Dj Shadow - The Outsider
I didn't like this album when I first listened to it; after the genius of 'Endtroducing' and the bold execution of 'The Private Press', Shadow's latest venture seemed to be two seperate albums competing with each other: on one hand, a perhaps ill-advised foray into Hyphy (the west coast's answer to Krunk, or maybe it's vice versa...I'm sure SOMEONE will shoot me over that comment, whichever the case...), featuring such juvenile mc's as David Banner & E-40, among others; on the other hand, we have what could be just outtakes from earleir UNKLE sessions. Overall, the result seemed messy, disjointed and disappointing.
It took an evening of CNN to make me love this album.
See, watching reports of faceless terrorists, intrenet predators, teenage gun violence & natural disasters blend into a long stream of paranoia and fear-mongering caused me to consider 'The Outsider' in a new context; each song created a reflection of North American culture, from the palpable urban menace that flows through tracks like 'Keep Em Close', 'Turf Dancing', and 'Seein Thangs', to the frantic compression of 'Artifact' (a song that sounds like it's desperately trying to escape itself) and the sense of impending catastrophe that permeates 'Triplicate/Somethng Happened That Day'; as well, you have 'Broken Levee Blues', a succint meditation on guitar concerning the Hurricane Katrina debacle, while 'Backstage Girl' is a self-castigating rumination on infidelity, containing as a throwaway line what is perhaps the funniest, if not most damning indictment of Myspace that I've heard yet.
While each song definitely begs further attention, the disc isn't perfect. 'Enuff', featuring Q-Tip and Lateef, is actually one of the weaker songs on the album, despite the latent potential of all three artists combined, and I'm still not sold on Shadow's choice of mc's on any of the other hip-hop tracks; it'd almost be preferable to have some of these as instrumentals, as opposed to listening to tripe like 'Keep your friends close/those that you wanna rob, keep closer'. As well, closing the album with E-40's 'Dats My Part' followed by second version of the amusing if forgettable '3 Freaks' seems a bit of a stumble, when the perfect closer would easily be his brilliant piece of motown soul, 'This Time (I'm Gonna Try It My Way)', which instead ends up stuck near the beginning, following a slightly overdramatic and ultimately unnecessary voiceover intro.
Despite these stumbles, though, 'The Outsider' reveals itself to be multilayered and adventurous both in theme and sound, and while it may not be his best work, Shadow proves once again that he's not afraid to work outside his own boundaries to see what new creation emerges, which is really all we ask of true artists anyway.
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