In a society where new and notable musical innovations are at our fingertips, electronic dance music, hip-hop beats, and pop synthesizers have become popular culture’s mainstream sounds. Because of the music industry’s obsession with new genres, subgenres, and definitions of sound, it’s easy to lose distinction between the many similar-but-slightly-different categories. Enter: Matt Shadetek’s album The Empire Never Ended, a mixed bag of eclectic trap sounds, dubstep influences, and classic hip-hop beats.
Released in late March 2013 on Brooklyn collective label Dutty Artz, The Empire Never Ended opens with the track “Visions” and a deep, processed voice reciting indistinguishable lines. A basic trap structure, “Visions” consists of several synthesized sounds and glitches coming together to form a highly electronic-influenced Southern hip-hop sound. This playful yet grimy mixture feels as though it should be playing in a hip, underground nightclub, complete with grinding strangers and fog machines.
Matt Shadetek’s album is indicative of his New York City roots. Classic hip-hop finds its evolving place in The Empire Never Ended, modernized by advanced and innovative electronic accents. Many of the tracks feel cyclical, as though they repeat themselves for an artistic, trance effect. In the album’s fourth track, “Logos”, the rhythm remains largely the same but is periodically sped up, slowed down, or embellished upon. “Logos” best exemplifies Shadetek’s ability to make a track experiential and engrossing.
Though the entirety of The Empire Never Ended may sound repetitive and collectively similar to a casual listener, fans of trap music, hip-hop, and general electronic sound will be able to hear the subtle discrepancies between the structures and instrumental noises, of which there are plenty. Matt Shadetek’s new project turns an expected corner for eclectic dance music, but that doesn’t make it any less pleasant to listen to. Perhaps you’ll hear it in a smoky club, or over clicky laptop speakers, but the intricacy of such labored sounds warrant a good, focused listen on headphones. The Empire Never Ended might surprise you.
By Danielle Martin