On his first release of wholly original material after a decade spent making music, Sweet, sees Kingston's ShizNick (web link) delivering an album full of energy, charm, humour and optimism.

Chunky acoustic guitar power chords and a noodly riff (reminiscent of early Gorillaz) greets us out of the gate on the short and upbeat intro. It’s a fun start to the party, and finds ShizNick dropping one of his many references/impressions/shout-outs/samples on the record (it’s Ms. Jackson by OutKast this time). Each of these drops engage the listener (insert Leonardo DiCaprio pointing at the TV meme here) and add to the feeling that you’re getting to know ShizNick by getting to know what he loves, and what has influenced him.

The tempo goes up a notch on All Out. Backed by a cool synth line, ShizNick delivers some of his most mile-a-minute flow on this one. This track introduces us to ShizNick’s bravado—a common theme through the record—and he certainly has the chops to back this up. It doesn’t hurt that this feels like an endearing character that ShizNick inhabits throughout the album. A good chorus hook, an overall vibe of positivity/empowerment (another recurring theme) and a DMX sample to close the track all serve to add to the enjoyment as well.

For The First Time shifts to a more heartfelt and vulnerable tone, demonstrating that ShizNick isn’t all punchlines. He lays out a life lesson he has learned over time (with his grandmother as a principal guide) that we can all hopefully relate to: we only live once so best to make it count and cherish those close to us. An enthusiastically—and at times imperfectly—delivered chorus hook add to the infectious charm behind the message.

When ShizNick lets you know he’s “known as a pretty nice guy” to open Take What’s Mine, it hardly comes as a surprise based on what we’ve heard so far, though the rest of the track is spent telling his naysayers where to go. We get more of his bravado here as he expresses that he’s not going to stop until he gets what’s his. And listeners are bound to agree with him. He works his way through the track smoothly (his “I got bars” bit works through at least three entendres) dropping references throughout… perhaps the first song to ever name drop both Terry Fox and Michael Vick?

Some spaghetti Western-ish electric guitar transitions us into The Answer featuring Kryple & Fortunato, which ShizNick uses to declare his arrival and the grind ethos he intends to employ while he’s here. The song is elevated by a big hook/almost anthemic chorus (the background “ooohs” add to this effect) where the charmingly imperfect vocals make their return. These vocal moments are some of the most enthusiastic throughout the record. A nice false stop at the end sees them bring the chorus back for one more repetition (to the complaint of no one).

On You’ll be Around, ShizNick circles back to the heart-on-sleeve mood of For The First Time and delivers a poignant and loving tribute to a lost loved one. This track is definitely the one that has been on repeat in this reviewer’s head throughout the writing of this review. In addition to getting to know more about ShizNick by hearing him remember someone who has meant so much to him, the track is just plain catchy. The acoustic guitar returns—accompanied by a nice harmonica line—for a big folk-rock chorus that will stick in your brain long after the album is over. The track displays a fair bit of maturity in its message that even though we’ll likely always think of what could have been, we’ll carry the memories of those we love with us throughout our lives.

One Way Ticket is another track that speaks to the struggle to make it and tackles the topic (over a cool organ and bass line groove) with the enthusiasm and optimism we’ve come to expect from ShizNick at this point in the album. Common lyrical themes—empowerment, manifest destiny, loved ones lost, and alcoholism—are revisited throughout perhaps the most melodic verses on the album and ShizNIck, yet again, doesn’t disappoint with the charming and hooky chorus.

Some record scratching effects on the outro vocal lead us into 23 Free where Mr. Garrison (yes, that Mr. Garrison) is there to greet us. The breathlessly fast flow showcased on All Out returns and is backed some EDM influenced modulated vocals to, ahem, sweet effect. This is likely the most reference laden track on the record (South Park, The Goonies, MC Hammer, Michael Buffer, Ned Stark of Game of Thrones, Boogie Nights), putting on display ShizNick’s punchline heavy style to great enjoyment.

Together Forever finds ShizNick continuing to build his legend (“This song will fill a venue after [he’s] gone”) over great bass and synth counterpointing lines with a cool EDM swath/bed track.

Sweet comes to its conclusion with Quarantine Bars, a track delivered over the darkest vibe/groove on the record (fittingly, given the subject matter). ShizNick’s optimistic humour (references to Tiger King, an Idaho joke, and some light political material in the final verse) shines through the track and finds our shared journey coming to an end after an up-tempo 30 minutes.

Sweet is a buoyant and charming record filled to the brim with optimistic enthusiasm that will serve as an excellent transition from spring into summer for anyone looking to give it a stream. We recommend this “non-debut debut” album by one of Kingston's preeminent hip hop artists to anyone looking for a fun and infectious listen.

ShizNick performs live in Kingston on Sunday, May 12 at The Broom Factory alongside Robbie G, Obie Trice and D12. Information and links to advance tickets can be found here: web link Posted: Apr 1, 2024
In this Article Artist(s) ShizNick