DJ Shadow initially sent this post to select fans via email, and the response was so encouraging and positive that he felt it warranted additional exposure here on his site.
Friends, with your permission…
About two years ago, near the end of 2019, I released a double album called “Our Pathetic Age.” It was the culmination of several years of intense productivity and surging confidence. I felt that it was my strongest collection of songs in decades, maybe ever. It represented my progressive instrumental side AND my love for producing genuine rap tracks, and I loved both voices equally. There was excitement at my label, and with the recent success of “Nobody Speak,” genuine enthusiasm at radio. It seemed that the stars were aligned, and the time was right to deliver on all the promise of the prior album and EP. We kicked things off with “Rocket Fuel,” and a performance on late night TV here in the US. I began to develop a new live show, and dates were booked for the following Spring and Summer. Everything was teed up and ready to go, with a plan to work the album through 2020 and beyond. I was ready for a new plateau, new levels of achievement. This was going to be the album that proved I belonged in any conversation about top music producers. This was going to be the album that squashed, once and for all, any outside narrative that my best work was behind me. It was going to represent the pinnacle, the height of heights of what I could and would accomplish. It was going to be THE ONE.
But…none of it happened.
We all know why, of course. Less than two weeks into my tour, COVID went from being a sidebar to a worldwide emergency. Countless people lost their livelihood, and far too many lost their lives. I spent most of last year trying to cope with the grief I felt for friends and peers worse off than I. At all times, I was aware that no one had been spared, and that my financial and emotional losses paled in comparison to so many. I did what I could to be empathetic and compassionate to those who needed me. But because it was happening to everyone, I began to feel that there was no one I could talk to about my OWN sense of loss. I tried in the beginning, but quickly realized that most people understandably took it as a cue to divulge their own damage. So, gradually, I stopped trying. After all, what does something as insignificant as a record album mean against a backdrop of such collective despair? I almost felt embarrassed to acknowledge my own sadness.
And yet, in writing this letter to you, my fan, that is precisely what I now must do: recognize my loss, so that I can begin to move on. An album I had tremendous hopes for died a premature death, and while it may seem trivial to everyone else on the planet, it was devastating for me. I made something I loved, and was ready to share it with the world, but those plans were dashed, and my creation was stillborn.
It hurts. It’s the biggest disappointment of my career, and that’s saying a lot. It has affected me on every possible level. I may not wear my ambitions on my sleeve, but like any artist, I do crave recognition, perhaps not from the mainstream, but certainly from my peers and fans. I wanted to impress you. I wanted you to be proud of what I built, and to have the opportunity to show it off. And if I’m ever going to get over this, to create again, I need to tell you what happened and how painful it was. Perhaps the album wouldn’t have resonated beyond normal industry parameters, and I concede that…but the fact that it was never given a chance is a harsh reality that cuts deep.
So, if you’ll allow, I’d like to say this to myself, with you as a witness:
It’s gone, and it’s not coming back.
It was a small and humble contribution to the lineage of artists who inspired me, and it had merit…but it’s departed, and now it’s time to turn the page and welcome a new day.I know the grieving will endure, but the desire to contribute and create must prevail.
I am grateful for the lesson, and for the opportunity to create anew.
As I said, I know I’m no special case. We’ve all experienced loss. I hope you understand why I felt the need to publicly acknowledge mine, and I hope it encourages others who find themselves stuck in creative limbo to do the same.
With love always,