The Shape Shifters, Adopted by Aliens

The Shape Shifters, Adopted by Aliens (2000)

The Shape Shifters represent Los Angeles’ cutting-edge hip-hop dissonance. A 10-member crew (plus the late DJ Rob One), the group has been putting out albums for several years now, including the 1998 double-CD Planet of the Shapes as well as sundry cassettes. Adopted by Aliens is as good an introduction as any to  mercurial music which, in spirit and form, resembles the work of fellow Angelenos Project Blowed. Simply put, this is the stuff that Prodigy famously complained about five years ago on Mobb Deep’s The Infamous, that “space shit that makes no sense.” If you’re not down with surrealistic rhymes filtered through quirky, mannered voices, then you won’t like this. Adopted by Aliens boasts solid, forward-thinking production that vividly paints the Shape Shifters’ futuristic tableaux. Crusty drums thump along under a heap of watery samples and atmospheric keyboards. Although “Hootie and the Brainfish” and “Strange Birds” could easily be played as instrumentals, they also work well as a counterpoint to the Shape Shifters’ complex mathematics. Adopted by Aliens is best compared to the experimental and lo-fi rock scenes of the 90s (Pavement, Spectrum), when musicians used their considerable knowledge of the genre to distort it as well as intentionally vex their listeners. The haphazard poetry yields gems, as when one says on “Words of Wizdumb,” “Organized confusion/Be proud of who you are/But before the beginning you weren’t even given the choice in the decision.” Sometimes they get lost under an avalanche of words, tossing out nonsensical phrases like “drinking weed and smoking alcohol.” Which may be the point. Mean Street.

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