The Shape Shifters

The Shape Shifters Was Here

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Los Angeles has spawned its share of cartoonish hip-hop acts. If it's not Cypress Hill's heavy metal stoner crunch, than it's the Pharcyde's Fat Albert roller coaster. Shapeshifters trump them all, allowing their cover art and comical dress to splash onto the records themselves. As the polka jump intro announces, "Shapeshifters raise their battle to destroy the evil forces of the Raplicons." But at nearly 80 minutes, it can't be all guffaws. "Run the Crowd" is a classic posse track, with a wicked little guitar lick to set it off. And it balances off "Pindar," written entirely from the stance of the alien leadership. "Circuit City" lifts a classic Eddy Grant moto-rev while "We R the Dinosaur," with its female backup chorus, could be the B-side to Parliament's "Atomic Dog." "Kreye Inn" finds the Shapeshifters traveling back in time to save Motown, while "American Idle" parties on the beach with Billy Ocean. Producers LA Jae and Life Rexall effortlessly hop genre boundaries while main MCs Circus and AWOL One flow cleanly, leaving room for guests like Slug and Pigeon John. Not exactly an L.A. supergroup, Shapeshifters are more like a secret Stonecutters society, causing mischief and staying buzzed as they clown around, yet few notice that they also run the whole world.

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