Shaggy Manatee – In Between

Shaggy Manatee - In Between Artist: Shaggy Manatee
Album: In Between
Label: Quake Trap
Rating: 2.5/5


Musically
described as Hip-Hop, experimental, and electro Shaggy Manatee puts
his artistry and creative touches to the test on his first official
solo album, “In Between.” Manatee is a founding member of
Pancake Circus and co-founder of Quake Trap, an independent label dedicated
to producing their own genre of hip-hop and experimental electronic
music. In other words, this ain’t your ridin dirty through the ‘hood
music. This is more akin to early Afrika Bambaataa with an extra shot
of electronica; for all of you more contemporary hip-hop purists, Shaggy
Manatee is one step on the other side of the Outkasts’ and Gnarls Barkley’s,
artists who continue pushing the limits of what can be defined as Hip-Hop.

I
found the music found on “In Between” hard to place in one
musical box, yet if you take a look at Quake Trap’s website and history,
well, it all makes sense. They make their own rules and play by them
very well. Musically, it all comes together under a general concept
of being way out there, mixing and adding together different musical
elements. Lyrically, I wasn’t really impressed by the content, the Hip-Hop
tracks aren’t really saying anything and the others sound more like
movie soundtracks than actual radio hits.

I
am usually very hard to impress when I listen to new music, I have an
ear like an A&R; a song has to grab me, entice me to keep listening,
and then make me want it so bad that I want to replay it. Although I
didn’t fall in love with these tracks, I found myself very intrigued
by Shaggy Manatee’s work. Tracks like “Unstoppable”, “Cartoons
Worked For Me,” “Get It Straight,” and “Goals and
Dreams,” which are the more hip-hop influenced tracks, really caught
me. I liked them all, not so much for their subject matters and lyrics,
but for the production. The beat on “Unstoppable” caught me
bobbin my head a little bit, while “Get It Straight” has a
great melodic line, catchy robotic-voiced hook, and the rap fairly legit.
This is one of the few actual hip-hop tracks on this album, and although
its still swimming in electronica, hip-hop heads can still bump to this
one.

I
personally think that tracks like “Fighting For”, would be
perfect soundtracks for action movies like Matrix or Fast and the Furious
because of the more electronic feel. “Don’t Let Go of Chaos”
is one of the mixed tracks, containing rap and electronica female background
vocals; the production for this track is what keeps me hooked because
its very futuristic. Its songs like this that make Manatee’s music hard
to put into one box, but it seems that this is the concept that he’s
going for .

I
found myself often lost on the concept behind songs such as “Paul’s
Day,” instrumental tracks which delve into the more conceptual,
electronic genre. Other tracks such as “The Good and The Bad”
were too electronica for me; the piano sample just doesn’t work for
me, its too classical for the musical fowardness of the rest of the
track and it takes away from the outer space/bird sounding quality of
the song. I think that there are too many elements being fused into
this song.

As
a child born during the Hip-hop era, I tried to leave my personal musical
tastes aside, when listening to this album. Shaggy Manatee’s tracks
are clearly for those who live on the edge and push the boundaries of
the definition of Hip-Hop, while continuing to create music which he
describes as “nothing that you have ever heard before…and instantly
familiar.” One could label this Hip-Hop by default of the fact
that he’s rapping, but I don’t think that’s a good reason to label something
Hip-hop. What he achieves is a highly conceptual way to approach hip-hop
and experimental music. The title, “In Between,” perfectly
catches the essence of what Shaggy Manatee attempts to reveal, an eclectic
mix of music that demonstrates the possibilities of musical collaboration.

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