Baby Shel
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Baby Shel

Red Lake, Minnesota, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2011 | INDIE

Red Lake, Minnesota, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2011
Solo Hip Hop




"5 Minnesota Rappers to Watch in 2016"

Baby Shel winning's 2015 Are You Local? competition at First Ave last March was not the beginning of the Red Lake rapper's meteoric rise. By that point, he'd been hustling with his Rez Rap Records team based on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota for five years. Now there's a scene in a locale that'd never endorsed hip-hop before. With the release of Souloin 2014, Shel left behind his crew 100 Souls in favor of making it stag in the Twin Cities. It didn't take long for the punishing rhymer to set his fire. Even if AYL? 2015 wasn't Baby Shel's Big Bang moment, it was a set that solidified him a veritable show stealer. In 2015, he opened for Mya, Yelawolf, Beanie Sigel, and Prof, and this Friday, he'll try to repeat his name-making performance as part of First Ave's Best New Bands showcase. - GO 95.3 Minneapolis

"Baby Shel Steps Out to Shine with Soulo"

"Throughout Soulo, listeners will be excited to hear Baby Shel’s versatility as an MC. From rhyming over an Adrian Younge production within the project’s Intro to rapid fire chopping over “O.G. (In & Out),” there is a meticulous amount of attention that goes into each of his verses that to some is in contrast to more commercially viable rap." - Breaks X Lakes

"Rising Ojibwe rapper Baby Shel wants to be a 'voice for the voiceless'"

Baby Shel leaves a trail of the galvanized behind him.

The Red Lake emcee's percussive baritone and metered flow make him an imposing presence on record, but in the live setting, the 26-year-old rapper is hypnotic. It's this immutable stage presence that won Shel the 2015 Are You Local? best new band competition, but Shel's charisma does have an off switch. Even when discussing his monumental 2015, the towering Sheldon Cook Jr. is humble and taciturn.

"It feels beautiful," he says. "When I first started doing this, I never would've thought I'd be as far as I am right now." He tries to swallow his smile and maintain his earnest, businesslike facade, but he only partially succeeds. "I'm not saying that I'm where I wanna be, but I'm real happy about it."

Winning Are You Local? earned Shel a spot in First Avenue's Mainroom, $1,000 cash, and a trip to South by Southwest in Austin, Texas — his first real venture out of the Upper Midwest as a performer. He never sat on that success, instead using it as a catalyst for a yearlong grind that saw him open shows for Twista, Yelawolf, Mya, and Beanie Sigel, among others.

He also ventured out to Denver to play a cannabis convention, and nabbed the attention of alt-news giant VICE. This Friday, he'll celebrate a calendar year's worth of success on stage at First Avenue's Best New Bands of 2015 showcase.

For anyone who's never witnessed the Ojibwe rhymer shred a verse live, the year he enjoyed might seem unexpected. For First Ave booker Sonia Grover, Shel's triumph at AYL? was enough to convince her that he had to come back for Best New Bands.

"The energy and vibe at his performance that night was pretty awesome," she says. "It made an effect on everyone that was in the crowd, and that's part of the reason we picked him."

Success comes with its sycophants, and Shel hasn't seen a word of bad press since his AYL? victory, but he can feel that the positivity is coming from a real place. That's why he's planning to double down on his good karma by releasing a free five-song EP titled Baby Shel's World.
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"For everybody who came out and supported along the way on my come up, I feel like I should give them something for free," he says, noting that this will be the first physical album he's ever produced. "I wanna be able to give them something official they can have in their hands, something tangible."

Tangibility is something Shel's still getting used to. When he was growing up on the Red Lake Indian Reservation five hours north of the Twin Cities, hip-hop was an unwelcome art form. Community elders demonized rap for perpetuating stereotypes about violence and drug use on reservation lands. If it wasn't for his own parents' love of Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac, he would've never discovered the musical kinship between the inner city and his life on the rez.

"It's the struggle," Shel says of life on the reservation. "We go through a lot of the same struggles the urban communities go through. You see a lot of poverty, you see a lot of gangbanging. We got a high suicide rate for young kids. We've had a school shooting. It's a depressing place when you're there — you feel stuck there."

The daily struggle of life on the rez meant that Shel, his mentor Wardog, and his partners in his band 100 Souls didn't have a scene to inherit. Instead, they had to bootstrap their own. In 2010, they founded Rez Rap Records and began promoting hip-hop as a positive outlet for the disenfranchised in Red Lake.

"I just wanna be the voice for the voiceless," Shel says. "Coming from where I'm from, none of my people had chances with something like that. If they see me doing it, maybe I can spark something on my rez."

Since starting his music career, Shel has become a leader in the Minnesota Native American hip-hop scene. In July of 2015, a team from HBO documentary series VICE came to Red Lake to interview Shel about the community he's working to establish. Tall Paul, a Native rapper from Minneapolis, is also featured in the forthcoming episode, and he knows the reason the film crew chose to focus on Shel.

"The first time I seen him perform, I was like, 'This dude's got talent, he's got the potential to go places,'" Paul says. "And that's beneficial to all other Native emcees, especially from this area."

Long Doe Records' BiG WiZ saw that breakthrough potential in Shel when he first met the fiery emcee back in 2010.

"Everything he did was pure talent," WiZ remembers. "Everything was good, and I haven't heard a whack version from Shel yet."

Alongside his partner Tony Bones, WiZ — who also works under the name Nic Swisher — has been a fully galvanized pusher for Shel for about a year. Together, the two worked to produce Baby Shel's World as well as an upcoming LP at their recording studio in Minneapolis.

"We're all in this together, it's all about Baby Shel, and there are no egos," WiZ says. "He's a special artist, and he has an opportunity to go reach beyond this Minnesota demographic and touch the world."

The still-unnamed album is set to feature guest verses from Muja Messiah, I Self Devine, and Twista, as well as production courtesy of Bobby Raps, Nicodemus, and possibly Big Jess. Their team has lofty goals — one of which includes securing a spot at Rhymesayers fest Soundset in May — but the ultimate goal is to have Shel blow up outside of Minnesota.

"I feel like I did all I could in 2015 in Minnesota and around Minnesota," Shel says. "I really wanna get out to L.A. and New York City, all these big markets and see how I swim there. It's gonna be a big year for us."

Between all the good news and flattery, it'd be easy for a freshman artist to get their perspective warped, but Shel remains measured in his approach. Positivity is like gunpowder to Baby Shel: The more of it he collects, the more people he can convert with his explosive live shows.

"I like to soak in game — I like to listen and learn, improve," he says. "The vibes people give me, I just bottle them up, and when I get on stage, I just go." - Jerard Fagerberg

"Straight outta Red Lake, Baby Shel heads to SXSW"

Baby Shel has been fully invested in his rap career for about five years, including a couple of solo albums and work with the Red Lake area group 100 Souls and the reservation’s own resident label/crew, Rez Rap. He played the Entry and Skyway Theatre’s Studio B just last month. Last year, his crew opened a string of Midwest dates with Yelawolf (who’s part Cherokee). He is headed back to SXSW later this month whether or not he wins Are You Local?, with at least two confirmed gigs. - Star Tribune

"Are You Local? Unveils 2015 Lineup"

Yelawolf fans will link up with this quick-tongued rapper from Red Lake (up near Bemidji). Shel's machine gun skills are all over "Automatic Go," featured on his first proper solo album, Soulo. Released in late 2014, the album is a reunion with regular beats collaborator Garlic Brown - City Pages, Minneapolis

""Are You Local? Finalist Revealed""

You’ve listened to and voted for your favorites out of the 126 entrants in's sixth annual Are You Local? best-new-band search. Now four finalists will compete for the crown at First Avenue & 7th Street Entry on March 6, joining Brother Ali, the Blind Shake and Tiny Deaths at our Are You Local? showcase. (Here's the Facebook event.) We’re sending the winning band to Austin, Texas to play the Avenue showcase during SXSW. Reacquaint yourselves with our four finalists; we'll get to know them a little better next week.

Baby Shel

Coming at you with guns blazing from Red Lake Reservation is Sheldon Cook Jr., northern Minnesota’s hottest new rapper. His “Killing Time” EP features his fiery verses dropped over some seriously cold beats. Offering two mixtapes that are rife with bones thrown to artists across the board – from DMX to Die Antwoord – this high-energy spitfire MC is entertaining and aggressive. - Vita.Mn

"Rapper Baby Shel prevails in fiery Are You Local? concert"

Impassioned Ojibwe rapper Baby Shel, though, rocketed to the top of the night’s lineup with a spitfire freestyle that was easily the highlight of the night, embedded in a galvanizing set of unrelenting rap cuts. - Star Tribune

"Baby Shel triumphs at Are You Local? show headlined by Brother Ali"

Baby Shel, who won’s Are You Local? contest for a cash prize of $1,000 and a slot performing at SXSW, was visibly moved to be standing on a stage where so many of his heroes have performed, but didn’t hesitate in claiming that stage as his own with a fiery performance that everyone in the room seemed to recognize as a special moment for Minnesota music, and an introduction for many to an artist who—as MC (in the master of ceremonies, not hip-hop, sense) David Campbell safely predicted, we certainly haven’t heard the last of on the Mainroom stage. - The Current

"Best nonurban rapper - Baby Shel - 2015 Best of MN"

The first act from outstate Minnesota to win’s Are You Local? contest, this hotblooded, cool-flowing rapper calls the Red Lake Indian Reservation home. He’s seen more hard times than your average urban rap star, and the rise-above messages in his songs have finally proven autobiographical. After several years and untold miles making the five-hour drive south to pick up any gig he could in the Cities, he has wound up on such festival lineups as Summer Set in Somerset, Wis. (Aug. 14-16) and SJ1 in Duluth (June 12-13). - Star Tribune

"Best and worst in Minnesota music, 2015 edition"

Best new bands (or solo acts): Lexii Alijai, Baby Shel, Bones & Beeker, Bruise Violet, Bug Fix, Catbath, Cherry Cola, Church Dads (the name, anyway), Finding Novyon, Gospel Machine, Matt Latterell, Eric Mayson, Murder Shoes, Nazeem, 9th House, Pho, Pornonono, Royal Brat, Shadow in the Cracks, Strange Relations, the Stress of Her Regard, Swimsuit Area, Tall Tales, Whatever Forever and Wolf Blood. - Star Tribune

"New Year's resolutions for First Ave's Best New Bands of 2015"

Baby Shel: Lose no momentum

Baby Shel hails from the Red Lake Indian Reservation about five hours north of the Twin Cities. He takes every chance he can get to make it to the cities to perform, and this dedication to his art is finally paying off. The momentum from Baby Shel swept the audience the moment he took the stage on Friday.

Highly engaged with both the audience, his DJ, and the guests he brought on stage, Baby Shel delivered his lyrics in quick succession, with a keen ear for rhythmic accuracy and timing. (At one point, he calls out to the crowd: “Y’all want to hear some fast raps?!," which essentially what we were hearing all along.)

When you listen close, however, those same lyrics can be staggeringly dark, discussing life on the reservation and all the hardships he’s seen his friends and family go through, not to mention the struggles he faces himself, But what captured the crowd’s excitement most was his shout out “to all the weed heads," which goes to show that through whatever hardship, we can all find common ground.

Baby Shel took a moment to sincerely thank the crowd before his last song. He’s excited to have gotten here, but — as he stressed to City Pages in last week's print edition — he is by no means is he done. Expect Baby Shel to only get bigger. - Rebeccah Roberts

"Straight outta Red Lake: Rez Rap Records artists tell their story"

Rez Rap Records roots trace back almost 15 years ago before the artists became Wardog, Baby Shel, Thomas X and NPC3. In 2006, like-minded souls Mike Donnell (Wardog) and Sheldon Cook Jr. (Baby Shel) joined up with music engineer Garlic Brown and DJ Divewire to form 100 Souls. In 2010, Thomas X, a new member of 100 Souls, and Bemidji-based group NPC3 joined the crew, forming Rez Rap Records. Today, Rez Rap Records are produced out of the 100 Souls Entertainment studio. - Bemidji Pioneer

"Meet the rest of First Ave's Best New Bands"

Baby Shel: After making innumerable five-hour drives to and from the Red Lake Indian Reservation to perform in town, the heavy-hitting firebrand rapper emerged triumphant at last year’s Are You Local? competition at First Avenue. He has since opened for Prof, Twista and many other rap stars around the state. (10:30 p.m.) - Star Tribune


- 4 Hours 20 Minutes
- Tree Fort
- Soulo

- Baby Shel's World (TBR2016)



Baby Shel is a hard-hitting, raw talented hip-hop artist from the Red Lake Nation, an Ojibwa Indian Reservation located in the center of northern Minnesota.  Born as Sheldon Cook Jr., after his father whom they called “Big Shel,” he spent the early years of his life in south Minneapolis being raised by his single mom and around his large family.  When he was six years old, his family returned to the reservation and he attended school in Thief River Falls, Minnesota until tenth grade.  By his junior year, he transferred to Red Lake High School where he graduated.

Baby Shel’s music career began when he helped co-found Rez Rap Records in 2011 with hip-hop groups NPC3 and 100 Souls, but his love for music started from as young as he can remember.  His parents were always listening to rap and Hip Hop.  He gained inspiration for lyrics by observing his surroundings and won first place at his high school talent show for his beat boxing skills.  In 2015, Baby Shel branched out from his group 100 Souls and released his first CD as a solo artist titled “Soulo.”  The same year, he took first place in multiple competitions including: VITA-MN’s Are You Local? Contest, Coast-to-Coast SXSW in Austin, TX, and the St. Croix Hip-Hop Competition.  He was voted the 2015 Best New Solo Act in Minnesota by Minneapolis Star Tribune and was one of First Avenue’s Best New Bands of 2015.  GO95.3 Minneapolis also named him as a Minnesota Hip-Hop Artists to Watch in 2016.

He has performed on the same stage as other notable artists such as Tech N9ne, Brother Ali, Yelawolf, Twista, A Tribe Called Red, and many more.  He wants to use his voice and influence to bring light to what Native Americans experience on the reservation.  His father served ten years in a federal prison for drug charges, and although he always had a roof over his head, his family did live paycheck to paycheck to which he would consider “typical rez life.”  He believes hip-hop connects to his community.  He wants to represent for Red Lake, use his music to give a description of reservation life and let people know Natives are still here.  Baby Shel released Baby Shel’s World mixtape this past January and has been invited to SoundSet Music Festival 2016.  When he is not busy making music and performing, he breeds dogs and likes to play sports.  He recently started a local basketball league in Red Lake.

Baby Shel will be performing at Soundset 2016, one of the largest hip-hop festivals in the United States.

Band Members