It took me a while to write this review mainly because of the undeserved disrespect that this pioneer of sampling, Hip-Hop and turntablism suffered through in Miami. If you haven’t heard the news (which I’m sure if you’re any internet-savvy you have), Joshua Paul Davis, formerly known as DJ Shadow, was kicked off stage at Miami’s Mansion Nightclub, a venue which hosts larger-than-life names such as Carl Cox and DJ Craze, alongside “DJ”s such as Pauly D (I wouldn’t be surprised if Ms. Hilton has played there too). Kicked off stage for playing music that was “Too Futuristic”, DJ Shadow humbly stepped down and the club received a major hit of interent backlash from fans, musicians and supporters. In turn, Miami Mansion Nightclub formerly issued out an apology to DJ Shadow, his management, and his fans. It’s quite sad really that this is how the scene is viewed in America: if it’s not the same shitty generic synth-pounding House and Electro that has taken over this EDM craze in America, people don’t want to hear it.
Though, I digress. It’s not the same like that everywhere in America I swear. Take San Francisco for example, the home that spurred my love for this music in the first place. Just like the city, the scene is constantly evolving, finding solace in the fact that there’s so much room for improvement. Artists constantly come to this city of renovation and are continuously impressed by the atmosphere they experience. It’s pretty beautiful if you ask me, and it’s one of the only things that can make me forget about the atrocity that other areas in America suffer from regarding respect for electronic music, DJing, turntablism, and the history behind it all. The same can be said of the great city of Boston.
It was a Sunday night, but really let’s just call it Friday. The lights were dimmed and the Royale was packed to the brim with occupants awaiting a trailblazer of modern sampling to approach the decks. CDJs and an electronic drum pad lay motionless on the elevated booth. I had heard all about Shadow’s diverse skill in turntablism, his eclectic scratching techniques, and the diversified selections of samples he utilized so yeah, I screamed at the top of my lungs when he came out on stage.
“Boston how ya’ll doing? Well um, this is something I’ve never done in Boston before; this is kind of a return to my roots in a way. This is me giving back to what made me want to be a DJ in the first place which is sharing music that I believed in – new music, contemporary music – music that was new at that time, music that’s new at this time. That’s why I’m not using vinyls, sometimes people are like how come you’re not playing records? Because…most of the music I’m playing tonight doesn’t exist on vinyl so why limit yourself to a format if it doesn’t substantiate your musical needs? So i’m not gonna be held back by that, but you’ll also notice that there’s no laptop so I am doing this shit live….and like I said it’s not Sunday, it’s Friday night”
And with those words of artist wisdom, DJ Shadow proceeded with his “All Bases Covered” set, pumpin out massive beats across various different genres starting off with breaks and breakbeat. A minimal light setup emphasized Shadow’s talent while we watched in awe as he played CDJs like they were vinyl turntables, scratching precisely within each “base” or genre. Breaks and breakbeat slowly evolved into Dub infused Reggae beats, which later took a turn towards Hip-Hop with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s ‘Wind Blow’, ‘Wocka Flocka’s Flame’ remix and elements of a Bun B exclusive being crowd favorites. Giving a shout out to the Bay Area, he added in E-40 and Andre Nickatina‘s ‘Cadillac Girl’ and mixed Fleetwood Mac’s “The Shine” with Bone Thug’s N Harmony’s “Wind Blow”. Nevermind that we were in Boston, people here knew Bay Area music. We continued to go on this trip with DJ Shadow – from Hip teenagers to college and bedroom DJs to middle aged devoted fans watching him from the beginning – as he took us through a wide range of genres ranging from Rock, House, Trap, Glitch-Hop, DnB and straight hard funky beats offering little tidbits of wisdom every now and then.
But alas, DJ Shadow is a musician. If you haven’t realized it yet from his quote above, he’s always pushing himself to do just a bit more than the others in his profession. Alongside his CDJs resided a drum pad, where he’d take some time off of the scratching and DJing, just to play his heart out on the drums with two wooden drumsticks. Once his own famed track ‘Organ Donor’ came on of the acclaimed album Endtroducing…., Shadow lay out the whole drum beat on the pads as sweat furiously flowed down his face. Did the crowd think it was too futuristic? The deafening applause made me think otherwise.
As his set was wrapping up, DJ Shadow looked at the crowd and spoke to us once more. “Thanks for letting me do something different, I haven’t done this in the U.S since like the mid 90s” He stated humbly. All in all, the set was magnificent. Sure, I would’ve liked to see him blow my mind whilst using vinyl, but the method in which he performs doesn’t matter when the crowd gets new music thrown at them and a new look at the style of an artist who’s been nominated for producing one of the best albums of the 1990s.
So what is it exactly that makes artists such as DJ Shadow so reluctant to come to our country and try a new style? Is it just simply how we react, or is it the larger-than-life image they’ve grown to become and reflect? How can we become a better understanding audience to the ever-evolving and ever-changing talents of artists? Why is it that we always want the same stabby stabs and wubby wubs that our media has grown to adore? “This is me facing forward, if I stay still I’m just dying inside – I’m nothing without your support” Shadow stated around the end of his set. Don’t you think it’s time for the America to move forward?