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Alternative History

Endtroducing by DJ Shadow and Its Continued Influence

Endtroducing by DJ Shadow and Its Continued Influence

DJ Shadow is responsible for making casual listeners appreciate sampling as an art form. “Endtroducing….” was the gateway. He was not the only one to do this, of course. More than any other, however, his work has inspired countless pop, rock, and electronic artists.

The turntablist demonstrated his work just as a tour guide who would present an ancient museum. DJ Shadow wasn’t merely taking sounds and claiming them as his own. He was carefully picking, choosing, and reassembling samples from obscure records. The results were nothing short of revolutionary.

It’s time to look at the making of “Endtroducing….” and acknowledge the profound effect that it continues to have on popular music.

John Davis’ transformation into DJ Shadow

DJ Shadow’s story is that of a true musical pioneer. Born John Davis in California, he became enamored with the captivating power of vinyl records from an early age.

Davis would spend endless hours digging through dusty record crates to discover everything from funk to soul to rock music. The knowledge he acquired culminated in the release of one of the seminal albums of the 1990s.

Before “Endtroducing….” DJ Shadow had already established himself in the underground scene. Armed with nothing more than his trusty turntables and an insatiable thirst for sound exploration, he perfected his craft with various releases and collaborations on which he honed his skills and built a loyal following with his genre-defying sets.

His first singles already displayed a profound interest in rap, rock, as well as jazz, funk, and ambient sounds. Even Bjork on “Mutual Slump”. Music critics described his sound as “trip hop.” This is, perhaps, an oversimplification that owes to the success of Bristol trip hop producers of the time.

His remixes gained him additional notoriety. He was being asked to add his touches to the work of various American hip-hop crews and reimagine/cover Massive Attack’s “Karmacoma.”

With “Endtroducing….”, however, DJ Shadow would truly find his voice, one painstakingly constructed from an endless array of obscure records.

“Endtroducing….”

DJ Shadow’s “Endtroducing….” is an album that defies easy classification. Released in 1996 to widespread acclaim, it remains one of the most influential and groundbreaking works of electronic music ever recorded. Still, to reduce it to mere genre exercise would be to miss its point entirely.

At its core, “Endtroducing….” is an intensely personal and creative work. It’s the culmination of DJ Shadow’s lifelong love affair with music and record collecting, appearing on James Lavelle’s Mo’ Wax label, and the deluxe edition showed up on Islands Records.

Drawing from diverse sources such as classic rock, obscure jazz, and movie soundtracks, he created a lush sonic landscape that felt timeless and completely contemporary. Each track flows effortlessly into the next like a sonic river. It’s ambient music for a generation raised on hip hop.

Using samples to create songs

The album’s opening track, “Best Foot Forward,” sets the pace with frenetic breakbeats and chopped-up vocal samples. From there on out, listeners are taken on a journey through an eclectic variety of sounds and textures. There are melancholic piano loops in “Building Steam With a Grain of Salt” to haunting strings in “Midnight in a Perfect World.”

“Stem/Long Stem,” runs for nine minutes and features samples from sources as varied as Nirvana and Run – DMC. This impressive sample-based production feat displays DJ Shadow’s remarkable ability to combine disparate elements into something greater than its parts. “Napalm Brain/Scatterbrain” matches it in terms of scope.

“Organ Donor” is constructed around a swirling Lowrey organ and processed through a distortion pedal. The hook is lifted from a Giorgio Moroder track. This track has since become an iconic example of sample-based production. Its distorted organ riff and thundering drums provide the foundation for a track that manages to be both menacing and funky simultaneously.

Critics unanimously agreed. AllMusic‘s Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote in his album review that “Endtroducing….” was “an exquisite example of abstract hip-hop built from heavily atmospheric samples.” The full album challenged what could be achieved using samplers and turntables, a testament to DJ Shadow’s vision and unbridled creativity.

Revolutionary sampling

DJ Shadow’s debut album “Endtroducing….” revolutionized this genre and how people thought about sampling. In fact, it held the dubious distinction from Guinness World Records of being the first album created entirely out of samples.

The turntablist took inspiration from classic rock, jazz, and film soundtracks and combined them to create an expansive sonic landscape. It stretched what was possible in creating with samplers and turntables. This innovative use of samples and its collage-like structure created an epic cinematic experience that felt timeless and modern.

What set DJ Shadow apart from his peers was his sampling approach. He spent countless hours searching record stores and thrift shops searching for rare vinyl records, later CDs, and forgotten gems to use in production. From here onward, the standard was set for future beatmakers.

DJ Shadow’s later career

DJ Shadow’s impact on music is immeasurable, his pioneering sampling techniques and creative use of sound having inspired countless artists in the two decades since his debut album “Endtroducing……” was released.

Kanye West, J Dilla, and Madlib have all acknowledged DJ Shadow as a major influence on their work. Its use of obscure samples and unconventional production techniques laid the groundwork for West’s experimental approach that would become widely known.

Influence on electronic, pop

DJ Shadow’s influence on music is undeniable. His pioneering sampling techniques and creative use of sound have inspired countless artists in the two decades since his debut album “Endtroducing……” was released.

But it isn’t just his groundbreaking approach that makes him an icon; you can see his influence in the work of some of pop music’s biggest names from Kanye West to Daft Punk. West, J Dilla and Madlib have all acknowledged DJ Shadow as a significant influence on their work.

DJ Shadow’s influence on rock music

DJ Shadow’s influence goes far beyond hip-hop, with artists from a variety of genres citing him as an inspiration. Radiohead’s Thom Yorke acknowledged its inspiration for making “Kid A.” Meanwhile, The Avalanches’ genre-defying production style owes a lot to DJ Shadow. Even Daft Punk owes a debt to “Endtroducing……”

Furthermore, Thom Yorke worked with DJ Shadow on the UNKLE track “Rabbit in Your Headlights.” He collaborated with Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine on the song “March of Death.” He has remixed songs for Radiohead or Depeche mode. And his long-lasting influence has meant that artists as diverse as Interpol’s Paul Banks and Run The Jewels have made guest appearances on releases by the turntablist.

When it comes to sample-based music, DJ Shadow stands alone as one of the most influential and imitated artists of his era. “Endtroducing……” introduced a new era. And while the world may have caught up with these innovations quickly, few have been able to reproduce the excitement of the album.

About author

Eduard Banulescu is a writer, blogger, and musician. As a content writer, Eduard has contributed to numerous websites and publications, including FootballCoin, Play2Earn, BeIN Crypto, Business2Community, NapoliSerieA, Extra Time Talk, Nitrogen Sports, Bavarian FootballWorks, etc. He has written a book about Nirvana, hosts a music podcasts, and writes weekly content about some of the best, new and old, alternative musicians. Eduard also runs and acts as editor-in-chief of the alternative rock music website www.alt77.com. Mr. Banulescu is also a musician, having played and recorded in various bands and as a solo artist.
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