Written by Sebastian Whyte.
2016 marks twenty years since the release of DJ Shadow’s debut album, “Endtroducing…”, a landmark release for experimental hip-hop and in particular, sample-based music. With the release of his new album “The Mountain Will Fall”, we take a look back at the album that changed the face of modern music and sampling.
Cast your mind back to 1996, an explosive year for hip-hop and a revolutionary time for music in general. Twenty-three year old Josh Davis, a suburban kid from California, scoured the local record stores searching for forgotten and obscure sounds to add to his musical collage. Davis was ahead of his time, seeing the value in what others perceived as meaningless and driven by a passion. Through this dream, Josh Davis transformed into DJ Shadow, and cemented himself as one of the most innovative individuals in modern music.
“In a time where sampling has become a key foundation of contemporary music, “Endtroducing…” has never been more relevant.”
For Davis, nothing was out of bounds. He sampled everything from psychedelic rock to rare funk singles, early electronic music to classical avant-garde recordings, and created a masterpiece which is still recognised by Guinness World Records as the first album built entirely from samples. Using a an old Akai MPC60 and a stack of even older rock, jungle, jazz and soul records, DJ Shadow created a tapestry which was both as much a love letter to the forgotten music of the past, whilst simultaneously feeling entirely unique and futuristic. Twenty years later, in a time where sampling has become a key foundation of contemporary music, “Endtroducing…” has never been more relevant.
Upon it’s release in 1996, “Endtroducing…” sounded like nothing that had come before. Just like a film from which you gain something new on every viewing, the DNA of the music allowed listeners to return and discover whole new sounds, beauty and emotion. The brilliance of this album lies in its diversity: funk, rock and spoken word are all seamlessly woven together in an album which flows between chaos and tranquillity. “Endtroducing….” takes everything you thought you knew about music and challenges your whole perspective. The questions it poses are left unanswered and, in a true celebration of ambiguity and fragmentation, the music itself is almost indefinable.
“DJ Shadow’s resurrection of the record can unquestionably take some credit in the resurgence of vinyl that is evident today.”
The impact of “Endtroducing…” has been incredibly significant, extending across a multitude of genres. It is certainly not naive to suggest that much of our modern admiration for producers, beatmakers and sample-based artists is due to the influence of DJ Shadow’s debut. This legacy is certainly not something that Davis had anticipated stating that he’d always “bump into these world-class producers” who’d comment upon what a masterful and influential and piece of production it was. For instance, Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead has cited “Endtroducing…” as an influence on the band’s prestigious album “OK Computer” claiming that the band admired how Davis “cut up beats quite minutely”. Naturally, the legacy of the album became the driving force in the development of instrumental hip hop music, inspiring several other djs and producers to create sample-based works, most notably The Avalanches, who incorporated the exact sampling techniques that DJ Shadow had pioneered and yet constructed an entirely different sonic collage whilst still remaining a clear progeny of “Endtroducing…”. On top of this significant contribution to music, “Endtroducing…” also caused an awakening in the minds of the mainstream audience. The album’s cover artwork, composition and the artist himself have inspired many fans and critics alike to rediscover and explore the forgotten medium of vinyl. DJ Shadow’s resurrection of the record can unquestionably take some credit in the resurgence of vinyl that is evident today.
Through a unique range of musical genres and composition, DJ Shadow immediately defined himself as an influential figure and the pioneer of the ‘trip-hop” movement and established “Endtroducing…” as one of the most significant albums of all time. Perhaps “Endtroducing…” is viewed as such because of what it stands for, a true testament to music, art for art’s sake. DJ Shadow is, and has always been, a pioneer. A figure who stands for creating interesting music without societal restrictions. No other album epitomises this better than “Endtroducing…”, an emblem of diversity, passion, and musical ambition. Now, twenty years later, the music industry has changed beyond recognition and yet, “Endtroducing..” still resonates just as clearly as it did in 1996. A truly timeless album that epitomises the power of inspiration and the impact of a revolution.