Endtroducing (Deluxe Edition)

Endtroducing (Deluxe Edition)

When Josh Davis started out in the early 1990s, hip-hop didn’t have a place for him. First off, he wasn’t working with an MC. Then there was the presentation thing. “To be a club DJ at that time, you had to have a certain panache that just didn’t... it wasn’t in me,” he tells Apple Music in 2021. Hip-hop was social music, the soundtrack for barbecues and block parties. And the DJ, by extension, was the conjurer of a collective energy. Davis had spent the years leading up to his 1996 debut, Endtroducing…, in the basement of a Sacramento record shop, finding new life in what he later called a pile of broken dreams; his quest wasn’t social, it was existential. And when he did try and play parties, he bombed anyway. “Nobody’s really dancing to Ultramagnetic MCs,” he says. “They’re head-nod records. And those are the records I gravitated toward.” Endtroducing…’s liner notes put it like so: “This album reflects of a lifetime of vinyl culture.” But it also presages the hyperlinked world that came after, where narratives are built from fragments and histories rewritten by putting disparate elements in conversation across time, place, and culture. At its core are the same drum breaks that have given hip-hop its spine since the 1970s. But the mood is mellow and reflective, as much a comment on the art form as a contribution to it. “In my own kind of delusion, I thought, ‘Well, maybe I have a voice to offer,’” he remembers. “‘Maybe I can contribute and amplify some of the things about the music and the culture that I feel like had gone by the wayside.’” That Davis was first embraced by an English crowd makes sense. His self-presentation eschewed the regional posturing of American rap, and his sample programming picked up on the broken beats of UK garage and drum ’n’ bass (as evidenced by “Napalm Brain/Scatter Brain” and “Stem/Long Stem”). But his attitude also synced with a generation of techno and dance producers transforming extroverted music into something you could take home with you on headphones—in Davis’ case, Dark Side of the Moon for people raised on Gang Starr. And when Endtroducing…’s motifs recur—such as when the organ of “Stem/Long Stem” reappears on “Organ Donor”—it’s both as the connective tissue of a DJ set, and images at the margins of a dream: It’s an album that comes with its own sense of déjà vu. Throughout the 1990s, rap’s revolutions continued to cycle: From Dr. Dre’s The Chronic to Wu-Tang’s first album to the glossy, pop-friendly sound that dominated the end of the decade. But like Burial’s Untrue, Jamie xx’s In Colour, or any number of sample-based instrumental albums that came out in the decades after Endtroducing…, DJ Shadow’s debut captures a quiet voice outside the bustle of its genre, more a eulogy than play-by-play. Davis’ metaphor for the record-store basement as a pile of broken dreams isn’t just waxing poetic; it’s a gesture of remembrance for the people who gave their life to their art—knowing they’d end up in the basement one day, too. “I want, again, in 2021 or 2022, to be able to sit down and be able to access that ancestor voice that speaks to all artists, you know what I mean?” he says. “That you can feel when it's not accessible, and you can feel when you don't have the passcode and you can’t get through.” Listen to Endtroducing… and you’ll hear it.

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