Miguelito is cooler than a polar bear’s toenails.
Winnsboro, South Carolina is a typical small Southern town. It’s twenty miles north of Columbia, the state’s capital, and isn’t known for much outside of niche (and sometimes questionable) South Carolina history. It’s one of those towns with a few thousand people you pass through on the way to an obscure festival celebrating strawberries or peanuts or muscadines. The closest metropolitan area is at least a half hour away. Dozens of these pockets exist across the Carolinas, isolated by farmland and highway stretches and that makes rap scenes hyper-regional.
South Carolina doesn’t have artists forcing themselves into the national conversation like its northern twin with Dababy, Stunna 4 Vegas and Rapsody but many of its counties are producing consistently entertaining rappers that are idiosyncratic but connected by a working class, built-from-actual-dirt mentality (Smoke Gambino, Blacc Zacc, Lil Mexico, Deezy McDuffie, 18Veno). For Winnsboro and Fairfield County, it’s Lil Shane Krush.
Shane turns twenty-one next month and has moved around Fairfield County for most of those years, but always found a base in Winnsboro. His mother and her family made sure he was fluent in Eddie Kendricks and Sade while the rap entered with his father, who would bump Outkast and Goodie Mob driving him around dirt roads. An uncle on his father’s side is involved in media production and leans toward television these days, but Shane tells me on the phone about his earlier music ventures. “My uncle had me in the backyard studio when I was like four or five years old,” he says on the way home from his manufacturing job, “I’m talking about a backwoods shed basically, almost a little hut he had in the behind his house with all this recording equipment.”
This formative structure made Shane’s voice durable and all the family album listening refined his technique. Pound-for-pound Shane could stand next to any rapper in the state and most outside.
He dropped a few projects throughout high school and a small EP (Delayed Flight) last year, but his album released this week, 5000 Degrees in the Field, is a war stained culmination of his training. For the first four tracks, he indulges melodies that show residue of Speaker Knockerz—who Shane actually purchased a beat from for an early mixtape—with the candor and pace of Peewee Longway. On the second track, Shane references Soulja Slim when mentioning a failed attempt on his own life (“Above Below”) that’s easy to miss. That’s because Lil Shane delivers bars with a tone landing between earned acclaim and natural humility, whether they’re outlandish sexual flexes or reimagining hearse rides. The only reference point for this delivery style in recent memory is Bankroll Fresh.
Shane’s well-versed in profitable ventures and puts his rustic spin on them. He has songs called “Digital Scale Diary” and wore Fendi to high school geometry, but even in accomplishments his lines about losing pounds or the state’s increasingly low wages stick the longest. When he scams it’s with a blue collar, not the peacoat flair of Detroit. He’s not dropping $100k checks into PNC accounts but has tracking numbers from UPS connections that probably reach back to the fourth grade.
The strongest run on 5000 Degrees in the Field is the five-song stretch from “Digital Scale Diary” to “16th of November.” “Late Night Juggin” is the most combustible of the set and takes you from “making hits on a middle school desk” to living and dying by how much your high beams catch on low-trafficked routes. “16th of November” has a melody that drills into the skull and makes you recite lines you don’t agree with, like “I don’t listen to no YG or DJ Mustard”. (It is the official position of Passion of the Weiss that we listen to YG and DJ Mustard.)
South Carolina’s geography and street politics don’t do it any favors, especially if someone was looking to build a network similar to Atlanta, Detroit or Los Angeles. The fields between county lines will give rappers space to develop engaging styles that aren’t derivative of those three guys from Atlanta. There’s no better evidence than Lil Shane.