DJ Shadow | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

DJ Shadow 

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Although he's been tagged as one of electronica's hottest prospects, DJ Shadow (aka Josh Davis) insists that his music belongs in the hip-hop continuum. Indeed, his debut album, Endtroducing . . . (Mo' Wax/London), which last year capped a string of inventive singles like "In/Flux" and "What Does Your Soul Look Like?," pushed sample-based music to remarkable new heights, but both the stylistic breadth of the samples and Shadow's impressive resourcefulness clearly hark back to the salad days of hip-hop, when figures like Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, and Red Alert fashioned their turntablescapes from countless disparate sources. During the 90s much of hip-hop has grown tediously formulaic and market-driven, turning inward and perpetuating an increasingly narrow slate of commercially proven models, so it's understandable that today's average hip-hop fan might not identify Shadow's dense, expansive, sometimes dreamy instrumental pastiche as hip-hop: he maintains a strong funk edge through his commanding rhythmic foundations, but what he lays over them is anything but predictable. Sounds drift from orchestrally lush to hauntingly noir, but they all serve a somewhat abstract but insistent narrative structure. Shadow's tunes aren't amorphous; they're evocative journeys. Anyone who still questions the artistic validity of sampling needs only to hear a few minutes of "Stem/Long Stem" to recognize not only a meticulous craftsmanship at work, but a distinct musical vision that can't be explained away by technical proficiency. Shadow's set, his Chicago debut, will be broken into two parts: for one he'll re-create pieces from the album, and for the other he'll be joined by rappers Lateef and Lyrics Born, a pair of Shadow proteges who work together as Latyrx. Their recent debut, The Album, on Shadow's Solesides label, further testifies to the potency of the Bay Area's hip-hop scene. Jeru the Damaja and local hip-hop vets Rubberoom open. Sunday, 8 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage; 773-929-5959 or 312-559-1212. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of D.J. Shadow by B+.

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