Shifting Gears

Artist: Z-TripTitle: Shifting GearsRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Paine

For the last five years, Z-Trip has been too strongly associated with his penchant for mixing Rock records with Rap records. Even so, it’s been entertaining to see huge veterans like DJ Muggs or DJ Spinbad follow suit. Regardless, Z-Trip has continued to rock parties, create themed mixes, and quietly chip away at his debut album. Before a single was out, fans projected a Paul’s Boutique or a Linkin Park sounding record. Z-Trip defied all, and released Shifting Gears (Hollywood), an album that simultaneously tells his story as well as Hip-hop’s.

Lyrically, this album follows the evolution of the spittin’ word. Of everyone featured, Jurassic 5’s Soup destroys all lines. His Grandmaster Caz styled party rocking delivery is something that few MC’s can provide, no matter who’s producing, and he makes “Listen to the DJ” a marvelously exciting opening, stuffed with energy and b-boy poise. The middle sections of the album dwindle. Almost exclusively, Z-Trip allows underground West Coast MC’s to shine with Murs (“Breakfast Club”) and Supernatural (“For My People”) fall into character wonderfully. Although it’s really silly, “Breakfast Club” captures some of the Schooly-D and Young MC fun of late 80’s Hip-Hop, as the two aforementioned emcees rhye all about cereal and cartoons. Chester Bennington of Linkin Park closes shop nicelyby flexing his vocals over the haunting, downtempo “Walking Dead”.

Although there is some nice scratching early on, one can easily forget that Z-Trip is the DJ that he is. Instead, the producer genius emerges. As with the lyrics, it becomes clear that the DJ has listened to enough records to simply recreate them. The two-part “Revolution” may very well be Z-Trip’s shining moment. A microcosm of the whole album, the mood shifts within the song to end upon a serious tone of unrest. The only place where Z-Trip slips may be “Shock and Awe” with Public Enemy, which musically sounds as raucous as the words. Z-Trip may have been trying to mimic The Bombsquad’s sound, but it’s more like Chuck D’s work with Confrontation Camp, which isn’t nearly as honored. Otherwise, Z-Trip should be receiving massive amounts of production work from all sides.

Already getting radio play in many markets, it’s refreshing that Shifting Gears will be reaching new fans of Hip-hop with an accurate representation. Z-Trip achieved his greatest goals without playing himself out, even if “Mash-up’s” are in. Like a Prince Paul, Z-Trip seems to freak the party right onto the album, and still inject high concepts and sophistication.

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