Single Review: DJ Shadow (feat. Nas) – Systematic

By on Tuesday, 16th May 2017 at 12:00 pm

‘Systematic’ is the new release by Californian experimental DJ and producer DJ Shadow, and featuring lyrics from the hip-hop legend that is Nas. Before the record even starts, we are off to a good start and luckily, the track itself doesn’t disappoint.

DJ Shadow’s body of work has musical influence that stretches far and wide having released countless musical productions merging elements of hip-hop, rock, jazz and soul amongst other genres. He released his first full-length album ‘Endtroducing’ in 1998, which was the first ever completely sampled album, and even has a nice spot in The Guinness Word Records to prove it. After a lengthy career that has cemented his place as a pivotal figure in the world of experimental hip-hop, Mr. Shadow returned in 2016 with album ‘The Mountain Will Fall’, his first release for 5 years, which features equally politically charged hip-hop track ‘Nobody Speak’ featuring Run the Jewels. The marriage of experimental sounds and politically-charged rap works well, and Shadow suits the position of the beat master behind the show, the longevity of his career and signature sounds making him a well qualified professor.

Then we have Nas, an urban icon whose musical influence is felt beyond the world of hip-hop, and continues to leave an indelible mark on the culture. Nas’s debut ‘Illmatic’ was another key ‘90s hip-hop release, ground-breaking in the way it fused social commentary and progressive hip-hop beats from the likes of Pete Rock, Q-Tip and DJ Premier. Having both made seminal musical debuts back in ye old days of the ‘90s, new single offering ‘Systematic’ sees the two musical heavyweights come together in this track made for season 4 of the HBO show Silicon Valley.

Neither artist are new to collaborating and its shows on this slick, beat heavy offering. The track has a timeless sound to it, free of any musical trends or record label influence (not surprising, as the track is released on Nas’s own label Mass Appeal) and sounding like an honest expression of what both artists do best. ‘Systematic’ sees Nas bring his steady flow of socially conscious lyrics, which he delivers in a clear and concise way, never short of flow and rhythm. The music and lyrics are a marriage that fit perfectly, in sync and intertwined from the start. “Close your eyes / cover your ears do not listen / try to feel what I’m saying/ to make you feel is my new expression”, the chorus instructs us, and when Nas instructs, you listen. We hear an unknown sampled vocal that states, “Remember the past / cherish the present and work for tomorrow / the time is now’. This addition sounds both important and urgent.

The show explores the politics of those selected by the system to succeed, through the genre of comedy. The track mirrors the show’s theme of exploring a corrupt system, but switches comedy for the medium of music, and urges people to observe and act on a system in turmoil. “The system will defeat itself / never stays in a steady state / it over heats itself / it only feeds itself”, Nas tells us. In a moment in history where politically-charged dissident voices seem more important then ever, ‘Systematic’ is a breath of fresh air that gives exactly what we have come to expect from both artists. It’s also a nice stop-gap to whet our appetites for Nas’ much-anticipated album this year. Time to all come together and have a big old anti-system block party, hosted by Nas and DJ Shadow. Anyone else down?


‘Systematic’ by DJ Shadow featuring Nas is out now on Mass Appeal Records. The song will also appear the forthcoming ‘Silicon Valley: The Soundtrack’ to be released on the 23rd of June on the same label. To read more of TGTF’s coverage of DJ Shadow, use this link.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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