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Heavy Rotation 66: Copyright Gangbang Edition

March 13, 2011

This week I’m going to ramble on at length, which is something I’ve been doing a lot of lately. Don’t head for the exits yet, though. I’ll be breaking up my pontificating with plenty of damn fine musicks to help ease the load.

I’ve got mashups on my mind. Bootleg mixes. Bastard pop. It’s all the same thing. Artist A meets Artist B (and sometimes, Artists C-Z) through the matchmaking skills of a mashup artist. In my mind, there’s nothing quite as enjoyable as the sound of two tracks playing off each other in unexpected ways. Where else but in the overactive imagination of a mashup artist could you find Jay-Z rapping over White Album loops? Or the Beastie Boys unleashing their mighty whitey power over the primordial breakbeats of the Prodigy? Or Ludacris calling out haters and hangers-on while riding a reggaeton beat and a chorus of “Role!”?

ABX & The Hood Internet – Bonde Do Rollout (Ludacris vs. Bonde Do Role).mp3

But mashups, despite their ability to create something fresh from something overplayed (exception: anything using Flo Rida’s Low. Never again. Please.), catch all kinds of shit from a variety of people.

First and foremost in their hatred of mashups (and mashup artists) are the record labels. They feel this is “infringement” at best and outright theft at worst. They issue takedown notices and cease-and-desist letters. They have no genuine concern for the artist’s music. After all, they know that mashup artists aren’t cutting into their sales, and even if they are, the bootleggers know that they can’t possibly sell this. It’s not really theirs. The end result is, but the pieces are not.

So, as long as the mashup artists play by the rules, the labels tolerate their existence. DJ Dangermouse caught legal hell when he released The Grey Album, a full-length mashup of Jay-Z’s Black Album and the Beatles’ White Album. Pretty much rule #1 in the music business is Do Not Fuck with the Beatles. Apple Records has all this screwed down tight. Hell, they sued Apple Computer for daring to use the same piece of fruit in their logo. They own the library of the biggest cash cow in the business and retain a very expensive team of lawyers.

DJ Dangermouse – 99 Problems (feat. samples of Helter Skelter by the Beatles).mp3

Their rights holders shut him down. But this is the motherfuckin’ internet so Dangermouse’s album was mirrored everywhere. Everyone agreed to disagree and history was made.

So that’s one angle. The labels are still trying to figure out how to sue them properly, without getting tangled up in the sticky threads of “Fair Use.” It’s also the ugly tendency of major labels to confuse “art” with “product” and see how much cash they can extract from someone who’s doing a ton of free promotion for their artists.

And then you have this attitude, which crops up during discussions of “derivative art”:

I’m more than familiar with mash-ups. It’s a cute novelty. I’ve yet to hear one whose sum is better than its parts.

And considering all the musical hooks in these things were written by other people, shouldn’t those other people be credited as co-writers?

Condescension. Dismissiveness. And of course, a little concern tossed in the general direction of the poor artists, who are apparently getting screwed by the remixers.

Or there’s this take:

For me, it’s the biggest damnation of “current culture” because they have stopped being truly creative and settled for second best recycling. They no longer are impressed by a great painting, but they are impressed with the guy sweeping up the studio once the artist left.

Much like anyone who declares the internet to be full of crap, this casual dismissal of mashups/artists tends to demonstrate the mindset of the dismisser, rather than slander the mashup artists.

Generally, the person making this statement has already drawn a mental line clearly delineating between what is Good Music and what isn’t. It’s usually drawn at a certain point in time (like 1977) but is sometimes deployed along genre boundaries (rap, techno and country get harshed a lot). It is stasis trapped in the eye of the beholder.

An insistence that one form of music is superior to another form is ridiculous.

Girl Talk – Jump on Stage.mp3

Or they just get it completely wrong with a stretched metaphor that fits about as well as a baby doll tee on a “World’s Biggest Loser” contestant:

It doesn’t take away the fact that they’re building on other people’s work. It’s like me building a second story over your house, while you still live there.

But it isn’t. It isn’t like that at all. Only someone with a pre-defined idea of what Music Should Be would confuse Girl Talk’s track with simplistic A+B arithmetic. No. It’s like this (quoting me):

It’s someone borrowing your window and someone else’s door and the front walk from your mutual neighbor and a mailbox from the guy across the street who’s always stealing your newspaper and stealing that newspaper back along with some decent shrubbery and using the same paint color as the corner house and the shingles of the house behind you and the garage doors from two blocks away and the naked cherub fountain from the courthouse and the stern street number font of the cop shop and the spiral staircase from that one movie you saw and the exit signs from the local theater and the car seats from the soccer mom’s minivan and that stoner’s stereo and mom’s couch and grandma’s collector’s plates and Uncle Jim’s junked Olds and the 12th hole green from the nearest golf course and all the ideas of a meth-addled feng shui consultant and some ideas from your local architect as improved on by your 4-year-old’s idea of what a real house looks like viewed through a combination 3-D glasses/kaleidescope.

That’s what it’s like:

(Girl Talk – “Jump on Stage” sample list)

  • 0:00 – 1:08 Portishead – “Sour Times” (portion sampled samples “Danube Incident” by Lalo Schifrin)
  • 0:01 – 0:08 Miley Cyrus – “Party in the U.S.A.”
  • 0:08 – 0:09 Naughty by Nature – “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”
  • 0:09 – 1:23 Big Boi featuring Cutty – “Shutterbugg”
  • 0:10 – 1:08 Amerie – “Why R U”
  • 1:09 – 2:41 Talking Heads – “Take Me to the River”
  • 1:14 – 1:23 Ice Cube – “We Be Clubbin'”
  • 1:14 – 1:27 V.I.C. – “Wobble”
  • 1:15 – 1:25 50 Cent – “Get Up”
  • 1:16 – 1:28 Diddy featuring Christina Aguilera – “Tell Me”
  • 1:18 – 1:33 The Edgar Winter Group – “Frankenstein”
  • 1:31 – 1:33 50 Cent – “Disco Inferno”
  • 1:33 – 2:41 Skee-Lo – “I Wish”
  • 1:34 – 2:17 The Notorious B.I.G. – “Hypnotize”
  • 1:43 – 2:46 T’Pau – “Heart and Soul”
  • 2:46 – 2:46 Janet Jackson – “Love Will Never Do (Without You)”
  • 2:42 – 3:08 Jadakiss featuring Swizz Beatz and OJ Da Juiceman – “Who’s Real”
  • 2:50 – 2:51 New Edition – “If It Isn’t Love”
  • 2:52 – 4:26 Radiohead – “Creep”
  • 3:04 – 4:10 Ol’ Dirty Bastard – “Shimmy Shimmy Ya”
  • 3:09 – 3:11 Public Enemy – “Public Enemy No. 1″
  • 3:51 – 4:08 Cypress Hill – “How I Could Just Kill a Man”
  • 4:20 – 4:30 Busta Rhymes – “Dangerous”
  • 4:25 – 5:03 Prince – “Delirious”
  • 4:30 – 5:13 Master P featuring 5th Ward Weebie and Krazy – “Rock It”
  • 5:08 – 5:08 Prince & the New Power Generation – “Gett Off”
  • 5:09 – 6:22 Iggy Pop – “Lust for Life”
  • 5:09 – 6:17 Beastie Boys – “Hey Ladies”
  • 5:15 – 5:17 White Town – “Your Woman”
  • 5:18 – 6:22 Lady GaGa – “LoveGame”

http://www.illegal-tracklist.net/Tracklists/AllDay

And then this collective asks you to move out because you’re harshing everyone’s mellow with your lack of ideas.

A good mashup is more than the sum of its parts. Those “affected” by it would do well to remember that every new generation of anything builds on the previous one. Art isn’t created in a vacuum. And I guarantee that if you locked McCartney, Starr and Jay-Z into a room they wouldn’t come up with anything nearly as visceral or engaging as The Grey Album. I can see Jay-Z doing something close on his own but the other two are so hampered by their own images that they wouldn’t be able to make the mental leap needed to produce something this bold.

This guy is a musician like cheerleadering is a sport.

Fuck you. You’re like a guy in his mid-20s who still cruises the main drag wearing his letter jacket. Music moved on and you stayed in the same place.

Take, for instance, the last few moments of Girl Talk’s Jump on Stage where Greg Gillis combines the Beastie Boys and Iggy Pop to devastating effect. Separately, the tunes (Hey Ladies, Lust for Life) are familiar crowd-pleasers. I like the two tracks involved but have heard them enough in my lifetime to not go out of my way to hear them again. Together, though, they’re a masterful match, with Iggy Pop’s rhythm section toughening up the nasal rap styling of three Jewish kids from the Bronx.

DJ Moule – Waiting for Temper (Velvet Underground vs. Gorillaz vs. The Prodigy).mp3

It’s like hearing an old favorite for the first time again. It’s that kind of impossibility that makes the perfect mashup one of those rare things that can give you a childlike feeling of amazement. I’m in my mid-30s. Anything that makes me feel like a kid again is welcome. Anything that kicks years of cynicism to the curb for a few minutes is deeply appreciated.

If you can’t see past the obvious addition of the components and enjoy the whole as its own being, then I truly feel for you. You must have no joy in your life. Everything that could be appreciated as something of its own has been broken down and compartmentalized into nothing more than a parts list for product.

If it is your belief that no talent lies in the remixer then why would you check out the culinary talents of various chefs? In the end, they’re just making small variations on meat and vegetables. They might be able to coax out flavors and textures you haven’t had before, but most of the work is still being done by the animal or vegetable itself.

Why watch any sequels or remakes? Why read any books that come in a series or feature the same characters? Why visit an art gallery? Everything in there is based on pre-existing styles and schools. Why would you single out mashups as the nadir of culture?

It can only be one of two things: an absolute belief that the best period of music is already behind us or that mashups are glorified theft and nothing more than punishable infringement. Both views are equally close-minded. Only one is potentially dangerous.

If you want to believe the best days of music are behind us, you’re only robbing yourself of new experiences. The second belief is a particularly vindictive form of projection in which your overreaching entitlement has given you the ability to see villains in every doorway and leaking dollars pouring out of every mp3. Unfortunately, the second belief is entertained all too frequently. If unchecked, it could truly bring about the end of creativity. And as the life ebbs from the art form you claim to love so much you can’t bear to see it hurt by freeloaders and infringers, you’ll be too blinded by your myopia to realize the blood is on your hands.

One for the road:

The Kleptones – Come Again.mp3

Samples:

  • The Beatles – Come Together
  • Dezo – Y’all Know What It Iz
  • Lil Wayne – Best Rapper Alive
  • Beastie Boys – No Sleep till Brooklyn
  • Breakwater – Release The Beast
  • Rare Earth – I Just Want to Celebrate
  • Queen & David Bowie – Under Pressure
  • Cypress Hill – Insane in the Brain
  • John Lennon – Power to the People
  • Boston – More Than a Feeling
  • Freeez – I.O.U.
  • Criminal Element Orchestra – Put The Needle to the Record
  • Art of Noise – Close (to the Edit)
  • S’Express – Theme from S’Express

Download links:

Girl Talk

The Kleptones

Best of Bootie Compilations

The Hood Internet

DJ Moule

DJ Brat

Go Home Productions

Culture Bully

-CLT

11 comments

  1. I have been through one ♥♥♥♥♥run♥♥♥♥♥ this morning and will be back for a second and third tomorrow…and will leave additional commentary. You have no idea how much I am loving this post!!!


    • I’m going to make a guess: you love it ten (10) hearts’ worth. I’m looking forward to your additional commentary (and hearts).


  2. I’m with Elizabeth on this one. This may even have your top ten on the countdown beat as far as I’m concerned. I loved every single piece in this thing and I learned a thing or two about mashups despite myself.

    The Grey Album may be the most genius thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Holy fucking shit!


    • Thanks again, Scott. I’m glad this post is this well-loved. It kind of proves all the rambling points I attempted to make somewhere in the 1,800+ words above.

      If you like The Grey Album, click on the Kleptones link and pick up A Night At the Hip Hopera. It’s about 25 years of hip hop mashed up with Queen’s A Night at the Opera. Lots and lots of genius bits in there.


  3. ♪♥ ♫♥ ♪♥ ♫♥♪ ♥ ♫♥ ♪♥ Holy fucking shit indeed! I, as promised, came back twice today. Once to hear the links and then to read your compelling and well researched post…it was a very slow read as I found this topic particularly interesting. I even turned the music off as I can’t effectively read and listen simultaneously (I think Gary Busey has the same kind of affliction…and etiology). I know this will sound self indulgent (because it is), but this was my favorite of all your posts. Not sure why, but I ‘get’ statistics although I am a self-professed math moron. This piece is my musical version of statistics. I totally ‘get’ everything you wrote. Get it and agree with it. And, my God, I loved the music. I saw the ‘layers’ in a new way today. Let this serve as my thank you note for a much appreciated, very lovely gift…one I will always remember (and dance to). Thank you CLT. I hope you do more of this theme…the musick is freakin’ SICK. ♪♥ ♫♥ ♪♥ ♫♥♪ ♥ ♫♥ ♪♥


    • While I am truly sorry to hear that you suffer from anything that Gary Busey does, I’m glad you came back for more. I’m blown away that this is your favorite. I knew you were a sucker for the hip hop, but I didn’t really expect to have that much of an impact.

      Good news! I am thinking about doing more on this theme. I’ve got such a backlog of great mashups lined up for the Heavy Rotation cue that I’ve actually been considering running one or two of them on their own every week. This comment was really all the push I needed to make that a reality. Start looking for those extra bootlegs starting soon.


  4. A plus D from Bootie here… This post is amazing, and incredibly on point and well written. We’re truly impressed. I think we’re going to post this to the Bootie mashup blog, as we think it would be a great read for our audiences. We will post this, this week.

    A couple thoughts…where’s DJ Earworm? He’s what we consider a true genius of mashup production and were a bit surprised he wasn’t on the list. His United States of Pop song series is probably the most intricate and popular singular mashups yet.

    [Of course, there are few more Bootie producer faves - but rather than list them and risk leaving someone out -people can of course find them via the Bootie Top 10s & Best of Bootie albums on our site (thanks for posting our link.)]

    Second – most of the labels don’t *actually* hate mashups…they play it both ways. Many have used mashups to break artists (on the down-low) and they continue to put out acapellas so that people remix and mash them, in order to get a song/artist more publicity. So they *publicly* tend to be against them, while at the same time they often *NOT-so-publicly* utilize unlicensed mashups & remixes as a promotional tool for their artists.

    Thanks for such an in-depth, insightful blog post. We hope to get it out to more viewers via our blog soon.

    A+D
    Bootie mashup


    • Mysterious D –

      Thanks for the visit and for making your way through my long-winded half-rant. And a big thank you for re-posting this.

      This is something that’s been brewing for a few weeks and has been re-written several times. I could easily do another 2,000 words using what’s been discarded.

      There are a lot of amazing mashup producers out there and it absolutely floors me that so many people who claim to love music dismiss their work so quickly as “derivative.” Nobody loves music like mashup artists do. They have to know their music inside and out to make these combinations work. It’s never as simple as Vocal A over Beat B.

      DJs in general get knocked a bit as well, as they’re just playing “other people’s music.” As a former DJ (and not even a very good one), I know that in order to make your set flow, you actually have to intimately know your collection.

      And yes, so far the labels are having it both ways with mashups. The hip hop world is built on mixtapes and the acapellas are usually easy to obtain. But the quicker the music industry circles the drain, the more opportunistic they’ve become. In the US, they’ve got ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and the DHS (Dept. of Homeland Security) seizing domains (including top level) and websites that do nothing more than link to “infringing” material.

      As they continue to grab at anything that resembles cash, it seems likely that this “hands off” policy in regards to mashups may soon fall by the wayside. If they think there’s some money in it, they’ll go after it. It all depends on where they think the money is. It could be just the site. Or it may be the hosting. But something will go down.

      Also: the list of links is severely truncated. I’m going to start kicking out more mashup features and load them with links as there are many, many, many quality mashup artists whose work deserves to meet many more ears.

      Starting all the way back from 2manydjs and Freelance Hellraiser, the list grows exponentially. Schmolli, Divide & Kreate, Geometrix, Lobsterdust, White Panda, Le Clown, Dave Wrangler, Diamonds, Earworm (of course! United States of Pop), Party Ben, Copycat, PaulV, Totom, Clivester, and of course, A+D. That’s just off the top of my head.

      I heard many of these for the first time thanks to your incredible Best of Bootie compilations. And I found your site via Culture Bully, so I figured I’d thank them with a link. So, to everyone I left off the list: don’t worry. You’ll get yours, too.

      Thanks again for the visit and comment, Mysterious D. Keep up the excellent work.


  5. [...] I threatened way back in the day (actually about a week ago), I’d be posting more mashups for your listening pleasure. After all, who doesn’t enjoy [...]


  6. [...] (Oh. You don’t. Well, calm down for a moment and read this.) [...]


  7. [...] disdain, there’s a strain of complete ignorance driving these statements. I’ve run down several of the ridiculous objections to quote/unquote remix culture previously, specifically in regards to the complaints about mashup [...]



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