DJ Shadow on Why Hip-Hop No Longer Exists, ‘Endtroducing…..’ at 20
Two decades after its release, the success of DJ Shadow‘s Endtroducing….. still surprises the artist behind the iconic beatmaking album. The producer, born Josh Davis, laughs off any rags-to-riches narrative regarding his debut. “People ask me what was it like when the record came out, and my response is always that it was pretty low-key,” he tells Rolling Stone. Twenty years later, Davis’ latest, The Mountain Will Fall, is another bold step for the now 43-year-old California native: Though he has built his career around manipulating the work of other musicians, the album predominantly features his own original compositions.
“My method’s always been to rethink some part of the process that’s going to put me out of my comfort zone and force me to embrace a new way of getting from point A to point B,” Davis says. That method has also included a career-long history of collaborations with artists ranging from Thom Yorke and Depeche Mode to Q-Tip and Run the Jewels, who guest on the new LP along with Nils Frahm, Ernie Fresh and others.
In advance of a September and October U.S. tour in support of The Mountain Will Fall, Davis recently spoke to RS about the future of sampling, the legacy of Endtroducing….. and why real hip-hop may be a bygone art form.
What led to you focusing on original material for this record?
In the process of making the last record, I started to realize that the way I think about sound and also the way I view a lot of contemporary platforms to create sound. To me, there’s three distinct disciplines when it comes to sound. One is the sample vocabulary, one is the live instrumentation vocabulary, and the third is synthetic sound vocabulary like drum machine, software synths, vintage synths. Once I realized all of them were essentially the same when it came to me sampling, it opened me up to being able to utilize whatever I wanted, and especially with the knowledge that in doing so I would be able to have my music occupy a much wider frequency range.
From a creative and a philosophical point of view, I’ve always tried to do this in my music and in my DJ sets as well. I think that’s one of the things that people kind of miss is that I have tried through the years to always update the tools and the message that I use to achieve the end result, which is the art that I make. To me, it’s just about having fun and finding more interesting ways to express yourself. I’ve just never wanted to imitate anybody else. I wanted to learn from all of my heroes, but I didn’t want to emulate them.
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