From the minute Sh8peshifter stepped on stage in a trench coat, mask, and white boots, she engaged the crowd with her creative, genre-bending performance.
Hailing from Oakland, Sh8peshifter was accompanied two other musicians — one playing drums and the other using a sound synthesizer — during her on-campus performance on April 27th.
She had the audience clapping along to the beat by the first song and engaged them further by creating a dialogue with them between sets, dancing hypnotically as she performed.
All of her music was powerful and political, with songs incorporating elements of hip hop, soul, R&B, spoken word, and theater to create a diverse and engaging performance.
During the first half of her performance, Sh8peshifter transitioned between songs seamlessly. Her earlier songs were more abstract and performative, with more movement and less vocals, but she slowly built to using beautiful, loud vocals that became foregrounded as the primary instrument.
The reasoning behind her name became evident with her song “Shapeshifting,” which holds a message of being unapologetically yourself, rejecting the status quo, and staying enthusiastic about change — a common theme throughout most of her songs.
Although most of her performance was laced with political messages, Sh8peshifter did perform one breakup song that alternated between slower and faster beats. Even her breakup song retained her theme of empowerment, as it was told in a storytelling format with a proud conclusion.
Towards the end of the show, Sh8peshifter stepped back to allow her drummer to perform three songs. He performed two originals, “Fantasy” and “Pages,” and one cover of Al Green’s “Simply Beautiful.”
He drummed to set a slow, steady beat, which was a pleasant complement to his soulful, R&B vocals. He also created a playful dialogue with the audience, sharing anecdotes and gesturing at certain members to keep them engaged during his set.
Sh8peshifter returned after his set with a cover of Nina Simone’s “Funkier than a Mosquito’s Tweeter.”
Towards the end of her set, she performed some empowering songs that provided commentary on race relations and politics.
“Every day we go to sleep and it’s dark and in the morning we wake up, and that’s also how our transition from the womb works. But even though all life begins in darkness, people are scared of it. Our fear of darkness is related to our fear of black bodies and as well as our fear of the unknown. But I refuse to be scared of darkness and that’s how I deal with the whole situation with the government. I know that what comes next must be light,” said Sh8peshifter between songs.
Her music was proudly political, with her song “After Darkness” calling the audience to “Pledge allegiance to the United States of Melanin” over a stylized hip hop beat.
In the middle of Sh8peshifter’s last song, she said that she had a message from her sponsor and then proceeded to finish her uplifting song on black empowerment.
By the end of her performance, the entire crowd was standing and dancing in the MCC’s seating venue.