The virtue and merit in the mash-up is debatable. It begs the question: does the combined and mixed work of two or more artists (canon or contemporary) qualify as new, original art in itself? At one point does rearranging preexisting work jump from mere middling distraction to original expression? Really, the mash-up is like buying two or three puzzles, and then mixing the bits up so you have a wagon full of puppies careening through the Grand Canyon with Van Gogh's Starry Night matted along the rocky wall. Of course, not all puzzles fit together easily, so even creating an absurd but enjoyable mix requires a great deal of acuity and effort. The same can be said, obviously, for combinations of music. In both cases a good artist of the mix will seek pieces that are at least cut similarly enough that they can fit together, if not seamlessly, than at least tightly with a bit of a hammer blow.
I know that we've discussed the mash-up issue before, regarding Girl Talk's All Day, and I've defended it staunchly already, so I won't go on for too long. But I think, really, the value of any mash-up lies in the listener realizing that the pieces are fitting together, but also noticing that they don't notice the pieces as separate immediately. As much as I fought for the pulling out the pieces aspect before, there's something to be said for the way we lose the pieces too. A good mash-up feels complete, much like the puppies-Grand Canyon-Starry Night, but with a blending that makes sense and feels right. There is always an iteration in combining events that seems just as complete as each individual event anyway. Look at revisionist history. Or, look at the current state of cable news reporting. The event is really the sum of its interpretations, not its parts. And that, pardon the expression, sucks balls.
Regardless, mash-ups are art in the sense that it takes an artist to blend other art into something understandable. You can't just throw a can of paint on the Mona Lisa and say its a DaVinci/Pollack. It has got to be delighting, interesting and enjoyable. And it can't do too much. And that's the success in Wick-it the Instigator's mash-up (for Mashville and available here, because GB the interweb) of Big Boi and the Black Keys. It is called The Brothers of Chico Dusty, which really sums up the nature of the mashing. The Black Keys involvement is almost purely musical, adding just an injection of bluesy guitar and rock-epic-ness, with the exception of a couple chorus-pop-ups here and there. The result is that Big Boi's music sounds fuller and more like a sort of rap-rock-opera-narrative. It's hard to pin down, since, ultimately, it is easily described as spectacular. And yeah, I know that I "like" everything that I write about in this space for the most part. But Brothers (yeah, we're shortening it) is stronger than All Day and the Lil Wayne mash-up (500) Days of Weezy.
Part of the success here is that the two "ingredient" artists are so similar. Wick-it the Instigator has chosen two sets of pieces that have the same cut, to continue the puzzle analogy, which makes assembling so much easier. We're not looking at a lot of disparate material, instead, we're seeing blues-rock mixed with beat-driven hip-hop. And guess what... hip-hop and blues have a lot in common, from the storytelling nature of the lyrics to the driving, consistent progressions. So, Brothers, ends up being a quality academic choice for mashing anyway. Considering it mathematically, this shit just makes sense. Value-wise, this mash-up maintains what is essentially Big Boi's work with new garnish and flourish. It puts a new coat of paint on the same car. Since the original car happened to be of the racing variety, the added material just improves it. Go check it out. It's free, and it's really dance-able, crunchy and, dare I say, delighting.
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- Words On Film: Exit Through the Gift Shop
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- PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
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- Mashville - The Brothers of Chico Dusty by Wick-it...
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