shafiq husayn’s ‘the loop’ gathers afropunk all-stars
By Piotr Orlov
March 7, 2019
Sometimes, you can’t hurry greatness, and by any measure the creation of Shafiq Husayn‘s new album has been a protracted affair. How long? In an interview that the Los Angeles studio mastermind and one-third of the legendary Sa-Ra Creative Partners crew did with AFROPUNK in January of 2014, Husayn essentially outlined the project with the same name (The Loop), on the same label (London’s Eglo Records) with a few of the same guests (Erykah Badu, Bilal, Flying Lotus, a then-unknown local singer named Anderson .Paak). Asked when it would be arriving, he answered, “Probably the first couple weeks in April.” Sneaky that he did not mention a year.
Earlier this week, nearly half a decade after that conversation, three tracks off The Loop debuted on Husayn’s Bandcamp page and they’re as exciting and intriguing as expected. Together, they form an insight into Shafiq’s palette: his deep embrace of updating Black musical tradition, of the Los Angeles community and its spiritualist aesthetics — the album’s guest-list is a “who’s who” of the city’s contemporary post-genre musical scene — and of trying to find a 2019 meaning to the term “psychedelic soul.” From this evidence, The Loop succeeds gloriously.
“On Our Way Home,” featuring the UK-based songstress Fatima and Los Angeles mainstay Jimetta Rose (and originally released as a digital single in 2016), opens with highly abstract electronics, before mutating into a symphonic pop song with an effervescent energy carried by stuttering drum machines and vocal harmonies. Different sort of broken beats are at the core of “Walking Round Town,” another soulful and jazzy pop number (think: Thundercat) but whose looping groove and low-end vocals (courtesy of Silka) create a mood of tension.
The last of the unveiled tracks, “It’s Better For You” with Anderson .Paak, is in some ways the most straight-forward of the clues Shafiq drops here. An under-appreciated 2014 single that was supposed to preface the album’s original release, it is a mid-tempo funk jawn carried by a scratchy guitar and piano chords, and engages what has since become .Paak’s trademark: a fully contemporary take on classic ’70s soul vamping.
Contextually though, “It’s Better” feels a large part of The Loop‘s story. Not only of the album’s long journey to release, but the role that .Paak’s sound plays in Husayn’s overall vision of music. It’s part and parcel of an LA vibe that Shafiq Husayn helped foster, and — from this taste — it’s all here for people to finally admire.
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