The Outsider, DJ Shadow’s fabulous, fascinating, fire-breathing third album.

“The Outsider” is a record that will confound those who believed they had Shadow pigeonholed. Working with several different vocalists, and in styles spanning everything from hyphy, the Bay Area’s newest hip hop hybrid, to folk; from aggressive hardcore rock to left-field alternative dance music, the album is an almost schizophrenic collection from an artist to whom loving music and making music are just two sides of the same coin. Long-term fans need have nothing to fear – his power to conjure and affect an emotion by collaging samples, voices and fragments of long-forgotten recorded dialogue remains undimmed – but the sense here is that, at last, this is the real Shadow, in the raw. It sounds and feels, simply, like the record he’s been yearning to make.

The record was put together from disparate elements over nearly three years. Artifact (Instrumental) is a relic of Shadow’s work on an abandoned solo LP by former Rage Against The Machine front man Zack De La Rocha. 3 Freaks, which features the hyphy emcees Keak Da Sneak and Turf Talk, was the impetuous, inspired result of Shadow’s love-at-first-listen affair with the Bay’s answer to crunk. Shadow has made the record that best represents who he is and what he wants to be, and that shows, to borrow a phrase from another hip hop pioneer, both where he’s from, and where he’s at.

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