TF Archives

DJ Shadow

Author: Ben Shepherd
Sunday, January 1, 1995
25 year old Josh Davis is DJ shadow. At the tender age of 20 his 12 minute epic "In/Flux" gave birth to a music phenomenon known as trip hop. Whatever you like to label it, the music shadow composes has the pseudo hipsters of the UK press trying to scramble up adjectives to describe the emotion, soul, and genius that lies within his instrumental hip hop masterpieces. What's more, Shadow takes a strict ethos regarding sampling, "The way I look at it, if you can't find it on a record, keep looking. Because it's out there somewhere." Defining Shadow in concrete terms is extremely difficult. Whether his spooking the sense with tracks such as "Midnight In A Perfect World", or causing everyone to jump up with such high energy anthems such as "High Noon" and "The Numbers Song", there is an element of unrestrained creativity involved, he uses nothing but previously recorded material to create his aural pictures.

"It may sound close minded or inhibiting, but in the sampling world, I think its cheating when you throw live stuff over samples....I think these productions are a kind of reaction to the more tepid sound that a lot of the acid jazzy stuff is starting to bring to the table." It was 21 year old British whiz kid James LaVelle which introduced the world at large to Josh Davis. His ambition to start an experimental hip hop label was personified in him signing his two favourite acts before starting out, DJ Krush from Japan(so no more need to discuss) and Keyboard Money Mark (just give him some wood and he'll build you a cabinet) also known as the ivory tinkler for none other than the Beastie Boys. Shadow soon followed, with the single In/Flux, which still stands out now as a masterpiece. His cut and paste methodology ranges from bass heavy groove, scratching indulgence straight outta the old school; pelvic thrusting slow jam, church organ fuelled freakouts, but always that cut and paste collage seems so smooth, so fluid, all brought to the fore with that soulful beat. "As a kid I always used to cut out little heads from magazines and TV guides and put them on other bodies" Davis told ATN, "My mom bought me a little turntable when I was three. I was always intrigued by sound effects. I used to walk around with a tape recorder recording TV shows and I'd make little edits. I probably have 200 tapes of like, 'The super Friends;" he laughs.

But how does a college student become the greatest thing to happen to hip hop since,......since its inception. Shadow says that he and a friend, a graffiti artists calling himself the eighth wonder were from an early age, "The only ones buying breaks in Davis. We basically raised ourselves on hip hop. We all thought we were the only ones doing it" says Shadow, but when he met Jeff Chang, a DJ for local radio station, he began to meet other like minded individuals, such as rappers X(now Blackalicious) and Tom (of lyrics born). "Jeff brought us all together, he said "instead of competing for records and breaks, why don't you cooperare-"" These four became the nucleus of a collective called SoleSides releasing rap records and abstract spoken words and break beats. It was then that Lavelle contacted Davis and asked him to record for Mo Wax. "The stuff that comes out on Mo Wax is probably closer to my heart. Its the direction that appeals to me the most, trying to come up with something different to say. And that's what James and I always wanted." Since the beginning of their relationship Shadow has released things consistently. Beginning with the single "in Flux" and following it up "What does your soul look like", anticipation regarding the Shadow album was high, the taster on the Mo Wax compilation album "Headz" added to the pressure. But Shadow did not disappoint, Entroducing was a mother of an opus, undoubtedly the best of 1996 and a landmark in pushing instrumental hip hop to the masses and breaking down endless barriers and anyone in its path.

"If you ever see my DJ'ing ever, y