DJ Cam

As a white French hip-hop producer, DJ Cam's recordings have been alternately categorized by beat heads as trip-hop and downtempo, or acid jazz, anything other than the music to which he frequently and unashamedly pays homage. In fact his mid-Nineties albums like Mad Blunted Jazz mostly consisted of breaks already appropriated by New York stars like the Beatminerz and DJ Premier, all the way down to the drum patterns those better-known producers used. It wasn't until 2000 with his Loa Project that Cam abandoned this tastefully redundant approach, with mixed results.

Soulshine is something of a shock for both long-time Cam followers and neophytes who will be surprised to hear a soul-jazz album so effortlessly well-made and accomplished. True, DJ Premier's remix of his "Voodoo Child" single with Afu-Ra is included, as is a long-overdue collaboration with Guru on the self-explanatory "Condor (Espionage)" -- de rigueur strategic moves for any European hip-hop producer wishing to score brownie points with American and international audiences. But by teaming up with a sterling ensemble of live musicians, who turn his songs into elongated groove sessions that recall acid jazz's salad days, Cam has finally made an album that sounds all his own. It floats like a leaf tumbling onto the grass, from the light and playful "Summer in Paris," where French songstress Anggun scats in a kittenish whisper, to the cautionary and reflective "Elevation," which finds Atlanta's Donnie wailing over a drum and bass track. Finally, with Soulshine, Cam has stepped into the spotlight on his own terms.

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