So, here’s the thing. It’s not that I hate mashup albums. In theory, it’s not that bad of an idea. A thoughtful collaborative effort, not yet actualized, provided for the betterment of sound. It’s a beautiful thing really. The problem, as is the case with so much of life, comes in the execution. Let’s be honest, too many of you are using loaded weapons without a license. Stop it.
Now, I was sixteen when Marcy met Liverpool, balancing salmon-colored khakis and the vestiges of throwback glory. It was Dave Matthews days and Dipset nights. These were complicated times and the soundtrack was an uptempo, guitar-driven rhythm, layered with slick, proverbial wordplay.
When Danger Mouse took the wisdom of Shawn Carter and placed it atop the sonic revelries of the Beatles, we had reached a monumental point in music. The potential of song had been captured in an entirely new methodology. A dizzying array of concepts and auditory sensibilities took shape, providing even the most complex eardrum some peace of mind. An insatiable appetite was being calmed.
From there, we had the respected (9th Wonder’s Black is Back) to the underrated (Kev Brown’s The Brown Album) to the fairly unknown (DJ Zay’s A Fair Alternative) examining the concept with rewarding results. We feasted and it was good.
But for every success there were thrice as many failures. Because, while I appreciate the visceral engagement of the Shaolin Monks with dusty Blue Note records, the metaphorical “streets” were not calling for dubstep reinterpretations of the Wu-Tang Clan.
Mashups. I love you and I hate you at the very same time. Bittersweet.
Now that you’ve indulged me in my sanctimonious diatribe, I suppose I should share some of the “good.”
Fans of A Tribe Called Quest are fans of the Pharcyde and vice versa. I am sure of this. Hip-hop eccentricities claim no regional allegiances. What each did individually represented a greater narrative in the canon of hip-hop. These were two acts that seemed destined to come together. Unfortunately, it never happened. At least, not in full. In a way that’s changed. Today, we take a look into what could have been.
I’ve talked about Amerigo Gazaway (of Gummy Soul) before. If you’ve heard Fela Soul, you get it. He, unlike many of you, should continue to do mashup projects. But even in my familiarity with his work, I was still hesitant. To be completely honest, I was scared. These were two of the most influential outfits in the genre’s expansive history. The stakes were actually TOO high. But, I watched and I listened.
*sigh of relief*
We know the music. Low End Theory. Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde. Midnight Marauders, etc. It’s standalone brilliant. We’re not debating that. On trial today is the effectiveness of placing these musical manifestos in conjunction with one another. And to that I say…it works. Even more than that, it EFFECTIVELY works. That’s the project’s greatest strength. Taking the innovative production of A Tribe Called Quest, essentially a graduate course in jazz history, and combining it with the effervescent flow of California’s chillest emcees, you get something that should have happened a million times over, but never really did.
It’s easy to say this this was not a sophisticated endeavor. Of course, when constructing a project involving Tribe “We’ve Got The Jazz” deserves inclusion. That’s a given, right? But pairing it with “Soul Power?” That takes talent. It doesn’t sound forced. At times, I forget that I’m listening to a 3rd party album. Something this synthetic shouldn’t sound so organic. But it does. It’s a testament to the connectivity of the artists, but speaks volumes of just how good Amerigo Gazaway really is.
The upside of mashup albums is unequivocally high. This is that. This is a meeting of the minds that didn’t happen in reality, but now stands in the ethereal realm of musical possibility realized, even in this abstract space of reconstitution.
Now, forget everything I just said. Disregard the verbosity of my prose and focus.
This, above everything else, is absolutely dope. Mash on, Amerigo.
You can find Bizarre Tribe: A Quest to the Pharcyde here.
Written By: Paul Pennington