Josh “DJ Shadow” Davis had already been experimenting with making beats and breaks on a four-track recorder while he was in high school in the Nor-Cal college town of Davis, but it was during university 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, eventually catching the attention of The Source magazine and Dave Funkenklein. Shadow was featured in the magazine’s “Unsigned Hype” column in 1991, and Klein signed him to a production deal with Hollywood BASIC records. Concurrently, Shadow provided beats and scratches for Bay Area rapper Paris and was featured on his second album. In 1993, Shadow pressed his 17-minute beat-head symphony “Entropy.” His tracks spread widely through the DJ-strong hip-hop underground, eventually reaching James Lavelle of Mo’ Wax.
Shadow’s first full-length, Endtroducing…, was released on the label in late 1996 to immense critical acclaim in Britain and America. The album has frequently been lauded as one of the most important works of the last 50 years, landing on countless “Best Of The ’90s” lists and polls, including Rolling Stone and NME. 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.
Nearly six years after his debut production album, the proper follow-up, The Private Press, was released in June 2002, again to considerable acclaim. 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.
2010 and 2011 saw a tour throughout Europe and North America entitled “Live From The Shadowsphere.” Hailed for its visual innovations, the tour was cited by Beatport as one of the top 10 DJ shows of all time, and was capped off by two memorable performances at the Coachella Festival, one of which featured a surprise cameo by Zack De La Rocha.
In 2011, DJ Shadow released The Less You Know, The Better, purportedly his last full-length album to prominently feature samples. 2012 included Total Breakdown, Hidden Transmissions From The MPC Era (1992-1996), an archival project; and Reconstructed: The Best of DJ Shadow, a greatest hits album.
2012 saw a shift in Shadow’s live persona … at the request of trendsetting LA club night Low End Theory, he returned to playing traditional, contemporary DJ sets, often eschewing his own music for that of peers. Simultaneously, the restless DJ began releasing music by himself and his contemporaries on the self-funded Liquid Amber label, garnering strong critical and fan support across over a dozen releases to date.
2016 is shaping up to be another action-packed year for the DJ, as he prepares to unveil a brand new album, embark on a supporting tour, and … tantalizingly … celebrate the 20-year anniversary of his seminal masterpiece, Endtroducing. Spending 7 months crafting his latest full-length LP, Shadow promises a dense album full of surprises. “I’ve loved every record I’ve made, but this one is special to me. It’s a culmination of everything I’ve learned, and everything I love about music.” Featuring guests ranging from Run The Jewels and Nils Frahm to UK jazz artist Matthew Halsall, The Mountain Will Fall is set for release this summer on Mass Appeal Records.