I have a confession to make: for most of my life, I didn’t enjoy hip-hop. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve always admired skilled hip-hop artists, especially those who freestyle . It’s just that my enjoyment of music generally comes from the instruments and the interplay between them. I appreciate lyrics and vocals, but I see the human voice as one instrument among many, and not always the main attraction.
However, my view of hip-hop changed dramatically about a year ago, when a friend forwarded me a link to DJ Dangermouse’s The Grey Album . Here was one of my favorite bands (the Beatles) providing instrumental tracks for one of the most skilled hip-hop artists of the day (Jay-Z). I finally understood what people have been saying about hip-hop all along – it really is an amazing vocal styling. Not just the words, but the rhythm of the words. I don’t think that I fully appreciated it until I heard it mashed up with equally impressive music.
Suddenly, I had to have it all. My generation had created an art form that rivaled anything that the Baby Boomers had came up with, and I wanted a piece of it. So I set upon a quest to find the best hip-hop mashups on the internet.
First, I shall point you to the foremost experts in the field – The Kleptones . A Night at the Hip-Hopera and Yoshimi Battles the Hip-Hop Robots are good in ways that all music should be. The climax of a Night at the Hip Hopera is a 4-minute, 20-second symphony of Prince Paul / De La Soul (“More Than U Know”) mashed up with Queen (“Under Pressure”). It is sweeping in its effect. I wish that I could just reach through my monitor and give it to you.
But enough about DJs. What about blogs?
Before diving headfirst into the blogosphere, I urge you to arm yourself with a Firefox plug-in called DownThemAll . It allows you to download all the MP3s on a page with a single click. Useful to have around.
The one blog that you absolutely need to check out is The Hood Internet . I’ve heard it said that this blog is “all you need.” It’s updated frequently by people who know their stuff, and their mixtapes are first-rate .
Finally, I should address a topic that has dogged mashup culture from the start. You’ll notice that some entities, such as Disney and EMI , do all they can to criminalize mashup culture and take the music out of our hands. This is because they simply do not understand it. We’ve created Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and they’re bitching about how we got chocolate in their peanut butter. It is my fervent hope that someday this art form will become legitimized and recognized for what it is – an awesome new genre of music that makes its predecessors even better.