Endtroducing… (Deluxe Edition)
Mo Wax / Island
n 2002, certain individuals pegged RJD2’s Dead Ringer as “the album DJ Shadow should have made.” That same year, Will Simmons pegged that same bunch as “idiots.”
To an untutored listener, Dead Ringer packed a far more convincing punch than Endtroducing… ever could. RJ’s paint-by-number boom bap techniques seemed to outshine Shadow’s riskier, more tactful use of subtle, dark drum patterns. Dead Ringer thrived on see-through funk horn blasts and offshoot soul croons, while Endtroducing…, an album released a whopping six years before its rambunctious sibling rival, settled for a more elusive and less obvious sample palette. It certainly makes sense why one would pick the unruffled obvious over the eerie intangible. And even on first listen, Dead Ringer goes down easier than purple smoke through a copper hookah. It seems to be what Shadow (aka Josh Davis) was hinting at all those years but never quite got around to resolving himself. It’s the masterpiece he slept on for so long that it granted another pasty crate digger the time necessary to decipher and intrude upon the coveted Shadow formula.
All things considered, Ohio-based Ramble “RJD2” Krohn was and is very good at what he does. He pays a worthy homage to his mentor, and well, panning Dead Ringer would be more than a little excessive.
Needless to say, there wouldn’t be as large an audience for Dead Ringer without the precedent ofEndtroducing…. Shadow’s album did wonders in legitimizing the hip-hop producer as a credible solo act. It kindled “producer awareness,” helping hipsters everywhere to figure out exactly what a hip-hop producer does. And well, quite simply, a hip-hop producer “makes beats,” as they say. I can also assume Davis helped resurface utterances such as, “Mang, the DJ is the backbone of hip-hop.” Yeah! And all that other flattering, gooey nougat.
The alleged “Deluxe Edition” of the album in question offers up two discs of slow-moving, MPC-doctored breaks, piano tinkles, hearty upright plucks, seldom but well-placed scratches, Hammond riffs and whispering vinyl crackles. Disc one is the original, untailored full length. Aside from a subtle remastering process, it’s indistinguishable from its ‘96 ancestor. Peculiarly titled “Excessive Ephemera,” disc two is more or less an alternate take on the entire album. Sequence-wise, the track list is nearly exact to that of the album, only replacing the original tracks with reprises, remixes and demo versions. Of these alternate renderings, the ones that tend to work the best are those more in touch with their respective originals. The easy exception to this would be Cut Chemist’s enthrallingly detailed rehash of “The Number Song.” It bears a close enough resemblance to its original so that it’s fairly recognizable, and it sounds enough like Davis’ own production so that it transitions well with the rest of the disc’s selections.
A less convincing remix, though, is Peshay’s shamelessly jungle-leaning interpretation of “What Does Your Soul Look Like.” The mix works fine on its own, but when lumped in with the rest of the disc, it’s identifiable as the doomed sore thumb of the batch. A revised “Midnight in a Perfect World” finds Blackalicious alum Gift of Gab dropping acapella spoken word interludes in between sinister, jittery song fragments. The gem of the package, however, is the live 12-minute escapade concluding disc 2. It’s always fun to hear a crowd’s reaction to a Shadow set. It’s also fun to hear dude utterly dismantle the ones-and-twos, which he does curiously little of on his albums.
At the end of the day, Endtroducing… has aged remarkably well in its eight-and-a-half-year reign. It sounds as good as it ever has, and this extended reissue gives the uninformed a perfect excuse to at last lend their ears to Davis’ hallmark opus. Sleepers, sleep no more.