The internet was recently treated to a surprisingly coherent Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino mash-up project, the work of SoundCloud user Najvyexi. The 16-track good boy, d.E.E.p Web is the perfect example of the magic that can be created when a mashup project is executed correctly.
Of course, there is no shortage of absolutely horrid, half-baked instances of some college student with a pirated copy of Logic Pro trying to cram De La Soul vocals into a Radiohead track, but when executed with knowledge and precision, the result is something that enhances both the individual works involved and simultaneously creates something new and original.
With unprecedented access to the entirety of the music world, producers have an opportunity, and dare I say a responsibility, to use the criminally disrespected art of the mashup to expand the horizons of listeners and in the process, strengthen a sub-genre that ironically flips the sample-driven sounds of hip-hop with the same creative spirit that produced hip-hop in the first place.
With the aim of both strengthening my argument and making sure our readers don’t end up listening to any of the aforementioned atrocities, I’ve compiled a short list of examples of absolute mastery in the art of mashup albums.
Press play on any of these works and you’re guaranteed to look at the respective projects involved in a totally different light.
The Grey Album - Danger Mouse
The Godfather of all mashup albums. Sure, there were plenty before The Grey Album, but Danger Mouse’s classic fusion of Jay Z’s The Black Album and The Beatles’ The White Album is both conceptually brilliant, and musically one of the most cohesive examples of a mashup album to date.
Fela Soul - Amerigo Gazaway
I could have literally selected any mashup album Amerigo has composed, of which there are several, but Fela Soul is both some of the most exciting work he’s done, and also just as cohesive conceptually as it is musically. In placing De La Soul, an Afrocentric and lyrically conscious rap group over Fela Kuti, a seminal figure in African culture and undeniably an influence to De La, Gazaway crafted a mashup that’s both wonderful to listen to, and a cultural statement.
Ghostfunk - Max Tannone
While not technically a blend between Ghost and another specific artist, NY producer Max Tannone blended some of Ghostface's dopest verses with a mix of “vintage African funk, high-life, and psychedelic rock music.” The result is a departure from the grimy boom-bap sounds that once surrounded these Ghostface a capella’s, and a re-imagining of Ghost’s proudest lyrical moments through a more sonically diverse lens.
The Ocarina of Rhyme - Team Teamwork
Full disclosure: this really isn’t the most cohesive mashup project, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t a blast to listen to, especially for any fellow hip-hop heads that also have a fondness for what I consider to be the greatest video game ever made: Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. The project features popular tracks from Jay Z, Clipse, Dr. Dre, and more re-imagined with music from the N64 Zelda gem. While a couple tracks are misses for sure, the overall production quality on the project is impressive, and you’d be surprised at how dynamic MF DOOM raps over the horse race theme from Lon Lon Ranch.
The Brothers Of Chico Dusty - Wick-It The Instigator
Nobody would blame you for not being immediately excited by the prospect of someone mashing up a Big Boi solo album with The Black Keys, but I can tell you that you’d be wrong in dismissing this project. The Brothers Of Chico Dusty is a mashup project that I legitimately prefer over both of the respective albums untouched. Wick-It perfectly picks from the soulful sounds of The Black Keys to add weight and depth to Sir Lucious Leftfoot: The Son Of Chico Dusty, an album that in this writer’s opinion was heavily slept on.
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Bandcamp