19
Jun
09

Expanding Horizons: DJ Shadow

 Shadow

I first heard sample-miner & eclectic producer Josh “DJ Shadow” Davis during my freshman year in college, in my early days of bootlegging sharing music. The San Jose, CA native debuted his signature sample techniques and turntablism efforts in 1996 with Entroducing. The rest is history, as they say.

Entroducing itself was the first album ever to be entirely created using samples. Seriously, it’s in the Guinness Book of World Records for that honor. Go on, feel free to look it up.

What makes Shadow’s music unique is he borrows elements from across the spectrum – hip-hop, jazz, funk, rock, classical, psychadelic, electronic, vocal and hand-picked obscure sounds. He does it the old fashioned way, too – by locking himself in a basement fully stacked with vinyl. Anyone who’s seen the Scratch DVD knows what I mean.

Armed with just an MPC60 and samples, he forms free-flowing soundscapes that play more through like a film score than an average record.

The piano-driven melody of “Building Steam With A Grain of Salt” and frenzied Rhodes of “Organ Donor” mixed with the looming bass-line on “Changeling” and hypnotic drums of “Midnight In A Perfect World” revolutionized instrumental hip-hop on Entroducing.

Throughout his career, Shadow has dabbled in dark melodies (“Lonely Soul,” “Dark Days“), electro-jazz (You Can’t Go Home Again, Fixed Income“), trip-hop (“What Does Your Soul Look Like 2,” “Stem L.P.“) and even hyphy (The Outsider). For the record, I think 2006’s The Outsider is his weakest because of the blatant deviation from any of his previous material. I can appreciate progress, but the LP was everything BUT a step in the right direction.

I’ve made it a personal goal to gather his entire collection, thus far I’d say I’m on track. The aforementioned Endtroducing, Preemptive Strike, The Private Press , You Can’t Go Home Again, The Outsider, numerous singles, radio mixes, live performances – you name it, I got it. And you know how much I love to share.

In fact, the initial inspiration for this post came when I got my hands on The 4-Track Era, a collection of Shadow’s rare radio mixes and beats showcasing his early days. Even at 19 years old his skills were pinpoint, remixing rap classics by Eric B. & Rakim and the Jungle Brothers plus producing break beats.

Even though hip-hop is Shadow’s main influence, it’d be unfair to pigeonhole his artistic creativity. What I respect most that he truly can’t be classified as any specific genre. While many label heads push artists as “diverse sounding,” Shadow quietly redifined what it meant to be eclectic.

I intend this Expanding Horizons session to introduce the producer extraordinaire/ sampling wunderkind and reitirate to those are already familiar: His music speaks for itself. 

Audio:

Entroducing Deluxe Edition (2 Discs) [Buy]

The Private Press [Buy]

The Outsider [Buy

Preemptive Strike [Buy]

You Can’t Go Home Again [Buy]

The 4-Track Era [Reconstruction Productions] – 2008 Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 [Buy]

Stem [Buy]

Live in Oxford, England Oct. 30, 1997 [Entroducing Deluxe Edition, Disc 2]

What Does Your Soul Look Like Pt 2 [Preemptive Strike]

Six Days (CDS) [Buy] (features a remix with Mos Def)

Fixed Income [The Private Press]

Lonely Soul [One To Grown On (Promo)]

Dark Days (CDS) [Buy]

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