DJ Shadow, The Outsider

DJ Shadow, The Outsider (2006)

The Outsider’s reliance on street rappers like Keak da Sneak, Turf Talk, Federation, and E-40 is drawing harsh criticism from many of Shadow’s longtime fans. They accuse him of “selling out,” but they shouldn’t be worried here. Nestled between the breezy pop song “This Time (I’m Gonna Do It My Way)” and the instrumental blues “Broken Levee Blues,” the five rap tracks admirably continue Shadow’s role as a cultural notary. They range from Keak and Turf Talk’s wacky party track “3 Freaks” to Mississippi rapper David Banner’s “Seein’ Thangs,” a case of political paranoia that flows easily into the aforementioned “Broken Levee Blues.” Other rappers like Phonte Coleman of Little Brother (“Backstage Girl”) and Q-Tip and Lateef the Truth Speaker (“Enuff”) participate. But it’s with mediocre singers like Sergio Pizzorno of Kasabian (“The Tiger”), Chris James of Stateless (“Erase You”), and Christina Carter of Charalambides (“What Have I Done”) that Shadow stumbles, as his productions yield to bathos. Why would Shadow use these sleepy-voiced balladeers when his instrumental wanderings sing as profoundly as anyone? It’s a question that hangs unresolved over The Outsider, which struggles to maintain a consistently singular voice through several mouthpieces. He undoubtedly wanted to expand his repertoire 10 years after Endtroducing, but the results of his aesthetic decision to use collaborators are mixed. Universal Motown.

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