s no funding anymore for the performing arts or extra curricular programs for the performing arts in any schools in the United States. Music and Fine Arts programs are the first to go. It’s such an integral part of my life, music is life to me… [I thought] if I were a kid, what kind of program would I like. I would want something very hands-on where I was learning about something that I had always had an interest in, so I just decided to start a non-profit where we go into the schools and basically teach kids who either don’t have access to the equipment or just don’t have those programs in their schools, how to make beats and give them hopefully the first step of coming through that door in tryna become the future Dr. Dre’s. So yea the program is dope. I get the whole group together and everybody participates. We make music as a group, and I just kinda guide them and suggest stuff. I was never classically trained in anything, I just taught myself, so I’m tryna show these kids that the potential can be unlocked once you have the tools for it. A lot of these people if they started getting those things early on, imagine they could be pretty crazy by the time they grew up.
HipHopCanada: Do you aim for inner city schools with less resources and funding?
Shane Eli: Well the Grammy museum is kind of the founding partner of the program so they have an education department. All the members of the recording artists academy sponsor; you know like Clive Davis sponsors the Grammy museum, then they use a certain amount of that money to fund these programs. We’ve had some kids that are in the music education program at their schools and then certain ones that come from pretty bad schools. I don’t wannna discriminate the other way either, I’d prefer to have underprivileged kids but fuck, everybody should be able to access music. The goal is just to expose it to as many kids, it’s not about which kids.
HipHopCanada: On that same positive impact tip, we see that you promote bike riding as an effective form of transportation. Tell us why that’s important to you.
Shane Eli: I’m pretty well informed about how fucked up the world is and how we’ve contributed to the rapid destruction of our world. And I wanna have kids, and I don’t want my kids to grow up in a [unhealthy] place. Like down in LA the air quality is not that good and I like to be outside. We don’t have too much fresh water… There’s too many fucked up problems in the world, as someone who has access to a bike, why would I wanna contribute to that? I have a car, I’m not gonna lie, like I’m Mr.Green, but I’m just saying that I enjoy it, I’m into fitness. Y’all have the dedicated bike lanes, we don’t even have that in LA. You know LA’s a big city, as a kid you either had a bus pass or a bike right cause when you’re young, you can’t depend on parents to get around so what do you do? You ride bikes and you listen to music. I think it also taps into what I’m tryna do with the Hip-Hop in the Making front cause the kids can get on it too, so it’s a marriage of two things that I love. It’s cool as hell to be Eco-friendly!
HipHopCanada: How’s your experience with living in Canada and in the States shaped how you identify?
Shane Eli: I know a lot of people fix themselves to the region they’re from, rep their whatever! And I’ve spent most of my life in Los Angeles so If I’m gonna say I rep a place it’s there, but the truth is I’ve been lucky enough to travel, and I love to travel and I love to see new cities, and meet new people so I’m sure that whether consciously or sub-consciously there’s been aspects of Canada that have shaped me. I’ve met a lot of great people up here, pretty much all of them are some of my closest friends. You guys do have a more well-informed global outlook as far as people are concerned. I feel like you could generally talk to people about a wider range of issues than some of the people in the States just as far as shit that’s going on outside of North America, so I like that. I guess cause I’ve always been comprised of more than one thing, I never really just say oh yea I’m Canadian through and through or I’m American through and through, all these are just lines in the sand, shit doesn’t mean anything I’m just me!
HipHopCanada: Speaking of identity, your song “Grey Area” touches on that quite a bit, being of mixed race. Can you tell us little more about that and how it’s been received by the public?
Shane Eli: I’m trying to be articulate, and like I said in the song – “they say I talk like a color, but what’s a color talk like?” Everybody’s come to me and said that they loved it, every once in a while you do your research and you check on the blogs. And only on this one site, they use race to get people heated and I’d say 75% of the people were for it, then there were the other people like – he’s pushing away this side of him. But I don’t make the music for them, I make music for everybody but that song was for me. I’ve had fully Black people, White people, Asian people hit me up saying ‘I’m not even mixed but I can relate to this because my community doesn’t accept me for these reasons.’ So the response was crazy cause that was one of those songs where I was pretty much bearing my soul and a lot of people came back doing the same thing… I like that.
HipHopCanada: And speaking of soul…is it true that you produced a track for Earth Wind and Fire? That sounds amazing, how did that come about?
Shane Eli: I did, yea that’s the single greatest experience of my life! So what happened was one of my really good friends Ahmad – he’s a really dope song writer – we were going back and forth on some tracks and he was writing to some tracks I produced. And we were gonna pitch Jennifer Hudson’s people so we’d picked these three joints that we had done, and her manager told us that they just finished doing JH’s album and didn’t need any more songs but liked the one that we just played. He also manages Earth Wind and Fire, and they were recording their 40th anniversary album and he thought they would like this. And we’re like are you serious?! They sent the track to EWF and 4 days later we were at Raphael Saadiq’s crazy ass studio. So imagine this was the room, everybody’s got their instruments out, and their asking me, what do you want? I’ll never forget, John Paris the drummer when we were done he came up to me and goes, this one’s a show stopper! First of all they are like the most talented musicians you’ve ever seen in your life. The way they pick shit up and just jam, they’re crazy, and they’re fun, and their music is happy for the most part so this song really taps into that. It’s funny cause only a handful of people really get it… It was amazing.
HipHopCanada: So what’s this next year looking like for you. What should we be looking out for?
Shane Eli: I’ve been focused a lot on the non-profit and just getting my production out there. I just recently scored my first feature film, this British independent film called Pulp it’s gonna be funny… So yea I’m really just getting my name out there as a producer and a composer and then just hit em over the head with the new project probably in the spring of next year.
Interview conducted by Shayla Symonds for HipHopCanada.
Photography by Amalia Judith for HipHopCanada.
Don’t forget to check out www.shaneeli.com.