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Endtroducing.....

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Endtroducing.....
Two men look through vinyl albums at a record store.
Studio album by DJ Shadow
Released September 16, 1996
Recorded 1994–96
Studio The Glue Factory, San Francisco
Genre
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: November 19, 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 by American music producer DJ Shadow, released on September 16, 1996 by the British independent record label Mo' Wax Recordings. It is composed almost entirely of sampled content, most of which originated from vinyl records. It features moody, slow tracks and upbeat jams reminiscent of Shadow's early hip hop influences. Shadow produced Endtroducing over two years using minimal equipment, most notably the Akai MPC60 sampler.

In the United Kingdom, where DJ Shadow had already established himself as a rising act, Endtroducing received critical acclaim, reached the top twenty of the Albums Chart and was certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). Mo' Wax issued four singles, including the chart hits "Midnight in a Perfect World" and "Stem". However, it took considerably longer for the album to find success in the United States. After promoting the album and returning to his hometown of Davis, California, DJ Shadow devoted his time to creating new music. After this period, significant interest in Endtroducing began to build in the American music press, and the album peaked at 37 on the American Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart.

Endtroducing ranked highly on various lists of the best albums of 1996, and has since appeared in several publications' lists of the decade's greatest albums. The album is considered a landmark work in instrumental hip hop, with DJ Shadow's innovative sampling techniques and arrangements influencing other producers to create similar sample-based works.

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.[2] As a high school student, he had experimented with a four-track recorder to create music from samples,[3] inspired by sample-based music such as It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988) by American hip hop group Public Enemy.[4] His KDVS work impressed A&R representative Dave "Funken" Klein, who signed him to the Hollywood BASIC label to produce music and remixes.[4] 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 signed DJ Shadow to his Mo' Wax label.[5]

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."[6] Mixmag journalist Andy Pemberton coined the term "trip hop" in June 1994 to describe "In/Flux" and similar tracks played in London clubs at the time.[7] DJ Shadow's follow-up single "What Does Your Soul Look Like" topped the British independent music charts.[6] Following this period, he began work on his debut album, intent on capturing the downbeat mood that characterized his first singles.[8] He chose the title Endtroducing as "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."[8]

Production[edit]

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

DJ Shadow started work on the album in 1994 in his California apartment before moving to the Glue Factory, the home studio of music producer and colleague Dan the Automator.[9] DJ Shadow strove to create an entirely sample-based album.[4] His setup was minimal, with only three main pieces of equipment: an Akai MPC60 sampler, a Technics SL-1200 turntable and an Alesis ADAT tape recorder.[4] The MPC60 was used for almost all composition.[10] DJ Shadow sampled vinyl albums and singles accumulated from his trips to Rare Records, a record shop in his native Sacramento, where he would spend several hours each day searching for music.[11] His routine is depicted in the 2001 documentary Scratch.[12] A photograph of Rare Records appears on the album cover.[11]

Endtroducing samples music including hip hop, jazz, funk, psychedelia, and heavy metal, as well as films and interviews.[13] DJ Shadow layered, programmed, and cut samples into fragments to create tracks.[14] He opted to sample more obscure selections, making it a personal rule to avoid popular material; he said: "I've always pushed myself to use obscure things, and if I use something obvious, it's usually only to break my own rules."[4] Samples of prominent artists such as Björk and Metallica are, however, present throughout the record.[15] Minor vocal contributions were provided by American rappers Lyrics Born and Gift of Gab, both friends of DJ Shadow.[16]

Composition[edit]

DJ Shadow describes his albums as "really varied", and said of Endtroducing : "I feel like 'Organ Donor' sounds nothing like 'The Number Song' which sounds nothing like 'Midnight' and on and on."[18] He said he was often depressed during the production of the album and that "[his] feelings of self-doubt and self-esteem come through in the music."[19][20]

Endtroducing is opened by "Best Foot Forward", a brief 48-second collage of record scratching and various hip hop vocal samples.[17] "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.[13][21] "The Number Song" is characterized by its usage of various breakbeats and vocal samples of count-offs.[22] "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.[17][23] It segues into the first of three "transmissions" placed throughout the album, each featuring a recurring sample from the film Prince of Darkness (1987).[24] "What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 4)" evokes "uneasy futurism and techno-anxiety" and fuses a "rolling bass groan" with wordless, robotic chants.[25] Track six is an untitled interlude featuring a man reciting a monologue about "Maureen and her five sisters" over a funk sample.[26]

The album's second half is opened by the two-part "Stem/Long Stem", which recalls genres such as ambient and jungle.[27] DJ Shadow's trademark drum chopping is juxtaposed with several other diverse sampled parts, including string movements, comedy routines, film soundtracks, and blues music.[17][28] 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."[28] "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".[17][25] "Organ Donor" is structured around a chopped-up organ solo backed by a funk breakbeat.[17] "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 voice proclaiming: "It's the money!"[29]

"Midnight in a Perfect World" layers a soulful vocal line and a slow drum beat.[17][30] It is based around mournful piano sampled from David Axelrod's 1969 song "The Human Abstract".[31] "Napalm Brain/Scatter Brain" builds slowly, starting with a bassline and a looped drum break before its tempo speeds and additional instrumentation enters;[17] the track eventually reaches its climax and deconstructs itself, leaving a single string sample playing by its conclusion.[21] 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.[25] The track eventually transitions into a third and final "transmission", which closes the album with the words "It is happening again" spoken by an "enigmatic" voice, that of The Giant from the television series Twin Peaks.[32]

Release[edit]

Endtroducing was released by Mo' Wax on September 16, 1996 in the United Kingdom and on November 19, 1996 in the United States.[33][34][35] DJ Shadow promoted the album through various interviews and press appearances.[36] The album performed well in the United Kingdom, spending three weeks on the UK Albums Chart and peaking at number 17.[37] It also managed to chart in the Netherlands, where it peaked at number 75.[38] "Midnight in a Perfect World" had previously been released as the album's first single in September, and it was released to American college and modern rock stations in January 1997.[39][40] 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.[15][41] "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.[41][42] 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.[41] 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.[43]

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.[36] He felt 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.[36] DJ Shadow found himself compelled to produce new tracks such as "High Noon" as a way of expressing his feelings at the time.[44] Following this period, interest in DJ Shadow's work grew in the United States; newspapers ran stories on Endtroducing and DJ Shadow received several phone calls a day, enough to convince him to hire a manager.[36] Endtroducing eventually entered the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart and peaked at number 37.[45]

A deluxe edition of Endtroducing was released on June 7, 2005.[46] It includes a second disc of B-sides, remixes, and demo material entitled Excessive Ephemera and liner notes by DJ Shadow discussing the making of the album.[46][47] A second deluxe edition commemorating the album's 20th anniversary, Endtrospective, was released on October 28, 2016, featuring demo material, alternate takes, live versions, the remix album Endtroducing... Re-Imagined, additional photography and expanded liner notes.[48]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[35]
Alternative Press 5/5 stars[49]
Christgau's Consumer Guide A+[50]
Entertainment Weekly A−[51]
The Guardian 5/5 stars[52]
NME 8/10[53]
Pitchfork 10/10[54]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[55]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 5/5 stars[56]
Spin 9/10[23]

Endtroducing received widespread acclaim from critics.[6] Alternative Press called it "an undeniable hip-hop masterpiece" showing "DJ Shadow remembers that sampling is an art form",[49] while David Bennun from The Guardian said the record was "not only one of the most daring and original albums of recent times, but also one of the loveliest."[52] In Playboy, Robert Christgau claimed that while listeners unfamiliar with its style of music would not find the tracks as powerful, "they are so rich and eclectic, and spun out with such a sense of flow, that this album establishes the kind of convincing aural reality other British techno experimenters only fantasize about."[57] 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."[58] 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".[59]

Jon Wiederhorn of Entertainment Weekly likened Endtroducing to "a surreal film soundtrack on which jazz, classical, and jungle fragments are artfully blended with turntable tricks and dialogue snippets" and commended that it "takes hip-hop into the next dimension",[51] while Simon Williams of NME called DJ Shadow "both slyly knowing and brilliantly naive, fusing the dramatic and the deranged to his own sweet end."[53] 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."[23] Tony Green of JazzTimes commended DJ Shadow's "unerring ear for motif and texture".[60] Jon Wiederhorn of Q 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."[61]

Endtroducing appeared in numerous critics' lists of the best albums of 1996. The album topped the year-end polls of Muzik and OOR,[62][63] while placing second in Melody Maker's.[64] It was voted fourth place on The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics' poll for 1996.[65] In his dean's list, poll creator Robert Christgau named Endtroducing the best album of the year.[66] The album also ranked in the top ten of year-end lists by The Face,[67] the Los Angeles Times,[68] Mojo,[69] NME,[70] and Vox.[71]

Legacy[edit]

Endtroducing frequently appears in critics' lists of the greatest albums.[72] Publications including Q,[73] Rolling Stone,[74] Spin,[27] Pitchfork,[75] and Slant Magazine,[76] have placed it in their lists of best albums of the 1990s. Time included Endtroducing in their list of the 100 greatest albums of all time.[77] According to Mojo, "A decade on, DJ Shadow's affirmatory essay on record collecting as a creative endeavour has lost none of its grandeur."[78] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic wrote that the album is "innovative, but it builds on a solid historical foundation, giving it a rich, multi-faceted sound," calling it "not only a major breakthrough for hip-hop and electronica, but for pop music."[35] Will Hermes, writing in Spin, called Endtroducing "trip-hop's crowning achievement",[79] and Jeff Weiss of the Los Angeles Times wrote that it defined American trip hop.[80] The album was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[81]

The album's use of samples is considered groundbreaking; Guinness World Records cited it as being the first to be created entirely from samples.[82] It was a driving force in the development of instrumental hip hop music, inspiring several DJs and producers to create sample-based works.[83] Tim Stelloh of PopMatters cited it as the "benchmark" for the genre.[84] The British rock band Radiohead cited Endtroducing as an influence on their album OK Computer (1997), saying they "liked how [DJ Shadow] was cutting up beats quite minutely".[27] Several of the artists sampled on Endtroducing, including British rock band Nirvana and American musician David Axelrod, praised the album.[85][86] DJ Shadow expressed his surprise at the album's stature, 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."[27]

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."[87] The acclaim set high expectations for future releases by DJ Shadow,[88] and he expressed his dissatisfaction with being expected to "repeat Endtroducing over and over again".[89] Nonetheless, DJ Shadow clarified that he views the album in a positive light: "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."[90] By April 26, 2005, Endtroducing had sold more than 290,000 copies in the United States alone.[46]

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" 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"
9:22
8. "Mutual Slump" 4:03
9. "Organ Donor" Davis 1:57
10. "Why Hip Hop Sucks in '96" Davis 0:41
11. "Midnight in a Perfect World"
5:02
12. "Napalm Brain/Scatter Brain" Davis 9:23
13. "What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 1 – Blue Sky Revisit)" / "Transmission 3" 7:28
Total length: 63:26
Sample credits[91]
  • "Building Steam with a Grain of Salt" contains samples of "I Feel a New Shadow", written and performed by Jeremy Storch.
  • "Changeling" / "Transmission 1" contains samples of "Invisible Limits", written by Peter Baumann, Christopher Franke, and Edgar Froese and performed by Tangerine Dream.
  • "What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 4)" contains samples of "The Vision and the Voice", written by Ray Smith and performed by The Flying Island.
  • "Stem/Long Stem" / "Transmission 2" contains samples of "Love Suite", written by Patrick Campbell-Lyons and Alex Spyropoulos and performed by Nirvana.
  • "Mutual Slump" contains samples of "Possibly Maybe", written by Björk Guðmundsdóttir, Paul Andrew Hooper, and Marius van Wyk de Vries and performed by Björk.
  • "Midnight in a Perfect World" contains samples of "Sower of Seeds", written and performed by Baraka, and "Sekoilu Seestyy" (English: "The Madness Subsides"), written and performed by Pekka Pohjola.
  • "What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 1 – Blue Sky Revisit)" / "Transmission 3" contains samples of "The Voice of the Saxophone", written by Jimmy Heath and performed by The Heath Brothers, and "All Our Love", written and performed by Shawn Phillips.[92]

Personnel[edit]

Credits for Endtroducing adapted from album liner notes.[91]

Charts[edit]

Chart (1996–97) Peak
position
Dutch Albums (MegaCharts)[38] 75
UK Albums (OCC)[93] 17
US Heatseekers Albums (Billboard)[94] 37

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Canada (Music Canada)[95] Gold 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[96] Gold 100,000^

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

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