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DJ Shadow (born Josh Davis) is widely credited as a key figure in developing the experimental instrumental hip-hop style associated with the London-based Mo’ Wax label. Inspired by hip-hop’s early years, he then grew to absorb the heyday of crews like Eric B. & Rakim, Ultramagnetic MCs, and Public Enemy; groups which prominently featured DJs in their ranks.
Josh “Shadow” Davis had already been fiddling around with making beats and breaks on a four-track recorder while he was in high school in the NorCal cow-town of Davis, but it was during college that he co-founded his own Solesides label as an outlet for his original tracks. Hooking up with Davis’ few b-boys (including eventual Solesides artists BlackaLicious and Lyrics Born) through the college radio station, Shadow began releasing the Hip-Hop Reconstruction mix tapes in 1991 and pressed his 17-minute beat-head symphony “Entropy” in 1993. His tracks spread widely through the DJ-strong hip-hop underground, eventually catching the attention of Mo’ Wax.
Shadow’s first full-length, “Endtroducing…”, was released in late 1996 to immense critical acclaim in Britain and America. “Preemptive Strike,” a compilation of early singles, followed in early 1998. Later that year, Shadow produced tracks for the debut album by U.N.K.L.E., a long-time Mo’ Wax production team that gained superstar guests including Thom Yorke (of Radiohead), Richard Ashcroft (of the Verve), Mike D (of the Beastie Boys), and others.
His next project came in 1999, with the transformation of Solesides into a new label, Quannum Projects. Nearly six years after his debut production album, the proper follow-up, “The Private Press,” was released in June 2002. The following year Shadow released a mix album, “Diminishing Returns,” and in 2004 he released a live album and DVD, “Live! In Tune and on Time.” In 2006 he released another long awaited full-length album “The Outsider,” which featured rising Bay Area Hyphy rappers including Keak Da Sneak and E-40. “The Outsider” also featured a single with Q-Tip (of A Tribe Called Quest), which led to Shadow’s first appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman.
Between 2007 and 2009 Shadow released three volumes of “The 4-Track Era Collection,” a series of his earliest recordings. The 4-Track Era project was exclusively available through his web store, ShopDjShadow.com. In the midst of all of these solo projects, DJ Shadow collaborated with fellow hip-hop DJ Cut Chemist. Together they created a series of mixes that fused soul, funk, and rock, in the framework of a cohesive concept involving using only 45 rpm records (7 inches). These mixes include Brainfreeze, Product Placement, and The Hard Sell, which would be debuted at the Hollywood Bowl.
Shadow’s website relaunched in August 2009, enabling him to sell digital downloads direct to his fans through his own autonomous storefront. 2009 also saw the announcement of Shadow’s involvement with DJ Hero, an Activision video game which features Shadow as a playable character within the game. Shadow also contributed several mixes to the game.
While Shadow’s profile has never been higher, he has increasingly shied away from music press and traditional forms of social networking. 2010 saw Shadow hard at work on his next album, which he has called “a return to form,” and a tour throughout Europe and North America entitled “Live From The Shadowsphere.”
2011 promises to be a busy year for DJ Shadow, with new music and a worldwide tour on the way.