By any measure it has been a pretty lean year for forward thinking hip-hop albums. The genre’ most consistent innovator, Prefuse 73, pretty much treaded water for the duration of his last album and the most critically lauded hip-hop album this year, Edan’ Beauty and the Beat, looked as much to the past as it did to the future. Enter the Shadow Huntaz to save us all.
It has been said elsewhere that this album picks up the ball dropped with the disbanding of Anti-Pop Consortium. At the outset this seems to be the case with opener “2020′ echoing Anti-Pop’ sci-fi laced brain-scrambling futurism. By the end of the first side the startling “Pevic’ has made it clear that these guys are headed in some other direction and any comparisons to similar acts are unjustly reductionist. That track lays some aggressive rhymes over a static laced shroomedelic backing track. It’s like Boards of Canada backing up KRS-One. “Solsa’ is like an end of the world party jam, with its sputtering ping-pong jungle beat and its references to being “back in the club’. If this track were ever to be played in clubs it would be a wonderful thing.
Close to the end of the album comes “Decisions’, it sounds like the Shadow Huntaz version of a straight up club banger. While undeniably propulsive, it will stick out like a sore thumb for those wanting an entirely consistent album. Still, as far as sore thumbs go, it’s a pretty great one. Unlike anything you’ll see on MTV it manages to be thoroughly danceable without resorting to a cheesy r&b chorus, something Anti-Pop could never pull off.
Throughout the album MCs Breaff, non Genetic and Dream spit oddly schizophrenic verses that often range from hip hop standards (bitches, diamonds, you know the drill) to truly visionary non-sequiturs with the course of a track.
Still the MCs are often outshined by amazing tracks laid down by beat makers Funckarma. “Deander’ sees the fraternal production duo take 808 beeps and beats and tweak them beyond recognition. The album’ mostly abstract beats are interspersed with bursts of static and swathes of glistening deep atmospherics.
In genre where so many brag incessantly that they are innovating and pushing things forward, Shadow Huntaz are one of the few acts that truly are. This album stands as incontrovertible evidence of their contribution to the continued evolution of hip-hop.