Mike Shabb

Montreal rapper Mike Shabb has a fresh angle on Rap Keb

“My music is different. It’s a whole new vibe that people haven’t heard before.”

It’s a good day for Montreal rap talent Mike Shabb.

It’s a Friday, it’s his day off from the smoke shop where he holds a day job, and his new album, Life Is Short, has hit streaming platforms.

“It’s a bless feeling man! I’m feeling great!” Shabb says. “I have good feedback right now. I just opened my Spotify artist app and I see 100 people listening to my tape at the moment. It’s crazy!”

Shabb is among the province’s new wave of rap artists who have actual, breathing fans, and not just friends and followers who happen to party at the same places they do.

“I think my music is different. It’s a whole new vibe that people haven’t heard before, it’s new for them,” Shabb reasons.

He’s had a deal with Bonsound hip hop imprint  Make It Rain Records since he was 18, four years ago. 

“They’re good people,” says Shabb. “It’s easy to work with people who understand what I’m trying to do.

“I’m always trying to be in the future with my music and think about how the music is gonna sound in two or three years. I’m always trying to stay ahead and make timeless music. I’m happy people fucks widdit.”

With four albums out in under three years, there’s no lack of progress to pay attention to. His development has been steady and convincing, with all the earmarks of an artist who’s in it for the long haul. 

Life Is Short comes with production assists from les Anticipateurs’ Danny Ill and Dead Obies’ VNCE Carter, who also engineered the project.

A self-produced single, “Hesitate,” is a good example of the consideration Shabb puts into his sound.

“I heard the whole U.K. drill scene and that shit was bumpin’ so I was like, I’ma try to make a beat like this, but different. Not the usual drill beat you’ll hear. I tried to go smooth on it and sing on it, too,” he describes.

“I heard mad people do drill beats but they always rap on it in a harsh voice. I thought, I’ll sing on it and try some shit for you. It came out how it came out — I made the whole beat in my room, freestyled on it and said, ‘This is going on the album.’ That’s it.”

Just as “Hesitate” — despite its suave leanings — captures a certain vulnerability, other album tracks combine thoughtfulness and strength without bravado or posturing, giving Shabb’s music an emotional depth that rings sincere without sounding forced.

“I had some shit on my chest that I had to get out, so it’s pretty emotional music. There’s flexing songs, too, but it’s more personal and I think people can relate to it,” says Shabb.

And as for the title of the project, Shabb kept it simple.

“Life is short! That’s a fact!” he chuckles.

“I went through some shit last year, my father died. Hard times. Since I was 17, I’ve been living on my own trying to chase this music dream. I’ve been through a whole lotta bullshit, bro.”

“I’m not even scared to talk about it,” he continues. “I have so many great memories of my dad and the only thing I can get outta all of this is positivity. I spoke about it on the album. If I’ve got fans that have (lost people), they can relate.

“Every human will go through that phase in life and all you can do is not blame yourself and try to stay positive. I know my father is watching over me every day. Sometimes when I’m making music, I get the chills like he’s there with me. It’s a great feeling. I don’t even wanna cry, it just makes me smile and makes me happy.

“And somehow, even if I went through all this mess, I’m still here and appreciating the moment,” Shabb says through an audible smile. 

“Life is short, bro. Do what you gotta do.” ■

For more about Mike Shabb, please visit his Bandcamp page.

Mike Shabb is playing a live-stream show as part of POP Montreal on Thursday, Sept. 24, 8 p.m., PWYC

For more Montreal music coverage, please visit our Music section.