Denver rappers Shock Trostic and Dash Render, collectively known as Shock & Dash, were stuck in a creative rut.
“We felt like we had been making the same songs on everything,” Dash says. “We were trying to make a good song, but a lot of it ended up sounding the same. We decided, ‘Hey, let’s stop trying to be so serious on a lot of these and just try to make it funny and be fun.'”
That’s not to say the two rappers were suffering from writer's block. Far from it. In 2019, they wrote and recorded about a hundred tracks in a marathon of creativity. They didn’t release all of them (26 in total), but the prolific output eventually led them to the double album they dropped in September: two sets of songs dubbed Common Sense and Nonsense. Overall, the tracks represent a stylistic departure, because they are more bouncy and club-oriented than the harder sound of the duo’s previous work.
“We fit them into two categories,” Dash says. “We had some that were more serious, and then we had a lot that were just more fun. The more serious ones are on Common Sense, and Nonsense is the funny stuff.”
The two rappers have been a fixture on the Denver hip-hop scene for more than a decade, and they've so far released a dozen albums together. They've recorded solo records and collaborated with other hip-hop acts in the area like Extra Kool, Time, Satyre and Hypnautic. Their solo music differs from their work as a duo, Dash says, with his style being more backpack-hip-hop-oriented and Shock’s music, in Dash’s words, being “a little more crazy.”
“We’ve definitely formed a style together,” Shock says. “We don’t really have the same style as rappers. We definitely have different voices and different sounds to what we say. But somehow or another, we’ve always meshed really well together.”
As for how they’ve managed to get along all these years, who knows? Dash admits to being more of a hothead than his partner, though he admires Shock’s expansive work ethic, which keeps him writing his own lyrics.
“We’ve gotten into some arguments over some stuff and some fights here and there,” Dash says. “I’ve known him for about for about eleven years. That’s a long period of time to make that many albums together.”
Shock adds that once the two start writing, they usually get on the same page pretty quickly.
“That’s definitely helped us bond together through the years," he says. "We aren’t so different on what we think about stuff.”
Shock says he and Dash decided not to make any albums last year, and instead focused on writing and recording dozens of songs. Some of those ended up on the double album.
“That’s our new formula,” he says. “We don’t really try to go into trying to make albums. We just kind of go by songs, and sometimes they end up vibing together. Instead of straining ourselves like, 'We need to have one sound on this album,' we just kind of go all over the place now.”
Shock & Dash have worked with various Denver producers (Lift Ticket, who works at Denver's Conway Sound studio engineered their last handful of albums), and they've expanded to buying beats from producers all over the East Coast and internationally, from Russia and Portugal. They estimate that they’ve used tracks by seven or eight different producers on their last couple of albums. Producers they originally bought tracks from have even started making more tailored tracks for the duo after working together on the past few albums.
“We were kind of getting stuck on a sound for a minute,” Shock says. “We were like, ‘All right, we need to get some other styles going, and beats. … We formed a relationship with these guys (Markus, Moons Up and Fiasco Andretti), so a lot of the sounds we're getting now are catered to us.”’
Shock & Dash guess that they’ve played a hundred shows or so together over the past decade, mostly around Denver, where they've embedded themselves in a small but vibrant scene. A decade of steady work is rare in a business where most people drop one album and then quit in frustration if they don't immediately blow up.
COVID-19 put the brakes on all their plans for live shows — the last time they played live was in February — but being stuck inside has been fruitful from a creative standpoint.
"We've always just made music together," Shock says. "If things get back to normal, we want to definitely start doing shows again."
The duo has no plans to quit anytime soon. Of course they want people to hear their music, and they'd love for it to take off. But if it doesn't, that's cool, too. They're just happy to write and record together.
“We’re still here,” Dash says. “We’re still hungry. It’s just something we love doing. We are friends through that. It’s a bond we share, so it’s something we’ll probably always do as long as we know each other.”
Common Sense and Nonsense are available at bandcamp.com and spotify.com.