A Breakdown of Matt Shadetek’s Empire

Matt Shadetek

You’ll never find Matt Shadetek, producer, DJ, teacher, father, husband, former Berlin ex-pat, and founder of Dutty Artz, sans windbreaker and baseball cap in ­­classic New York street style. Even when it’s 20 degrees outside, his colors show. Shadetek is a proud member of a rare, understated, vanishing tribe; he’s a native New Yorker.

One might say, you could never find a rapper (stateside), in an EDM club, until recently. Now it’s the norm. Since the mid-­late ’90s, crews of raving junglists in Londontown have been dancing to electronic music pioneers, alongside a few, turned on American kids from across the pond, who loved hip-hop and yet, professed their allegence to all-things electronic that hailed from England. Shadetek was one such early adaptor, “I thought I was going to be a science fiction writer until I started going to Konkrete Jungle. The music was so crazy and futuristic but also connected the dots between rave music, hip hop and dancehall. I was totally captivated.”

Matt Shadetek album

Shadetek, a self confessed sci­-fi fan; drew the title of his sophomore album, “The Empire Never Ended,” from Phillip K. Dick’s novel “Valis.”

The melodies at work on this album don’t sit in the gut like pre­-EDM hip-hop records do. Produced in higher keys that lend to a cerebral experience, the compositions reflect the producer’s admiration of genre blending–specifically rave and dancehall with hip-hop–and is in its best moments when reminiscent of early electronic pioneers like Autecrhe and Aphex Twin.

Standouts are the instrumental, “Jaguar,” and vocal track “Don’t Give It All Up.” The former revels in suspended tension, from the punchy synth bassline­­ that adds a meaty musculature, to the delightfully varied rhythmic elements. Percussion fills and rolls result in rhythms that feel distinctly African. Real movement and trajectory are conveyed, as if the listener is on a nighttime jag with an actual jaguar.

“Don’t Give it All Up,” drops like a heat-seeking missile ­on target, with huge waffling drum and basslines, graced by the vocal delights of Brooklyn­-via-Guayana crooner Jahdan Blakkamoore. Original lyrics, fearless arrangement, and pleasing melodies journey from Nu­Soul to Rocksteady, at all the right moments. Two minutes and 30 seconds of mid­-section,­ head-­nodding pleasure.

As an all­-around listening experience “The Empire Never Ended,” at times, struggles to finds its feet, yet lands into a graceful flowing groove via tracks 5 through 9. The leap from independent, sometimes disparate tracks into a cohesive soundtrack is successfully created, then destroyed. The return to genre confining elements in, “Triple Fat Goose,” is a distraction from the well-crafted environment of the preceding section. Another disappointment is “Psychomatic,” which intros with promise and imaginative departure from standard R&B, then falls right into cliche.

The hope is that Shadetek permanently graduates from the limitations of genre, and charts a new course toward unedited expression. Full collaborative vocal tracks are the highlights of the album. Diminishing throughout, are the lyrics and content that speak to misogyny, cliche, and do not align with the genre-pushing production talents of Mr. Matt Shadetek.

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