When Joshua Paul Davis, aka DJ Shadow, dropped his debut in 1996 he turned the world of instrumental hip hop, trip hop, and electronica on its head. Endtroducing… revolutionized the art of sampling and how far you could go with it to make great art. Shadow opened the door for producers like J Dilla, Madlib, and Flying Lotus to push the boundaries of the genre. It would be six years before DJ Shadow would release a follow-up album. The Private Press continued the vibes of Endtroducing…, but with more 80s synth vibes thrown in.
Each successive album seemed to be trying to lock into that initial magic but with never those first highs. On DJ Shadow’s latest, the double LP Our Pathetic Age, Shadow breaks the album up into two parts. The first part is instrumental, while the second part is DJ Shadow collaborating with various hip hop artists. The results are the best record Shadow has put out in years.
The instrumental side varies in styles, from the cinematic “Firestorm” to the noisy “Juggernaut”. “Slingblade” is slick and funky, while “If I Died Today” has an old school vibe complete with a great beat and an almost melancholy undertone. One of my favorite instrumental tracks is the woozy “Weightless”, which has a dreamy quality to it.
On the collaboration side one of the absolute highlights is “Rocket Fuel”, featuring De La Soul. An infectious beat and turntable work is matched by the classic style of De La Soul. “Kings & Queens” is another stellar collaboration with Run The Jewels. After their collaboration “Nobody Speak” on The Mountain Will Fall it was apparent the DJ Shadow/Run The Jewel partnership was a powerful one. “Kings & Queens” is proof enough that there should be a full-length collaboration in their future. “Rain On Show” has Shadow hooking up with Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah and Raekwan for an absolutely killer track.
Over the course of Our Pathetic Age DJ Shadow builds one great track after another, showing his strengths in melody and sonic world building. His work in both cinematic soundscapes and serious beat making are shown off to great effect. Our Pathetic Age is the follow-up we’ve been waiting for.
7.9 out of 10