Shofu - Trap Ketchum Album Review
While major record labels may never truly lost their grasp over the music industry, the internet has nevertheless allowed anyone and everyone motivated enough to create music and the ability to release their music regardless of potential audience or financial success. Hip hop has seemingly benefited the most from this, with seminal artists such as Odd Future and Death Grips owing their success to the forum discussions and file sharing. While partial to their success is their talent, much of their buzz was generated by the audiences they spoke too whom hip hop had often alienated or ignored.
Which is why it’s so surprising it’s taken until 2017 for something of the quality of Trap Ketchum to be released. Conceptually centered solely on Pokémon, the highest-grossing media franchise on the planet, Trap Ketchum is the most ambitious and creatively executed video game inspired music project to be released to this reviewer’s knowledge. YouTuber and Twitch streamer Shofu has released a mixtape that deserves more than most (if not all) releases this year to be in the conversation of best trap album of the year.
This is mostly in part to the passion and absolute brilliance of the vocal delivery and lyrics delivered on project from front to back. Shofu’s knowledge of the Pokémon franchise enables him to exercise a lyrical complexity and wordplay that could be comparable to Aesop Rock on certain tracks. Granted, the listener will have to have an equal appreciation for Pokémon to pick on these moments, but those who do will find Shofu’s cunning to be incomparably enthralling.
Thematically, the mixtape explores most of the typical subjects found in trap music, that being of fame, skill and dominance, but the unique context of Pokémon saves the project from feeling like a retread of artistic efforts done by artists before him. Fans of the franchise who have detested the genre of trap music will find much to relate to and empathize with on the project and could ultimately bring a new subsection of music fans into the trap scene.
Production wise, the album does exactly what it should do by providing high energy and aggressive instrumentals for Shofu and his features to rap over. While the incorporated samples from soundtracks of various games in the Pokémon franchise certainly add a fun dynamic to the album, they often feel more like a fun nod rather than an artistically exciting remix. That’s not to say the project shouldn’t have used the samples, but they provided such a broad set of artistic options for sampling and remixing that weren’t utilized to their full artistic potential.
Trap Ketchum has the potential to bring video game inspired music out of the novelty and comedy role they play in modern music. Currently, video game inspired music lays in the wasteland of cello covers on YouTube and flash animations that provide a fun, but ultimately forgettable experience. Shofu instead fully embraces his love and enjoyment for Pokémon, being completely closed off to the idea that the franchise shouldn’t hold a place in artistic history given just how many fans the game has inspired and touched over the years. Shofu’s passion is one that few artists exhibit nowadays and for that passion to strike in this context has the potential to influence future artists to do the same, regardless of the social perception of their passions.
Chandler Copenheaver is a senior majoring in public relations. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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Senior / Public Relations