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If I hand you a postcard showing how my life has been the past three years, there’d be nothing much to it. Despite the many things that could’ve happened, you might just find me in an empty space, contemplating how I could get away from isolation.
Good thing music has us covered to reconnect us with our headspace when we need it. And while off-track and stuck in a seemingly awkward phase, a fresh discovery snapped me out of it.
“I deserve everything. I deserve all my dreams.”
The line is from the track “ELMNT” by SHNTI (a.k.a. Ashanti Bulanadi). To be honest, I don’t listen to hip-hop as much as I do to other genres of music. But when I listened to the rising artist’s debut EP of the same name, I found myself connecting to her intimate vocals and magnetizing flow, (and occupying a permanent space in my playlist). In this collection, she packaged her tracks as relatable as possible, carrying her narratives and spontaneous midnight ideas into a six-track record. It’s a peek into her head, no holds barred.
After serving us a remastered version of “Goodie Goodie” and releasing eargasmic tracks like “Best Life” and “Fuck It! (I’m In Love Again),” the rising rapper finally dropped her debut EP on Oct. 8, 2022. This pandemic brainchild was produced by rapper Calix, whom she’s also labelmates with at the Lightning in a Bottle (LIAB) Studios. Besides unveiling herself “unapologetically” in the EP, it also features labelmates Waiian (“YUH”) and Yorko (“Rhythm”). And in a matter of weeks, “ELMNT” has amassed over 320,000 listeners on Spotify. “It’s like a level up mode,” she says, recalling her humble beginnings.
Here, we caught up with SHNTI to talk about her creative process, influences, and how she’s right in her element with the new EP.
Congratulations on your debut EP! Can you give us a peek into your creative process behind it?
[During the pandemic] I’ve been really wanting to release an album. But I figured out that I want to introduce myself first as an artist. If I ever want an album, gusto ko may solid theme siya, eh (I want it to have a solid theme). Like, uniform. But, “ELMNT” is an EP that I collectively handpicked from the songs I tried to experiment on.
“Doon [sa “ELMNT” EP] ko nailabas artistic approach ko.”
Doon ko nailabas artistic approach ko (that’s where I brought out my artistic approach) when it comes to songs that introduced me and my elements, and what I’m trying to bring in the music industry. Hindi ko siya plinano at first, pero ’yung intention ko was to introduce myself (I didn’t plan this at first, but my intention was to introduce myself).
Among the tracks in your latest EP, which do you find the most personal?
“Could Be,” the last track. I wrote that in the middle of the pandemic. It was the track that I wrote when I slowed down and tried to process everything that’s happening. Ang daming nangyayari nung pandemic (A lot has happened during the pandemic). That sound was made to uplift myself, to try not [to] bring myself down. Actually, it’s already on SoundCloud before being part of the EP. The song is like, there’s more to life, so I need to get ahead of that.
“That sound was made to uplift myself.”
Nung nilabas ko ‘to sa SoundCloud, surprisingly, ‘yon din na-feel ng mga listeners. Naging demand siya after ko i-perform for the first time. So, nilagay ko siya sa EP ko.
(When I released it on Soundcloud, surprisingly, the listeners felt the same. The track became in demand after I performed it for the first time. So I decided to include the song in my EP.)
On “Bright,” you talk about the concept of self-worth. How has this influenced you as an artist?
TBH, [for] “Bright,” yes it’s about self-worth, [but] “Bright,” honestly, is about a lover who doesn’t seem to see myself as “me.” She rather sees myself as just an artist. I don’t deserve that. So I got reminded that I deserved bigger things, and I don’t need to ask for it.
“If I just do me, I’ll attract the right energies.”
Regarding influence, if I just do me, I’ll attract the right energies. Mas naging confident ako sa kung ano ang gusto kong mangyari sa music ko.
(I became more confident in what I wanted to do with my music after that.)
Not letting other opinions matter, unless the people I care about because I trust them.
Regarding your collaborations with Yorko and Waiian, as well as with your producers O’neen, Kiyoto, ThatKidGoran, RuiijiKun, can you share some unforgettable moments or takeaways from those experiences? How did your bond with them help translate your ideas into music?
I’ve shared this a lot during interviews. There’s this one time with Waiian and RuiijiKun in the studio. May hindi kami ma-translate (There was something we couldn’t translate), I remember we were making adlibs. [Then, RuiijiKun made a suggestion], and I did it based on my understanding. Tuwang-tuwa siya noon. (He was glad it worked out.)
“We really mix well together, even if we have different circumstances.”
Me and the team in LIAB got each other’s back both musically and personally. We really mix well together, even if we have different circumstances like being the youngest in the branch; being a north or south kid, etc. It all comes down to friendship. We were all friends even before we started to work together. [Our friendship] made it all go smoothly.
What was the biggest challenge in making “ELMNT”? Did your perspective towards songwriting change after releasing the EP?
It took a lot of time. And for me, I was super excited and very indecisive. To the point if nagtagal siya, 8 out of 10 [of the time], hindi ko na siya magugustuhan.
(8 out of 10 of the time, I wouldn’t like the song anymore after hearing it on loop.)
But [that’s] the good part of the process when it comes to me. If that happens, it means it’s not the right track. I should never get bored with my song. It’s like a red flag. [My initial songs] also changed a lot in a good way. Like “Bright” because its beat is different originally.
“It was trial and error. Sometimes, I get more experimental, so it becomes more extra… The challenge is I have a lot of ideas.”
One time, [I heard a beat so I told them] “Bilhin na natin (Let’s purchase it).” However, it was sold at the same time we were making it. That’s when we decided to recreate it and [O’neen was there to help]. The other challenge as well was, it was trial and error. Sometimes, I get more experimental, so it becomes more extra… The challenge is I have a lot of ideas.
Any local artists you currently listen to right now?
I listen to August Wahh, Jason Dhakal, and June Marieezy. They are great. I like R&B right now. Mellow songs, chill ones.
As a female rapper, what are the issues you want to highlight further, especially given that the hip-hop scene is also male-dominated?
I want hip-hop to be less aggressive. I acknowledge that it’s part of the culture, but some are just doing it because of “wala lang (just because).” For me, it lacks passion. I hope people can be more fragile when it comes to music. Let your feelings flow in your song because that’s what people need. Sometimes, people are not understood and they go to music to feel that. I hope we become a good environment for people.
What’s next for SHNTI? Any spoilers you can give us?
Three words: Music video, merch, and collaborations.
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Stills from LIAB Studio’s IG Reels. Video by Lynus