Under the fluorescent colored lights of Flora Cafe, Shy Lennox is a ribbon. He’s running between his friends and his band, tying the final pieces together for a night he’s been looking forward to for years. His sequin green shorts and the sparkling makeup on his face shine against the flash of photographers cameras. Family and friends looking to get a shot with him. I had worked with Shy for months in preparation of his newly released EP, Audition, his first official full release, aside from several singles that have given him his name and figure as a blossoming new artist in Richmond’s creative scene. Shy’s first release, Afterblunts, increased his traction in Richmond as well as in communities around the world; reaching over three hundred thousand plays on Spotify, as well as being falsely posted and credited as being written by a YouTuber in Japan, a mistake Shy made sure to clear up. Shy, as well as his music, has a calming presence, something that people recognize when they first hear or meet him. His impact is clear as the club begins to flood with the movement of local Richmonders and VCU students trying to get a front spot in the beautiful boiling melting pot of the crowd. I had talked to him earlier in the day about an interview we had planned, but to Shy, the day of his music release was also to be the day of stress release and self reflection. He explained that he was going to be spending the day entirely silent, giving himself some time to organize his mind and manage his thoughts before his performance. I run into Shy before the show and tell him how proud we all are for his release. He gives me a hug, dramatically poses for a picture to show off his curated concert outfit, and heads back to his band to finish organizing his set.
The year previous to his release show was a time of work ethic and execution for Shy. I remember talking to him during one of our various recording sessions for Audition, and him telling me how important each song was to him, how this body of music he was working to create was going to be the frame to his portrait as a musician. The EP discusses feelings of lost love, self love, and desire, all things that knowing Shy personally, we’ve discussed as friends.
I laugh when I think of how Shy introduces himself to new people, and how someone who doesn’t know Shy may react to hearing his new EP. Shy may meet you in person and introduce himself as “Shy, like the feeling,” when Audition is far from shy in delivery, soul, and heart. The opening track to the EP, Signs, kicks things off in a particularly sensual mood. Shy confidently boasts over his feelings for his lover, and declares that he isn’t scared to engage in the way he’s feeling. As the EP progresses, Shy gets to know this love interest and flush out their relationship, revealing what each member wants from the other. The turning point in the EP is during the song Hennything, when Shy begins to question why the relationship has begun to fall out. Shy seems to want things to stay casual, explaining to his love interest that he just wants to “smoke, and drink, and fuck.” The song, Tuesday (Interlude), finally shows the breaking point in the relationship, explaining how Shy “fell in love on a Tuesday” and “got his heart broken on a Wednesday.” AA, the track Shy and I personally worked on most in the studio, discusses the sense of payment that Shy feels he is owed from being misused by his lover. Finally, the EP concludes with the song Better Man, which sums up Shy’s feelings of love loss, but also faith in the future to come.
The EP as a whole carefully walks the listener through a seemingly common encounter with a potential partner, that blossoms into something much larger and impactful on the narrator. Shy, crooning often through beautiful, multilayered, almost operatic choirs of somber vocals reveals his vulnerability to his audience, and completely opens himself to his emotions. Granting this sense of passage to his listeners is what I believe attracts people to Shy. Throughout his EP he expresses blunt honesty, longing, and absolute, pure love. This album is a quiet droplet of rain that crashes into my emotional barriers like a monsoon, sweeping me away into its oceans to still find myself calmly floating on the surface.
In Flora, as the show opener, Richmond’s Alfred, aka The Creature Alfred, aka Aaron Brown, begins their set, the sense of family that I feel around me stumbles into my heart, sitting there for the remainder of the evening. This gathering of the DIY Hip-Hop and R&B community provides a sense of inclusion for all people, something I’ve been so lucky to encounter and examine over the past couple of years. I feel so fortunate to be a part of this community, and I attribute my inclusion to several friends I have made during my time in Richmond, Shy Lennox being one of them.
“The concept of auditioning, whether it is in a romantic sense, whether it’s with friends, whether its for a part or a role, I feel like you’re either gonna feel the regret or the hurt and the pain and just the discomfort that comes with not being able to fit that part or you’re gonna be like ‘Fuck that shit! I’m still a bomb ass person even if Im not what they’re looking for.’ Or you get the shit and go on to the next.” – Shy Lennox
Shy, still only the age of twenty one, still has plenty of auditioning to do. As he works his way into the music industry as an up and coming artist, the process of auditioning will always be present, whether it be in front of label representatives or other musicians. I do think Shy has one advantage over others who may be “auditioning” for their roles in life: Shy understands himself, he’s not afraid to be exactly who he wants to be and say what he wants to say. Audition, shows Shy following through in expressing his truth, sorrow, and full self. He opens up to his audience in a way that I don’t think many Richmond artists have done before. As I watch Shy perform in front of the sardine packed crowd of Flora Cafe, I can see a shine in his eyes deep beyond the glitter on his face. A smile opens up wide and the band begins to play. I see Shy here in his happiest form, auditioning for his audience, for his friends, for his family. I think it’s safe to say that Shy will be getting a callback.