On Shan Vincent de Paul’s newest song “Neeye Oli,” produced by award-winning composer Santhosh Narayanan and featuring the compelling Navz-47, Shan is heard on the intro stating “You can’t bury alive anything that was ready to die. You can’t clip wings made of fire, that’s God’s work. The Phoenix saga continues!”
Shan is a jack of all trades, a recording artist, world creator, and visionary if there ever was one. With rapping and visual arts being the core of what he does, the international star dedicates his whole life to his music, creating feel-good, anthemic bops for his growing fanbase.
Hailing from Sri Lanka but landing in Canada as refugees with his family, Shan was a member of multiple rap groups in the Toronto independent music scene before shifting the focus to his solo artistry.
Following the release of his debut album Saviors back in 2016, Shan has since released his sophomore project Trigger Happy Heartbreak and even wrapped his first headlining tour in India.
Fast forward to today, Shan releases his newest collab called “Neeye Oli” tapping Navz-47 and Santhosh Narayanan, following the success of his previous single “Savage.” These singles hold fans over until the release of his forthcoming project, Made In Jaffna, arriving August of this year.
AllHipHop: How would you describe your sound?
Shan Vincent De Paul: I’m not quite sure, I think that’s an evolving thing. Right now it’s a fusion of East and West, but it’s still very much rooted and influenced by American hip-hop. That’s what I grew up on. You know groups like Outkast, De La Soul, Tribe Called Question, Kendrick, Kanye, Biggie, Jay, Hieroglyphics, Souls of Mischief, Organized Konfusion, Def Jux, Ruckus. Those movements definitely had a huge inspiration on how I write and put together my music.
AllHipHop: You were listening to them growing up in South Asia?
Shan Vincent De Paul: I moved to Toronto when I was 6. I was born in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, then my family fled the war there. Moved to Toronto, then Montreal. Went to high school in the suburb called Brampton, pretty much been grounded in Toronto since then. That’s where I found my voice and in a bunch of rap groups, then started my solo career in 2016 when I dropped my debut album.
AllHipHop: I’m guessing Shan Vincent de Paul is your real name?
Shan Vincent De Paul: Yup, real name. Real name, no gimmicks.
AllHipHop: What was the inspiration behind “Neeye Oli”? The song has so much energy.
Shan Vincent De Paul: This was made for a movie released on Amazon Prime. The producer Santhosh Narayanan, he was the musical director for the film so I was lucky to jump on that. It’s a movie about a boxer, he’s telling me about his story of perseverance and I related to it so much. My career has been a lot of resilience and perseverance, having so many go’s at this and figuring out my voice. It came together. Santhosh is really the architect of the song. I knew it’d be on a pretty large platform so I took a very boxer approach to it. I channeled the spirit of Muhammed Ali.
Muhammed Ali was one of those boxers, I put him in the category of artist as well because he was so influential in so many different fields. He was so humble as a human. He’s always for his community but when he got up in the ring, he had this mentality that no one could f### with him. He was the be all and end all of the sport, and I love that. When it comes to rap, I still have that approach. I’m trying to be the best, there’s nobody in the world that could f### with me and that’s the energy I brought to the song. I’m not here to be humble, I’m trying to tell you that everybody and anybody can get it. That’s the energy.
AllHipHop: I loved the dancers in the video also!
Shan Vincent De Paul: The dancers in the video, I wanted to make sure we pull people from the Tamil diaspora. The dancing is a fusion of East and West, to bring that energy and still make sure that the visual’s representative of that fusion.
AllHipHop: “Savage” showcases a much darker side of you, what do you hope listeners take away from it?
Shan Vincent De Paul: I wanted to take this classical dance style of Bharatanatyam which Usha Jey is doing, and place it in the context of something super unexpected. It’s a super hard rap song, not something you’d normally picture that style of dancing. We thought it’d be super interesting to see those worlds collide in this sci-fi aesthetic we created. Initially, we’re thinking of having multiple characters in that video, but because of COVID, it had to be Usha. We created two characters for her and had them interact with each other.
Also, the East/West fusion of classical Tamil influence with the modern day hip-hop and what that looks like, that was the output. We were pretty successful in what we did. We started a lot of great conversations. There was a little bit of backlash with the Tamil audience of “hey, you’re not supposed to bring this classical world into this other space.” Also for the rap audience to see a rap song in this way was interesting. I love the conversations the video spawned.
AllHipHop: How did you discover Usha Jey? She combines Hip Hop with a traditional form of Tamil dance.
Shan Vincent De Paul: Usha Jey does these fusion dances and she did one to DaBaby’s “BOP” song. I was blown away when I saw it on Twitter. “This is incredible, I’ve never seen anything like this before.” Immediately I was writing the treatment for the song and I knew it had to be her. We’d connected on a couple of other smaller projects before, I told her that I‘d love to have her on this song. I sent her the song, I remember being nervous because I didn’t know if she’d f### with the song. Fortunately, she loved it. She came up with the choreography. Had a little back and forth of tweaking things here and there, but she delivered it exactly — she couldn’t have done a better job. She did an incredible job of bringing her style and fusing modern day hip hop with classical Tamil dance. She killed it.
AllHipHop: 3 things you need in the studio at all times?
Shan Vincent De Paul: Good vibes, God, and water.
AllHipHop: How do you hope your music impacts US listeners?
Shan Vincent De Paul: I hope it can inspire them to be great. I’m not fond of the culture of idolization or celebrity. If you’re really inspired by my music, I hope it inspires you to do something great. All of us are geniuses at something and I hope it inspires people to tap into their genius.