DJ Shadow’s Mighty Mountain Will Fall

Ask DJ Shadow Returns!

LONG BEFORE DJ Shadow became an electro-hop legend, he was answering questions online from scrubs like me. Where did you get the guitar riff for “High Noon?” Who the hell was Colonel Bagshot? Do you owe David Axelrod back pay? Then he got too busy to bother.

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Private Pressure: DJ Shadow’s Private Press

DJ Shadow is pressing for privacy in a public way (the only one he’s left with), just as the family he’s sampled — who are sending their personal wax letters from home — are now relating their near-tears or heat-attracting experiences to the general music-buying populace. How strange it would feel to be one of those narrators that Shadow has sampled today, to hear their diary again after all these years and realize that countless millions are experiencing it, too. Wouldn’t lines, expectations and judgments blur considerably more than before?

Like I said, Private Press, indeed. Shadow has ironically withdrawn further into himself the more public he’s become. Which is a good thing, because he’s a brilliant artist whose bad ideas are better than the majority of the good ideas littering the musical landscape. And as long as he keeps sending these weird, personal and very funny letters from home to the world, we’ll be the better readers because of it.

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DJ Shadow + OxFam = OxJam

It’s not a secret Morphizm is a fan of DJ Shadow. But it’s good to see Shadow is a fan of international service. He hooked up with OxFam for an eye-opening trip to Nairobi, which has been documented below. An OxJam Festival kicks off in April. It takes a digital village, people.

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Party Politics: Musical Culture is Safe With DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist and Friends

By the time Cut removed his hat and apron and Shadow finally came onstage, the crowd was ready to roll and, like the originals that the dynamic duo of sample-based musicianship are, they slowed them down to a crawl. That was one indication that their set would consist of more than just songs that everyone already knew, that it in fact would be a self-contained, self-referential exercise unique to hip hop.

“We start down here,” Shadow spoke into the mic, pointing low for emphasis, “and take you up to here,” he continued, pointing higher. “Then we bring you back down here again.”

After heckling the VIPs in the room, which included Beck’s DJ, Swamp, Shadow gave props to the groundlings who had been standing for two to four hours awaiting the show’s final installment, before he and Cut took off on their excursions into 45 heaven and “Rappin’ With Gas.” And while the crowd hooted and hollered sporadically — sometimes prodded into it by the hook from Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” or the urging of the other DJs on the side of the stage — the majority of the time they stood still, watching the deft hands of Shadow and Cut trading 45s, loading up their players, or effortlessly scratching.

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DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist, DJ Shadow, Kid Koala: Grounded in Sound

“Touching vinyl is a guilty pleasure,” L.A. DJ heavyweight Cut Chemist tells me by phone from the Chicago hotel room where he’s chilling before sound check for the Hard Sell Tour, his hat-trick collaboration with NorCal’s equally storied DJ Shadow. “What can I say? Shadow and I like to buy records.”

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DJ Shadow Cries UNKLE

It makes an odd sort of sense that the savior of hip hop, the musical soundtrack of the urban multinational technofuture, would come not from the big cities which claim the music as their own (like NYC and LA) but from the tiny outpost of Davis, CA, an agricultural township whose biggest claim to fame is its agricultural research.

But this just goes to prove DJ Shadow’s point, I believe, and here it is: hip hop is the inner bass of the human race. It defies these geographical associations we demand of artistic exercises. Beat-driven hip-hop is the pulse of the body and the spaces between bodies, the clash of electrons within the soul, the conflation of the muscle and the intellect.

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