Shafiq Husayn

The Loop

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Shafiq Husayn started working on the prismatic follow-up to Shafiq En' A-Free-Ka back in 2010. An irregular series of tantalizing sneak peeks began in early 2012 with "in the making" clips and continued with a mixtape and 12" releases spread across the next several years. Meanwhile, Husayn completed LPs with Krondon and Blu, was sought as a collaborator by Robert Glasper, Sa-Ra comrade Om'Mas Keith, Bilal, and Chris Dave -- to name a small percentage -- and greatly supported the growth of Anderson .Paak. Even though these welcomed diversions consequently made the completion of The Loop a nine-year process, the double album comes across as a highly concentrated burst of creative energy like En' A-Free-Ka (which was knocked out in three months). Many of the artists who contributed to that album, and/or made a Husayn-assisted recording following its release, are in on the fun here. Husayn guides an ensemble of instrumentalists and vocalists numbering over 60, all the while co-writing and producing everything, playing an assortment of keyboards, and programming his Sly Stone-like chunky drums. He also adds to the program's continuous flow of warm low end with his deep baritone, alternating between narrative and background roles. Also like En' A-Free-Ka, this is a modern hip-hop conversion of gospel, soul, funk, and jazz grounded in the '70s, this time with references stretching from Larry and Fonce Mizell's sky-high fusion to Schoolhouse Rock, and it's all unfaded. The carousel of lead vocal turns is all about spiritual, generational, and romantic connectivity. Husayn and Bilal revisit the psychedelic euphoria of "Between Us 2," first released in comparatively atmospheric form on trumpeter Josef Leimberg's Astral Progressions (and with a similar lineup that includes Leimberg and saxophonist Kamasi Washington). The likes of Erykah Badu and N'Dambi head "Mrs. Crabtree," which enters with a skipping rhyme and remains playful with Paak and Thundercat locked into a slack-less groove. Typically zestful and singular features at other points come from the likes of Paak, Coultrain, and Hiatus Kaiyote's Nai Palm, but most prominent are the nurturing and compatible voices of Jimetta Rose and Fatima. Rose is heard on over half of the songs, and with Fatima she co-fronts "May I Assume" and "On Our Way Home," two of the many uplifted highlights. The late Austin Peralta's lilting synthesizer on the former is a reminder of the time required to complete The Loop, well worth the wait and undoubtedly eternal.

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