Shadow (why did he fall off?)

bsuwolfbsuwolf 83 Posts
edited April 2012 in Strut Central
I will preface this by saying that I have been a DJ Shadow fan for a long time and greatly enjoyed/admired his early singles,eps, and first two albums. On the other hand, its pretty fair to say that the general concensus for his last two albums has been that they were mediocere at best (though I do think there were a few solid tracks on The Less You Know The Better) . I was wanting to get the Stut's feedback as to what caused the decline in the overall quality of his releases?

The only thing I have observed is a general decline in the number of samples he uses per track. On the early releases and albums, he would often use 4 or 5 different samples per track where as on the last two albums its mostly one dominate sample with a drum loop. Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to say that more samples = better song ( I am a fan of Madlib and most of his tracks are just a sample loop with drums underneath) ...but in Shadow's case, there seems to be a correlation. It almost appears that the lack of multiple samples has hindered his creativity. And why would he do that...clearence issues?.....Shadow has used some fairly obscure sources in the past so I wouldn't think that would be a problem. Who knows..maybe I am just throwing shit on the wall to see what sticks..

I would be interested in getting the Strut's opinion on what went wrong...
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  • RAJRAJ tenacious local 7,525 Posts
    He lost me when he put out that Hyphy (sp?) record.

    :Hated:

  • The-gafflerThe-gaffler 2,190 Posts
    i saw him not too long ago play in that space orb of his. to tell you the truth, that was pretty wild and kind of a cool idea in it's own fun way i guess.

    it was also the last time i had been around that many off beat white people shaking around to music [which happened to be teh dubstep].

  • ReynaldoReynaldo 6,054 Posts
    He fell off because he tried to do something different musically when he already had a pretty good formula in place that would have carried him through several more albums.

  • jamesjames chicago 1,863 Posts
    RAJ said:
    He lost me when he put out that Hyphy (sp?) record.
    You know what, that record was ultimately not for me, but I'm not mad at it. When it came out, I read some interview with him where he talked about his kids and about having a lengthy daily commute to and from whatever studio he was using at the time, during which he listened to lots of Bay-area rap radio in his car. At some point, he said, he decided that he really wanted the music he was making to be less obscurantist and more a part of the culture that had energized him so much. As far as reasons to pursue more popular sounds go, that's a pretty decent one.

    My biggest problem, as a longtime fan, is that now--after years of overestimating his collaborators and/or underestimating himself--he seems far more willing to present a vision that is far less his own.

  • batmonbatmon 27,574 Posts
    His style isnt adaptable.

  • LaserWolfLaserWolf Portland Oregon 11,517 Posts
    This is something I have been reading about and thinking about a lot recently.
    Not why did Shadow fall off, but rather, how can some people continue to be consistently creative while others have only a brief flash of creative genius?

    It is often the case a songwriter will sign a record deal with 12 songs it took a life time to write, spend a year touring until exhaustion and then be told 'ok record another 12 songs that are just as good'.

    The songwriters and bands who survive this, Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones, Neil Yong, James Brown, and go on to produce their best and most creative work on down the road are the exceptions.

    Songwriters who never again reach the levels of their first endeavor are more often the rule.

    The tin pan alley songwriters of old approached songwriting as craft and were often emotional removed from what ever they were writing. Works great for Broadway writers. But post Dylan/Beatles songwriters are often searching for the inspiration that gave them that first great song.

    Songwriters will often say they have no idea where the songs come from.
    Arlo Guthrie says it is like fishing and you just hope Bob Dylan isn't fishing upstream from you.

    I was listening to Sandy Denny's first recording of Who Knows Where The Time Goes with the Strawbs.
    I think she was 18 when she wrote it.


  • I read the 331/3 book about Endrtoducing (basically just one long interview). Shadow talks a lot about being depressed and alone while making that album. Nights and nights, hours and hours of working on this cohesive, intricate document, while existing in that particular mindset. He said at one point it became unclear wether his depression was feuling the music or the music feuling his depression. Then he made it, it was a masterpiece. People loved it. He got happy. Got married. Had fun, etc, etc???

  • batmonbatmon 27,574 Posts
    Dude is too dowdy to be a star.

    Just play the back and make beats for somebody.

  • dowdiness is the new signifier for 'realness' a la alabama shakes, adele, etc...

    i enjoyed his stuff in the early 90's. it was different, progressive and good. then that "sound" (which in truth he jacked from david axelrod and others) got jacked by everyone and suddenly it started turning up in car commercials etc.. so maybe he just wanted to get away from all that. the same thing seemed to happen to portishead, his contemporary.

    sadly, everyone would probably been better off if both groups had taken rey's advice and just stayed in their wheelhouse for a couple of more albums to cement their careers and fanbase. for what it's worth i also think "tusk" was a mistake, they should have just done "rumours II".

    everything is so clear in hindsight.

  • batmonbatmon 27,574 Posts
    crabmongerfunk said:
    dowdiness is the new signifier for 'realness' a la alabama shakes, adele, etc...

    Adele is far from the earthtone frumpiness that the many of those backpackers rock.

    Zero star power.

  • bassiebassie 11,710 Posts
    crabmongerfunk said:
    dowdiness is the new signifier for 'realness' a la alabama shakes, adele, etc...

    Whoa. Adele is not in any way dowdy.

  • rootlesscosmorootlesscosmo 12,848 Posts
    shadow lost cause of that thing on his chin.

  • The_Hook_UpThe_Hook_Up 8,182 Posts
    time, especially in the music game has been distorted somehow. It has been what 16 years since "Entroducing"? Name another artist who has stayed at the top of the game 16 years after their signature work? All the Zeppelin LPs happened in 10 years, all of the Beatles happened in 8 years, etc..you see where I'm going with this. To think an artist can maintain some sort of being on top/making important work for more than a decade is very very rare. It does happen, but it is a preciously short list.

  • edulusedulus 421 Posts
    LaserWolf said:
    This is something I have been reading about and thinking about a lot recently.
    Not why did Shadow fall off, but rather, how can some people continue to be consistently creative while others have only a brief flash of creative genius?

    It is often the case a songwriter will sign a record deal with 12 songs it took a life time to write, spend a year touring until exhaustion and then be told 'ok record another 12 songs that are just as good'.

    The songwriters and bands who survive this, Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones, Neil Yong, James Brown, and go on to produce their best and most creative work on down the road are the exceptions.

    Songwriters who never again reach the levels of their first endeavor are more often the rule.

    The tin pan alley songwriters of old approached songwriting as craft and were often emotional removed from what ever they were writing. Works great for Broadway writers. But post Dylan/Beatles songwriters are often searching for the inspiration that gave them that first great song.

    Songwriters will often say they have no idea where the songs come from.
    Arlo Guthrie says it is like fishing and you just hope Bob Dylan isn't fishing upstream from you.

    I was listening to Sandy Denny's first recording of Who Knows Where The Time Goes with the Strawbs.
    I think she was 18 when she wrote it.


    So I think to better reframe the question, would you be satisfied if Shadow put out 5 albums over the course of 20 years that were slight modifications on the formula that was Endtroducing?

    His music changed, it was a conscious and unconscious choice that on its own is neither good nor bad, but the results as judged by his current fans were that why don't you just make Endtroducing part 3?

    Would you rather have an artist make the same album over and over again with slight modifications or actually try something different? I think we say "oh we want something different", but we all criticize them when they fail at making it "good".

  • batmonbatmon 27,574 Posts
    The_Hook_Up said:
    To think an artist can maintain some sort of being on top/making important work for more than a decade is very very rare. It does happen, but it is a preciously short list.


    :off_the_wall:

    MJ - '69 to Thriller '83................Bad/Dangerous?

  • LaserWolfLaserWolf Portland Oregon 11,517 Posts
    batmon said:
    The_Hook_Up said:
    To think an artist can maintain some sort of being on top/making important work for more than a decade is very very rare. It does happen, but it is a preciously short list.


    :off_the_wall:

    MJ - '69 to Thriller '83................Bad/Dangerous?

    It is very rare.

    James Brown '56 to '80,
    Ray Charles
    Bob Dylan

    It certainly is not about making the same record over and over or again.
    It is about being able to be creative (and of a high caliber) over and over again.

    Even doing it for a decade is rare.

  • cuz he's wack

  • AlmondAlmond 1,427 Posts
    If Entroducing had been DJ Shadow's second or third album, our perspective would be different. The fact that his first major album was his magnum opus was pretty double-edged: he secured his place as a big-name DJ, but he'd never be able to do anything else without us comparing it to E. As for that album, it was pivotal when it came to sampling and instrumental hip-hop, but not every good album can be a game-changer like E was.

    In interviews he seems like a moody introvert who's constantly trying to reconcile the part of him that just loves obscure records with the part of him that has to please the fans. But he's still selling tickets to his shows where he DJs in that giant bubble thing, so I guess he hasn't fallen off quite yet.

  • nope. it's because he is, was and always will be wack.

  • sticky_dojahsticky_dojah New York City...humanheadnyc.com 2,109 Posts
    Haters Gonna Hate...


  • batmonbatmon 27,574 Posts
    dude is talented but the Hip Hop instumental genre was always kinda niche.

  • Never heard "Endtroducing" simply because every white dude I knew was all of a sudden into hip hop and they told me how great he was. Same dudes who had been goin to raves and waving glow sticks were now giving me hip hop recommendations. No thanks...I heard Brainfreeze much later and i could appreciate it but i always liked Cut Chemist.

  • ^^^ funny!

  • akoako 3,409 Posts
    some of my favorite dj shadow tracks were non-album cuts

    for example:


  • LoopDreamsLoopDreams 1,193 Posts
    batmon said:
    dude is talented but the Hip Hop instumental genre was always kinda niche.

    Yeah but Endtroducing transcended the genre I think, it had a crazy mood and it's a shame it never was followed up by a couple more equally moody mo fo's. Maybe Shadow got medicated. He did some crazy good prod work after, like Quannum:Spectrum, ect... And he's still buying stupid wax... Frank knows.
    The sample law's must have cramped his style too.

  • akoako 3,409 Posts
    LoopDreams said:
    The sample law's must have cramped his style too.

    forgive the ignorance, but what has changed since '92, 4 years before endtroducing was released? i dont keep up with sample law much.

  • LoopDreamsLoopDreams 1,193 Posts
    I'm the wrong dude to ask. All I know is that sample based breaks peaked in the mid nineties w/ labels like skint, mowax, wall of sound, ninja tunes, G stone, Tommy Touch, Grand Central, Warp etc... putting out break beats by the pound. Then it died at the end of the decade. I think people lost they're taste for the litigation that ensued.

    Found this Shadow quote from '09:

    Source: Ripped, by Greg Kot

    ???I put out records with hundreds of uncleared samples to this day, but I try to clear the ones that I think are most likely to cause a problem. I live in fear of getting a call five minutes from now with some lawyer saying, ???We want your house.??? I try to be conscious of who could be litigious, who could make a fuss over even a four-bar sample of a bass line. Which publishing companies are dangerous, which labels are watching. I???ve also learned the hard way that avant-garde jazz musicians listen. It doesn???t matter if they pressed two hundred copies of a record you sampled, they are out there and they will catch you.???

    It sounds like his style is being cramped

  • Jonny_PaycheckJonny_Paycheck 17,825 Posts
    I don't know. Sometimes you lose the thread.

    You can still sample whatever you want.

  • DORDOR Two Ron Toe 9,786 Posts
    Jonny_Paycheck said:
    You can still sample whatever you want.

    Yeah, Just ask Girl Talk.

  • Jonny_PaycheckJonny_Paycheck 17,825 Posts
    DOR said:
    Jonny_Paycheck said:
    You can still sample whatever you want.

    Yeah, Just ask Girl Talk.

    I mean, yeah. Or DJ Burn One. Or Flo-Rida.

    The game has changed. But you cannot lose if you do not play.
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