The Laws of Entropy

Davis' DJ Shadow breaks it down

As a child, Shadow was already preoccupied by pulling things out of context. "I used to cut out little heads from magazines and TV Guide and put them on other bodies," he says. Given a turntable at age 3 and piano lessons at 8, he quickly saw the same could be done with sound and music. "I was always intrigued by sound effects. I used to walk around with a tape recorder, recording TV shows and making little edits. I have probably 200 tapes of, like, The Super Friends."

Like many young hip-hoppers, Shadow points to songs like Blondie's "Rapture" (1980) and Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock" (1982) as early inspirations. "The first record I ever bought was by Devo," he says. "Even then I liked synthesizers. ... But what really hit me was when I heard [Grandmaster Flash's] 'The Message.' That's when I knew that there was a much more powerful form of communicating, which was rapping."

Today, Shadow's vinyl collection includes everything from country to gospel, an eclecticism that snakes its way into his music. "I like to buy whatever's not in vogue," he says. "If everybody's all of a sudden onto Brazilian records, I won't touch them. Or if everybody's onto exotica, or 'the weird shit,' then I'll start buying straight-up soul."

All but anonymous in America, Shadow hasn't succumbed to the hype he's received overseas. "I've had a career full of [being called] 'the next big thing,' " he laughs. "I've been called the next big thing for the last six years by different people, different communities. ... If I can just keep being the next big thing for the next 15 years, I'll be fine.

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