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The Outsider

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iTunes Review

The Outsider, a bewildering array of thumping, proudly synthetic hyphy, clearly quantized soft-rock loops, and lonesome, soulful ballads, is decidedly unlike anything Shadow has ever released as a solo artist — a source of disappointment and even outrage in some quarters. But though The Outsider finds Shadow abandoning the dust choked turntablism that made him famous, it also finds him return to first principles. Shadow first made his name in the early ‘90s Bay Area hip-hop scene producing shuddering boom-bap for Paris and Zimbabwe Legit, and he sounds happy to be working with challenging MCs again. There’s a palpable joy in the trunk rattling roar of tracks like “Turf Dancing”, and “3 Freaks” that was sorely lacking in Shadow’s last record, the excellent, but somewhat formulaic Private Press. His collaborations with Southern and Bay Area MCs give The Outsider its lone masterpiece, the staggering “Seein’ Thangs”, maybe the most cogent and uncompromising take on Hurricane Katrina that Hip-Hop has yet produced. Much of the rest of The Outsider feels unfocussed and though some of the experiments, such as the soulful “This Time”, succeed admirably, you can't help wanting more of the hardcore hip-hop Shadow seems so happy to have returned to.

Customer Reviews

Why we pay writers for words.

What does it tell you, when many give 1 star and many give 4 stars? That something dynamic is happening. We could start with the flawless production quality, something hyphy music has been void of. Most of the 1 star reviewers are 1 liners, "not as good as this, not respecting that," for anyone objective reading these reviews, its clear that all these people are shallow minded twits. Shadow takes a sound that many don't care for, like in the times of Jazz's emergence, when people were and are skeptical of anything new. Try listening to these tracks without focusing solely on the lyrics, and you'll feel Shadow. One complaint of mine is that (like at the Greek Theater show in Berkeley I just attended), lyricists like Lateef don't contribute to the musicality(especially and painfully obvious live). When Shadow usually samples voices, they are bold and understandable, harmonic or moody. Hip hoppers have a hard time doing this, we should expect more from them! You have to admire him embracing his roots, choosing the best local artists he has to work with(he is essentially an art collector and dealer), and know he will morph and progress as all true artists do. These tracks are not produced for radio, so stop calling the man a sellout and try to listen as you would listen to a Miles Davis album, without preconceived expectations for mindless repetition of earlier work.

Where's my shadow?

Shadow's music has changed my life time and time again. So when i got wind that the new cd was out, i instantly scooped it up expecting the kind of meditative journey that was so etched into my brain on First Strike, Entroducing and The Private Press... This album certainly doesn't provide that. Shadow's producing is incredible as always, but the album is nothing more than a rap album that sounds overly pop and mainstream. Sure Shadow's start was in producing beats for rappers, but where he really blossomed was creating his own breakbeat and ambient realities -defining himself, not just as background for rappers. If I wanted a rap cd, which i buy often, i'd have bought another mf doom or del, i was hoping for the magic of his older albums. Little of it here. It's a solid album, but don't expect it to be what you're expecting. Buy it, like i did, and bump it in your ride the way you would any other rap cd... Hopefully the next one will go back to the old turntable magic.


I have to say I'm incredibly disappointed by The Outsider. Now I'm not elitist: I really tried to keep my ears open, and trading samples for Pro Tools isn't necessarily a problem, but the biggest disappointment of all is that the music he comes up with is truly, for the first time in his career, wildly inconstitant. Shadow has downplayed his usual fun rhythmic tricks and focused on creating soundscapes for vocalists. These collaborative tracks, which make up the majority of the album, are almost all excercizes in radio rap or generic 90s British electronic pop. The Intro unfairly sets the listener up for an epic experience, and This Time is an RJD2-like stab at constructing a full song with an old soul sample with a healthy dose of funk tossed in. 3 Freaks is an effective single as the beat holds one's attention while the MCs, besides delivering a few choice lines ("rock wit it or not/if I can't get in the club, the club in the parkin lot") are mostly ineffective. More half-assed (and surprisingly violent) numbers muck up the first half, a streak broken by the oddly insightful David Banner contribution. If his texture leaves something to be desired, then the strange juxtopositions in lyric seem to make up for it, his dark lyrics reflected in the eerie synth washes and a classic female voice sample. Broken Levee Blues and Artifact are inspired instrumentals, and the seven-minute Backstage Girl simultaniously nabs not only the funkiest production on the record, but the best lyrics overall. Another satisfying instrumental leads into some truly embarassing second-rate Britpop. Thom Yorke and Chris Marin have imitators these days. A tremendous rhythm shift in "Erase You" seperates it from the rest, while the laughably dramatic "What Have I Done" is delivered with all the sincerity of a gold digger's wedding ring. Despite featuring the legendary Q-Tip and Quannum Collective MC Lateef the Truth speaker, any sembalance of head-noddin on "Enuff" smashed by the bubblegum-pop melody in the chorus. Don't get me started on E-40. It marks a sad day for the DJ Shadow fan where you can no longer recommend anyone any of his records without everytime someone asks you what Shadow record to pick up, you'll always have to warn "any of them except the yellow one".


Born: 1972 in San Jose, CA

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

DJ Shadow's Josh Davis is widely credited as a key figure in developing the experimental instrumental hip-hop style associated with the London-based Mo' Wax label. His early singles for the label, including "In/Flux" and "Lost and Found (S.F.L.)," were all-over-the-map mini-masterpieces combining elements of funk, rock, hip-hop, ambient, jazz, soul, and used-bin finds. Although he'd already done a scattering of original and production work (during 1991-1992 for Hollywood Records) by the time Mo'...
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