Danny Chaska & Hal Shallo – Vicetown

Words by Daniel Farrell

Danny Chaska & Hal Shallo’s debut album, Vicetown, released via Recreational Records, has been creating a series of ripples ashore the underground coastline, ripples that seem to be swelling into waves. This album embodies all that’s good about the UK underground scene, and tackles the notion of treating youthful vices with respect. It came after a double of singles, Red Sun & Madrid, gained traction on streaming platforms in 2020, and was much requested by their initial and now fast-growing fanbase. 

It’s eclectic nature leaves you guessing where the next track might go, as they employ an arsenal of differing approaches track by track. Given this eclecticism, they manage to never lose sight of the initial goal, making good music substantiated with honesty. There’s something deeply thoughtful about Danny Chaska & Hal Shallo’s approach to music, and we’re going to attempt to explain the honesty by picking apart a few of our favourites off the album. It’s not been an easy job breaking this one down, there’s so much to be said for every track, alas, we’ve just about managed. We also had a little natter with them about this project and their future manoeuvres, so yeah, have a gander init.

“In terms of info about the two of us, Hal was originally from London, but we both grew up and still live in Oxford. Hal is 20 and I’m 17 and we began working on this album about a year ago after getting in touch, when I put a few beats on Insta. Obviously we both handle the vocals on the album but the production side was covered by myself, but Hal of course contributed a lot to decisions regarding the mixes and final versions. All the beats on the album were also made by myself”.

 

Track 1) Omw

Vicetown kicks off with a dreamy, harp-boom bap infused medley which subsides before the levels heighten into the first break. They treat this sound with an airy, casual and apparent, effortless flow, something you’ll grow accustomed to throughout the album. 

“Joint now and then but I’d rather just speak to my friend if he’s on the wrong path I guide him round the bends”

There’s no overhype, nothing braggadocious and self-indulgent about the lyrics, which is refreshing. It’s casually put together and doesn’t feel forced, if anything quite the opposite; It’s an organic start to a wholesomely organic project. To attach one bar to the next, a clever use of a simple ‘Uh’ ad-lib is employed. It limits lyrical stagnation and sews together the flow seemlessly, in a playful manner. It’s a lovely start to a lovely piece.

Track 4) Billt

In keeping with the theme, Billt employs more melancholy, hazy and tranquil sounds for Danny Chaska & Hal Shallo to exploit. A simple guitar loop is married to a simple number of percussive loops, in the holiest of matrimonies. In spite of the track’s pacing, which is ultimately quite slow and as mentioned previously, melancholic, the pace is really found in the voice of both Chaska and Shallo. Their innate ability to both slow and quicken the tempo at their choosing is what gives the tracks on Vicetown the replayability every artist desires. There’s nothing overly deep about the content on this one, though it’s apparent that their desires of simply ‘making it in music’ are there. It’s simply a professionally put together song which marks a third of the albums elapsing. 

“And I put the P in pocket, and my focus different still I’m not tryna be no prophet, but I just can’t see no profit”

We enjoy how hooks are used so sparingly throughout the album. It furthers the notion that a catchy hook doesn’t equal a catchy song, and that a professional identity and approach can. However, there’s a subtle reusing of the opening bar about halfway through the track, and again towards the back end of the track which is so neatly nestled in, to the point where it doesn’t feel hooky, if that makes sense. The hooks responsibility is nicely shared between the pair, with Chaska delivering the first and preceding opening verse, before Shallo comes in for a middle foray, before Chaska rounds up with the final hook delivery at the songs close. It’s a testament to that melancholic tone we’ve mentioned a couple of times already, and proves that good hip/hop doesn’t require outright aggression.

Track 6) Madrid (Remastered)

By sheer coincidence, we were on the verge of messaging Danny Chaska & Hal Shallo to enquire about a write-up for Vicetown when they hit our email up. They cited our Ashbeck & El London write-up from a short while back – Another dynamic duo who approach music in a similar fashion – Much like Ashbeck & El Londo, whose album Ashlondo 2 was centrifuged around one standout track, Booli, we caught interest from Danny Chaska & Hal Shallo’s single, Madrid; We don’t think these guys will be surprised to find this out. Similarly to Ashbeck & El Londo, we can only imagine they looked at one another after making Madrid, saying litte but firmsing one another as a sense of “Yeah nah this is fire” occured.

Madrid has been racking up heavy numbers on spotify and presumably other streaming services, gaining real traction within the underground scene. Quite rightly. To contradict an earlier passage, this song does rely quite heavily on the hook, but not solely:

“I wanna fly to Madrid, said you got a man, forget that kid, do you want real, she told me she did, find me in the sky if you really wan’ live and don’t you stress about this, don’t you stress about that, I need you back on my lips, the back come fatter that fat, and you taste just like Madrid”

I think it’s quite obvious by this point that the hook isn’t designed to be the most hard-hitting or sophisticated of all hooks, it isn’t, but the playful lyricism and Mediteranean palette allow for an ever-enticing, ever more entrapping engagement. It’s the only track on the album which is professed as being ‘remastered’, and we’re glad it was. Though we can assume the previous mastering was fine, we can also assume that they were so confident in this track, that it required that extra care and attention. Whether it’s the swirling underpinned vocal samplings or the consistently soothing bass patterns that fell victim to that extra attention to detail, we’re not sure, and frankly we don’t care. What we do know is that summer’s round the corner, and this is a gorgeous example of what we’ve got coming up. Picture it, thirty degrees, little rum ‘n’ coke on the field with your pals, taking two bun on something exotic whilst laughter and hope refills the nation. Anyway, we don’t want to get too sentimental, but this track already seems a timeless one, which will be enjoyed for summers not yet enjoyed.

 

Track 7) Plan C

We’ve managed to restrain ourselves thus far, in making a comparison to similar artists. We don’t typically like comparisons, but understand that in some cases they can absolutely be interpreted as compliments, so we’re taking a gamble. Loyle Carner. There, we’ve said it. And we hope it’s received as a compliment. It’s not just that peripheral southern twang and the ‘uh’ ad libs that cushion and connect a good portion of the tracks on the album, it’s more so the effortless professionalism that’s evident throughout. 

“And what does any of it mean? Whatever you want it to be, uh, and will I ever sow my seed? I just wanna get from my A to my B”

Plan C, performed solely by Danny Chaska, adds so much romanticism to the album, and again takes us slightly off course, deviating from the general sound of the album whilst retaining its core thematics. The production on the whole album is faultless, and that’s as high a praise as we can give any producers. It’s clean, themed, carefully well-thought and perfectly executed.

Plan C is a hopeful song, something which is seemingly ever harder to create in a county, continent and world which still finds itself firmly at the mercy of the pandemic, but, as the sun begins to shine a little more and the days grow a little longer, we believe this album offers enough positivity to carry us through. Being locked away has been a real struggle for most people, so it’s great to see artists who are only just beginning their journey finding joy in what they do and being able to translate that joy into a palpable, positive body of work.

Track 13) Brb

We feel quite bad when we do any sort of review leaving a gap between tracks, and skipping from track 7 to track 13 wasn’t easy. AntiGetGo, banger. Night Time Sky, slapper. Capri, woi oi, okayyyy. But we can’t sit and dictate what we think about the songs. Like a charity, we urge you to give what you can, but primarily your time; Just 42 minutes of your time and indulgence could spark some creative juices of your own, as well as give these fellas the numbers they deserve It’s a win win. Anyway…

Brb is a neat way to round off a neat piece, with those ukelele soundscapes from the album’s opener making a reappearance. It’s a bit monotonous writing every variation of the word melancholic to describe most tracks, but that’s what the album’s vibe is for us. Brb is a clever double entendres dedicated to both us, the listener, and the more obvious subject, a girl. 

“Uh, chase cars down the motorway, I’ll protect you like a motorcade, uh”

As all hip, cool – and followers of good music and good magazines – people know, ‘brb’ is the abbreviation for ‘be right back’, and we hope they are. They’ve certainly added to the ever changing landscape of underground hip hop here in the UK, with a much needed calming approach in times of assured uncertainty. So yeah nice one for making a top album, and don’t stop making good shit.