Z-Trip has always been on some next-level shit. Mention mash-ups, and his name will invariably come up. While it's debatable whether he was the first DJ to mate tracks from unlikely sources, he is definitely the best. Uneasy Listening Volume I, the widely bootlegged mix CD he did with DJ P in 2001, laid the blueprint for future mashers. And more impressive, he pulls off these mind-boggling marriages live, as exemplified on the promo-only disc he issued last year.
On the aptly titled Shifting Gears, his major-label debut, Z-Trip throws it in reverse. Peripheral fans eager to hear more of his trademark mergers will be let down, as he's all but abandoned that formula. But hip-hop purists will pee themselves upon hearing the new unions he's formed with revered framers like Chuck D and Whipper Whip, and underground MCs like Soup, Lyrics Born and MURS. Overall, this exemplary collection plays like an aural exploration of hip-hop's evolution, spanning from classic party cuts and beats that sound vintage without being antiquated, to the edgier angst-filled tracks that close the record. Z-Trip is still ahead of the pack -- even when he's looking back.