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Shafiq En' A-Free-Ka

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Album Review

Connected in the '80s and '90s to Afrika Bambaataa's Zulu Nation and Ice-T's Rhyme Syndicate, and in the 2000s one-third of Sa-Ra, Shafiq Husayn releases his first solo album following an excellent vinyl-only beat suite EP for Poo-Bah. Issued just a little over three months after Sa-Ra's Nuclear Evolution, Shafiq En' A-Free-Ka is a sonically sprawling album in which the balance between spirituality/ancient Egyptian roots and Hollywood perversions — the Sa-Ra lyrical dichotomy, more or less — swings all the way to the former. (The album cover's resemblance to that of Eddie Kendricks' People...Hold On, with Husayn sitting proudly with a spear directed skyward, doesn't seem like mere coincidence.) Although this is largely the work of the multi-instrumentalist, producer, vocalist, and occasional MC, a dozen featured collaborations give the album the feel of an informal and relaxed studio session, not unlike a Sa-Ra album. And there is plenty of the expected: advanced mutations of hip-hop, soul, and jazz, with synthesizers emitting funked-up chunks as often as space vapor and grimace-inducing beats that resemble early-'70s Sly & the Family Stone in some kind of star-bound spin cycle. During the album's back half, however, Husayn throws in quite a bit of the unexpected. He touches upon droning Krautrock, harmony-rich dream pop, tropical quiet storm, and dubby psychedelia, and the finale is gorgeous and defiant, with thrumming bass frequencies and singing strings dancing together as a chorus repeats "Devil man's tryin' to hold ya/Break away, rebel soldier." A stimulating, complex, yet loose extension of his stellar contributions to Erykah Badu's New Amerykah, Pt. 1, Shafiq En' A-Free-Ka eclipses Nuclear Evolution, if only slightly, and that's saying a whole lot.

Customer Reviews

Yes...I had to buy this one!

You know I really tried not to buy this album because I thought I had found enough music for one night. I figured hey, let me listen to a couple tracks. I started with Cheeba featuring my man Bilal (we need another album dude!). Track is crazy...then I went on down the tracklist to Rebel Soldier...another very good track! Then I went back up to Le'Star and it was a wrap. I bought the whole damned album. There are some artists that really just try to be different yet they really don't say anything. For some reason their sound is forced; as if to say, 'I'm different dammit and I don't what my music sounds like!' THEN there ARTISTS like Shafiq here, that's different, refreshing and just simply great. This is music ya'll. Buy it.

A Response to a World Filled with Formula Auto-Tune

I am so happy about this album. Thank you for making real music again. Complex. Cerebral. Smooth. I was too young to completely enjoy Earth, Wind and Fire - this is definitely a nod to an era when it was about the music and less about the marketing and mass-production that you hear everywhere these days. Original. It's even at times disharmonious but brilliantly so. I'm feelin this album. Intelligent. Food for your mind. I definitely approve.


one of the best albums of the year

Shafiq En' A-Free-Ka, Shafiq Husayn
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Customer Ratings