“Endtroducing…” by DJ Shadow was an album that clicked the first time I heard it. I had been listening to more recent albums by alternative beat makers up to that point, but no other instrumental hip-hop album caught my attention in the same way.
When “Endtroducing…” came out in 1996, it was DJ Shadow’s first album and one of the first albums to be comprised entirely of samples. Every track had been heard before, but the way that DJ Shadow compiled the breaks, vocals, short synth lines and other elements made the work sound completely original. “Endtroducing…” can feel hollow and borderline ambient, but that emptiness is what holds the album together.
I don’t know if I can come across as more unnecessarily abstract and pretentious than calling “Endtroducing…” an egg, but the album is the sonic equivalent of an egg. Eggs will break if dropped from a height of less than a foot, but they have incredible structural strength if placed inside of toilet paper tubes like those kids did on the science show “Zoom.” Ultimately what I’m saying is that “Endtroducing…” is such a fragile concept that it shouldn’t have worked as well as it did. DJ Shadow made ambient tracks using little more than drum breaks and managed not to sound like a terrible mixture of “Music for Airports” and “Metal Machine Music.”
If you don’t know those albums, I’m sorry, but if a college radio DJ is able to mention Lou Reed and Brian Eno after calling a critically acclaimed album “the sonic equivalent of an egg” as a compliment, he or she gets to name the next band that “Pitchfork” lists as an up-and-coming group. I’m thinking that Femur Flood, Monster Cookie and Non-Dairy Yoohoo are all viable options for band names in the fictional contest I just mentioned.
DJ Shadow has made other albums and continues to make more, but none have had the same influence, originality or egg-like fragility of his debut. That is why “Endtroducing…” is my favorite album ever, this week.