DJ Shadow’s ‘Endtroducing…’ is an underrated hip-hop classic

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DJ Shadow’s ‘Endtroducing…’ is an underrated hip-hop classic

DJ Shadow performs at a Boston concert in 2012.

DJ Shadow performs at a Boston concert in 2012.

IMAGE / flickr

DJ Shadow performs at a Boston concert in 2012.

IMAGE / flickr

IMAGE / flickr

DJ Shadow performs at a Boston concert in 2012.

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In September 1996, Joshua Davis — better known as DJ Shadow — released one of the most influential hip-hop albums of all time.

“Endtroducing…” is an instrumental album composed almost entirely of obscure samples.

DJ Shadow searched through thousands of vinyl records at the Sacramento music shop Rare Records to find his samples.

While other instrumental hip-hop albums are filled with song fragments, all of the songs on “Endtroducing…” are full of musical arrangements.

Shadow made the album essentially by himself, an impressive feat audible from the opening tracks onward.

One of the first tracks, “Building Steam With a Grain of Salt,” is dramatic, a great tone-setter for the album.

Twinkling pianos and rock guitars build throughout the song and vocal samples echo in the space Shadow builds around the track.

The album is loop-based and heavily repetitive to aid its trance-like atmosphere, but it still remains unpredictable on tracks like “Mutual Slump” and “Napalm Brain/Scatter Brain.”

The record’s psychedelic long-form tracks lure you into an abstract daze, with melodic tunes like “Stem/Long Stem.”

Shadow’s style was a forerunner of the modern trend of long-form instrumental beats that are made for relaxation. Videos like these get millions of views on YouTube.

“Midnight In a Perfect World” manages to create a moody and melancholy atmosphere with almost no lyrics, contrasted by the booming tremolo drums on “Changeling (Transmission 1).”

“Endtroducing…” was clearly made out of a love for music. Shadow’s admiration for the forgotten artists he’s sampled is on full display.

Along with albums like Beastie Boy’s “Paul’s Boutique” and J Dilla’s “Donuts,” “Endtroducing…” defines sample-based music.

According to an interview with Rolling Stone, Shadow is grateful for the effect the album has had on culture.

“Being a student of music and reading about other artists and their aspirations,” Shadow said. “I know how difficult it is to connect in a meaningful way and have a record that endures.”

Since his debut, Shadow has collaborated with artists ranging from Thom Yorke to Q-Tip, but he has never topped his first production.

The Guinness Book of World Records acknowledges the album as the first album made completely from samples.

There has not been an album like “Endtroducing…” since it was released. Creative sampling is a forgotten art form, and Shadow’s commitment to his art has not been matched by a hip-hop artist since.

“Endtroducing…” unites rock, funk, jazz, and hip-hop to make an album that, while it may seem like a niche, can appeal to almost anyone.

The featured image is from flickr.

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