At the start of the year I went to see a film called Short Term 12 about a foster home for troubled teens. One of the standout scenes of the film was when a young man named Marcus raps how he is feeling to one of the carers. Marcus is just shy of turning 18, meaning that he will soon need to leave the home and find his own way in the world.
The scene is transfixing. The lyrics are raw and painfully honest. The camera slowly zooms in on Marcus to focus on the emotion in his face. The bongo beat sets a metronome that cuts out at the song’s climax, making those last a capella lines all the more stark.
Short Term 12 is a great film. Make sure to see it if you haven’t. It’s not Hollywood-happy, but it’s a rewarding watch.
I was thinking about it for days afterward. I decided to look up the actor who played Marcus. He was a talented actor, but surely he was a rapper, too?
Sure enough, the actor’s name was Keith Stanfield, and he had a music project called Moors with a song on vimeo called “Asphyxiated“.
“Asphyxiated” is in the same vein as the Short Term 12 rap. Daunting and unsettling, with minimal instrumentation that builds intensity. The lyrics are turbulent and tortured.
I followed Moors on Soundcloud and Facebook and waited to hear for more.
And now Stanfield has released a debut EP of four songs, plus two remixes. With song titles like “Asphyxiated”, “Gas”, “Fire” and “Smoke” there seems to be a theme of struggling to breathe.
The EP opens with the aforementioned “Asphyxiated”. Second track “Gas” is more upbeat, with sampled female humming and more underlying turmoil.
“Fire” is the most radio friendly track. It’s catchy, quick and repetitive. Like “Gas”, the beat could make it dance track, but I doubt you’ll be hearing this in a club any time soon.
The slow and somber “Smoke” brings the EP down in pace and mood. Although he has done with the other songs, this is when Stanfield really fights his demons. Family, alcohol and racism all feature. The softly sung chorus starts with the line “every silver lining has a black cloud”. Wow. This glass is definitely half empty.
Lyrically, Moors is clever and poetic, but at the same time so dark and depressing it makes me wonder if Stanfield has had a similar life to his orphaned character from Short Term 12. I don’t know if he’s putting on a persona or not, but you can tell there is some hurt that he’s working through
Moors isn’t going to put you in a cheerful mood, it’s pretty emotionally charged. But there’s something that draws you in and keeps you listening. It’s modern rap that focuses on internal issues instead of ego inflation.
Keep an eye out for the name Keith Stanfield. I’ve read that he has been cast to play Snoop Dogg in an upcoming NWA biopic. He is also currently touring with James Vincent McMorrow. With this much talent as both an actor and a rapper, Stanfield is sure to blow up soon.