Shoshin Noel, LxngCat & Icaarus are collectively known as Ronin Clan. The trio have created a storm in the North East in the past twelve months or so, making a number of ears prick up. I was late to the party, and if I’m honest the style of music isn’t what I’d normally listen to but since seeing them headline The Tanners Arms stage at Evolution Emerging, I’ve been won over.
Ronin Clan are an act best experienced live. Mosh pits and stage
dives gymnastics are plenty, and its easy to write off the trio as an off-shoot of American metal-rap superstars that they probably are inspired by – but there’s more to them than that. For ages, I ignored recommendations from the likes of 90BRO and RIDE Music‘s Johno Ramsay based on my own preconceptions of Ronin. If I’m honest part of me didn’t trust the product the Clan were creating. The production quality of their videos, the following they quickly amassed all seemed to good to be true – but they’ve proved me wrong.
I’ve especially been eating my words since the release of Shoshin Noel’s double EP drop and LxngCat’s T.M.S.E.D.T.I.S. loose cut. I hope their personal issues are sorted soon and they don’t get too wrapped up in diss tracks for regional peers because although they’re not making music I’d typically run to, the talent is evident. Although they’re not perfect, the potential is promising to say the least.
Its unclear how the Shoshin Noel’s double EP drop of You Are What You Do and Until You Die are supposed to be consumed. They were released within a week of each other which tells me they’re meant to be listened to one-after-another and if so, there’s probably only one real weak link in the six track selection.
Although I’m not entirely a fan of the engineering of the EP in general, its most apparent on You Are What You Do’s #Selflove. Its often said about trap-metal fusion acts that its more about the production and how the record sounds rather than the lyrics, so the vocal is often lower in the mix than typical hip-hop releases. #Selflove takes this too far though, one of Ronin Clan’s strengths are their dialect and accents (I love hearing ‘daft cunts’ and ‘is’ rather than ‘me’). Their vocals typically punchy, forcing listeners to pay attention. On #Selflove, the vocals just feel flat, lacking clarity and any sense of importance.
I’d also like the vocals to be higher in the mix on Tall Poppy Syndrome, but the engineering makes more sense this way than it does on #Selflove. The melodic track takes Ronin’s radge and instead provides Shoshin Noel experimenting with singing. I’m sure there are more accurate comparisons I haven’t heard but its more Kid Cudi than it is Juice WRLD as the one-third of Ronin Clan tackles misconceptions of him from people who have never met him (I feel personally attacked) and also throws detractors words about it not being his “time” in their face while throwing smooth brags about getting crowds lit in for good measure.
It’d be easy to focus on the sonic qualities of You Are What You Do / Until You Die especially when Basilisk is a thing – and my favourite track of the project. If you pay attention to Shoshin’s content however, you can pick up on more of the MCs own personality. This is more than an attempt to copy Suicide Boys and co., but a reflection of a young man growing up in Newcastle’s West End.
There’s frustration embedded in Foreword as Noel says “you thought it was a fucking joke man” towards people who didn’t believe his music could be something serious, and yet they’ve cemented themselves as one of most talked about acts in the North East this year.
Its in Until You Die’s first track where Shoshin Noel really showcases his ability with words. Taking aim at fake humility as he admits he wants the money music can make, even though he loves his fans so much he considers them friends. He also takes shots at peers who talk too much about what they’ve done, are doing or are going to do exclaiming “I judge people on actions” shortly after recommending an anonymous addressee “should have stuck in at [their] part-time job instead.”
Its going to be interesting to see where Ronin Clan go from here. With the apparent impending formation of a supergroup including Scapegoat Avarice and Kv$hnoodle alongside the recent revelation of Shoshin Noel’s health potentially preventing him from performing at Ronin Clan’s o2 Academy mainstage debut, its bittersweet. As recent as September, the trio genuinely seemed on the cusp of a national breakthrough.
With the constant progression as a group and with this EP exhibiting solo skill too, I hope Shoshin Noel recovers soon. Like I’ve said a few times, Ronin Clan don’t make music I typically listen to but let me also reinforce that good music is simply good music – and I hope Shoshin Noel, LxngCat and Icaarus can continue (or comeback) to create at the levels of quality of Basilisk, T.M.E.D.T.I.S and Usurp. If they can, there’s a movement upon us and its swerving in tanks with its middle fingers up.