Canadian DJ/Producer Ekali, aka Nathan Shaw, makes meticulously arranged EDM tracks which range from aggressive, bombastic trap bangers to more sorrowful, delicate downtempo songs. He experienced a rapid rise to recognition after receiving a writing credit on Drake’s 2015 mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Soon afterward, he signed to Skrillex’s OWSLA label and released several singles and an EP, 2018’s Crystal Eyes, in addition to working with Denzel Curry, ZHU, and Illenium. His debut album, A World Away, was released in 2020.
Shaw made his first foray into music at a young age, taking up violin at 12. The instrument’s appeal didn’t last long, but he did persevere, learning guitar and various other instruments, and played in a number of bands throughout high school, eventually securing some session work on bass in Vancouver. When he was 19 he began touring with the Vancouver-based band Said the Whale as their bassist. Shaw also explored making his own music but didn’t feel confident as a vocalist or content writing music on just one instrument, so he started creating music with samples and software.
In 2014, Shaw secured a place at the Red Bull Academy in Tokyo, and the following year he released the track “Unfaith.” The song was picked up by Drake, who sampled it on “Preach” and “Wednesday Night Interlude,” which was featured on his 2015 mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Wanting to concentrate on his solo career, Shaw left Said the Whale in 2016 and took on the stage name Ekali. He joined the Skrillex-founded OWSLA label, which released his Denzel Curry-featuring song “Babylon” as a single in 2017. Ekali’s first EP, Crystal Eyes, appeared in 2018, with guests including K.Flay and Medasin. “Blame,” Ekali’s collaboration with ZHU, was also released in 2018. 2019 brought collaborations with 1788-L (the jungle-influenced “R U I N”), Wafia (“Be Fine”), and Illenium (“Hard to Say Goodbye,” featuring Chloe Angelides). January 2020 brought the release of Ekali’s first full-length album, A World Away.
– Bekki Bemrose, Allmusic