Into the Shadow of Hip Hop

DJ Shadow's debut album-length, Endtroducing...DJ Shadow, release

will

surprise those who have been listening to his music develop. The

intensity and innovation that is heard on his previous releases (a

must-have EP and some incredible pieces of Mo Wax vinyl) is maintained,

but the changes in style and mood will challenge audiences who were

expecting more of the same. Ironically, Shadow was innovative enough to

get grouped under the new music cliche, the "t" word, trip hop. Though

tossed in this buzz bin, Shadow's intensity was high enough to shut down

any notions that his beats were some sort of blunted dirge music.

Shadow's previous releases displayed an incredible sense of confidence

and security. He grabbed beats from U2's "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" and then

dropped a scary loop from the Eddie Harris' "Live at Newport" record. On

Endtroducing this confidence is heard on tracks like "Mutual Slump"

and

"The Number Song." These tracks have the trademark beats that Shadow is

known for: drums that are arranged in intense grooves and sometime

fluctuate between time signatures. Beats aren't the main focus of this

record, though. Shadow is confident enough to leave wide spaces and use

other sounds that create moods that beg the listener to forget the role

of the DJ as instrumentalist and consider the DJ as a composer.

Unlike other debut releases from djs or hip hop artists, Endtroducing

is

not 60 minutes of Shadow tossing away composition to show off turntable

skills. While this album is how many people will be introduced to

Shadow's music, it is restrained and mature. Rather than killing 45s left

and right to prove turntable power, on "Transmission2" Shadow uses long

dark passages that are painted with cellos and strings. He dares the

listener to use the "t" word and just as you mutter

"tr...tr..tr..tri..ppp-hop" he inserts a song like "Napalm Brian/Scatter

Brain" with crazy drums and non 4/4 beats that say "fuck you, think

again."

Without using any rapping or featured vocals, Shadow unearths the blues

that are buried deep in hip hop. But the blues that are heard on tracks

like "Building Steam With a Grain of Salt" are not self-centered, as

Shadow does the opposite of painting himself as some doomed rapper

lamenting about how tedious it is to have to kill somebody on a Friday

night. His vision has a much larger worldview. Like his name suggests,

DJ

Shadow lets the music dominate Endtroducing rather than ego or

self-image. This can be seen in the wide spaces of the album that he

explores hip hop without use of drums. Instead of beats, you will find

the guttural chanting sounds on the song "What Does Your Sould Look Like

(part 4)." These blues are found deep in the mind in the form of

paranoia and schizophrenia. Check out the screeching oboe sounds on

"Mutual Slump." "Building Steam With a Grain of Salt" doesn't communicate

paranoia in the narrative way that rappers do, but instead attempts to

puts you inside a horror flick with an evil piano loop and spooky female

background vocals.

The exploration of hip hop composition that Shadow has produced for

Endtroducing is risky. There are many fans who will not enjoy this

record

as much as his EP. If you are looking for instant gratification try the

EP first. Charles Mingus had to let the bass take back seat to his

compositions when he decided to explore jazz and blues with a big band.

Like Shadow on the turntable, the music ability of Mingus was much wider

than the ability to play bass. The music that you hear on Endtroducing,

especially tracks like "Transmission 1" or "Transmission 3", shows the

kind of vision that Mingus had when he experimented with the strange

sounds of an orchestra. Like the Mingus big band on "Black Saint and the

Sinner Lady," Shadow can hear hip hop in many combinations of sound,

whether drums are involved or not. These pulsing tones may not sound

"dope" to audiences that are eagerly awaiting the new Wu Tang record.

Some will hear this record and accuse Shadow of giving up the beats to

embrace the "t" word. This is the not the case. Shadow asks his audience

to follow him to a different, sometimes darker, place for hip hop.