In April, DJ Shadow unveiled the first taste of music from "The Outsider," his first album in four years, and some longtime fans scratched their heads.

In April, DJ Shadow unveiled the first taste of music from "The Outsider," his first album in four years, and some longtime fans scratched their heads. The track "3 Freaks" found Shadow flanked by hyphy stars Keak Da Sneak and Turf Talk for a banging hip-hop track far removed from the cinematic instrumentals of his past work.

And while "The Outsider," due this week via Universal, does not abandon Shadow's musical roots, it is by far the most hip-hop-focused record of his career. Other guest rappers on the project include Q-Tip, the Federation, David Banner, E-40 and longtime collaborator Lateef.

Bay Area native Shadow (real name: Josh Davis) became enamored with hyphy in early 2003 while listening to local radio during car trips from his house to his studio. Still, that didn't prevent friends and label personnel from discouraging Shadow to release an album combining commercial hip-hop with rock ("You Made It"), mind-expanding instrumentals ("Artifact," "Triplicate") and psychedelic folk ("What Have I Done").

"Some of the feedback I was getting was, 'Well, why don't you do a whole rap album, and then a rock album after that?' But for me, I don't just listen to rap for six months and then rock for six months," Shadow says. "I wanted to make a record that reflects entirely and completely what inspires me, and where I feel like my interest is musically right now."