Sink or Swim: @ShawnSmithStory Review

So, I know I’m not the usual music review guy, but every so often, I come across something that reminds me of why I first fell in love with Hip-Hop. As a (former) rapper, I’m always impressed with a great lyricist. Unfortunately, that isn’t exactly prevalent in today’s game and that’s fine, because my days of yore are long past. However, the project I’m reviewing today is proof that there are still young rappers out there with great pen games and the ability to make a great project.

Last Wednesday, on the Joe Budden Podcast, Mal unveiled his sleeper pick, it was a song called “Heaven” by a Philadelphia rapper named Shawn Smith. Mal usually has great picks in the sleeper segment, but this one by far caught me off guard more than any other has. From the moment the song comes one, Smith puts on a lyrical display that not only would make any great rapper proud (Joe was impressed), there was also an energy in his voice that made me want to check out what other music he had out there. I happened upon his website, which took me to his soundcloud page and his project Sink Or Swim.

Even though I had already heard him put on a lyrical barrage in Heaven, I was still caught off guard by just how well Smith raps on the rest of this project. The opening track S.W.P. which stands for “SouthWest Philly”, features lyrics that all begin with S, W and P, in that order. Smith’s use of alliteration is prevalent throughout the album but to take the initials of your song and make every lyric fit them over 2 minutes and 45 seconds is impressive. And while I could quote you bars off of this project all day, what impresses me most about Smith is his story.

Smith raps a lot about religion and wanting to be a positive influence to his community. And while rapping about God isn’t a particularly radical concept in today’s music, what sticks out to me is how he goes about delivering his message. There’s no holier-than-thou tinge to his message nor is there an effort to make himself seem squeaky clean. SOS contains tales of robbing a Chinese restaurant (Beef and Broccoli) as well as the guilt of not helping a dying man for fear of the cops thinking he was the perpetrator (Shootout). He’s a vessel for a message and his talent is capable of delivering that message. Even if you aren’t a fan of super lyrical rap, you can appreciate the story that has been woven throughout each track on this album.

Since hearing this, I’ve shared it with almost every hip-hop fan I know, because as much as we can lament the days of lyrics being almost gone, there’s somebody out here who is carrying that torch while trying to make a difference in the lives of those his music touches. So, to that end, I and the rest of the KWC staff are rooting for this kid and Shawn, if you’re reading this, hit us up, I got a shirt for you.


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