12:01 In An Imperfect World
DJ Shadow, perhaps the most revered turntable/hip-hop expert of the modern era, has opted for schizophrenia as opposed to careful science. Where Endtroducingâ€šÃ„Â¶ was a calculated masterpiece, and The Private Press was an elaborate reinvention of hip-hop production, The Outsider stumbles over three disparate styles.Take for instance “3 Freaks.” Featuring Keak Da Sneak and Turf Talk, Shadow recasts himself as the don of all things “hyphy.” For those unfamiliar, music that’s hyphy can be described as hip-hop somewhere between Timbaland’s futuristic electro beats and the aggressive, club-banging monotony of crunk. After a repeated chorus of “Turf Talk and Keak Da Sneak,” the song shifts into synth stabs a la evacuation warnings. “Turf Dancing” with The Federation & Animaniaks picks up the speed with an intimidating crunch peppered with sparkly keyboards. Shadow has publicly stated his love for the fledgling-offshoot genre, but for all the energy the aforementioned tracks create, “Keep Em Close,” “Dats My Part” and “Seein Thangs” feel bleak and uninspired.
Further confusing are the live instrumentation numbers scattered between these forward-looking songs. “This Time (I’m Gonna Try It My Way),” “Broken Levee Blues” and “Backstage Girl” while impressive from a structural standpoint, come closer to Mos Def’s Blackjack Johnson’s hybrid of rock and hip-hop than the natural cohesion The Roots have perfected for years.
The remaining third are Shadow’s approximation of Brit-pop. “The Tiger” featuring current Kasabian member Sergio Pizzorno and now former-member Christopher Karloff is the strongest amongst them. Sergio and Christopher’s vocals dance around each other as tension builds through exotic percussion and snakelike guitars.
Nothing about The Outsider is downright terrible, yet it’s hard not to see this as disappointing in comparison to DJ Shadow’s previous efforts. These varied approaches might have been best served as flushed-out separate albums, instead of one schizophrenic hodgepodge.