Joshua Paul "Josh" Davis (born June 29, 1972) better known as DJ Shadow, is an American producer, DJ and songwriter, known for his extremely well-done sampling-based sound and massive record collection with over 60,000 LPs. He and the Beastie Boys are generally cited whenever you're trying to convince somebody that sampling can, in fact, be used to make good music.
Davis began his career as a DJ for his university's campus radio station. His first two singles under the "DJ Shadow" moniker, "In/Flux" and "Lost and Found", were released in 1993-1994. They are considered the Trope Codifier for the genre of trip-hopnote , which had been already invented by Massive Attack in 1991. The songs were generally long and complex, made up entirely out of samples and fused together funk- and hip-hop-derived beats and occasional rock guitars with an ambient-jazz atmosphere, plus the occasional oddball sample of Spoken Word in Music. These singles attracted the attention of the British experimental hip-hop label Mo' Wax, with whom Shadow signed a contract shortly afterwards.
Shadow's first release for the label, Endtroducing....., was composed entirely using an Akai MPC60 sampler, a pair of turntables and the aforementioned massive collection of LPs. Besides getting a Guinness World Record for being the first completely sample-based album, the album only refined the style he had established on his earlier singles, employing expert sampling from more varied sources either known (Beastie Boys, Metallica, Twin Peaks, etc.) or obscure (Prince Of Darkness, Pekka Pohjola, Rotary Connection, etc.) to create a unified album that one critic described as "a cross between Progressive Rock and Public Enemy". Endtroducing..... was greeted with unanimous acclaim by critics and fans and became Shadow's most well-known and liked album. You know what that means...
After Endtroducing....., he laid low for a while, releasing the singles compilation Preemptive Strike and producing UNKLE's debut album Psyence Fiction. He also lent several of his tracks to Dark Days, a documentary about people who live in an abandoned section of the New York subway. A new album by DJ Shadow finally appeared six years after the first, titled The Private Press. Press saw him slightly reduce his sampling due to increasing sampling fees, focusing mostly on unknown sources and didn't have any more Nightmare Fuel material, but otherwise continued with the cinematic trip-hop style he was famous for. While not as well-reviewed as Endtroducing since that was a Tough Act to Follow, Press still won acclaim from fans and critics.
A shorter hiatus ensued this time, smoothed over by the release of the live album/DVD In Tune and on Time in 2004. A new album emerged in 2006 named The Outsider. This album retreated a bit from his prog-hop sound, featuring more collaborations with rappers and a few hyphy tracks. It received predictably mixed reviews with lots of They Changed It, Now It Sucks!.
More recently, he released The Less You Know The Better, as well as two compilation albums of old material. In late 2012, he was playing a set at Miami's Mansion Club and was kicked off the decks for being "too future" (he was not the first DJ to receive this treatment, and was replaced with in-house DJ No Mas), fans were understandably outraged, prompting the club to issue an apology.
- Endtroducing..... (1996)
- Preemptive Strike (1998) - compilation of early singles.
- Brainfreeze (1999) - collaboration with fellow DJ Cut Chemist
- Product Placement (2001) - collaboration with Cut Chemist
- The Private Press (2002)
- In Tune and on Time (2004) - live DVD
- The Outsider (2006)
- The Less You Know, The Better (2011)
- The Mountain Will Fall (2016)
- Our Pathetic Age (2019)
DJ Shadow provides examples of:
- Blood on the Debate Floor - The music video for "Nobody Speak".
- Drives Like Crazy - "Mashin' on the Motorway"
- Epic Rocking - "Stem/Long Stem", "Napalm Brain/Scatter Brain", Brainfreeze and Product Placement (both of which contain exactly two songs), "Blood on the Motorway", "You Can't Go Home Again".
- Genre Roulette - While mostly known for blending genres, The Outsider bounces back and forth from crunk to hyphy to blues to rock to industrial and beyond.
- Last Note Nightmare - Endtroducing ends with the atmospherically unnerving "Transmission 3", with an ominous spoken-word sample being buried and smothered under sinister, fuzzy ambience. There's even a Twin Peaks sample near the end.
- Lonely Guitar Piece - "Triplicate/Something Happened That Day"
- Instrumentals - 99% of his songs are this or just feature short samples of Spoken Word in Music.
- Mixed Metaphor: One of his songs is titled Building Steam With A Grain Of Salt. While the song has no real lyrics (just samples), based on the normal meaning of the idioms, the title would seem to translate to something like "Working hard despite being uncertain about one's task, cause, etc.".
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly - Hip-Hop, Electronic Music, Drum'n'Bass, Ambient, Jazz, Funk, Soul, 60's Pop...
- New Sound Album: The Outsider, to the point where it has collaborating artists.
- The I Gotta Rokk and I'm Excited EPs are showing The Less You Know, The Better to be more of a rock album.
- Really, all of them have a different sound from the others. Endtroducing has a dirtier, hip-hop sound, The Private Press is cleaner and more experimental, The Outsider has the aforementioned collaborations and The Less You Know, The Better is more of a rock album.
- One-Woman Wail - Man, he loves using this.
- Punny Name
- "Organ Donor" (an organ-based track)
- Sampling / Sampled Up: But of course.
- Self-Deprecation: The artwork for the "I Gotta Rokk" single features various digital gadgets making snide remarks about Shadow and his relevancy in modern music. Lately these same characters have been popping up on different pages of his website committing acts of vandalism, such as drawing a moustache on his photo,◊ ripping the page apart,◊ or apparently throwing out his entire discography.◊ This seems to be a commentary on the public's opinion of him since The Outsider, particularly in online message boards where it's particularly easy to go along with someone else's negative opinion. It seems likely this will be a running theme during the Less You Know era.
- Spoken Word in Music: Often incorporated throughout his music in samples.
- Studio Chatter
- Subdued Section
- Take That!: One of the short songs on his first album is called "Why Hip-Hop Sucks in '96." The song itself consists of 45 seconds of a laid back Dr. Dre type beat, as was popular in 1996, then has a quick sample of someone (namely Shadow's friend and occasional collaborator Lyrics Born) saying "It's the money!"
- Textless Album Cover: Endtroducing.....
- You Can't Go Home Again: He has a song with that title, natch. Surprisingly upbeat, tho'.