Sunday, September 9, 2007

Review - Shape

Artist: Shape
Album: Raised Near The Power Lines
Label: Division East Records
Release Date: March 27th, 2007

One doesn't usually think of New Jersey and immediately think of great MCs. However, the scrawny, white Jersey boy who calls himself Shape is clearly aiming to put his hometown on the hip-hop map.

Raised Near The Power Lines begins unconventionally with the sounds of a scratchy record player and distant horns. The track lazily flows into "Darkside Of The Silhouette," where we first hear Shape's meandering flow. His words are bitter, but he doesn't spit them at the listener.

In the excellent "Rising Up To The Top," Shape dedicates the track to Jam Master Jay while denouncing the senseless violence in mainstream rap, pointing fingers at artists like 50 Cent for encouraging kids to adopt the gangster lifestyle.

Shape's lethargic rhymes are very similar to other "backpack rappers" like Atmosphere and Aesop Rock. He also shares the unpolished style of these artists, rather than the highly produced sounds of Talib Kweli or Consequence. There are tracks where he picks up his pace, "Stereo Gun Unplugged" probably being the best example. This particular song is also notable for the line Sometimes I rob like an emotional white guy / 'Cause all I wanna do is open shows for Bright Eyes.

Periodically, the album has instrumental interludes that return to the record-scratch sounds of the opening track. Seeing as the album runs over an hour in length, these interludes seems a bit unnecessary. The tone of the album stays intact just fine without them.

Shape does a great job of using nontraditional instruments like pianos and horns to great effect, particularly the piano loop on "Something That Could Make You Do Wrong." Without the piano, the song wouldn't be worth noting, but with it, the song sticks in your head.

As stated previously, the album is a little on the long side - 19 tracks and 1 hour 11 minutes is a bit excessive. With a little bit of trimming, Shape would have an album that could put him on par with heavy hitters like Atmosphere and Jedi Mind Tricks. His lyrics are smart and he knows how to use interesting samples to catch your ear. If he keeps at it, people will begin to note West Orange, New Jersey, and the home of great hip-hop.

01. Introduction To Power Lines
02. Darkside Of The Silhouette
03. Every Step Forward (Two Steps Back)
04. Rising Up To The Top (ft. Atbash Cipher)
05. Stereo Gun Unplugged *
06. BY3X's Favorite Beat (Instrumental)
07. Something That Could Make You Do Wrong
08. Rock Like This (ft. Atbash Cipher)
09. Empeecee2K
10. Nasty As A Bag Of Yak/Richard Pryor *
11. Early Mourning (Interlude)
12. Ax Throwers (ft. Tame One)
13. Gary Oldman (ft. Atbash Cipher, C-Minus, Bully Mouth, GDP, & Def Dom)
14. Playing To Get Famous
15. OMG (I'm Going Crazy) (ft. GDP)
16. Super Heroes (ft. Bill Hicks) *
17. The 7th Hour
18. The 7th Hour Pt. 2 (Instrumental)
19. Heart Beats

* - standout tracks

For fans of: Atmosphere, Sage Francis, Cage.


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