Blessed up with Sinobi Ninja
Photos by: Earl Maldoun ( www.pixeljournalism.com)
March comes in like a lion and so does Shinobi Ninja; a high energy indie band from Brooklyn. It’s cold and bitter during the last days of winter in Bushwick, Brooklyn but inside RDNMKS apparel store, Dj Axis Powers of Shinobi Ninja is spinning some laid back hip hop as we drink beer and eat chicken at a listening party for SN’s new album Bless Up. The entire evening there was someone playing a video game on the PlayStation, so we had some time to talk:
S16: “Where did you get the name Shinobi Ninja?”
SN: “It is a video game from the 80s. We found out that a Shinobi is another word for a ninja.”
Shinobi Ninja is an eclectic band, they meld different musical genres together and it was interesting to see that there is a melding of hip hop and Japanese anime culture here in Bushwick influencing the current generation. RDNK had a chalk mural with cartoons that were anime characters as well some tasteful abstract paintings amidst the variety caps and other good quality articles of clothing on sale.
Promptly at 8pm the record was played. Most of us agreed that Bless Up starts in one place and ends in another. It is so interesting that we gave it a second listen. The first tracks “Subcon” and “Bang Bang” are as heavy as Rage Against the Machine or Bad Brains but as the album plays into its finale the music is taken down to more subtle jams like “Bending Spoons”.
S16: “Do you guys listen to Korn?”
SN: “Yes!” Answers drummer Terminator Dave laughing.
I knew it. Shinobi Ninja blends hip hop and rock in some places similarly to how Korn had done in ‘90s. SN has two main vocalists: Baby G. and (D.A.) Duke Sims that complement one another’s styles. Baby G has a melodic raping style that is a bit like Erykah Badu with a hard edge that we can hear on SN’s “Programmable Animal”. Baby explained to me that the song is about the industry tries to change people.
They are a talented bunch. Sims plays several instruments with guitarist Kid Shreddi aka Maniak Mike and bassist Alien Lex which competes this sextet that has a full sound.
SN: (Simms) “No we had a small horn section. That’s me on saxophone and my friend on trombone. The Trombone player’s name is Dave Levitt from Dem Brooklyn Bums.”
At that point I was going to ask Sims about if they were fans of A Tribe Called Quest but Sims said was that ATCQ is a big inspiration for Shinobi Ninja before I had a chance to ask the question!
Hip hop is a major influence for Shinobi Ninja according to Terminator Dave. DJ Axis Powers does most of the sampling for the band. You can hear him scratch the vinyl over a Def Leppard like rock rhythm section on like on “Funday.” Here we can hear Baby G. go into a rap that is reminiscent of Public Enemy with the add ingredient of a heavy metal guitar solo. Balance is key in binding musical genres together and Shinobi Ninja has poise.
Bless Up morphs from high energy rock on its opening tracks into more sublime tracks such as “Bending Spoons”. It has reggae rhythms, horns, and ambient textures. It’s a good jam and could pass for world music. The lyrics have a gospel overtone.
S16: “Are you doing any shows NYC soon?”
SN: “Yes, we are playing the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn on April 1!”
Give Bless Up a listen and I hope to see you at Shinobi Ninja’s show at the Knitting Factory on April Fool’s Day! You will not be played.