This Friday, the immortal beat-maker himself, DJ Shadow, will be bringing the future to The Observatory in Santa Ana. I’m not playing. In January, DJ Shadow was kicked off the decks at Mansion Nightclub in Miami because his set was too “future”.
“We offer our most sincere apologies to DJ Shadow and his fans for his set being cut short at Mansion this past weekend. This error should not have happened and will not happen again, especially as we pride ourselves on creating an environment that cultivates and respects innovators such as DJ Shadow. We have learned a lot from this error and made changes within our organization to ensure that Mansion’s vision, and the vision of our guests, will never be compromised again.”
“I’ve waited a long time to play here,” Shadow exclaimed into the mic to an observably passionate audience. “But they said this shit is too future for y’all.”
The irony is too delicious. Seventeen years ago, when gangster rap records were going gold and platinum, a white dude named Josh Davis, who went by the moniker DJ Shadow, released an album called Endtroducing. The name was as mysterious as the sounds comprising the tracks of the album, but it was also a moment of clarity for the evolution of electronic dance music. Here was a UC Davis college kid from the lower-middle class suburbs of San Francisco producing what sounded like rap beats with clever lyrics and ambient, jazzy, funky, synthy, trippy melodies. “The media was trying to figure out what to call it,” Shadow tells MTVHive in an interview earlier this year. “I remember early on doing a photoshoot for either NME or Melody Maker, and they had this pre-conceived idea of what I must be like: They wanted me to wear this giant Dr. Seuss hat and be smoking a giant, five-foot long spliff. And I just walked in and said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m not doing that.’” What shadow was doing was clairvoyant, forward thinking, and would eventually graft a new branch onto the tree of Hip Hop. We called it Trip-Hop, for lack of a better word, and it appealed to wide swaths of music lovers turned off by the violence of gangster rap but completely influenced by hip hop culture. He would go on to work with Blackalicious and Lyrics Born, two Hip Hop wordsmiths known for their often ingenious and socially conscious lyrics. It took Davis six years to produce his follow-up album Private Press, but the wait was worth it. A true piece of art, the album zooms through multiple genres and lands one furious punch after another. Although his most recent release, The Less You Know, The Better took a turn towards the obscure, his current DJ set is on fucking fire.
Seventeen years after Endtroducing, DJ Shadow is back on the tour circuit, and he’ll be playing the observatory in Santa Ana Friday night. Check out the infamous South Beach Miami set below and decide for yourselves. But trust us. You’re going to want to be there for your first class trip to the future.