Creative Strategies for Producers w/ Matt Shadetek: The Art of Decision Making

In this creative strategies article, Logic expert and Dutty Artz label owner Matt Shadetek explains how decision making is at the core of what makes an artist an artist.

Creative Strategies_Decision_Making_3John Cage and Marcel Duchamp play chess, Toronto, 1968

What makes an artist different from a craftsperson? To put it simply: the artist chooses, the craftsperson executes. Think of the difference between a carpenter and an architect. The architect designs what’s going to be built, and the carpenter executes it. The point is not to diminish the value of craftsmen, but instead to use this distinction to understand the artist’s role. Decision making is at the core of what makes an artist an artist.


When Marcel Duchamp put forward the work entitled “Fountain” in 1917, the role of the artist and the craftsperson were forever separated. This piece was a urinal turned on its side, signed and submitted to a gallery show as an original work of art. Duchamp and his fellow Dadaist collaborators argued that whether or not he had created the object with his hands, he chose it and put it forth as a work of art, and therefore it should be regarded as such.

A performance of John Cage’s 4’33”

This lead to the creation of works like John Cage’s 4’33”, in which any number of musicians sit without playing, and the audience listens to the sounds that occur during that time. Both works inspired controversy because of their explicit definition of art as something which could be purely conceptual, separated from craft. Love them or hate them, these works taught us a great deal about the potential of art, and opened up new worlds which artists continue to explore today.


Let’s consider the ramifications of these works of art for our own creations. A particular area of interest is sampling.  The idea of looping a short piece of someone else’s musical performance to create a new one was pioneered by hip hop DJs in the Bronx in the early 1970s, most notably Kool Herc. Kool Herc would manually repeat a section of a vinyl record, usually a part of a song when the band took a break and the drummer played a solo (these later came to be called drum breaks).

DJ Kool Herc’s ‘merry go round’ technique lead to the advent of hip hop. 

Later, this technique was brought into the studio and became a part of the earliest hip hop recordings. As hip hop grew, and sampling shifted from simply looping drum beats to repeating larger pieces of other artists songs, controversy arose about whether this was a legitimate form of artistic expression. As you might guess, I place this approach firmly in the lineage of artists like Duchamp and Cage, and affirm it’s artistic merit because it recontextualizes and reconfigures familiar objects. Given the widespread availability of tools which can easily and cheaply replicate perfect copies of any recorded music, I would argue that this perspective is more valuable than ever.

In practical terms, I suggest that the post-Duchamp role of the artist is to be aware of the contemporary and historical context of their work and make choices which reflect it. For the artist, the challenge is to use this contextual knowledge to create work which feels fresh, while rigorously working to create something which adds to the larger conversation. The role of the artist has become that of the chooser, the decision maker. This role is inescapable, and while you may ignore it, ignorance is itself a choice.


About Matt Shadetek

Matt Shadetek is one of New York City’s most exciting producers. His live sets encompass contemporary Dancehall, UK Funky, and Dubstep, all delivered with Shadetek’s unique production voice which bridges the underground-mainstream divide. He’s one of the rare DJs who can rock a crowd with sets composed solely of his own dancefloor bangers and remixes.

Matt’s early love for Hip Hop and Dancehall along with edgy electronic sounds led to his Warp Records debut album Burnerism as part of the duo Team Shadetek. While Matt was living in Berlin and touring Europe, the followup LP Pale Fire was released, featuring the underground hit “Brooklyn Anthem”. The hit song kick-started a dance craze in the Brooklyn reggae scene (leading to over 100 fan videos of kids dancing to it).

Returning to NYC, Matt founded the Dutty Artz label/production crew with DJ /Rupture. Shadetek produced Jahdan Blakkamoore’s debut album, Buzzrock Warrior (!K7), pioneering its signature Reggae-Dubstep-Rap sound. In 2009 he also teamed up with Rupture to release the mix album Solar Life Raft (The Agriculture). His latest release, on Dutty Artz, is Flowers, an effervescent solo instrumental effort that references dubstep, UK Funky and Garage. He has toured internationally both solo and accompanied by Jahdan as vocalist.

Connect with Matt on Twitter | SoundCloud | Website


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