It's been almost a year since local rapper Stranger Day shed that moniker and began going by the more personal-sounding Rapper Shane.
The change was simple enough, but it's also coincided with a broader progression in his music, moving on from the normal head-bobbing hardcore beats and lyrics that characterized his 2014 album Graves, the last release from Stranger Day, to a desire to branch out and try new things.
"I listen to everybody and all kinds of shit, but I'm not in it to make shit just for kids," Shane says. "If a 16-year-old doesn't relate to me — I would hope they do — but that's not my market, we make grown-man fuckin' rap and that's what we're doing."
The progression is crystal clear in Dap City, a collaboration between Shane and Asheville-based band RBTS WIN that just released its first, self-titled EP. The eight-track EP melds the methodic with the melodic, with Shane's deliberate, hard delivery syncing smoothly with the synthesized boom-bap of RBTS WIN beats and lead singer Cliff Worsham's hooks.
Worsham, known in the Charlotte music scene as the former frontman with local band Secret Lives of the Free Masons, says he met Shane about three years ago and the collaboration has been in the works for about two. Worsham said Dap City marks a turning point for Shane, who has been progressing toward this point since before he thought of shedding the Stranger Day name.
"I think Shane has always been one of those rappers who appeases a certain crowd. He's had a sound in the past, so watching him open himself up to doing a different style is cool because you get to see an artist turn into their true artist self," Worsham says. "You can get so lumped into one style, when you see someone open up to something that is alien to them they bud and grow in a whole new direction. He's becoming Rapper Shane. He's turning into who he's always wanted to be."
Shane said the name change came because "having a rap alias is dumb," but he also admits he is a different person now than he was while rapping throughout his 20s as Stranger Day.
"I'm not doing old-man rap or nothing like that, but at 32, I've been in love, I've had my heartbroken, I've made money, I've lost money, I've done shit at 32 that I didn't do at 18, so my story is going to be more involved," Shane says. "I've spent more years figuring shit out."
Shane Coble, now 32, began rapping as a student at Providence High School about 16 years ago. A friend introduced him to some underground rappers who changed his perspective on what rap could be.
"When I got exposed to the underground shit, I thought, 'This is really tight. People are saying things that I can personally relate to. Like, yeah I'm from the fucking suburbs, it is what it is.' I grew up on shit like No Limit and Cashmoney and Outkast, but it wasn't telling my life story," he says. "Then I started listening to more storytelling, obscure, out of the box stuff like Rawkus Records in its heyday; that golden era rap. When I got put on to all that, I started writing."
Shane spent much of his time doing battle raps and freestyling amongst peers, but was also able to hit the stage with pal Sunny Ledfurd a few times, even if he doesn't believe he truly belonged on a stage just yet.
"I'd go play Fat Tuesdays at UNCC when I was 17 with Sunny, and they would let me on stage. I was just trying to find my lane and I was a terrible rapper by all means, but I put out shit on cassettes and I just never stopped," Shane says. "I wasn't dope when I was younger. There's a learning curve. This is pre-looking up who you wanted to be on the Internet and becoming that guy the next day. It was a process to become who you are and it took many years to get to the point where I felt like I'm dope, and right now I feel like I'm fuckin' dope."
Shane and the boys of RBTS WIN have already begun work on Dap City Vol. 2, in which Shane plans to continue the progression he started showing on the first volume. He plans to release a solo EP by the end of the year, but specifically points to the work he's doing on the next Dap City project as the best work he's done in his career, with the genre-crossing not only helping him gain new fans, but helping him grow as a writer.
"I think it's the best writing I've ever done, the best raps I've ever written," Shane says. "It all started with this first one, just being a different soundscape than I would've gravitated to normally, and just having a lot of people's input on it. I really enjoy getting feedback from people. In my younger days I was more stubborn, like, 'Naw, I'm gonna do it my way.' But I totally enjoy presenting it to my peers that I respect that do music, that don't even rap. It's really nice to have a guy like Elevator Jay, who is a rapper, give me feedback on music and then have a guy who doesn't even like rap per say, give me feedback. If they're both digging it, then it's probably a good song."
I sat down to talk to Shane over beers at a local bar in NoDa, where he lives, and he brought along longtime collaborator and friend Elevator Jay. That was no surprise, as anyone who has seen Shane play live over the last couple years, has most likely seen Jay playing the same show.
The two get sarcastic and start joking as childhood friends would at the suggestion that each might comment on the other's career, but it's clear they hold each other's opinion in high regard. They both call each other their biggest critic respectively, and say they push each other so as not to let the other put out trash music.
"With him knowing me, its kind of like getting a different perspective from an artist to an artist," Jay says. "I would rather go to him and he would rather go to me. It's better for us to tell each other than hear from someone on the outside. Like, you don't know me. But I know bruh (referring to Shane), I know how far he could get with his music. Even right now, what he's doing right now, I know he can go further, so I'm gonna keep pushing him. He gonna keep pushing me."
Jay joined on with the Permanent Vacation crew not long after it was founded by Shane and Wilmington DJ Famous Jason in 2010, and the two have been working together since.
Shane defines Permanent Vacation as a "lifestyle brand," and with the shirts growing ever more popular around Charlotte and even around the country, he said anybody can rep it as long as they're down with the idea at its foundation, which is to chase your dreams as a way to make a living.
"It was an idea where we realized we had a lot of creative friends who were all doing really rad shit and decided we should put this under one umbrella," Shane says of forming Permanent Vacation. "We just decided we're going to form this creative collective and everything was organic — there's definitely no, 'Oh, please represent us,' it's more like 'Hey man, we're friends with people. We like you, hopefully you like us, let's work together.' Along the way we've picked up incredible people like Elevator.
"We're friends before music. If we fuck with you as a human being, you want to come to the house and we can barbecue in the backyard and have some beers, then it develops from there."
That backyard barbecue vibe is something that has saturated the Southern styles of both Shane and Jay's music for years, and now they've begun to take it out of the yard and into the Charlotte music scene.
They recently wrapped the second season of Squirt Day parties, held at Snug Harbor throughout the summer. Permanent Vacation artists like Jay, Shane and Charleston-based Matt Monday played Squirt Day parties in 2015, while they also hosted bigger acts like Gangsta Boo of Three 6 Mafia, who headlined the July 4 Squirt Day Party. The parties, held behind Snug Harbor, take on a backyard barbecue feel, with squirt guns supplied by the hosts if you don't come packing your own.
More recently, the Permanent Vacation crew have added to the party atmosphere at Snug Harbor with a new monthly event called Player Made Tuesdays, during which Shane, Jay and DJ A Huf spin the Southern records they grew up listening to, along with a smattering of more current stuff, calling it "an ode to Southern rap of all eras." They'll host the next one on Oct. 20. Dap City will also perform the entire new EP for the first time live at Snug Harbor on Halloween night. Shane and Jay both enjoy the atmosphere of Snug and the ownership welcomes them for the same reasons.
"They're really easy to work with, I like their vibe and they're very all-inclusive like Snug is. They're not sticking to one scene or anything," Scott McCannell, co-owner of Snug Harbor, says. "It's refreshing to have somebody like Shane who's that easy to work with and also has their ear to the ground and cares about the scene.
Shane also recently co-founded a promotion group called Know Good Entertainment aimed at bringing indie acts to Charlotte that they don't want to see skipping the city on tours. Shane and co-founders Alex Shaw and Brandy Towery have already succeeded in bringing acts like Slum Village and Andrew W.K. to Charlotte within the group's first months of existence.
"Collectively, between everything we do, it's another piece of the puzzle trying to make this city cooler, trying to put on for the city, trying to continue to bring culture here," Shane says. "I'm not saying we're the saviors or nothing like that, but we're definitely trying to contribute to this city and make this city a cooler place to be and make it grow so we can be proud of this shit. Lately my motto has been, 'I'm too busy to be this broke.' It's nonstop trying to do shit, but the music is number one."