Oct 24, 2009 - 12:34 PM
Download: Shafiq Husayn - "Lil Girl" ft. Fatima
Many artists love to think that the music they create is new and innovative, but few actually are. You can always find another artist to compare them to or someone who has done something similar. Then there’s Shafiq Husayn, one third of Los Angeles’ Sa-Ra Creative Partners, who makes comparisons impossible because his sound truly is original and innovative. His debut solo effort Shafiq En’ A-Free-Ka is a testament to his talent and showcases why he is the only person Erykah Badu will allow to write for her.
Trying to peg this album to a particular genre is like baking cookies on parchment paper: they don’t stick. The easy route would be to say it’s a blend of jazz, funk, and soul, but these terms seem inadequate too. I suppose that’s the point. En’ A-Free-Ka is an ancient Egyptian term that roughly means no limitations or boundaries. So it’s not surprising that the album doesn’t lend itself well to categorization. It’s an amalgamation of percussion, horns, synth, psychedelic guitars, strings and a host of sounds I can’t quite put my fingers on.
The psychedelic tones on “Major Heavy” coupled with Sonny Coate’s raspy vocals sound like a record fit for John, Paul, Ringo and George aboard their yellow submarine. It will send you floating away to your happy place only to be confronted by the somber electronic notes of “Evil Man” immediately after. That’s enough to make any listener say "WTF?" It isn’t enough for Shafiq, who throws in an accordion and some French into the already eclectic mix.
As with any project of Sa-Ra’s ilk, the production on Shafiq En’ A-Free-Ka is on point. Although this is his debut solo release, Shafiq has been creating music for decades. He produced on Ice T’s O.G Original Gangster before joining Sa-Ra. The genius trio of producers has worked with Jurassic 5, Jill Scott, and Pharoahe Monch, among many others. Sa-Ra member Om’mas Keith and vocalist Rozzi Daime make cameos in addition to Bilal and UK songstress Fatima. Her soothing vocals are heard on “Lil Girl,” one of the few songs with a traditional verse-chorus-verse structure. While Shafiq En’ A-Free-Ka may not be lyric heavy, it is jam packed with instrumentation and vivid imagery. Every track tells a story whether it’s about love, politics or Moorish history.
On his website, he boasts that Shafiq En’ A-Free-Ka will “make other artists feel like giving up.” It’s astounding more haven’t quit making music already.
Kimberly Turner is Oh Dang!'s resident music critic and pastry fiend. And No!, she's not fat.