Bands like Neutral Milk Hotel and Radiohead are among artists who’ve produced albums that have been unanimously considered classics from critics and supporters. Everyone mentions many albums from rock, pop, and hip-hop that are considered timeless or influential. But when it comes to other genres such as electronic, you don’t hear many albums that are considered timeless. However, if there is one album in that genre that truly deserves to be recognized and an album that needs to be listened to by every music lover, it would be DJ Shadow‘s Entroducing.
Hailing from California, DJ Shadow is widely considered a key figure in the electronic/experimental hip-hop scene. His inspiration of hip-hop in his electronic production made him a star in the U.S. and Europe with his unique style. DJ Shadow’s unprecedented debut changed the face of electronic music and hip-hop forever back in the mid-90s.
Entroducing may not have conquered the music charts, but this album forever changed the way of music and created something that is on a whole other scale. If you bring this album up to anyone who’s listened to it, it’s almost guaranteed that everyone would say this album is profound. In an almost spiritual manner, Entroducing will leave the listener deep in reflection. But in order to understand why it’s a masterpiece, it needs to be broken down track-by-track.
“Best Foot Forward” essentially sets the tone for this album. It’s an array of jazz and hip-hop samples. It’s a catchy intro that places the listener in the perfect mood before DJ Shadow lays on the next track that’s “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt.” When that track comes on, it usually shatters minds. “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt” is a defining track that’s constructed with a variety of beats, samples, and organ riffs. The production on this track is so interwoven to the point that it still feels organic to this day. It’s one of those songs where you could listen to it repeatedly and never get tired of it.
When you can finally recover from “Building Steam With a Grain of Salt,” the next track, “The Number Song,” quickly begins. With a loud countdown to five, someone softly says, “break down baby” before the song transitions into an erosion of music. It’s one of the heavier songs, with pounding drums and loud scratches that repeat over a bass line. It’s a thrilling experience that will leave anyone bobbing their heads to the menacing rhythm.
“Changeling/Transmission” is a lot more relaxing yet feels slightly distorted. The disc scratches and guitars bring a fuzzy sense to the song that almost feels euphoric. Eventually, over the course of the song, the calm chords of a keyboard lush into the track, influencing the drums into a series of samples that adds layer upon layer to the track. It’s a rewarding experience that will leave anyone feeling calm and relaxed.
“[Untitled]” is probably the only flaw in this album, if there even is one. It’s just a short skit about some guy talking about how a girl he knows has a fine booty. It’s hilarious, but it feels weird hearing this skit, especially after the “Changeling” track.
“Stem/Long Stem/Transmission 2” is a lengthy track that begins with, yet again, another piano riff. It would come off repetitious, yet DJ Shadow keeps it fresh somehow. When the electronic elements enter into the song, it carries a mystical feel to it. However, the soft melodies get blown away by a frenzy of pounding drums that stop before some strings enter the mix of the samples. Synthesizers then begin to fade in and out of the song; entering and leaving the track, bringing more sound until another simple piano tune quietly flows. This nine-minute song ends with an exquisite saxophone tune before a sinister vocal sample leaps out and concludes the track in a strange manner.
“Mutual Stump” starts off with a loud ring, almost like an alarm clock before it switches over to hard line drum beats with soothing samples in the background. It’s an interesting mixture of aggressive and calming sounds that somehow blend flawlessly. In the middle of a song a woman comes on the track talking about how all she wants to do is roller skate and asking the listener if they’re afraid of Darth Vader. A lovely saxophone line leads the song to its daring end where more alarming noises end the track.
“Organ Donor” is a significant track from Entroducing that one might’ve heard before. It’s a distinctive sound that’s different from the rest of the songs on this album. “Organ Donor” starts off with organs continuously playing throughout the song, while hip-hop beats are playing in the backdrop to the fascinating organ solo. It’s a unique listening experience that is both catchy and appealing.
DJ Shadow takes an interesting approach with “Why Hip Hop Sucks in ’96.” It’s another short skit from the album that brings out a very California/West Coast rap vibe to it. The only complaint would be that I wish it was longer than forty seconds. It’s a song that will make anybody want to bop their head as they listen to the song. At the end of the track, the listener will hear “It’s the money,” where, in DJ Shadow’s eyes, is why hip hop sucks in ’96.
“Midnight in a Perfect World” is another important track from the album. The song blends smooth jazz with hard-hitting drum sounds that the listener could lounge to. It’s fluid from beginning to end with the track, making any listener wish that the five-minute song could last just a little while longer. The climax arrives with an incredible guitar solo in the background as keys on the piano softly tune in before a vocalist yells on the track, “now approaching midnight.” This song literally brings sounds from various instruments and blurs them all together. It sounds like it would be a mess, but yet again, DJ Shadow pulls it off.
“Napalm Brain/ Scatter Brain” is another track that has strange vocals with an old man talking about elixirs and checkers. Like “[Untitled],” it feels weird hearing vocals in this LP. But it ends shortly, and the music again revs up with incredible drum beats that flow into a collage of well-made samples. Deep rhythm guitars soar through the track before fading again over the other layers of sound. There is a constant tapping on a snare drum that carves the path of this song. The effect is odd, but it’s highly effective before they reach the last track.
“What Does Your Soul Look Like (Part 1)” is the closer for the LP. And man, does it give it a defining closer! It starts off with a lucid, smooth saxophone. Then DJ Shadow sneaks in more drum beats while the saxophone continues to drown you in sound from the backdrop. It feels sort of melancholy, mainly due to the sax wavering between the drums and guitars. It eventually ends with a distorted radio broadcast that feels very disturbing. What sounds like a petrified old man comes into the song saying, “It is happening again,” before what sounds like someone smirking, cuts off the last of the noise on the album. It’s haunting, but doesn’t hold you back from listening to this album again.
DJ Shadow is essentially a wizard or a mad scientist who never left his lab when he made Entroducing. It’s a creation of pure genius. In a way, this album led to DJ Shadow’s ultimate downfall. It feels almost impossible to outdo an album like Entroducing. Though his later work is still good, it’s difficult not to compare them with the greatness that is Entroducing. It doesn’t rival Nevermind or The Chronic in terms of popularity. Yet, Entroducinglays a serious claim of influence for musicians to the point where even Radiohead cited this album as an influence for OK Computer.
It’s been nearly twenty years since this album has been released, and it still sounds fresh. There hasn’t been an album before Entroducing that has sounded like this. DJ Shadow compiled a wide array of sounds to the listener, crafting something that is truly beautiful. Though it’s interrupted with moments of aggressive sounds that normally wouldn’t sit well in a calming album like this one, DJ Shadow syncs it with dreamlike tunes that flow flawlessly.
It’s very difficult not to be completely entranced. From the ambient electronic music to the jazz percussions, DJ Shadow brought us a true classic. It’s an unparalleled achievement that is a must-own for any music enthusiast. More importantly, it’s a unique, intimate, genre-defining album that one might never witness again.