It's always felt dishonest to me. I was sixteen years old when I first listened to this cd, and I can remember wondering about this cover photo. Which one was DJ Shadow? My first guess was the black guy. Then, upon closer inspection, I noticed how the white guy's face was blurred. I thought this guy was DJ Shadow, and that the blurring effect was some kind of vague sociopolitical statement about the hip-hop subculture: a photographic "shadowing," if you will.
Years later, I finally read up on the real story.
So the picture was taken at "Records" in Sacramento, whose basement is now semi-famous as the filming location for DJ Shadow's interview for the Doug Pray documentary Scratch. The green jacket guy is Chief Xcel, dj/producer for Blackalicious. The blurry face guy is mc Lyrics Born wearing a cheap blonde wig. Photo credit goes to Brian Cross (aka B+), highly respected hip-hop photographer and filmmaker. In fact, the photo is a still from a scene from the B+ directed "Midnight in a Perfect World" video (one of my all-time favorite music videos). Back in the early 90s Shadow, Lyrics Born, and Blackalicious were all founding members of Solesides, an independent hip-hop label based in Northern California (which later evolved into present day Quannum Projects). It turns out, therefore, that dj Shadow does not appear as one of the vinyl diggers featured on the cover of his debut album. Fitting, as Shadow himself has explained his choice of stage name coming from a desire to downplay his own personality while letting his music speak for itself.
And I say all that, to say this: have you ever noticed that freaky cat under Lyrics Born in the photo (more prominently featured on the back cover)? It's kind of creepy, and I guess the point of this entire post is that cats are creepy and weird.