College hour episode 2: Shawn Crysis (VIDEO)

Video produced by David Long.

By Elijah Tarik Powell | Published Dec. 11, 2016

By day, he’s a senior at Kean University majoring in psychology with plans to pursue a doctorate degree. But in between those big dreams, Shawn Lawson lays his politically-charged poems over beats in his dorm.

For episode No. 2 of “College Hour” — a video series focusing on artists at Kean — we discussed his recent musical release, as well as how he as a musician fits into today’s society.

MORE: “College Hour” episode 1: Arte Magnus

Lawson, whose stage name is Shawn Crysis, began writing raps in high school when he saw his peers rapping. Making music became a coping mechanism during his adolescence.

“Out of nowhere it started to become fun just putting words together, and it started to help with a lot of the things I was thinking in my head, because I didn’t know who to tell them to anybody besides myself,” said Lawson.

His style changed over time from witty, braggadocious bars to politically-charged and culturally sensitive lyricism, which is exemplified in his recent release, entitled “Hang On.” All 11 tracks tell the story of life in America as a person of color, and the American history that makes such a story still exist today.

Lawson, 25, said that when he transferred to Kean as a junior in 2015, it was a time when racial turmoil seemed to be at its peak in the media, and it lit the fire in him, causing his primary subject matter.

Since that time, political undertones in music that speak to race relations, income inequality, and sexism have found their way onto the mainstream stage. However, while awareness of such issues has increased, the result has been tensions worsening instead of getting better.

Lawson said that when rapping about these issues from other perspectives other than his own, he can better connect with people and provide a positive, more comfortable atmosphere that is more conducive to change that a regular debate where the focus falls solely on opposition.

“I just like the aspect of perspective just because nobody’s right and nobody’s wrong, it’s just a matter of feeling and opinion in many different ways, and that’s what I literally try to give out,” said Lawson.

Recording in his dorm, Shawn operates the same way most young, do-it-yourself (D.I.Y) underground artists of this generation do. Utilizing a mic wired to the Fruity Loops program on his computer, he mixes beats and his vocals himself.

Lawson’s latest release has been met with positive reviews from Kean students. Rikkii Orange, an English major, was touched by the project.

“I do think this album represents the present of today,” said Orange. “We live in world where our health, livelihood, and existence is tested and threatened every single day. Sometimes we fight it, sometimes we wanna stop fighting, sometimes we just wanna forget the fight. However, no matter where we are in the fight we remember that we must hang on.”

Shawn Crysis can be found on Twitter and Instagram @fat_fingerz. You can listen to “Hang On” on Soundcloud.

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