Behind the Crate Sifting Album Cover for DJ Shadow’s ‘Endtroducing…’

Released in 1996, the instrumental album, Endtroducing… by DJ Shadow is considered today to be one of the greatest hip-hop albums and one of the greatest displays of DJing, sampling, and producing.

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Even down the cover, it’s a perfect representation of the ’80s and ’90s lifestyle many hip-hop DJs lived, digging through crates and shelves at record stores, looking for an album no one had heard and the new sample that would change the genre.

Let’s dive in.

DJ Shadow

Born June 29, 1972, Joshua Paul Davis would grow up to become the now-iconic producer known as DJ Shadow. While well-known and acclaimed, Davis is somehow still under the radar or underground. For example, he’s not one to appear on red carpets or at awards shows.

Yet, he carries with him the utmost creative respect from his peers. To date, he has released six studio LPs, including The Private Press in 2002 and The Outsider in 2006. His music is perfect for zoning out, for studying, for writing, or for freestyling in your bedroom.

The Album Cover

DJ Shadow was known for spending hours a day looking for music. As important as it is to make music, for a DJ whose instrument is the turntable and vinyl albums, you have to constantly be looking for new sounds to sample and chop up.

So for his debut LP release, Shadow honored that lifestyle, using a photograph that was shot at Rare Records by the artist B Plus. The album cover shows producer Chief Xcel and rapper Lyrics Born, both of who were in the group SoleSides collective, sifting through albums in the record store.
In the photo’s full version, as part of the liner notes, ABB Records founder Beni B (in a baseball hat) can be seen in the photo in another aisle of the store.

In this way, the album cover honors community, craft, hard work, and lineage. It’s also a simple time capsule of a moment in the song composer’s life. Remarkable yet simple stuff.

When the album was done in early 1996, Shadow went on to release it and earn considerable flowers (aka praise).


Probably the most famous song on the album is the track, “Organ Donor.” On it, Shadow takes an organ sample and chops it up into a whole new song. Much like Marge Simpson and her designer dress, except Shadow’s song never falls apart. In fact, that’s the thing about him. He’s an expert musical tailor and none of the seams show. Other classics on the album include, “Stem / Long Stem (Medley)” and “Building Steam With a Grain of Salt.”

Amazingly, Endtroducing… was Shadow’s debut album. The record is comprised almost entirely of samples from vinyl records. Shadow created it over a two-year span using an Akai MPC60 sampler and not much else. He added layered samples from songs and soundtracks and skits and more. “Organ Donor” features a diatribe about parking tickets.

At the time of the album’s release, Shadow had created a reputation for himself as an up-and-comer in the United Kingdom. As such, Endtroducing… became a Top 20 album on the UK Albums Chart and certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry. In America, it hit No. 37 on the Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart.

Photo by David Wolff – Patrick/Redferns

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