Endtroducing.....

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Endtroducing.....
Two men look through vinyl albums at a record store.
Studio album by DJ Shadow
Released November 19, 1996 (1996-11-19)
Recorded 1994–96 at The Glue Factory in San Francisco, California
Genre Instrumental hip hop, trip hop
Length 63:26
Label Mo' Wax
Producer DJ Shadow
DJ Shadow chronology
Endtroducing.....
(1996)
Preemptive Strike
(1998)
Singles from Endtroducing.....
  1. "Midnight in a Perfect World"
    Released: September 2, 1996
  2. "Stem"
    Released: October 28, 1996
  3. "What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 1 – Blue Sky Revisit)"
    Released: 1997
  4. "The Number Song (Cut Chemist Party Mix)" / "Painkiller (Kill the Pain Mix)"
    Released: February 23, 1998

Endtroducing..... is the debut studio album of American music producer DJ Shadow, released on November 19, 1996 on the record label Mo' Wax. The album is renowned for being composed almost entirely of sampled content, most of which originated from various vinyl records obtained by DJ Shadow during trips to record shops. Endtroducing..... was produced by Shadow in the span of two years using minimal equipment, most notably the Akai MPC60 sampler. In creating the album's overall atmosphere, he strived to capture the downbeat nature of his previous releases for the Mo' Wax label. The album's content features both moody, slow-paced tracks and upbeat jams reminiscent of DJ Shadow's early hip hop influences.

The album was released to positive reception in the United Kingdom, where DJ Shadow had already established himself as a rising act. It reached the top twenty of the UK Albums Chart and was later certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). Mo' Wax issued four singles to promote the album, including the chart hits "Midnight in a Perfect World" and "Stem". However, it would take considerably longer for Endtroducing..... to find success in the United States. Upon completing promotion of the album and returning to his hometown of Davis, California, DJ Shadow devoted his time to creating new music. Endtroducing..... later managed to peak at number 37 on the American Billboard Top Heatseekers albums chart.

Endtroducing..... received universal acclaim from critics, who praised DJ Shadow's approach to sampling and the beats he created from samples. It ranked highly on various year-end lists of the best albums of 1996. The album is considered to be a landmark work in the instrumental hip hop movement, with DJ Shadow's innovative sampling techniques and arrangements influencing other producers to create similar sample-based works. Endtroducing..... has since appeared in several publications' lists of the decade's greatest albums.

Background[edit]

Two men stand behind a set of turntables.
DJ Shadow (left) with Mo' Wax label head James Lavelle

DJ Shadow began his music career in 1989 as a disc jockey for the University of California, Davis campus radio station KDVS.[1] He had previously experimented with a four-track recorder in his high school years to create music utilizing samples,[2] having been inspired by other sample-based music such as It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988) by American hip hop group Public Enemy.[3] His KDVS work impressed A&R representative Dave "Funken" Klein, leading him to sign DJ Shadow to the Hollywood BASIC label to produce music and remixes.[3] DJ Shadow's output during this period – including the 17-minute long "Entropy" and his work with the Solesides crew – brought him to the attention of British musician James Lavelle, who then signed DJ Shadow to his Mo' Wax label.[4]

DJ Shadow's singles for Mo' Wax – including "In/Flux" and "Lost and Found (S.F.L.)" – were, as Sean Cooper of AllMusic wrote, hailed as "genre-bending works of art that merged elements of funk, rock, hip hop, ambient, jazz, soul, and used-bin found records."[5] Andy Pemberton, a music journalist writing for Mixmag, coined the term "trip hop" in June 1994 to describe "In/Flux" and similar tracks being spun in London clubs at the time.[6] DJ Shadow's follow-up single "What Does Your Soul Look Like" topped the British independent music charts.[5] Following this period, he began work on his debut album, intent on capturing the downbeat mood that characterized his aforementioned three singles.[7] The album was aptly titled Endtroducing....., as according to DJ Shadow, "it signified the fourth and final chapter in a series of pieces that I was doing for Mo' Wax with a certain sound, a certain tone, a certain atmosphere."[7]

Production[edit]

An electronic musical sampler and drum machine.
The Akai MPC60 sampler was used heavily in the production of Endtroducing.....

DJ Shadow started production of the album in 1994, assembling initial work in his California apartment and later using The Glue Factory – the home studio of music producer and colleague Dan the Automator – as his work station.[8] In making Endtroducing....., DJ Shadow strived to create an "entirely 100% sample-based album."[3] His studio set-up was minimal, with only three primary pieces of equipment being utilized in making the album: an Akai MPC60 sampler, a Technics SL-1200 turntable and an Alesis ADAT tape recorder.[3] The Akai MPC60 was particularly instrumental in the production of Endtroducing....., with the sampler being used for almost all composition.[9] DJ Shadow has referred to the device as "the instrument I took seriously in terms of becoming the best at it, or one of the best."[10] He sampled from various vinyl albums and singles accumulated from his trips to Rare Records, a record shop located in his native Sacramento, where he would spend several hours each day searching for music.[11] His routine is depicted in the documentary film Scratch (2002), directed by Doug Pray.[12]

The sampled content on Endtroducing..... originates from various sources, including music of genres ranging from hip hop, jazz, funk, psychedelia, and heavy metal as well as films and interviews.[10] DJ Shadow layered, programmed, and cut samples into smaller fragments to create new tracks.[13] He opted to sample from more obscure selections, making it a personal rule of his to lean away from using more popular material, saying: "I've always pushed myself to use obscure things, and if I use something obvious, it's usually only to break my own rules."[3] Samples of more prominent artists such as Björk and Metallica are, however, present throughout the record.[14] Minor vocal contributions were provided by American rappers Lyrics Born and Gift of Gab, both personal friends of DJ Shadow.[15]

Composition[edit]

The downtempo track "Midnight in a Perfect World" establishes a "nocturnal" mood and develops emotional resonance through its diverse array of samples.[16]

Problems playing this file? See media help.

DJ Shadow has said that his albums "have always been really varied."[17] Speaking of the variation on Endtroducing....., he explained: "Even on an album like Endtroducing [...] I feel like 'Organ Donor' sounds nothing like 'The Number Song' which sounds nothing like 'Midnight' and on and on."[17] DJ Shadow has also said that he was "in despair" and often depressed during the production of the album and that "[his] feelings of self-doubt and self-esteem come through in the music."[18][19]

Endtroducing..... is opened by "Best Foot Forward", a brief 48-second collage of various hip hop vocal samples.[16] "Building Steam with a Grain of Salt" is built around a looped piano melody, with various other musical elements entering throughout the song's duration: interview samples, a women's choir, bass fills, electronically-altered drum kicks, and a funk guitar.[10][20] "The Number Song" is characterized by its usage of various breakbeats and vocal samples of count-offs.[21] "Changeling" is reminiscent of New Age music and differs from the fast-paced nature of the album's previous tracks, slowly building up as more samples are mixed in before finally ending with a "sublimely spacey" coda.[16][22] It segues into the first of three "transmissions" placed throughout the album, each featuring a recurring sample from the film Prince of Darkness (1987).[23] "What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 4)" evokes "uneasy futurism and techno-anxiety" and fuses a "rolling bass groan" with wordless, robotic chants.[24] Track six is an untitled interlude featuring a man reciting a monologue about "Maureen and her five sisters" over a funk sample.[25]

The album's second half is opened by the two-part "Stem/Long Stem", which recalls genres such as ambient and jungle.[26] DJ Shadow's trademark drum chopping is juxtaposed with several other diverse sampled parts, including string movements, comedy routines, film soundtracks, and blues music.[16][27] Andy Kellman of AllMusic describes it as a "suite of often melancholy music, a piece that consistently refuses to be pigeonholed into any musical style."[27] "Transmission 2" plays before the album proceeds with "Mutual Slump", a "sedate funk" track featuring female spoken narration and prominent samples of Björk's "Possibly Maybe".[16][24] "Organ Donor" is structured around a chopped-up organ solo backed by a funk breakbeat.[16] "Why Hip-Hop Sucks in '96" – DJ Shadow's commentary on the state of hip hop music at the time – is a brief interlude featuring a looping G-funk-esque beat and a lone voice proclaiming: "It's the money!"[28]

"Midnight in a Perfect World" layers a soulful vocal line and a slow drum beat.[16][29] It is based around mournful piano sampled from David Axelrod's 1969 song "The Human Abstract".[30] "Napalm Brain/Scatter Brain" builds slowly, starting with a bassline and a looped drum break before its tempo speeds and additional instrumentation enters;[16] the track eventually reaches its climax and deconstructs itself, leaving a single string sample playing by its conclusion.[20] Endtroducing..... concludes on a somber note with "What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 1 – Blue Sky Revisit)", a wistful track that blends a warm saxophone hook with a keyboard refrain.[24] The track eventually transitions into a third and final "transmission", which closes the album with the words "It is happening again." being spoken by an "enigmatic" voice sampled from the television series Twin Peaks.[31][32]

Release[edit]

Endtroducing..... was released on November 19, 1996 on Mo' Wax.[33] DJ Shadow promoted the album through various interviews and press appearances.[34] The album performed well in the United Kingdom, spending three weeks on the UK Albums Chart and peaking at number 17.[35] It also managed to chart in the Netherlands, where it peaked at number 75.[36] "Midnight in a Perfect World" had previously been released as the album's first single in September, and a release to American college and modern rock stations followed in January 1997.[37][38] The single's music video, directed by B Plus, received prominent airtime on the MTV program Amp; the single itself peaked at number 54 on the UK Singles Chart.[14][39] "Stem" was released as the album's second single on October 28, 1996, peaking at number 74 in the United Kingdom and at number 14 in Ireland – DJ Shadow's first top twenty hit on a singles chart.[39][40] A remix single of "What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 1 – Blue Sky Revisit)" followed in 1997, reaching a peak position of 54 in the UK.[39] A fourth and final single – a double A-side release featuring American music producer Cut Chemist's remix of "The Number Song" and DJ Shadow's own remix of English electronic music band Depeche Mode's "Painkiller" – was issued on February 23, 1998.[41]

Describing the time spent promoting the album as "some weird roller coaster ride", DJ Shadow was dismayed by the lack of reaction he received upon returning to his hometown of Davis, compared to the thriving attention he had received within the British music scene.[34] He felt that he had been manipulated by the press and his record label and "went from being angry to being depressed about the perceived lack of control [he] had in [his] life."[34] DJ Shadow found himself compelled to produce new tracks such as "High Noon" as a way of expressing his feelings at the time.[42] It was following this period that an interest in DJ Shadow's work began to generate in the United States, with newspapers running stories on Endtroducing..... and DJ Shadow receiving several phone calls a day, enough to convince him to hire his own manager.[34] The album later debuted on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart, where it eventually peaked at number 37.[43] A deluxe edition of Endtroducing..... was released on June 7, 2005.[44] The re-issue includes a second disc of B-sides, remixes, and demo material entitled Excessive Ephemera as well as liner notes by DJ Shadow discussing the album's making.[44][45]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[33]
Alternative Press 5/5 stars[46]
Robert Christgau A+[47]
Entertainment Weekly A−[48]
Pitchfork Media 10/10[49]
PopMatters 10/10[16]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 5/5 stars[50]
Spin 9/10[22]
Slant Magazine 5/5 stars[51]
Stylus Magazine A[45]

Upon its release, Endtroducing..... was met with critical acclaim.[5] In a five-star review, David Bennun of The Guardian cited the album as "not only one of the most daring and original albums of recent times, but also one of the loveliest."[52] Robert Christgau of The Village Voice awarded Endtroducing..... a grade of A+ and described the album as "music and chaos and satire and self-mockery and music all at once."[47] Tom Wilkes of Melody Maker wrote: "The album flips hip hop inside out all over again like a reversible glove, and again, and again, and each time it's sudden and new. I am, I confess, totally confounded by it. I hear a lot of good records, but very few impossible ones... You need this record. You are incomplete without it."[53] Giving it five stars out of five, Alternative Press called Endtroducing..... "an undeniable hip-hop masterpiece", adding: "DJ Shadow remembers that sampling is an art form."[46] Author and rock critic Greil Marcus published a glowing review of the album in his "Real Life Rock Top Ten" column for Interview, where he called it "absolutely modern – which is to say ambient-dreamy and techno-abstract" and "quite brilliant throughout".[54]

Jon Wiederhorn of Entertainment Weekly gave Endtroducing..... a rave review, likening it to "a surreal film soundtrack on which jazz, classical, and jungle fragments are artfully blended with turntable tricks and dialogue snippets" and commenting that the album "takes hip-hop into the next dimension."[48] Sia Michel of Spin said that the album "practically folds you into its symphonic fantasia, the coming-of-age story of a 24-year-old bunk-bed dreamer."[22] Tony Green of JazzTimes commended DJ Shadow's "unerring ear for motif and texture".[55] Jon Wiederhorn of Q magazine also responded favorably, writing: "Shadow's brief is to develop a totally sample-based idiom, weaving a cinematically broad spectrum so deftly layered that the sampling-is-stealing argument falls flat."[56]

Endtroducing..... appeared in numerous critics' lists of the best albums of 1996. The album topped the year-end polls of Muzik and OOR,[57][58] while placing second in Melody Maker's.[59] It was voted fourth place on The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics' poll for 1996.[60] In his dean's list, poll creator Robert Christgau named Endtroducing..... the best album of the year.[61] The album also ranked in the top ten of year-end lists by the The Face,[62] the Los Angeles Times,[63] Mojo,[64] NME,[65] and Vox.[66]

Legacy[edit]

High praise has continued to be forthcoming for Endtroducing..... in the years following its release, with the album frequently appearing in professional lists of greatest albums. Various publications, including Q,[67] Rolling Stone,[68] Spin,[26] Pitchfork Media,[69] and Slant Magazine,[70] have placed the album in their respective lists of best albums of the 1990s. Time included Endtroducing..... in their list of the 100 greatest albums of all-time.[71] "A decade on," wrote Mojo, "DJ Shadow's affirmatory essay on record collecting as a creative endeavour has lost none of its grandeur."[72] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic said of the album: "...it's innovative, but it builds on a solid historical foundation, giving it a rich, multi-faceted sound. It's not only a major breakthrough for hip-hop and electronica, but for pop music."[33] Will Hermes, writing in Spin, called it "trip-hop's crowning achievement".[73]

The almost entirely-sampled nature of Endtroducing..... was considered groundbreaking at the time of its release, and Guinness World Records has cited the album as being the first to be created entirely from sampled sources.[74] The album was a driving force in the development of instrumental hip hop music, inspiring several other disc jockeys and producers to create sample-based works.[75] Tim Stelloh of PopMatters cited it as the "benchmark" for the genre.[76] Guitarist Jonny Greenwood of English alternative rock band Radiohead has cited Endtroducing..... as an influence on his band's critically acclaimed album OK Computer (1997), saying: "We liked how he was cutting up beats quite minutely."[26] Several of the artists sampled on Endtroducing..... – including British progressive rock band Nirvana and American musician David Axelrod – have praised the album.[77][78] DJ Shadow has expressed his surprise at the album's influence and high regard amongst other musicians, saying: "After the record, I'd always bump into these world-class producers who'd say, 'Yeah, Endtroducing..... – what a great piece of production.' I just did it on one sampler in a tiny little studio."[26]

Andy Battaglia of The A.V. Club suggested that the influence of Endtroducing..... may have had a negative effect on the album itself, saying that it "has been partially diluted by the symphonic beat-collage culture it helped spawn."[79] The album's acclaim set considerably high standards for future releases by DJ Shadow,[80] and he has expressed his dissatisfaction with being expected to "repeat Endtroducing..... over and over again".[81] Despite this, DJ Shadow has made it clear that he views the album in a positive light and denies any pressure that may have come about as a result of the album's praise: "...people always seem to suggest that there's this pressure, and that Endtroducing..... is some kind of albatross, and I've just honestly never felt that way. I think that I have a healthy enough respect for the lineage of the music and how rare it is that you can connect with an audience. If that will always be 'the record' then so be it, that's cool."[82]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Best Foot Forward"   Josh Davis 0:48
2. "Building Steam with a Grain of Salt"   Davis, Jeremy Storch 6:41
3. "The Number Song"   Davis 4:38
4. "Changeling" / "Transmission 1"   Davis, Peter Baumann, Christopher Franke, Edgar Froese 7:51
5. "What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 4)"   Davis, Ray Smith 5:08
6. Untitled   Davis 0:24
7. "Stem/Long Stem" / "Transmission 2"   Davis, Patrick Campbell-Lyons, Alex Spyropoulos 9:22
8. "Mutual Slump"   Davis, Björk Guðmundsdóttir, Paul Andrew Hooper, Marius van Wyk de Vries 4:03
9. "Organ Donor"   Davis 1:57
10. "Why Hip Hop Sucks in '96"   Davis 0:41
11. "Midnight in a Perfect World"   Davis, Baraka, Pekka Pohjola 5:02
12. "Napalm Brain/Scatter Brain"   Davis 9:23
13. "What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 1 – Blue Sky Revisit)" / "Transmission 3"   Davis, Jimmy Heath, Shawn Phillips 7:28
Total length:
63:26
Samples

Personnel[edit]

Credits for Endtroducing..... adapted from album liner notes.[83]

Charts[edit]

Chart (1996–97) Peak
position
Dutch Albums (MegaCharts)[36] 75
UK Albums Chart[35] 17
US Billboard Top Heatseekers[43] 37

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Canada (Music Canada)[92] Gold 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[93] Gold 100,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

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