DJ SHADOW — A Mix Master Maestro Returns to Prague


DJ Shadow is a pioneering hip-hop turntablist and producer merging electronica with hip-hop and practically no limits to other genres in his creations.

He returns to Prague, since his last appearance in 2012, and with once again a newer sound.

Since 1991 his finesse originally as a master turntablist and sampler (jazz, rock, funk, etc.) has evolved over the years, so beyond the term mix-master, he could be called a post-modern channeler through his music incorporating multi-genre musicians, spoken word, rappers, vocalists and of course, still based on a myriad of samples up his sleeve.

His earliest singles were described by UK music critics with a fresh term (genre) – they called it “trip-hop” to describe this new direction of slow psychedelia influenced hip-hop for labels Mo’Wax and Ninja Tune.

However, his album “Action Adventure” (2023) is light years from this sound. The album cover is a 007-Kung Fu spoof with an Asian assassin-spy, knife in hand, and some of the tunes are in synch with it as if made for video games with high-speed or upbeat melodies; there is some downtime (deep and eerie beats for the hip-hop minded) between high-flying or lush electronica and dance-pop.

The most pop-oriented song is “You Played Me,” essentially a recrafting of a New Jack Swing dance track by Jan Jerome, originally titled “Baby, Got Me Goin” (released in 1990), reborn as a much slower danceable pop, making it sound up-to-date in 2024.

The loudest track is right after this on the album: “Free for All” – it is a sample from a hard-driving 70s rock song, “Loose Goose” by a little-known proto heavy-metal band called Dust. DJ Shadow revives such gems from oblivion for tough-pounding of his own.

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What it all comes down to is that DJ Shadow creates his own music that is resistant to labels, genres or trends, and it reflects his evolving interests and inspirations, so he never seems to sound like he used to. He holds on to the past, but always with a futuristic aim.

DJ Shadow is Josh Davis, born in 1972 in San Jose, California, and he studied at UC Davis where he was a college DJ devoted to funk, jazz, hip-hop and rap, rock, new wave, ambient, and soul.

He is an obsessive record collector and this is his musical foundation while he also uses snippets of American films, TV shows-sitcoms (monologues or their soundtracks) to add multiple layers to his own crafty soundscapes. The voices that he puts into songs tend to have a message that is raw and direct (with poetry in the beats).

DJ Shadow’s most popular albums are his earliest. His debut “Endtroducing” (1996) is a sound-scape of densely layered hip-hop with cinematic, psychedelic, drum & bass, and progressive rock explorations; and then there is “Private Press” (2002) hitting a higher gear with phat break-beats flowing into new wave and indie rock at a head-on collision.

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When it comes to his newer recordings (and live shows) his motto could be most simply put in this way: that was then, this is now. It is music for the open-minded of all ages.

DJ Shadow plays at the Roxy, on March 7th, 2024.

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