Pioneer of hip hop, David Axelrod, influential composer and producer, died late Sunday at age 83. No cause of death was initially reported but the news was confirmed by long-time friend DJ Shadow on Twitter.
If you’ve listened to hip hop at any time since the early ’90s, odds are is that you’ve enjoyed some of his sampled work; Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg’s “The Next Episode,” De La Soul’s “I Am I Be,” Ghostface Killah’s “Stay True,” tons of tracks from DJ Shadow, DJ Premier, Madlib, Swizz Beatz, etc.. etc.. etc.. etc..
The LA-born Axelrod began as a session musician before becoming a producer and arranger for the likes of Lou Fawls, Cannonball Adderley and even rockers like Electric Prunes. Adderley said of Axelrod’s work, “there’s a layer of violence [to his music] no matter how pretty it is.”
Towards the mid-60s produced four huge LPs by David McCallum – which became the basis of Dr. Dre’s 2000 single “The Next Episode.”
Although this eventually became his most popular work, other work in the mid to late-60s included records for The Electric Prunes as well as a few solo projects which resulted in “Holy Thursday,” probably his most cited and sampled work.
After having moderate success with his solo projects following the death of Cannonball Adderley in 1975, Axelrod eventually stepped away from the music industry in 1993 following the mixed reviews of his LP Requiem: The Holocaust. But his career was soon reinvigorated as hip hop producers rushed to sample his work. This included Ghostface Killah’s sample of “Terri’s Tune” on his track “Stay True.”