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The Outsider?
September 21, 2006 10:01 AM   Subscribe

The legendary and influential DJ Shadow has been discussed here several times before. His latest album, The Outsider, dropped earlier this week. It dropped hard. Its embrace of hyphy and schizophrenic genre spanning has been met with near-universal disappointment, shock, anger, and sadness by his fans. Josh Davis, aka DJ Shadow, explains himself here. As Shadow seems to be a long-standing favorite among Mefites, what do you think of it?
posted by ghastlyfop (68 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Wow... he opened himself up for a lot of ridicule with the statement "One thing's for sure...it's going to make it very difficult for people to imitate my sound."
posted by selfnoise at 10:09 AM on September 21, 2006


i haven't heard the album yet, but i anticipate buying it. i think it'd be easy for him to do something just like 'entroducing' or 'the private press', but shadow is an artist that pushes his own boundaries and isn't content to crank out music for the sake of sales. his whole career is pretty much based on pushing sonic boundaries. and you just can't live in the bay area and not recognize the importance and popularity of the hyphy movement.
posted by gnutron at 10:15 AM on September 21, 2006


I love "Endtroducing...", but after reading that description of hyphy, I couldn't help but think of track ten on that album.
posted by keswick at 10:19 AM on September 21, 2006


I am a shadow fan but apparently not big or inflexible enough to care... I like the new album, got some good tracks. True you can't compare it to Endtroducing but then again what can?
posted by cell divide at 10:20 AM on September 21, 2006


what do you think of it?

It's just fucking awful. Imagine a really, really bad Timbaland album, with a couple of guest spots from Coldplay. Horrifying.
posted by influx at 10:23 AM on September 21, 2006


I just listened to all the clips available on iTunes. There're a couple non-hip-hop tracks, the rest sounds like... Well, just traditional hip-hop. He's not pushing any boundaries, he's just making hip-hop. That's neither good nor bad, inherently, it just is.

I haven't heard much hip-hop I like, so I personally don't feel qualified to comment on its artistic merits. But I will say this album feels siginificantly *less* adventerous for him than everything else he's released, to me at least.

And guess what -- I live in the bay area, and somehow I recognize neither the importance nor the popularity of the hyphy movement.

But then, I'm old.
posted by wolftrouble at 10:24 AM on September 21, 2006


I've only given the review copy I got a couple of spins, and most of it was boring. Or at least didn't leave enough of an impression for me to remember any of the songs, really. The huge warnings about copying were probably the best part about the album— I got a laugh out of them.
(O'course, I'm one of those fuckers who thinks that Entroducing hasn't aged well at all...)
posted by klangklangston at 10:28 AM on September 21, 2006


The "Hot 97" track with Q-Tip with the fake Timbaland melody sounds like a commercial for Sbarro's or something. I admire him changing his sound, but I am allowed to not like his new sound.
posted by neustile at 10:31 AM on September 21, 2006


My first impression (one listen, straight through) is that it's really bland. Most of the tracks sound like any of the mainstream hip-hop you could hear if you went and pulled a random disc out of that section at your local store. It's all crunk beats, partially electro-stabbed, with some rather mediocore (IMHO) wordplay over the top.

There are a couple other stabs at changing things up on the disc (like a bluesy number and some faux trip-hop soul stuff), but it just seems really, really weak to me. Reading some of the Davis' quotes about the upcoming album made me really think that he was gonna break out of the box with this one (personally, I thought Private Press was already pretty decent at that, though not my favorite work of his), but in retrospect they sorta come off as pre-emptive defensiveness for an album (that mind you, is his first real true major (with a capital M) release) that's outside his typical sound, but definitely not doing anything new in a crowded genre.

Sadly, The Outsider just seems kind of like a mess. He doesn't need to keep making Entroducing... over and over again, but I'm not getting this new one at all. I tried to spin it a second time to see if it would sink in, and I had to simply turn it off.

That amazon reviewer that mentioned his track "Why Hip Hop Sucks in 1996" makes a valid point I think. This is basically the kind of music he was poking fun at on that disc. Might get him some new fans, but he's gonna alienate a lot of the long-timers.
posted by almostcool at 10:33 AM on September 21, 2006


Ghastly.
posted by basicchannel at 10:35 AM on September 21, 2006


Your favourite band's latest album sucks.
posted by srboisvert at 10:39 AM on September 21, 2006


Oh, hyphy is big time, you oldsters (of whom I'm one). I just recently tuned into this sub-genre of hip hop, since we had a near riot at a hyphy show in Modesto (central valley, about 100 miles east of SF). All the establishment types around here are all atwitter about how our youth are being ruined, hyphy dancing is "just short of sex", and etc. etc. same song verse #14896.

The fear of this corrupting music is so widespread, apparently, that a welcome back concert featuring E-40 (a major hyphy artist) at the university where I teach was cancelled because of "fear of potential violence"!

(The punchline for me is that I heard about hyphy from a group of senior citizens for whom I've volunteered to teach a music class. And I'm usually very plugged into this sort of thing. Guess I should read the local paper more than once or twice a year.)

I'm surprised that Shadow is at all exploring this style--from the bit of listening I've done this morning, it doesn't seem particularly innovative, or fertile enough to bear much future musical fruit...mostly just amped up beats, drum machines on overdrive, and the same old shitty mainstream kind of authority-hating, drug-dealing rap lyrics. There is so much more that is so much more interesting in Bay Area hip hop....I get that hyphy is a cultural phenomenon, I just don't hear why it should be considered a musical one. And Shadow has always been, foremost, interested in the music itself. Hm.
posted by LooseFilter at 10:40 AM on September 21, 2006


I always thought DJ shadow was japanese.
posted by delmoi at 10:43 AM on September 21, 2006


IF I CAN'T GET IN DA CLUB, DA CLUB IN THE PARKING LOT
posted by jcruelty at 10:45 AM on September 21, 2006


Hmm, I'm listening to the track on his website. It sounds very strange. If "My Humps" is any indication I'm sure it will be a commercial success.
posted by delmoi at 10:47 AM on September 21, 2006


Err wait, the track I listened too was a diffrent album ("3 freaks") not this new one. I think.
posted by delmoi at 10:49 AM on September 21, 2006


I liked Endtroducing, but ever since then I've enjoyed Shadow's crate-digging projects (like BrainFreeze and Product Placement), more than his orignial work. The Outsider didn't really do anything for me (though I didn't hate it). I tend to listen to Cut Chemist's "The Audience is Listening", a lot more often.
posted by stifford at 10:57 AM on September 21, 2006


Endtroducing is 10 years old, man, let it go.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:01 AM on September 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


"I get that hyphy is a cultural phenomenon, I just don't hear why it should be considered a musical one"

Probably because it's not a musical one. It's more of an excuse to spin up sideshows, drop E, and act like a complete lunatic in public. There's very little that's musical about it.
posted by drstein at 11:04 AM on September 21, 2006


but you all do have to admit that ghost ride the whip is one of the best phrases of 2006.
posted by cell divide at 11:06 AM on September 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


As far as the album goes, meh. It's like he just took some random stuff from KMEL and ran with it.
posted by drstein at 11:07 AM on September 21, 2006


Endtroducing is 10 years old, but it's also a masterpiece and a milestone.
posted by ghastlyfop at 11:07 AM on September 21, 2006


Yes, I've been enjoying The Audience is Listening, too. I just watched the link that jcruelty posted above--what a shit video! You mean to tell me that in 20+ years of making hip hop videos, directors haven't come up with anything more interesting to show than rappers standing in front of the camera, leaning in, and pumping their hands? And with the lame, psuedo-dramatic plotline added in, to boot!

(Shadow, dude: 1988 called, and it wants its mad skillz back.)

drstein: that's what I thought, too--which is why I'm puzzled that Shadow would be engaged by it at all. Maybe he's having an early mid-life crisis, and needs to feel "relevant".
posted by LooseFilter at 11:08 AM on September 21, 2006


i'm going to see him in LA this Sat. Been a fan for while, always like In Tune and On Time the best. If anyone's interested, i'll post back what the show was like. I'm reserving judgement on the new album until after I see the show, sometimes (hopefully it would seem, in this case) they change perspective.
posted by keame at 11:08 AM on September 21, 2006


Disappointing. The few atypical hip-hop tracks start sucking as soon as the vocals start.
posted by chillmost at 11:11 AM on September 21, 2006


And beyond Endtroducing, Solesides Greatest Bumps has some fantastic Shadow tracks on it.
posted by rxrfrx at 11:33 AM on September 21, 2006


"and you just can't live in the bay area and not recognize the importance and popularity of the hyphy movement"
I recognize that it's shit. Really - just pure, ignorant, boring shit.
posted by 2sheets at 11:33 AM on September 21, 2006


Excuse me, but I don't speak jive. Is "dropping" an album the same as it being released by the record company? Who uses it -- would the new, oh, Garth Brooks album be "dropped," or is it a hip-hop-only term?
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:33 AM on September 21, 2006


I'd rather see him do something he considers interesting rather than turn out a dozen identical copies of Endtroducing, even if I personally don't like the result.
posted by darukaru at 11:34 AM on September 21, 2006


The corpse in the library, while the term may have been coined by a hip-hop artist, 'dropping' an album is a bit more mainstream now that artists from other genres use it. Oh, and "gay" doesn't just mean happy anymore...just for your records.
posted by NationalKato at 11:38 AM on September 21, 2006


Really? I'd rather he turn out something in the style of Endtroducing or Preemptive Strike than something he considers interesting but is not, in fact, interesting at all. I don't know...I've given it quite a few listens and keep waiting for that magical moment of revelation...for something that I'm possibly missing (the man's past work gives him quite the benefit of a doubt). But I can't help but, thus far, feel deeply, deeply disappointed--like, Bowie in the 80's-disappointed.
posted by ghastlyfop at 11:41 AM on September 21, 2006


I liked the bluesy tracks on Outsider, but still I prefer the Private Press more.
posted by clockworkjoe at 12:03 PM on September 21, 2006


and now..... ETERNITY
posted by thirteenkiller at 12:03 PM on September 21, 2006


If you're disappointed by DJ Shadow's new album and you're seeking out other artists following the path of Double Dee and Steinsky I suggest checking out Edan. His album Beauty and The Beat is fan-freakin'-tastic.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 12:31 PM on September 21, 2006


What timing. I just walked down the street and bought this album about 45 minutes ago. I wish I had seen this thread, oh, 50 minutes ago.

The guy behind the counter asked me if I had heard the album yet. When I said I hadn't, he basically tried to tell me it sucked, in a roundabout way... he either didn't want to possibly offend me, or didn't want to possibly lose the sale.

Only halfway through my first listen so far. A few tracks are just cringe inducing. My favorite is Broken Levee Blues - nothing like the rest, and of course the shortest track on the album. I'll reserve judgement until I give it a few listens, but... yeah.
posted by Roommate at 12:58 PM on September 21, 2006


There is a torrent of this on the pirate bay. It just finished, and I'm listening now. Sounds rather generic hip hop to me, kind of boring, but nicer to listen too then most boring hip hop backing tracks.
posted by delmoi at 1:18 PM on September 21, 2006


Haven't heard it yet, but the clips I've heard here and there sound awfully bland.
posted by Tuwa at 1:22 PM on September 21, 2006


Hey Fuzzy Monster, good call about Edan - that's a great album. I gave outsider a few listens and was disappointed. Hopefully the next shadow record will be better, whatever styles he uses on it. I don't see anything very creative in hyphy, and if shadow is so into it, why didn't his passion turn into more inspired tracks? It's a risky strategy to pin your genre-change album on a musical trend, instead of just incorporating the trend into your overall work. It can also be a convenient excuse "You don't like my album because you don't like hyphy". So, A for artistic courage. D for end result.
posted by pantufla at 1:38 PM on September 21, 2006


I always thought DJ shadow was japanese.
Me too! Are we getting him mixed up with somebody else?
posted by Flashman at 1:49 PM on September 21, 2006


I'm a massive Shadow fan, and I was a bit shocked and suprised by it... really didn't like it the first time through. However, I'd advise people to give it a couple of spins... it grows on you.
posted by stumcg at 1:49 PM on September 21, 2006


I always thought DJ shadow was japanese.
Me too! Are we getting him mixed up with somebody else?

DJ Krush perhaps? (warning: site re-sizes your browser)
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 1:58 PM on September 21, 2006


Excuse me, but I don't speak jive. Is "dropping" an album the same as it being released by the record company? Who uses it -- would the new, oh, Garth Brooks album be "dropped," or is it a hip-hop-only term?

Why not find someone under the age of 50 and ask them?
posted by SweetJesus at 2:07 PM on September 21, 2006


joseph_e, that's totally it - I get DJs Shadow, and Spooky, and Krush mixed up all the time. Thanks
posted by Flashman at 2:23 PM on September 21, 2006


(I think because they all emerged at a time when I was a regular CBC Brave New Waves listener)
posted by Flashman at 2:24 PM on September 21, 2006


this week's Guardian has some words from the man himself regarding this topic.
posted by gnutron at 2:28 PM on September 21, 2006


It's the money ....
posted by grabbingsand at 2:34 PM on September 21, 2006


Who uses it -- would the new, oh, Garth Brooks album be "dropped," or is it a hip-hop-only term?

Well in my case it would be dropped, but as in "as if it were covered with the fæces of a rabid dog".

As far as the you-tubbed video linked above, it made me think of something that an ad-guy wrote about video game advertising a few months ago -- something to the effect that the over-use of sexual imagery to sell a product (chain mail bikini babes in fantasy games) is a sure sign that an either the industry putting out the ad is immature, and has products that know one knows how to market yet -- or the product is so shitty that they only way to sell it is to put a nice set of tits in front of it.

So which one is that song? I'm having hard time telling, but I'm leaning towards the latter.
posted by illovich at 2:37 PM on September 21, 2006


Actually I've been listening to my pirated (search for DJ Shadow outsider on pirate bay) copy for a while. I'm not a hardcore fan of anything in particular, and I have to say I'm finding this more and more catchy the more I listen to it. It's like audio candy, some of the tracks, anyway.

I dunno I can see if you were a purist you might not like it, but I enjoy it. It's generic in that it seems to span a lot of different genera but I enjoy it.
posted by delmoi at 3:57 PM on September 21, 2006


delmoi took the words out of my mouth. Another vote for from someone who's been digging it for the last few weeks. Best played in a room and not on the commute to work.
posted by furtive at 4:00 PM on September 21, 2006


Latyrx have some good tunes. I think we have Shadow to thank for their widespread availability.

I bought some of the 12"s from Endtroducing, but was so bored of his sound by the time the album came out that I passed on it. Fun and funk free.

When I listen to trip hop from back in the day I realise how much of it was as good as Shadow's early stuff and some of it better. In/flux was very exciting when it came out and showed a sense of fun that Endtroducing lacked for me. He was lucky that he managed to be in the right place at the right time to capitalise on the MoWax trip-hop phenomenon. Still, I hope he remains popular so that my in/flux picture disc can one day be traded in for a car or a house ; )

If he likes this hyphy bidnis then why not release something for that market under a different name to get some cred in the scene? Why use the Shadow name?

I will encounter the new album by chance, as fate intends. I lost the urge to pursue Shadows some years ago. He is better on paper than on vinyl.
posted by asok at 4:01 PM on September 21, 2006


SF Weekly had a piece on him just last week

' Downplaying his detractors as a "couple of disgruntled bloggers," he said, "It's hard for me to take some 30-year-old dude from New Jersey or wherever seriously when he tries to critique a culture and music he knows nothing about."

His rant continued: "I care about what hard-core fans think, but they lose me when they ask me to just repeat myself. I feel like if they understand 'the real me' the way they claim to, then they would understand why to ask me NOT to change and pursue my musical interests goes against everything I have ever stood for. Repeat Endtroducing over and over again? That was never, ever in the game plan. Fuck that. So I think it's time for certain fans to decide if they are fans of the album, or the artist."
'

Here here. All good art must be burned or ground into dust, if only to free the artist from his legacy so something new may grow out of the ashes.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 4:41 PM on September 21, 2006


playing 2 songs at once on mefi music = dj shadow.
posted by j-urb at 7:11 PM on September 21, 2006


ah...

playing 2 songs at the same time on mefi music = dj shadow.
posted by j-urb at 7:12 PM on September 21, 2006


Fuck that. So I think it's time for certain fans to decide if they are fans of the album, or the artist."

Uh, fuck that.

The problem is that these people were fans of the artist, which is why they've been listening to your album over and over again to try and "get" it. The problem is that the album sucks. So, fans of the artist, foes of the album. Git it?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:53 PM on September 21, 2006


Civil... if you're a fan of the artist, you don't place an immediate judgement that he "sucks" or has "sold out" if you don't like the album. You maintain an open mind and attempt to view the perspective and experience the artist is presenting. And even if you never like the album, you chalk it up to a difference between your tastes and the artist's taste, but you don't denigrate the artist.
posted by gnutron at 10:12 PM on September 21, 2006


Any album that bears the warning "contains members of Kasabian" should be approached with caution. This turned out to be the case.

I stuck this on my iPod on Tuesday morning for my journey to work. When I heard the ludicrous opening track I just thought "Oh God." By the end of the first listen through I just thought it was total shit. I've played it a bit now and I like it a bit better now but it is still a half-arsed mess.

I'll admit I'm one of those for whom Endtroducing was a major part of my adolescence but I'm not scared of change. I would have prefered a pure hyphy record than this dog's dinner. Sort of like ghastlyfop said:

I'd rather he turn out something in the style of Endtroducing or Preemptive Strike than something he considers interesting but is not, in fact, interesting at all.

Just because we understand this album represents the eclectic collector that is the artist doesn't mean we have to like it. So yeah, let's hope it is just burning the field for fresh growth.
posted by ninebelow at 4:24 AM on September 22, 2006


"Civil... if you're a fan of the artist, you don't place an immediate judgement that he "sucks" or has "sold out" if you don't like the album. You maintain an open mind and attempt to view the perspective and experience the artist is presenting. And even if you never like the album, you chalk it up to a difference between your tastes and the artist's taste, but you don't denigrate the artist."

First off, that's not what Civil was saying. A fan of the artist can say "Y'know, this albums pretty shitty. As have been the last couple of albums from him. I'll keep listening, but..." Fandom is a two-way street. There has to be something worth admiring or returning to in order to be a fan, and Shadow just doesn't have it for me anymore.
Maybe you've confused fan with fanboy, who will keep tryign to justify any bullshit from a once decent creator. "Fan" is more casual than "fanatic."
posted by klangklangston at 6:04 AM on September 22, 2006


Oh, and a fan of an artist's work should still be able to say to the artist "When you talk about your work that way, it makes you sound like a pretentious and defensive asswad."
posted by klangklangston at 6:06 AM on September 22, 2006


I've heard all these arguments before -- when the Star Wars prequel trilogy. People actually told me that I didn't like them because I was a kid when the first Star Wars came out, that I was living in the past, that I could never judge the new ones correctly because of my nostalgia, etc.

Or perhaps the new ones just suck.

Haven't heard the new DJ Shadow but perhaps it just sucks; that verdict is, at least plausible.

And gnutron: What a strangely genteel notion you have of the relationship between artist and listener. You're on the verge of suggesting couples therapy so they can understand one another's feelings more deeply.
posted by argybarg at 7:51 AM on September 22, 2006


This is like Picasso painting Hallmark style cards or a Michelin Star chef cooking up some discount tinned chilli con carne topped with Minute Rice and processed cheese – if it came from someone who had done little or nothing of note, it would be just another collection of faceless, accessible pop music. The fact DJ Shadow as made it is really a creative tragedy, like a barely alive Miles Davis covering Cyndi Lauper tracks. Shadow hasn’t just left the field, he’s in the changing rooms pulling the wire over a copy of ‘People’.

The first time I heard Endtroducing, it was an experience like when I heard ‘Blue Lines’, ‘Paid in full’ or any new product of remarkable genius. I felt I had been given a glimpse of a secret world where tonnes of great music of past and present were respectfully and carefully re-imagined by a modern day artist who was sharing the result of a lifetime of listening and thinking.

I picked up Pre-Emptive strike and all those funk comps etc Davis lent his name to with excitement, along with the fun but kitschy Product Placement et al. A mate in the industry let me have a listen to ‘The Private Press’ long before it was out. I was underwhelmed by the whine-rock that had intruded into his sound and the whole thing just did not interest or move me very much. Unremarkable to me but I saw how plenty could dig. I shrugged my shoulders and waited and waited for the next record.

When I last looked at his site, it did seem a bit of a combination of pretension and odious blingness had infected his look, but didn’t think much of it. I carried on buying records I dug but in the back of my mind I hoped he would come up with something that could move me like in ’96. I heard about Hyphy as a result of a post on that hilarious Ghost Ride the Whip quadriplegic creating idiocy. Heard that E-40 track referencing it thought it was moderately more interesting than 50 Cent and all that glossed up gangsta garbage that has turned what was the Black Punk Rock into another way to sell Pepsi but was still just another regional fad without much depth.

Then I heard ‘Three Freaks’ and that other track with whatever remains of Q-Tip and nearly choked on sick. They are nameless, faceless sugar candy for Top 40 “R and B” radio and nothing else. Well produced idiocy with absolutely no relationship to the rest of his work. Then I saw ‘members of Kasabian’ et al (an Oasis covers band so pointless and sad the fucking Sunday Times takes the piss out of it) on it and thought, well he wants to be famous, have cash and be part of a ‘movement but I want none of that plastic. Sorry, Josh but its not a good look for you (and pull your trousers up please on your press photos).

I guess I have become more a ‘fan’ of specific records that ‘the artist’ but Shadow should well have heeded the old adage ‘dance with them that brought you’. People who thought mainstream hip-hop sucked in the ’96 bought his house, not people wanting to see some model shake her arse in hot pants while regional Crunk imitators spit over pedestrian, overproduced beats. I’m not suggesting that he keep making the same record, its just a shame he couldn’t find a way to still make authentic music for intelligent listeners instead of sell out to the Top 40 and cats that think MF Doom is a video game.
posted by The Salaryman at 7:52 AM on September 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


No mystery. DJ Shadow got old. He's Phil Collins now.
posted by Superfrankenstein at 10:13 AM on September 22, 2006


MF Doom may not be a video game, but he is a shoe.
posted by joedan at 11:12 AM on September 22, 2006


Madlib (and, by extension, MadVillain his project with MF Doom) and Quasimoto help soothe the pain.
posted by NinjaTadpole at 12:29 PM on September 22, 2006


his first good music since endtroducing.
posted by Espoo2 at 2:42 PM on September 22, 2006


cats that think MF Doom is a video game.

I think everybody knows who MF Doom is by now.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:44 PM on September 22, 2006


First i will say that i like less than half the songs, and those do not really get me off. But since we're looking at, "the relationship between artist and audience," I will say that i think it is an awesome album. We hear DJ shadow making party music, not something he is really known for, and although it upsets people it tell us alot about the artist. This is the party music that Shadow likes, who knows what he listens to at a party, but he made this for other's parties. So maybe you don't want to party with DJ Shadow because of his "uninspired, mainstream, bland, bling, hiphop" taste, but the album is a pointed statement from the artist to his audience. It has forced alot of people to re-evaluate thier relationship to DJ Shadow. Which is exactly what i want to hear. applausos
posted by MNDZ at 3:06 PM on September 22, 2006


Shadow is a class act. Ain't heard the album but I'll respect it because of who it's from ... and to hear something I -know- is new.

All the greats have pop and unpop releases, folks. Genius doesn't fade - but it might leave us behind.
posted by Twang at 4:55 PM on September 22, 2006


damn, did any hear the david banner track? its hot. YEAH!
posted by j-urb at 5:04 PM on September 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


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