Defying the odds

South Africa: Shane Eagle is ready to soar once more

By Shingai Darangwa

Posted on May 12, 2023 15:49

 © Shane Eagle (photo: @Shane_Eagle)
Shane Eagle (photo: @Shane_Eagle)

After placing fourth during the hotly contested first season of Vuzu’s hip hop talent competition, ‘The Hustle’, in 2015 – Shane Eagle took off on perhaps the most unlikely run in the history of South African hip hop.

“That was a very interesting time for me because I remember just freshly coming off The Hustle and there were a lot of people interested and trying to approach me and trying to get close to me like [JR], who I was working with at the time,” he tells The Africa Report.

“He was the first person to see that light and go, ‘Yo, I need to approach him and work with him because I can see that everybody’s bound to come reach for him’, so I think shoutout to him for seeing the vision first.

While early singles like ‘Way Up’ and ‘I’m Back’ gained some good traction commercially, it was the introspective and deeply personal ‘Cutting Corners’ that really caught on in late 2016.

The success of ‘Cutting Corners’ was an aha moment for Eagle. “As soon as I showed the world who I really was when I dropped what was close to my heart, that’s when I started understanding that it’s not necessarily the music that you put out that you think is gonna work, it’s the music that you feel is right that is working.”

All these years later, he says people still hit him up with their testimonials about ‘Cutting Corners’. “People will tell me that the song changed their life or they’ll say, ‘That song saved me, that song took me off the bridge’ or it did this and it did that. That was just the young Eagle off The Hustle ready to take over the game, that’s a different energy, that’s the one who knows that I’ve got something in me but still has a lot to learn.”

Following a brief stint as a presenter on Vuzu’s popular entertainment news parody, V Entertainment, Eagle solidified himself as one of the country’s top local rappers with ‘Julia’,  a stunning, well-executed ode to early 90s boom bap rap that showcased that ‘Cutting Corners’ was no fluke and put to bed any lingering doubts about his talents.

As his buzz reached a fever pitch, he then followed that up with the viral and inescapable single ‘Let It Flow’, which was released in support of his debut album, Yellow. ‘Let It Flow’ went on to be certified gold a year and a half later, while Yellow beat stiff competition from the likes of Emtee and Riky Rick to be awarded the Best Hip-Hop Album at the 2018 South African Music Awards (SAMAs).

Standing the test of time

Now, five years later, Eagle has stood the test of time. Four albums deep, he has become one of the most revered rappers on the continent. Over the past few years he’s collaborated with several international acts, including most notably J. Cole protege Bas, with whom he toured Europe with in 2019, and earned numerous more gold and platinum certifications for several of his singles and projects.

However, after a brief period on the sidelines, the release of his new single, ‘Hold You’, seems to mark the dawn of a new era for Eagle. Finally having some new music out is a feeling he’s missed.

“You know, I don’t really get into the comments and all of that, sometimes it’s more of just what it means to me. […] I’d say it’s a very powerful signal that I’m putting into the universe. The topic of it being about love and inspiration. That’s healing, it’s already a healer that hip hop and Africa needs right now. Obviously, a lot of the fans are saying that this is reminiscent of the classic capsules, so I’m just grateful. So far, the reception’s been beautiful.”

‘Hold You’ is reminiscent to 2018’s ‘Chocolate Milk’, which is by far his most commercially successful song thus far. He adds that the song’s hook, which sees him sing, “Just to hold you”, is a double entendre.

“It was a message to the fans[…]: ‘Look, this is just to keep you and this is just to hold you until I put in the work and the time to finish up this next body of work for me and for you guys’, but at the same time to also remind you of somebody you’re missing or are longing for like imagine if I could just hold you… it just feels right. […] This is to heal, it’s for people who’ve gone through stuff, including myself.”

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