DJ Shadow is synonymous with breaking the limits of conventional hip-hop. Since 1996 when “Entroducing” popularized his cut and paste style, he’s been spreading his eclectic influences to other musical genres.
In 1998 he released “Brainfreeze” with the Cut Chemist as a continuous mix of old, rare funk and soul 45s. The set covered every insatiable grove and ultimate funk lick that can be crammed into the confines of sixty minutes. On Oct. 23 at Irving Plaza DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist previewed the sequel to “Brainfreeze.” “Product Placement” begins where “Brainfreeze” left off with odd novelty records thrown into the mix of the rare funk and soul.
Numark opened the show with crowd favorites that enticed the audience for what was to follow. Songs such as “Who Shot Ya?” by Notorious B.I.G and “Rebirth of Slick” by Digable Planets made the crowd nostalgic for early 90s hip-hop they probably grew up on. His mixing skills were good, but much better turn-tablist trickery would appear later on this evening.
Z-Trip took the stage next and I was surprised by his diverse selection of music. He started off his set with old school rap ranging from Eric B. & Rakim to Biz Markie. Then a segue into the Jackson 5 threw me for a loop, but what followed was genre bending. Everyone in the crowd loved the slew of classic rock hits that followed, including Rush’s “Tom Sawyer,” Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” and John Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane.” The list just goes on. Z-trip perfectly juggled the classic rock while maintaining the crowd’s energy with scratching techniques. A minute or so of “Smells like Teen Spirit” brought the crowd to a rousing roar only Shadow and Cut Chemist could replicate.
The pair took stage after Z-Trip and quickly went into their new record “Product Placement”. Snippets of a voiceover from a retro instructional record got scratched over and manipulated until the funkiest guitar lick you have ever heard came out of nowhere.
DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist never fail to pull new gems out of their record collections to create the perfect continuous mixes. One high point of the set was an old record with children rapping on it about the economic virtues of using a gas stove over electric. Little things like this separate the record collector from the fanatic. Shadow is rumored to own 10,000 45 rpm records. In “Product Placement’s” 57 minutes, snippets of 129 45’s are controlled, contorted and maneuvered to make a one of a kind mix only these two DJs could conger.
The show exhibited DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist’s unbelievable technique and finesse at the art of mixing and scratching. A lot of people say all scratching sounds the same. Every move is precise and one incorrect flick of the worst can result in a rough transition or an incorrect trick.
Both DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist were showing off their prowess on the wheels of steal. From perfectly accurate timing on the live mixing to intricate moves like the flare or rocket within the tracks. Not only were the song choices ideal, but their set could not have been more flawless. One of the most cohesive displays of everything a live show should encompass, all originating from seven inch pieces of black vinyl.