Elevate Difference

Shapeshifters

The state of mainstream hip-hop is pretty damn depressing. The entire genre has been declared dead a number of times, and the best of a generation make reality shows instead of change. Similarly, the city of Detroit has been ridiculed as economically depressed and full of unprosecuted crime in the shadow of police scandals that have come to prominence again this year. Some might say these are symptoms of a dying city, if it not a dead one. Of the respective states of Detroit and hip-hop, it is also sometimes said that one death begets the other. So how is it that one could make such pronouncements about this city and the underground hop-hop movement, then witness such a birth from such supposed death? Perhaps the stories in newspapers don’t tell the whole truth. Wouldn’t be the first time.

So this leads us to easily understand the intro track titled “State of Emergency” on Shapeshifters, the debut album by Invincible. A wildly talented Palestinian MC, who grew up in Detroit Rock City and is a longtime member of the ANoMoLies all-female crew, her rhymes are continuous fresh breathes of air in a purportedly stifled creative environment.

This is where we are: a critical juncture in social movements and humanity. So why, if we’re so dead and doomed, is every positive, hopeful Invincible beat and lyric so right on? Explained in the liner notes, an unofficial motto of Detroit remains “opportunity in crisis,” legitimized further by albums like this one, self-built distribution rising up behind it. Despite being previously offered million-dollar record deals, Invincible created Emergence , what she hopes will serve as a distribution model for others working outside the system. She raps, she organizes, she has activist-based business savvy. What doesn’t this woman, this album represent? As she puts it in “Looongawaited”: “I’m striving to be one of the best, period/Not just one of the best with breasts and a period.”

The album features a slew of talented Detroit MCs including Finale, and local Detroit City activist/expert folk like Grace Lee Boggs, Gwen Mingo, and Ron Scott (who is, in full disclosure, a good friend of mine). Many of these collaborators are also featured in the docu-music-video that is included on the CD: “Locusts.” The themes on this album, and in the "Locusts" video, don’t make sense to me just because I have family from the same geographical area and grew up personally understanding small town Midwestern deprivation. These stories of gentrification, destruction, and rebirth are universal. And from a strictly artistic perspective, this album has me nothing but excited about recognizable, reworked samples and one of the most tightly produced revolutionary blueprints I’ve put in my boombox since discovering Dead Prez’s Let’s Get Free.

Invinicible says it herself: “My job is to make the revolution irresistible” (“State of Emergency”). A line from “Looongawaited,” and from the CD jacket, is important in a downloading age (a time I admit to reveling in): “You want good music/You gotta support it.” So, go do it. Best music purchase of the year. I'll put money on it.

Written by: Brittany Shoot, July 23rd 2008

"You know how people say love is the answer? Well what the fuck is the question?" Haha that line makes me laugh EVERY time I hear it.

Invincible is the type of woman who I wish I could date, assuming she lived anywhere near me, and weren't a lesbian. She has motivation, energy, lyrical abilities that transcend normal human capabilities, and the wisdom to know how to convert those admirable qualities into divine, head-nodding hip hop. I received this album in the mail, and listened to the first couple of tracks. Over the next week, I limited myself to two songs every night, because I was so in love with this rapper who I had just discovered, that I wanted to make the initial auditory adventure last as long as possible. One week later, I was so impressed by this album, I decided to show it to my little brother. He loved it as much as I did, and he was previously not interested in hearing females rap. He showed it to his friend, and he loved it too. It seems to me, that no matter how you look at it, this album deserves a place in every hip hoppers shelf, and to not buy this album should be considered socially unacceptable. The beats are innovative, well produced, fresh, and incite immediate, album-long arm swinging, head-nodding, and jumping. Her voice is feminine yet powerful, and the way she mixes those razor-sharp messages with a beautiful, poetic touch is inspiring. The passion and realness of the song 'ropes' brought tears to my eyes, and I am a twenty year old guy, who doesn't cry often. Her delivery is perfect, and the way she rides these banging beats is priceless. Until she releases her next album, this one is going to stay bumping in my car, providing me with motivation and clarity, in a life that is all too often overshadowed with confusion and pain. I have never met you, Invincible, but if I were to bump into you some day, I would hug you and thank you for changing my life.

i love this album--been waiting for her official release for years! so glad it's made its' way into the world! now we just gotta get everyone we know to go out and buy a copy!!

Ooh, thanks for clearing that up! I should have double checked that :)

It is without a doubt the best hip hop release of the first half of 2008, maybe the whole year. Lyrically and music-wise this album is just incredible. A point of clarification: Invincible is Jewish, born in Israel and then grew up in Ann Arbor, MI, then moved to Detroit and NYC. So while she generally refers to "Israel " as Palestine, as many opponents of Israeli settler colonialism do, she is not Palestinian.

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