Endtroducing….. a classic album retrospective


I laid in the couch that I barely fit in. I was restless and my head was practically splitting open with pain. These were not ailed by the cold from my living room that prevailed over all other senses. I simultaneously wanted to punch a wall while escaping through the comfort of slumber. Knowing that I wouldn’t be sleeping any time soon I glanced at my phone and remembered that I had bought a digital copy of an album that I was recommended earlier that day. I put on my headphones and listened. Although my physical conditions did not change, the music helped me cope with them through that long night.

This was the first time that I listened to DJ Shadow’s modern classic “Endtroducing…..” and it ignited an intense fascination within me towards that era of music that I still have to this day. I thought that because of this I’d look at the album in retrospect, show what went into it, and its subsequent influence that innumerable artists have taken from it even today.

In the early days of DJ Shadow’s career he hung out with the people who worked at a University of California radio station: KVDS. He eventually worked there as a disc jockey and gained further recognition from that job. This included working with Solesides: an underground hip hop crew lead by rapper Lyrics Born. It is through this that he would be signed to Mo’ Wax records through James Lavelle, and where his genre bending early work would begin.

Through Mo’ Wax DJ Shadow put out a handful of singles that were extremely well received by critics. One of which coined the term “Trip Hop” to describe his eclectic and downtempo style. During this period he also collaborated with another trailblazing artist “DJ Krush” who was putting together his first project through Mo’ Wax: “Strictly Turntablized.” This sample based production would come to be what defined the label. This also was around the time DJ Shadow started to work on “Endtroducing…..”

In the early stages of production in 1994 DJ Shadow was operating out of his apartment in Sacramento with records in huge piles on the floor. This was because he set out to make an entirely sample based album. He would compose “Endtroducing…..” with an Akai MPC60 and an early version of Pro Tools he was borrowing. He would mainly record samples from his turntable and manipulate them on his MPC60. He would mostly acquire these samples from Rare Records, who after building an extensive reputation with, gave him access to their basement. The basement was, as Shadow describes: “My own little nirvana.” with records filling the shelves and stacked up to the ceiling. Most of the samples on “Endtroducing…..” would be pulled from this basement.

Because of the unrestricted approach DJ Shadow had towards what music he sampled, the genres that the album pulls from are wildly diverse. These range from Tangerine Dream, Björk, Metallica, and “The Prince of Darkness” soundtrack. He took the samples from all of these genres and combined them to make one lo-fi, downtempo, and nocturnal atmosphere. Some tracks still have the record crackles that vinyl gets when damaged or dusty. The production is exceptionally detailed with many samples being layered over each other at one time. An example of this is how the drum patterns on select tracks are different with every measure. This makes for a truly dense and repeatable listen while also being easy to listen to. Stand-out tracks include: “Building Steam With a Grain of Salt”, “Stem/Long Stem”, and “Midnight in a Perfect World.” The latter of which was the lead single of the album.

“Endtroducing…..” Was released on September 16, 1996 to widespread critical acclaim with David Bennum of The Guardian saying: “Endtroducing… is not only one of the most daring and original albums of recent times, but also the loveliest.” The lead single, “Midnight in a Perfect World” had prominent airtime on MTV’s “amp.” Even the rock magazine Rolling Stone had to give it praise despite being hard-nosed towards hip-hop at the time.

Into the future, “Endtroducing…..” would have a prominent legacy with Time magazine putting it in their “ALL-TIME 100 albums” list. The production also influenced a wealth of artists since it’s release. Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood cited “Endtroducing…..” as a big influence on their seminal album “Ok Computer.”

The Guinness Book of World Records would later name it as the first entirely sample-based album.

“Endtroducing…..” was truly a landmark record not only because of its compositional achievements but also because of its influence on the industry even to this day. It’s hard to imagine how the evolution of hip-hop would have been if “Endtroducing…..” had never existed.