As a DJ Shadow fan I was literally salivating over the prospect of another release from the Californian mixmeister. When approaching the release of The Outsider I was already so desperate that I'd downloaded a pre-release leak of the album and almost instantly regretted it. I thought that, as some form of musical protection, the leak was filled with dummy tracks that resembled nothing of what was to come with the official release. I deleted the leaked version and waited until a few days after The Outsider had hit the shelves before I went back to the internet to claim yet another free copy.
Imagine my horror when the tracks were the same as the leak. I even tried a few more sources to quadruple check that I really was listening to a DJ Shadow record - a fear that was finally confirmed when a house mate purchased the hard copy. It was a chronic disappointment.
The Outsider begins with an 'intro' track that is typically Shadow. It's energetic and bombastic and it gears you up for a sublime listening experience. But then it all goes wrong. Shadow has clearly been influenced by the local rap music artists near his home town and as a result, they feature prominently on the recording. I'd heard rumours that this album was going to be 'mostly rap' but I didn't care. I'm not someone who hates rap music just because it's rap music, and I expected to be fully re-educated in the genre by the samples that Shadow would pick for his third studio release. However, the final product is truly abysmal. The rap is extremely weak, diluted and completely uninteresting to listen to. A real disappointment.
Shadow defended The Outsider by saying that he never intended to remake Endtroducing over and over again. Fair enough, but as a fan I didn't expect that either. You don't work that hard to stay in the same place, but he has a distinctive sound. His personal studio albums and countless collaborations all bring intelligent samples and slamming beats to the table. In The Outsider these trademarks are almost completely absent and his signature mixing drowned out by some street-urchin throwing slang over a poppy backbeat. It's almost as if he has tired of using samples and paying royalties to the original artist and decided to produce some third-rate local rap musicians just to haul in some money for himself. I don't think people expected a re-release of Endtroducing, but they did expect a DJ Shadow record.