December 23, 2021

Invincible - ShapeShifters (2008)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: EMERG02

© 2008 EMERGENCE Media
What's stunning about Invincible's debut record is the confident, robust production, which from the holographic snakecharm of "Sledgehammer!" to the big Black Milk symphonia of "Recognize" functions as a sort of New Detroit beatmaking showcase. Indeed, if one were going to fault Shapeshifters anywhere it would be here, in that despite its surface professionalism the record fails to sonically cohere. Nor is what stuns about Invincible's debut record her nimble flow, even if it is at once packed to bursting with internal rhyme schemes and immediately, bracingly intelligible lyrics, recalling in her liquid verbosity alone one-time Motown compatriot Eminem. This is a hopelessly flawed comparison; while both are great technical emcees, one has channeled his skill into a permanently puerile, retrograde infantia, whereas the other has on her first record asserted herself as one of hip-hop's finest sociopolitical minds -- and it is the introduction to this mind that makes Shapeshifters such a stunning listen for the hungry hip-hop fan. Pulsing with compassion and indignance she comes to the mike like the actualization of Talib Kweli's wildest dreams, humane as the leftist liberal and sober as the rightmost conservative, navigating sexual politics, higher education, and gentrification with equal deftness. Her heart bleeds truest for her ailing city, and even on an ostensibly straightforward banger like "Recognize," listeners will find curling around the hook lines like "Quality control reppin' for the home of the Model-T and soul/Quantity is sold based in mediocrity, monotony's the mold," interlocking music and economy with past and present. Invincible's conviction in music's transformative power harps on neither problem nor solution; her focus, rather, seems to be on that transformation itself (hence the album title) and the gradation or violence of these necessary transitions. In this subject she finds none of Public Enemy's kicky rage, but a vast grey area that she leads us through as if born into this greyness, as though it were her birthright and calling.

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tags: invincible, shapeshifters, shape shifters, 2008, flac,