After years of working with other artists as both a producer and an MC, the artist known as Shaggy Manatee releases his first official solo album on Quake Trap. Filled to the brim with punk attitude—many of the songs hit you briskly but effectively at just over two minutes, ambient vibes—there are traces of industrial experimentation and trance/ techno sounds, and hip-hop steelo—guest appearances from some of the Bay Areas unsung heroes add spunk, funk and bounce, In Between is the album for the music connoisseur.
Alternating between instrumental odysseys, mind-bending trips and melancholy break beats like the somber soundscapes of “Cypress Breath,” “Numbers Game,” and “Cartoons Worked For Me,” and hip-hop like only the Bay can inspire such as the trip hoppy “Get It Straight,” featuring B-Child, or the procussion and synth heavy “Unstoppable,” featuring Opt Rhyme, Manatee stretches the boundaries of what a rap record can be. As a founding member of the group Pancake Circus, he’s used to ripping pages from the guidebook and rearranging them. Here, as the center of the creative process, he takes even more liberties, striving to give the listener much more than the average. “Born To Die,” featuring Tenderizer, has hints of gangsta rap written all over it, but sounds fresher than anything from 50 Cent, while “Don’t Let Go of The Chaos,” featuring Egg White and Naleej sounds like some vintage Beastie Boys ala Paul’s Boutique with decidedly Eastern flourishes. “Remember Me,” featuring Skillit, owes more to European Dance music than to American hip-hop, as the mesmerizing vocals entice you into somewhat of a dream state; keys dripping over kitted out drums like molasses.
But the best is yet to come, as the bonus tracks feature additional appearances by such esteemed artists as Zion (of Zion I fame), Katastrophe (“Watching Me Drown”), and the Macromantics (“Breathe”). Not for everybody, Shaggy Manatee’s latest foray into the game offers something smart and different for your sound system. Does it all work? No. But enough of it does that you won’t feel cheated for taking some time in between your other extreme musical trips to take a listen.