Shafiq Husayn – Shafiq En’ A-Free-Ka
Plug Research Records
Words by: Andres Reyes
You’ve probably heard this ad nauseam at this point, but Los Angeles is the current musical mecca of the western world. While the rest of the domestic musical climate is stuck on tight jeans, soul-less snares, auto-tune and the death of auto-tune, the city of Angels has its collective vision on the future. Shafiq Husayn, of the much buzzed about Sa-Ra Creative Partners, is the next L.A. resident to break through to the surface with his debut solo album Shafiq En’ A-Free-Ka coming out on Plug Research October 6th.
Rather than present you a collection of songs made over a given time, Shafiq would like to take you on an experience. The title of the record draws on ideas of freedom and exploration, Ka means mind or spirit in Kemetic, so being in A-Free-Ka literally means a free state of mind. From the first couple of bass lines and snares, it is apparent Shafiq En’ A-Free-Ka is coming from, and headed to, a different place. The urgency in the percussion of “U.N. Plan” is electrifying and there is something unnerving about the space in which “Cheeba” exists, with its haunting vocal feature from underground powerhouse Bilal. The lead single “Lil’ Girl” featuring UK newcomer Fatima is perhaps the closest the record gets to a straight-forward song, but even beneath the aesthetic sweetness of the ballad the songs lyrics cry to something more complicated, “eventually you shall embrace the last day/ time is running, better choose the fast way.”
“No Moor” plays like a musical history lesson, chronicling the hardly-mentioned Moorish history in North America. The journey that is En A-Free-Ka hits its darkest points with “All Dead” and “Evil Man,” two songs that seem to accompany each other in theme and structure. Another highlight is “Major Heavy,” a tune so sweet that if ever clouds were assigned a melody, this song is where it would happen. The ballad boasts a sung chorus by underground Hip Hop veteran Count Bass D and verses by L.A.’s Sonny Coates.
Classifying Shafiq’s music is self-defeating. The album spans the range from R&B to soul to electronic to afro-beat. There’s hardly any rapping on the album yet the sound is firmly rooted in Hip Hop aesthetics, but Shafiq also enlists the help of numerous talented instrumentalists on the album like Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner and his fellow Sa-Ra partner, Om’Mas Keith. The list of collaborators on the album is large, yet there is somehow more cohesion on this than most modern albums. It is as if Shafiq gathered a village of musicians and singers and led them with his MPC. While many are stuck looking towards the past or each other for direction, Shafiq enlists the best of the past to craft a bold new sonic future for himself and those around him. Truly a Master Teacher.