DJ Z-Trip

Shifting Gears

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Live, DJ Z-Trip infringes copyrights like nobody's business. He's won over turntable heads and jam band fans with his genre-jumping mash-ups, and his most influential moments have come in the form of MP3s that are traded well below the RIAA's radar. So how does a swashbuckling bootlegger of a DJ release an album on a major label? By declaring himself a "producer" and brewing up new tracks. But Z-Trip has a secret up his sleeve -- he's a great producer and able to celebrate the music he usually bites by capturing the spirit rather than just copying it. Shifting Gears is a reminiscing album that is in love with a time when breakdancers and b-boys ruled and living without your Adidas was just impossible. There's plenty of breakbeats, vocoders, and "to the beat y'all"s, but there's also a bunch of up-to-date rapping from the alternative rappers and a wealth of furious scratching that is more concerned with tearing it up than nostalgia. Z-Trip is a monster behind the decks, so much so that it's easy to ignore Shifting Gears' rock-solid base. Firm infectious beats fill the album, supporting both the DJ's own scratch-fests and complementing the style of every rapper who stops by. A phat, quirky beat supports Murs' uplifting and innocent ode to Saturday morning cartoons and sugary cereals, while Lyrics Born gets some tasty bongo loops and Gap Band-style synth to anchor down his party chant. Giving Chuck D a Rick Rubin-y crunch behind him seems like a cop-out, but it's still a serviceable track. On the other hand, Z-Trip's team-up with Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington falls flat with forced angst from the vocalist and surprisingly drab, faux-noir backing from the Z man. Of course, one monkey don't stop no show, and the rest of Shifting Gears is more than you'd expect from a turntablist full-length and a great argument for Z-Trip as producer.

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