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August 10, 2009 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Mash My Bitch Up


I love mash-ups. I love the pun-y, tongue-in-cheek titles (‘M.I.A.-Team’, hah ahaa); the feeling of satisfaction upon correctly placing a drum loop or guitar riff that’s been taken out of its usual context; the juxtaposition of two artists that would otherwise never be mentioned in the same breath. A well-made mash-up exceeds the sum of its parts in an innovative and often surprising way. The Hood Internet’s ‘I’m a Flirt (Shoreline)’ is a stylish example, as it pairs the smooth R&B grooves of R. Kelly’s Top 20 hit ‘I’m a Flirt’ with the frenetic, unharnessed energy of ‘7/4 (Shoreline)’ to bring Broken Social Scene to the dance flo’, and R. Kelly to the hipsters. One of the charms of mash-ups is that they blur the lines of common notions of genre and authorship. Pop mixes with metal, rap is laid over a classical theme; it’s all fair game to a mash DJ, which results in songs that engage several different aspects of one’s musical taste.

As I imagine is the case with a lot of fans of the style, my introduction to mash-ups came by way of Girl Talk’s Feed The Animals, and DJ Danger Mouse’s ubiquitous The Grey Album. Feed The Animals is the latest album from DJ Gregg Gillis, a.k.a. Girl Talk, who excels in multi-track mashes. Gillis combines 20–30 individual samplers into each one of his songs, moving in and out of moments of dissonance into a puree of songs that you’d never have dreamt complementary until now. Air and Britney Spears! Sinéad O’Connor and T.I.! Hot Chocolate and Ice Cube!

DJ Danger Mouse’s approach is more typical of mash-ups, in that he merges one song with another to make one complete, new track. The Grey Album is a combination of The Beatles’ White Album and Jay-Z’s The Black Album, with the Fab Four’s songs broken down and rearranged to create a suitable backdrop for Hova’s gritty raps. His use of The Beatles samples was unauthorised, resulting in an attempt by EMI to stop the album’s distribution and a great deal of publicity for DJ Danger Mouse.

This leads me to another good thing about mash-ups: the best compilations are often available online for (legitimate) free download, because of the questionable legal status of the samples use to create them. A selection of my favourites:

DJ Z-Trip and DJ P – Uneasy Listening, Vol. 1, 1999:
A full album comprised of four 20-minute tracks, this was an influential release in the history of mash-ups, and made many ‘best of year’ lists in 1999. An extensive range of samples had been stitched together to create a cohesive whole, while periods of silence and spoken word clips account for the album’s title.

DJ Z-Trip – ‘The Motown Breakdown, Pt. 1’, 2004:
This, conversely, is very easy on the ears; nine minutes of smooth, cool Motown hits, including those by The Jackson 5, Sly & The Family Stone, The Temptations and Marvin Gaye. This track lacks the dissonance that is an integral part of other mash-ups: it comes across as effortless and complete.

Various – Best of Bootie compilations, annually:
The premise of the Best of Bootie compilations is for popular mash-up DJs to combine some of that year’s biggest pop hits with old favourites, resulting in such gems as DJ Topcat’s ‘Dec. 4th, Oh What a Night’ (Jay-Z meets Frankie Valli, and all Four of his Seasons) and ‘Tricky Sandman’ (Run-DMC versus Metallica). The modern pop mixed with the R&B beats and ‘golden oldies’ results in tracks that seem both familiar and fresh.

Stereogum & Team9 – MySplice III, 2008:
The Mysplice compilations are similar to the Best of Bootie compilations in that they, too, are released every year, and mix modern pop hits with old favourites, but the samples of this one run a little more left of centre. This edition, from 2008, features two of my absolute favourite mash-up tracks: the disco ‘Debbie Does Montreal’ (Of Montreal’s ‘Id Engager’ and Blondie’s ‘Call Me’), and ‘Lockdown Shelter’, of Kanye’s ‘Love Lockdown’ and the Stones’ ‘Gimme Shelter’.

Minty Fresh Beats – Jaydiohead, 2009:
As the name implies, this album combines Jay-Z’s arrogance and assertiveness with the darkly insistent music of Radiohead. While not quite rivalling the brilliance of The Grey Album, it stands head and shoulders above Jay-Z’s shitty collaboration with Linkin Park. ‘Lucifer’s Jigsaw’ and ‘Dreaming Up’ work particularly well.

Tor/Sufjan Stevens – Illinoize, 2008:
I love Sufjan Stevens, and his album Illinois, but trust me—it’s even better with appearances from Andre 3000 and Blackalicious. Illinoize is comprised of five tracks remixed by DJ Tor to create a seamless, engaging hip-hop EP. In places, it’s hard to peg this as a mash-up, or that either song was created without the other in mind: they go together like two separated halves. The subtlety of Sufjan’s music brings new meaning to the hip-hop elements, especially in ‘The Dress Looks Nice on You/Make You Feel That Way’.


About the Author ()

Elle started out at Salient reviewing music. In 2010, she wrote features and Animal of The Week, which an informal poll revealed to be 40% of Victoria students' favourite part of the magazine. Alongside Uther Dean, she was co-editor for 2011. In 2012, she is chief features writer.

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