When someone mentions the term “disc jockey”, I’m sure that one automatically envisions the typical deejay that frequents your cousin’s wedding – or that spins Top 40 tunes at the local night club. There are a few individuals who have ultimately changed that for me forever, so that when I hear the term, all I can think of are samples upon samples of songs, layered to produce something completely new and innovative. One such individual is DJ Shadow
DJ Shadow – AKA Joshua Davis – is an American DJ, songwriter and music producer who has been in the business of recreating music from samples for over twenty years. Back then, I had not yet been exposed to some of the new hip hop and electronic music that was starting to come out around the world. In fact, I think I may have been of the mind that if you didn’t make the music with an actual instrument like a guitar or piano or drum set, then it couldn’t really be music. You couldn’t just take songs that other people had created and use them like that. Luckily, my stint at the record store opened my eyes to the world of turntablism and I eventually discovered DJ Shadow.
The talent of a DJ does not lie in the creation of music with an instrument…at least in the traditional sense. Their talent lies in their ability to take something that has been created, turn it into something that may not be recognizable upon completion, and make it their own. And this is something that DJ Shadow has an amazing gift for – reworking sample upon sample without the addition of any new instrumentation to tie it all together. This not only takes creativity, but a good ear for harmony, and a memory that will allow one to know exactly what kinds of sounds they need to bring the song into existence. Not to mention a ginormous collection of vinyl.
“Midnight in a Perfect World” has been and likely always will be one of my favourite sampled songs ever released. It can be found on his debut album Endtroducing… which was released in 1996. The song, if not the album, was ahead of its time – and I’ve read reviews where people still believe it’s the music of tomorrow in the world of sampling and turntablism. The album itself was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records in 2001 as the “First Completely Sampled Album”. It’s power lies in its fusion of rock, soul, ambient, jazz and funk, telling a story through haunting melodies and narrative samples.
The song samples the following sources:
“Outta State” – Akinyele (hip hop)
“The Human Abstract” – David Axelrod (jazz, funk, experimental)
“Sower of Seeds” – Baraka (prog rock, jazz, funk, blues)
“Biography” & “Dolmen Music” - Meredith Monk (pianist, vocalist, theatre performer)
- “Releasing Hypnotical Gases”- Organized Konfusion (alternative hip hop; includes member Pharoahe Monch)
“The Madness Subsides” – Pekka Pohjola (prog rock, jazz fusion)
“California Soul” – Marlena Shaw (jazz)
Since it’s a sampled song, there aren’t really any lyrics per se…but I did manage to track down a video. And it’s quite innovative as well – using samples of other videos mixed with a trip to the local used record shop for some “new” old vinyl. Check it out…