After a long phone conversation, the last thing I asked Josh Davis, was, if at age 40, he still had something to prove. "Oh, definitely," the man better known as DJ Shadow immediately replied, despite having just released a box set and greatest hits.
On his classic 1996 debut Endtroducing . . ., one of many disembodied voice snippets repeats, "The music's coming through me." More and more, that's how it looks. Like his '90s peers Nas or Weezer, Davis is tied to an opus of such magnitude that those who believe he's a genius paradoxically cannot accept the less epochal newer work. His most recent album, last year's The Less You Know, The Better, was particularly casual. "On a certain level you get a sense of 'I don't get it,' " Davis says. "I worked really hard, I followed my own muse, I did what I thought made sense for me."
Before The Less You Know. . . was the aggressively different The Outsider, where in 2006 Davis paid tribute to his native Bay Area's rabid hyphy scene. "Those songs that represent that genre on my album are unique in that I wanted to be pure. I felt if I was going to contribute to that movement, it wouldn't make any sense for me to make 'alt-hyphy,' " he laughs.
The just-released Reconstructed: The Best of DJ Shadow (Hip-O) is a sincere attempt to level the playing field among his more divergently-received albums. He's always considered his art anachronistic, even when it dovetailed with the renaissance of "trip-hop" and the work of protégés and others such as former tourmates Radiohead, whose own magnum opus, OK Computer, included the unmistakably Shadow-indebted "Airbag." "It's almost as though if you don't sound like the sound du jour when you put a record out that you're some kind of Luddite living in another time," Davis says, more matter-of-factly than that reads on this page. "I actually think putting out music that's deliberately out of step is actually quite good. Because then you're providing an alternative." But he's just glad to have music coming through him.
DJ SHADOW › Royale, 279 Tremont St, Boston :: December 9 @ 8 pm :: 18+ :: $27 :: 617.338.7699 or boweryboston.com
: Music Features
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