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Music / DJ Shadow

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Joshua Paul "Josh" Davis (born June 29, 1972) better known as DJ Shadow, is an American DJ, producer and songwriter, known for his groundbreaking use of sampling and massive record collection of 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 between 1993 and 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 respected album.

After Endtroducing....., Shadow 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 was finally released after six years, titled The Private Press. This album saw him slightly reduce his sampling due to increasing fees, focusing mostly on unknown sources, but otherwise continued with his trademark cinematic trip-hop style. While not as well-reviewed as his debut, Press still won acclaim from fans and critics.

A shorter hiatusnote  ensued between Press and Shadow's next album, The Outsider, which retreated a bit from his prog-hop sound, featuring more collaborations with rappers and a few hyphy tracks, to mixed reception. He then continued releasing music throughout the 2010s, scoring a considerably big mainstream hit in "Nobody Speak", his 2016 collaboration with Run the Jewels, which has been used in numerous trailers and commercials.


  • 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)
  • Action Adventure (2023)

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.".
  • 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
    • Endtroducing.
    • "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'.