26 Songs, 1 Hour 31 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Over the course of the last three decades, DJ Shadow has done plenty to change how we hear hip-hop and electronic music. On his sixth studio LP, the double-length Our Pathetic Age, he does it once more. “It’s not something I ever really thought about until it was suggested by a friend,” Shadow tells Apple Music. “It kept running around in my head, ‘What if I tried to do a double record?’ It became the goal.” The first half of the album features the genre-less, rule-breaking instrumentals he’s been making since his game-changing 1996 debut, Endtroducing...... In the second part, his beats tease the best out of a diverse group of rappers, including Nas, Pharoahe Monch and three Wu-Tang members, plus younger MCs such as Dave East, Loyle Carner and Wiki. “When I work with songwriters and vocalists, it’s a chance to open up a little bit and be influenced by the creative energy of someone else,” he explains. “I definitely miss—and was inspired by—the era of hip-hop where there was such a diversity in thoughts and ideas. I think that’s one of the reasons why, through the years, I’ve worked with so many different types of MCs and vocalists—because I like a little bit of everything.” Here, DJ Shadow talks us through some of Our Pathetic Age’s key tracks.

Firestorm
“When I sat down to start working on the record, I just wanted to do different things, try things I hadn't done before and take a few risks. I didn't tell anybody I was going to [make an entirely orchestral track]. I just started working; it was feeling good and fresh. When you've been making music for 30 years and you end up discovering a little vein or taking a direction that you've never really allowed yourself to take in the past, it's something to take note of. There was something really validating about it.”

Rosie
“I’ve been finding records recently from the early ’60s and late ’50s that are outside the normal parameter of time that I like to look around in—and I’ll find an unusual sound. The sample here has a folky, gospel kind of quality, and then I unwittingly worked my way through three different eras of production. The first part felt a bit like what I would've done at a point in my career maybe 15 years ago; then the second part of the song, where the beat really deviates, represents a more contemporary sound. The third phase is more melodic. On this record, I really worked at writing melodies and working more with synths, just trying to elevate that side of my game as a producer.”

Rain on Snow (feat. Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah & Raekwon)
“Ever since their first [single] in late ’92, I’ve been a Wu-Tang Clan fan. I actually DJed for a lot of the Wu-Tang guys on one of their first trips together to the West Coast. I was guest DJing on a radio station called The Beat, they showed up. The host of the show asked them to freestyle, so I played with them, literally 25 years ago, but I don't think anybody remembers it. On this track, the verses actually came in the order they appear, so [Inspectah] Deck set it off, and I think his verse is incredible. They were all just really cool about taking direction and seemed genuinely concerned like, 'Are you into it? Do you need me to redo it?' Which is refreshing when you’re working with another artist.”

Kings & Queens (feat. Run The Jewels)
“I've had so much admiration for the path that [Run The Jewels MC and producer] EL-P has taken through the years. We became known around the same time in the mid-'90s and I've been a fan ever since. I used to write to him, like eight or nine years ago, and say, ‘This is incredible what you’re doing, it’s really inspirational. Keep going!’ So it was cool to be able to work with him and [Run The Jewels rapper Killer] Mike on [2016 single] ‘Nobody Speak’. For this album, we didn't want to do ‘Nobody Speak’ part two or even attempt to do something that had a similar energy or a similar trajectory. So I gave them that beat, which is very Three 6 Mafia- and UGK-inspired, and I think it resonated with them right away.”

Been Use Ta (featuring Pusha T)
“I’ll sit around and talk with my label, Mass Appeal, and Nas, who's the co-owner. We'll kind of spitball ideas about who I want to work with. One of the guys at Mass Appeal was like, ‘Would you work with Pusha?’ I said, ‘Of course.’ That was in November [2018]. I sent the beats and then around May [his vocal] just sort of showed up in my inbox, and I was like, ‘Wow! OK. It's on!’ It was just super easy and pretty amazing.”

EDITORS’ NOTES

Over the course of the last three decades, DJ Shadow has done plenty to change how we hear hip-hop and electronic music. On his sixth studio LP, the double-length Our Pathetic Age, he does it once more. “It’s not something I ever really thought about until it was suggested by a friend,” Shadow tells Apple Music. “It kept running around in my head, ‘What if I tried to do a double record?’ It became the goal.” The first half of the album features the genre-less, rule-breaking instrumentals he’s been making since his game-changing 1996 debut, Endtroducing...... In the second part, his beats tease the best out of a diverse group of rappers, including Nas, Pharoahe Monch and three Wu-Tang members, plus younger MCs such as Dave East, Loyle Carner and Wiki. “When I work with songwriters and vocalists, it’s a chance to open up a little bit and be influenced by the creative energy of someone else,” he explains. “I definitely miss—and was inspired by—the era of hip-hop where there was such a diversity in thoughts and ideas. I think that’s one of the reasons why, through the years, I’ve worked with so many different types of MCs and vocalists—because I like a little bit of everything.” Here, DJ Shadow talks us through some of Our Pathetic Age’s key tracks.

Firestorm
“When I sat down to start working on the record, I just wanted to do different things, try things I hadn't done before and take a few risks. I didn't tell anybody I was going to [make an entirely orchestral track]. I just started working; it was feeling good and fresh. When you've been making music for 30 years and you end up discovering a little vein or taking a direction that you've never really allowed yourself to take in the past, it's something to take note of. There was something really validating about it.”

Rosie
“I’ve been finding records recently from the early ’60s and late ’50s that are outside the normal parameter of time that I like to look around in—and I’ll find an unusual sound. The sample here has a folky, gospel kind of quality, and then I unwittingly worked my way through three different eras of production. The first part felt a bit like what I would've done at a point in my career maybe 15 years ago; then the second part of the song, where the beat really deviates, represents a more contemporary sound. The third phase is more melodic. On this record, I really worked at writing melodies and working more with synths, just trying to elevate that side of my game as a producer.”

Rain on Snow (feat. Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah & Raekwon)
“Ever since their first [single] in late ’92, I’ve been a Wu-Tang Clan fan. I actually DJed for a lot of the Wu-Tang guys on one of their first trips together to the West Coast. I was guest DJing on a radio station called The Beat, they showed up. The host of the show asked them to freestyle, so I played with them, literally 25 years ago, but I don't think anybody remembers it. On this track, the verses actually came in the order they appear, so [Inspectah] Deck set it off, and I think his verse is incredible. They were all just really cool about taking direction and seemed genuinely concerned like, 'Are you into it? Do you need me to redo it?' Which is refreshing when you’re working with another artist.”

Kings & Queens (feat. Run The Jewels)
“I've had so much admiration for the path that [Run The Jewels MC and producer] EL-P has taken through the years. We became known around the same time in the mid-'90s and I've been a fan ever since. I used to write to him, like eight or nine years ago, and say, ‘This is incredible what you’re doing, it’s really inspirational. Keep going!’ So it was cool to be able to work with him and [Run The Jewels rapper Killer] Mike on [2016 single] ‘Nobody Speak’. For this album, we didn't want to do ‘Nobody Speak’ part two or even attempt to do something that had a similar energy or a similar trajectory. So I gave them that beat, which is very Three 6 Mafia- and UGK-inspired, and I think it resonated with them right away.”

Been Use Ta (featuring Pusha T)
“I’ll sit around and talk with my label, Mass Appeal, and Nas, who's the co-owner. We'll kind of spitball ideas about who I want to work with. One of the guys at Mass Appeal was like, ‘Would you work with Pusha?’ I said, ‘Of course.’ That was in November [2018]. I sent the beats and then around May [his vocal] just sort of showed up in my inbox, and I was like, ‘Wow! OK. It's on!’ It was just super easy and pretty amazing.”

TITLE TIME

More By DJ Shadow