Posts Tagged 'mash-ups'

What I’m Hearing, Vol. 15

{for last month’s What I’m Hearing, click here}

July’s iPod update was an extremely diverse one, not just for the artists, but for the songs themselves. Taking a new tact, I made July an all mash-up month, checking out some of the ways in which DJs have started taking on the mix and match genre full-throttle. While Danger Mouse helped pioneer it with the Grey Album and AmpLive took it another step with his remixes of Radiohead’s In Rainbows, the mash-up culture is far past those now. But while there is much to be said for the style of Girl Talk where there are more layers than you can reasonably dissect in a listening, I find the club mash-ups utilizing 2 to 3 songs to be a most effective use of the genre. The best news? As all of these are off the grid, they’re all available for download, so follow the links to check the music out for yourself. July’s iPod update included 118 songs.

50 Cent vs. The 50s, DJ Doc Rok: Currently residing in Washington, D.C., DJ Doc Rok’s (djdocrok@gmail.com) work is among the strongest of all artists I heard this month. What’s more is that while he does have a collection of odd mash-ups and various artists, he also sets out to create complete albums of one to two artists. On this album, Rok focuses on all lyrics from 50 Cent songs and combines them with Golden Oldie hits from the R&B and Pop genres. The result? 50 Cent party songs with a touch of flair, moved out of the straight club motif that dominates so many of his songs and saturated with style and soul. Using songs like Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man,” The Four Seasons’ “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and Booker T. and the MG’s “Green Onions,” Rok flips the 50 acapellas on their head with fantastic result. Definitely my favorite download of the month. Don’t Sleep On: “Rowdy Rowdy/It’s My Party (And I’ll Cry If I Want To),” “Like My Style/One Fine Day,” and “The Good Die Young/Little Susie.”

Best of 2007 (Mash-Up Your Bootz), Various Artists: If you’re looking for a comprehensive blog that provides a vast cross-section of the variety of mash-ups available online, check out Mash-up Your Bootz. They provide comprehensive year-end wrap-up mixes, links to other mash-up sites, and breaking news in the genre. I downloaded both their 2007 and 2008 Best of Mixes and wasn’t disappointed with either. Beck takes on Green Day, AC/DC meets 50 Cent and the Scissor Sisters, Peggy Lee and Iggy Pop collide and Peter Bjorn and John find their whistle backing both Bloc Party and Amy Winehouse. Some of the mashers on this mix include DJ Peaking, DJ Le Clown, CheekyBoy, DJ Lobsterdust, and Party Ben. Perhaps the most pleasant track is by Norwegian Recycling who put together a very simple acoustic mash-up called “How Six Songs Collide” featuring Jason Mraz, Howie Day, Five For Fighting, Angela Ammons, Boyzone, and 3 Doors Down. This one is mirrored nicely with the eerie and melancholy mash of Placebo, Kate Bush and the Pet Shop Boys called, “Love Comes Running Up That Hill Quickly.” Don’t Sleep On: “Young Folks Rehab” by DJ Topcat (Amy Winehouse’s v. Peter Bjorn and John), “Love Comes Running Up That Hill Quickly” by DJ Magnet (Pet Shop Boys v. Placebo v. Kate Bush) and “Break Through Love” by DJ Zebra (The Doors v. Led Zeppelin)

Best of 2008 (Mash-Up Your Bootz), Various Artists: The 2008 mix picks up where 2007 left off and offers an impressive array of very different artists finding their songs blended with people of opposite genres. The album kicks off with Bryan Adams going head to head with Metallica, James Brown duels The Offspring, and Rage Against the Machine gets thrown together with AC/DC, Joan Jett, Queen and Red Hot Chili Peppers. To say that these songs stretch the concept of mashable genres is an understatement. Contributors include Wax Audio, MadMixMustang, DJ Morgoth and Divide and Kreate. Best track has to come when DJ Schmolli brings the haunting guitar lilt of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” and fills it with a slowed down Billy Idol singing “White Wedding.” The result is astounding. Don’t Sleep On: “Wicked Wedding” by DJ Schmolli (Chris Isaak v. Billy Idol v. HIM) “The Low Anthem” by Bass 211 (Flo Rida v. Pitbull) and “Dance Dreams” by Divide and Kreate (Eurythmics v. Lady Gaga)

Michael Jackson: With the unfortunate and untimely death of Michael Jackson last month, I decided to go back and flesh out my Jackson music collection. Sure, I had Thriller and parts of Bad, but I was still missing a large chunk of music from the Jackson 5 days as well as the tracks he did as part of The Jacksons. In all of these outings, Michael’s voice is distinct and easy to pick out, and his energy serves to carry most of the songs. So if you’re looking for some tracks you may not have heard, Don’t Sleep On: “Too Late to Change the Time,” (Jackson 5) “State of Shock,” (The Jacksons) “Another Part of Me” (Michael Jackson)

Jay-Z vs. Led Zeppelin, DJ Doc Rok: By taking the lyrics from Jay-Z’s soundtrack to American Gangster and mashing them with various Led Zeppelin songs, Doc Rok succeeds again in creating an album that can stand on its own. Darker and more subdued than the 50 Cent album, this outing utilizes Zeppelin songs like “Immigrant,” “No Quarter,” “Tangerine,” and “Kashmir.” The result is a new way to think of Jay-Z, liberated from much of the standard hip-hop and rap tracks he’s been tied to, the guitars and gritty classic Rock from Led Zeppelin provide a new canvas which comes off fresh. Don’t Sleep On: “Success/Moby Dick,” “Party Life/I’m Gonna Leave You,” “No Hook/Tangerine”

Party Vol. 25 (Mash-Up Your Bootz), Various Artists: Where the 2007 and 2008 span every genre, what you find most on this party album are mashes primarily utilizing hip-hop, dance and rock. DJ Lobsterdust brings The Police and Coldplay together while DJ BC brings together George Harrison, L’il Kim and Notorious B.I.G. The nice part of this album is that all of it is danceable and will appeal to most anyone on the dance floor. When Gloria Gaynor and Fall Out Boy meet each other at the hands of Mighty Mike, just about anything is possible. Don’t Sleep On: “Get the Day ‘n’Night Started” by Pheugoo (Pink v. Kid Cudi), “Beautiful Journey” by DJ MashUP (Journey v. Akon) and “Lady and the Usher” by Divide and Kreate (Usher v. Ladyhawke)

Big Boi Does Ballet

Imagine the well-heeled, tuxedoed crowd of ballet sharing a sip of champagne with a group of hoodied hip-hop heads ready to crunk. This could very well be the scene in Atlanta, GA tonight at the Fox Theater as Big Boi of the Outkast launches his first attempt at a ballet show.

That’s right, you read me…Big Boi of OutKast has teamed with a ballet troupe in Atlanta headed by Lauri Stallings to bring together a fantastic mixmatch idea in the form of bringing Big Boi’s hip-hop music into ballet with a show called “big.” Fresh off his musical turn in Idlewild, Big Boi was approached by the ballet, and the show that will combine hip-hop and ballet, dancers and audience, is set to kick off tonight with the encore being Boi’s new single “Sir Lucious Leftfoot Saves the Day.”

The idea is not just to bring a new media look to classical ballet, but to help cross-pollinate the fans of the two, introducing hip-hop to classical ballet lovers and introducing those dance watchers to the vibrant world of hip-hop. The dancers are calling it different from anything they’ve done before, which I can only imagine is incredibly true. How many ballet dancers have you seen leaping off the stage to crank it in the audience? Whatever the outcome, the fact that Big Boi is willing to branch out into ballet, and Ms. Stallings is brave enough to attempt to choreograph it makes this an endeavor worthy of some attention in a MixMatch world.

The Odd Couple

the Odd Couple Cover ArtIn 2006, St. Elsewhere, an album of collaboration between producer Danger Mouse (The Grey Album, Ghetto Pop Life) and rapper Cee-Lo Green (…is the Soul Machine) dropped and instantaneously brought a variety of new mixmatched sounds to the hip-hop industry. The album covered Funk, Soul, R&B, Hip-Hop, Lounge and Electro in equal parts, never hesitating to throw them together and see what came out. This excellent album was an instant hit and spawned the ridiculously popular “Crazy” which began popping up anywhere you could find music. Following the success of the album, the DJ Sound Advice put his own re-mix spin on the tracks by releasing, for free download, Gnarls Biggie, an album comprised of mash-ups between Gnarls Barkley tracks and Notorious B.I.G. vocal tracks. Yesterday, weeks ahead of the scheduled April release date, St. Elsewhere officially became the freshman offering from Gnarls Barkley as they released their sophomore album, The Odd Couple.

Clocking in at 13 tracks and a brief 39 minutes, The Odd Couple finds Danger and Cee-Lo picking up right where their off-beat and stylistically vibrant and diverse St. Elsewhere left off. “Charity Case” opens the album with the funk baseline and oldies feel made popular by Andre 3000’s “Hey Ya.” The female backing vocals and bell chimes help keep Cee-Lo grounded in the track, and the moving rhythm and hand claps help the head keep nodding. Two days ago, when I watched the season finale of AMC‘s show Breaking Bad, I thought the song they ended the episode to was a fantastic one. It was haunting, mixing a Western and Soul feel with slow and emotionally infused lyrics reminiscent of Bill Withers vocals. Now imagine my surprise when I get to track two and that song turns out to be “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul.”

“Going On” refreshes the upbeat and clap-happy sounds of the first album, bringing about the feeling that a few more “Crazy”-like songs aren’t too far away. Cee-Lo works over organ samples and a beating drum tempo before Danger Mouse turns the last minute into a atmospheric piece of a more sinister nature complete with fuzzed out electronic influence. Track 4 brings out “Run (I’m a Natural Disaster)”, the first single from the album. The single makes it clear that Gnarls is going to try to capitalize on the retro-as-new feeling that made “Crazy” and “Smiley Faces” so popular. The song kicks off with a moving shout and response chorus of sampled children’s voices that breaks up into Cee-Lo’s manically paced lyrics. Once again, Danger’s production skills take over the last minute of the song as he starts mixing more of Cee-Lo’s singing over the party sound he’s created with the clapping and instrumentation.

The raw emotional happiness of “Run” gives way quickly to a much more somber and dark “Would Be Killer.” Here, Cee-Lo moves slowly over a beat laced with background ambient sounds and record slips which help the entire song feel a bit like vinyl being played backwards on an old 45. He fluctuates into higher ranges in certain parts, yet never feels out of place, which continues to be one of the most surprising and reliable portions of his music…even when he takes his vocals to an extreme, it never feels lost or out of place. “Open Book” kicks off with a frenetic and off-syncopated beat complete with bird sounds and strings in the background. The chorus for this song devolves considerably with Cee-Lo’s screaming tone pushed to the background of the music as a more wall of sound approach engulfs the track. Here though, it feels less like the two are having a good time with the music as it does on other tracks, and a bit more forced, as if they’re getting intentionally darker just to see what it feels like. For this reason, it’s a relief when the more playful Barkley re-emerges on “Whatever,” a track that reminds me of the “Liar Liar” remix in the card scene from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. The slower beat provides a nice contrast to some of the previous songs, and the use of Cee-Lo as the chorus vocals show that sometimes things can be intentionally ugly and still work musically within a broader tapestry.

“Surprise” finds Cee-Lo lamenting his lack of a soul mate. An acoustic guitar added on this track softens the sound a bit from the all electronic cuts on the album, but it’s a bit disheartening to hear Danger once again fall back onto the hand claps. The hand clap sound is certainly big right now in popular music, but Danger is capable of more, and when he uses it on the majority of tracks on the album, it becomes hard to ignore as a staple of his beats. This constant hand clapping, while used in very different songs for different purposes, still comes off feeling forced at the end, and a bit disappointing that Danger doesn’t mess around with background sounds that could be used to replace the hand clap on certain songs. But the bigger surprise about “Surprise” is when it’s followed by an electronically backed love ballad of sorts in “No Time Soon.” The music for this song sounds like Danger took some influence from Nine Inch Nails as the heavy machinery feel provides the backdrop for a more melodic approach over the top.

“She Knows” finds the duo slowing down a bit with a lo-fi sound that could be the Price is Right theme song on quaaludes. The 70s airy melodies and simple, slower beat take the pace of the album down a notch while providing it with an even more pronounced retro sounds. “Blind Mary” demonstrates the diversity of this tandem. While the majority of the album skips over various genres, the end results are still directly tied to Gnarls Barkley with the style of retro bordering on hip-hop. On “Blind Mary,” the exploration of tampering with genres starts with an almost carnival-like sound before slipping into an easy going, foot tapping Indie Rock exploration. The end result is a lighthearted jaunt where Cee-Lo’s distinct voice and Danger’s cohesive production (featuring, again, unfortunately, more hand clapping) produce a unique sound that could be featured on a variety of radio stations.

“Neighbors” again keeps the tempo slow and features Cee-Lo’s lyrics with a good deal of distortion on the chorus. The easy hip-hop beat, combined with layers of electronic melody and bass funk create an interesting sound, and Danger keeps it together with a variety of vocal samples interlaced. The album comes to a close with “A Little Better,” a song that starts slowly using vinyl pops with a simple bass line and Cee-Lo talking about past moments in his life and his shortcomings. The drop step of the drums on the chorus, combined with a stair-step bass part and Cee-Lo singing in a soulful and at times gospel-like voice create a very easy song to listen to, fading out towards the end with a series of thank yous.

For any fan of St. Elsewhere, I can’t imagine a better follow up attempt by Gnarls Barkley. While it lacks a song that feels to me as unavoidably popular as “Crazy” was, it has some definite hits on it, and you can never tell what kind of radio and club airplay any of these songs will get if they get a remix makeover from some other DJ. Above all though, the album does a fantastic job at never becoming stagnant. Aside from the hand claps, Danger never relies too heavily on any one genre or production style, and Cee-Lo never lets his rap background influence him to a degree that would detract from the rest of his work. Furthermore, with not a single track clocking in over the 4 minute mark, the songs leave you wanting a bit more as opposed to having you looking for the skip track button. For the latest in the MixMatch style and the artful collaboration of artists and genres, look no further than The Odd Couple.

Pot of Gold

The mash-up world, following the release and enormous publicity of Danger Mouse‘s Grey Album, has erupted. Following the illegal mixing and matching of Jay-Z and The Beatles, artists coming together to mash has blossomed into a full industry. Jay-Z was one of the first to take advantage on a massive scale when he collaborated with Linkin Park for Collision Course. Now both the underground and commercial aspects of mash-ups have grown, and this new sub genre has invited a host of interesting questions regarding rights and distribution where two artists are involved. What makes the questions more interesting is, as in the case of Danger Mouse, when an artist goes out on their own to mash others’ music. But what happens when the remixed music is free, and started out free? Somehow, it seems lately that whenever we write about distribution rights, marketing and new music models, Radiohead is omnipresent. This time, it wasn’t Danger Mouse, and it wasn’t using a collection of songs as heavily protected as the Beatles’ library.

A few months ago, we talked about Radiohead releasing their newest album online in a “pay what you will” format. The discussions have been endless in terms of what this new model means for the record industry. The limits of Radiohead’s generosity were tested recently when AmpLive, who most will know from his amazing work as one half of the Zion I duo out of Oakland, came out with a new mash-up. AmpLive, after listening to In Rainbows, decided that he had to have a crack at re-mixing the tracks and adding hip-hop artists like Charli 2na and Del of Hieroglyphics over Thom Yorke‘s lyrics. He started offering these mixes up under the title Rainydayz Remixes, and sure enough, Radiohead’s major distributer, Warner, sent a cease and desist for unauthorized mixes.

That’s when Radiohead, their take on the music industry and distribution rights, and their sensibilities as musicians stepped in to the discussion. Never one to do what the labels tell them, Radiohead has now sanctioned AmpLive’s remixes, allowing him to distribute them as long as they are free (which was his intention initially), and apparently giving the musician stamp of approval to a mash-up album that carries Radiohead’s distinctive sound while taking the music of the band into previously uncharted hip-hop territory. After four listens through the album last night, there’s little wonder that it got the band’s stamp of approval…it’s phenomenal, unexpected, and a fantastic companion piece to the original.

Clocking in at a sparse 8 tracks and 25 minutes, what Rainydayz lacks in length it makes up for in depth. Following the 30 second intro, the remaining 7 songs are a lush assortment of sounds and moods. “Videotapez” is a slick chop of “Video Tape,” with a solid hip-hop beat and an original Del verse. Amp uses the piano portion of the song as the loop, and Thom Yorke’s scratched lyrics provide the chorus. “Nudez” takes on “Nude,” using the airy vocals of the original and lacing them over a thumping bass line. The song takes on an original chorus and provides a Too Short verse before transitioning into a more laid back beat with Yorke on the fade out.

“Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” gets redone here as “Weird Fishez.” Amp doesn’t repeat the fast paced drums of the original, and the song is all the better for it. The beat rolls along with hand claps and an almost jazzy xylophone type sound with electronic glitches. The use of Yorke on this one is more as accent, as all of the clips are jittery and short. He doesn’t use any extended lyrics from this one, and the clips he does use trail off nicely. Towards the end of the song, Amp goes frenetic with the drums before bringing the beat back. “All I Need” brings a more trippy underground dub feel to the original with nicely interspersed horns. The chorus is brought out in a synthesized loop, and the end result is reminiscent of a Massive Attack song. This song is fantastic as it demonstrates the true versatility of Amp. While the majority of his music is rooted in hip-hop, part of what has made Zion I so successful is his constantly changing and incredibly diverse production. Here he shows that off to great effect.

On “15 Stepz,” Amp starts the song with a heavy electric guitar that leads you to believe we’re going to get a Collision Course-esque mash-up, but then a relaxed and groovy beat comes in and Codany Holiday offers up a soulful interpretation of the original lyrics. Part funk, part lounge, this song is perhaps the best example on the album of Amp weaving together his interpretation with the original material. He slows down the glitch tempo of the original and combines it with a great beat of his own. It’s excellent to hear the Radiohead lyrics re-interpreted here. The style of Radiohead is so unique, and Yorke’s voice so distinct that this soulful take on it comes across wonderfully. Holiday doesn’t get caught up trying to emulate, he merely takes the words and gets down to business

“Reckonerz” starts with the start and stop style found in a few songs on True and Livin’ before bringing in the deep and unmistakable flow of Charli 2na. The chorus is completely original, and the verse is backed by eerie samples from the source material “Reckoner.” 2na blasts through the verse in his signature style, making this perhaps the most radio ready track of the 7. The album finishes with “Faustz” which sounds more like it’s original, “Faust Arp,” than any other track here. Amp keeps the main guitar part virtually intact while looping and scratching the original lyrics on top. The head nodding hip-hop over the top sounds right at home, and the stop and go segment sounds like a DJ swapping drum beats between turntables.

If there’s one downfall to this album it’s that it’s under a half hour long. If there’s two, the second is that AmpLive doesn’t tackle the other songs on the album. “Bodysnatchers,” “House of Cards” and “Jigsaw Falling Into Place,” are neglected here. But these are minor points. The creation of the album, free internet distribution, and subsequent Radiohead backing make this album another step in the journey to a revolutionized music industry, and a triumphant addition to the growing collection of mash-ups.


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