Think back to 1996. Remember G-funk and East Coast gangsta rap, 2Pac’s All Eyez on Me and Ghostface’s Ironman? UGK’s Ridin’ Dirty, the debut from Xzibit (At the Speed of Life), and a third disc from Mobb Deep (Hell on Earth)?
Wu-Tang Clan flexed its prime. Death Row and Bad Boy Records made everybody stop and reappraise music. Suge Knight, the leader of the former, called out Puff Daddy, wunderkind of the latter, and stoked the fires on a transcontinental battle that left bodies in the streets of both coasts for years to come.
Released late in this year of mass changeover, DJ Shadow’s debut album Endtroducing... ushered in a wave of instrumental hip-hop. Its themes matched its musical evolution by bringing the abstract into focus (“The Changeling”). And there towards the end, a mere 44 seconds, “Why Hip-Hop Sucks in ’96.”
A comprehensive crate digger as a teenager growing up in Davis, Calif., the DJ born Josh Davis made no bones about his viewpoint. Tacked onto the home stretch of a disc that samples more than 90 albums spanning Organized Konfusion to Nirvana and the Alan Parsons Project, “Sucks” not so subtly suggests that the seminal funk of Samson & Delilah’s “There’s a DJ in your Town” has lost the rap race to the more smoothed out and snazzy “Snap” of Seventies bassist Cleo McNett. A bad thing? Shadow thought so.
Eighteen years later, hip-hop’s developed into a multicultural phenomenon with so many subgenres it would take a millipede to do the math. Hearing an album outside of its birth year can’t turn back the clock on what’s come since, but the legacy of Endtroducing... lives on. Simply put, as an introduction to hardcore abstract and what Spin’s Sia Michel eloquently called “urban classical” music, it’s an enduring musical primer for all ages and times.
With that understanding in mind, Applied Pressure, a four-man DJ/electronic collective founded in 2011 by local spinner Patrick “Hobo D” Murray, decided to celebrate its third year of existence by performing the 13-track sonic scrapbook in its entirety Saturday at Holy Mountain.
“Entroducing... was one of the first records to break the boundaries of the traditional approach to hip-hop production, and is collectively what exposed all our members to the music we have so proudly come to create and support,” explains Andrew “Boombaptist” Thaggard, who, along with fellow DJ Kellen “Kid Slyce” Chumley and bassist Chris “4th Wall” Jackson, makes up the three active members of Applied Pressure now that Murray’s moved to South Korea.
“When I first heard it, I couldn’t believe that sample-based production could be as intricate as Shadow had made it,” he continues. “His use of rare source material – drum breaks, melodic content, scratching – and being able to find their symbiosis, is a stroke of genius.”
He says the challenge of recreating all the album’s samples via live instrumentation is “the most ambitious project under our belt.” As has been the case with their performances of late, Thaggard handles keys, Jackson takes guitar and bass, and Chumley scratches. Keeper, a Yadira Brown-led vocal offshoot of disbanded soul group 10YR, steps in for the singing.
A few guest performers take cues for other parts: Mike Manewitz, who served as DJ Shadow’s studio assistant, will be there, as will Harvest Thieves drummer/Holy Mountain general manager James Taylor, and Jeremy Ellis, a classically trained jazz/soul pianist who’s recently discovered the wonders of drum machines.
“He’s truly a sight to see,” attests Thaggard of the reformed California pianist. “We’re ecstatic Austin gets to watch such a prodigy.”
Just as Austin should be ecstatic to witness Applied Pressure put its – and Entroducing‘s – “Best Foot Forward.”
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