Born in the Bay Area, Santa Rosa’s Shaya has called many places home, and seems to have carried pieces of those experiences with him. “Childhood wasn’t really all that good, but it wasn’t all that bad either”, says the man today. That may be an understatement. From birth, Shaya was physically abused – as were his mother and sisters. His childhood was one exposed to violence and addiction.
As a result of family turmoil, Shaya spent much of his youth bouncing around between Northern California and Indiana, between foster homes and extended family. “Basically, ‘family’ to me was little memories of court-appointed visitation”, he says. These experiences find their way onto songs such as “Proud”, a provocative dedication to the MC’s mother, told with unwavering honesty.
From an arbitrary purchase at a swap meet, it was The Fat Boys’ Crushin’ and Run-DMC’s Raising Hell that would give a young Shaya the creative channel for all his pent up emotions. No matter his living situation, the adolescent embraced hip-hop music that he had heard in the Midwest such as Rakim and LL Cool J, as well as his fellow California natives MC Ren and Ice Cube. “I always tried to steer away from gangs. I felt indifferent to it because of what happened to me in my childhood”, reveals Shaya. Indeed, instead of the neighborhood gang-members influencing the impressionable mind, it was some of hip-hop’s most celebrated MCs doing the influencing.
Throughout the next years of his life, Shaya took to telling his own tales on tapes. With a name (Arabic for “worthy / deserving”) taken from a lyric in neighbouring Blackalicious’ song “Beyonder”, Shaya has spent the last ten years sharing stages with Living Legends and Hieroglyphics long before ever considering a studio album. Four-track demos, handmade CDs and backpacking his art on the sidewalks of Northern California has transitioned this MC’s passion into his vocation. Under the mentorship of Ian “I.D.” Davis, Shaya has learned from the same who helped Little Brother become the independent hip-hop sensation of the last five years. “He told me to come from the heart, and make people believe”, and the result of that conviction became Fallen Awake, on ID’s new label home, Interdependent Media.
“I write by interviewing the beat”, admits Shaya. With production from Jake One (50 Cent, Freeway) and The ARE (Lords of the Underground, K-Otix), he’s had some great subjects. Songs such as “Industry Life” provide insight on the uphill battle of the hip-hop game, while diary entries like “Speed of Life” and the aforementioned “Proud” are revelations that no other artist can provide. For Shaya, this is a lifelong passion in the balance. “This is stuff a lot of artists put on their second albums. But for the age I am and the time in my life I’m at, this is stuff I want people to know now”.