Shely210 stays hungry on the path to success with ‘Stack or Starve’
Hailing from the Southern Sydney suburb of Riverwood, Shely210 has returned in 2022 with the release of his latest EP ‘Stack or Starve’. The release is Shely’s follow-up to his 2021 debut EP ‘No Handouts’, a standout project from last year that left us enraptured by the Southern Sydney local’s distinctly tenacious wordplay and composed delivery. And we can assure that ‘Stack or Starve’ provides plenty of audacious efforts from Shely whilst also demonstrating the impressive and unexpected range of his versatility.
Featuring a hefty serving of local features and production from Nogs, 808antho, Grinny and Loe Paradigm, ‘Stack or Starve’ represents Shely to a tee. Moreover, his local area of Riverwood is represented not just throughout the EP, but in his name (‘210’ is a reference to Riverwood’s post code, 2210). Fundamentally, ‘Stack or Starve’ is a project standing on an impenetrable foundation of pure bars, head-bopping beats and abundance of character.
Stack or Starve ft Pistol Pete & Enzo
That Spanish guitar, along with the way Shely lands lyrical blows instantly whilst flowing effortlessly on the beat by producer Nogs, all adds up to setup an anthemic ode to street life on the eponymous intro track ‘Stack or Starve’. The EP’s opener sees Shely breaking down the hustler mentality that has gotten him to where he is today, “Where I’m from there ain’t no way you turn, you gotta get up, chase the bag and go and make your earn”, whilst remaining humble and still striving for the top regardless of the obstacles. South-West Sydney duo Pistol Pete & Enzo arrive on the track to reaffirm the song’s message of remaining determined and hungry in order to survive whilst staying true to their roots and those closest to them, “If it’s for the fam I’m raising hell”. This is the kind of track you recite loud with the windows down.
Cheese & Cheddar
‘Cheese & Cheddar’ maintains the pure rap energy of the EP’s opening track, with Shely dismembering haters and doubters with every bit of incisive lyricism he spits. Shely signals his intent to not just better his own life, but to make the lives of those closest to him greater in the long run, all the while remaining playful in his lyrics, “Gang too Mickey no mouse when I stack up the green, still chasing the cheese and cheddar, old English, Swisse and fetta”. ‘Cheese & Cheddar’ is an ultimate display of Shely’s ability to stay honest to himself and his personality, whilst reminding listeners that this is only the beginning for him.
Play for Keeps ft Vinny
If you’re ever having a day where it just seems like the whole world is messing with you, chuck on ‘Play for Keeps’ and usher that confidence back in you. This track features fellow Sydney rapper Vinny trading verses and bars back-and-forth with Shely over an energetic and sped-up beat, with both rappers bringing a perfect balance of modesty and bravado. Shely uses this track to make a statement on representing his area no matter where he is – “Still throwing up 2s when I’m up in your section” – while letting those who want to mess with him know that he “plays for keeps”. Vinny lands expertly on the track with a balance of rapping and vocals dedicated to keeping his haters in even greater anticipation for his next moves.
Mona Lisa ft KZ Da Bandit
Across this whole EP Shely demonstrates his knack for catchy hooks that leave the listener’s head bopping and face scrunching with admiration. It’s a credit to his ability as a wordsmith that he’s able to conjure up the right refrain for every track, and ‘Mona Lisa’ is no different. Featuring Logan-based rapper KZ Da Bandit, this song sees Shely taking the opportunity to deliver unstoppable heat over booming bass drums as he raps about distancing himself from fakeness, showing love to those he calls his brothers, and building a reputation via the impact of word-of-mouth spoken by his haters. KZ Da Bandit was smartly chosen to jump on this track, as the Queensland rapper matches Shely’s aptitude for imposing wordplay – “We could jump man, jump man like Drake” – and adds to the fundamental attitude of the song.
Brick by Brick
As this track’s opening builds you hear Shely preparing himself in the manner that a boxer would ahead of a fight, and that emphatically sets the tone for a song where Shely sets his intention to take charge of his career no matter what faces him going forward. Filled with pure self-assurance, ‘Brick by Brick’ brings the listener on board with Shely as he compares himself to the number 1 draft pick spot in NBA and measures himself as top of the class ahead of his contemporaries, such is the extent of his self-belief and the natural assuredness he exudes in his lyricism as a rapper. One thing’s for sure, it's hard to disagree with him when he’s at the top of his game as he is across this project.
MHMM ft Vinny
On ‘MHMM’, Shely re-enlists Vinny for a pure banger of a track that is about standing strong in your ambitions, despite the opposition that comes your way. One has to acknowledge how expertly-crafted the production is here, with a lively trumpet utilised in the backdrop behind subtle guitar plucks, drums and 808s to set up an unfazed beat for Shely and Vinny to deliver their wisdom on. With ‘MHMM’, Shely is identifying the deceitful traits of those who “ain’t tryna see me move, but they tryna see me lose”, whilst also recognising that Riverwood will always be at his heart especially in the face of police pressure, “I’m outside with my guys and it ain’t nothing but madness, if they tell me strike a pose it’s 210 for the cameras”.
Beez Knees ft KAHUKX
‘Beez Knees’ is without a doubt one of the strongest collaborations you will hear come out of the scene this year. Instantly, Shely’s hook will have you reciting the opening lyrics again and again as he states: “Lad where I’m from it’s stack or starve, I’m tryna get paid on Daily Duppy”. It’s self-referential, but by extension a reflection of the true drive and determination that drives Shely’s pursuit of music as a career. Featured on ‘Beez Knees’ is fellow Sydneysider KAHUKX, an artist who has shaken up the scene in 2022. His verse is pure rap in its flow, delivery and attitude, with the young rapper taking a break from his usual melodic rap style to match Shely’s purpose to see those around him fed and thriving.
As the concluding track on this EP, ‘4L’ is where Shely eloquently displays a versatility both in his raps and his sound. A heartfelt dedication to his newly born son and the mother of his child, ‘4L’ sees Shely conveying the importance of his new child in driving him forward. The Riverwood rapper speaks openly about the nervousness that comes with parenthood, whilst expressing his reassurance in knowing for certain that he simply cannot give up for the sake of his son. Loe Paradigm’s production tones down the drums in favour of gorgeous piano keys which accentuates the innate depth of emotion that Shely is unravelling about himself in this track. Undoubtedly, this is a truly special way to cap off what is an impactful and impeccably executed EP, and one that Shely deserves to feel proud of.
Photo 1 by @_capturedbyash, Photo 3 by @_joshuaratahi
Words by Matthew Badrov