DC DJ/producer Sharkey made his name working with the likes of Mario Caldato Jr. (Beastie Boys), Mickey Petralia (Beck), Eminem and Everlast. Sharkey's Machine
is nominally his solo debut, but like any turntablist you've ever heard of, he realizes the value of a good collaborator. The guest artists on Sharkey's Machine
might not be quite as high-profile as some of Sharkey's previous partners, but the roster definitely isn't lacking in talent -- or indie cred, for that matter. Cherrywine (led by Digable Planets alumnus Ishmael Butler) funk up "Phone Sex", one of the album's more engaging cuts. Cannibal Ox MCs on the intense head-bobber "Fuzz", while Jean Grae lays it down on "Summer In The City (Lovin It)" in her dark yet catchy style. Also making appearances are the Pharcyde (on "Snobird", a martini-smooth lounge jam) and Brand Nubian's Grand Puba. In keeping with underground hip-hop's stylistic diversity, Sharkey doesn't limit himself genre-wise; several tracks include contributions from Seattle-based folk-rockers Billy Moon. Nor does he shrink from cross-promotion. Zooks, Sharkey's partner in his group The Spark, figures prominently in a few tracks, like the memorable "Skateboarder's Blues": "I used to skate around the neighborhood / But now I just jerk off on the Internet."
Sharkey's work avoids fading into the background, even with an attention-grabbing MC up front, but the truly solo tracks, though few and far between, are where he really gets to show off his prowess, giving listeners a break and skillfully engineering a mood. Sharkey's Machine encompasses a spectrum of hip hop styles as broad as its array of performers, and never loses its sense of humor.
Unfortunately, the impression this album made on me was marred by one of the music industry's more irritating anti-piracy techniques: inserted into each unnamed track on the unlabeled CD-R is the effects-disguised but annoyingly intrusive phrase, "This is a promotional version of Sharkey's Machine". No shit. So, although the matter of how much piracy actually hurts artists is debatable, don't download this record... but definitely buy it.