This week’s column has five entries, but far, far more songs. That’s because this week’s column is about one of the best but most under-appreciated genres: The mashup.
The history of the mashup is a bit tricky to pin down, but what first got me interested in the style was an actual record of the 1989 debut album from Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers, a British novelty act that specialized in proto-mashup medleys of songs from the ’50s.
While proper mashups began in the early ’90s, they only really got started in the 21st century when digital music editing tools got cheap and efficient. It’s easy to forget but some good things have come from computers, even if the list is mashups and this website. But now you have such masterpieces as…
Girl Talk — All Day
As far as I’m concerned this is reigning standard for mashups. Clocking in at over an hour, this album flows seamlessly through every era, every genre and every mood, never once feeling forced. I can’t even begin to imagine the patience and encyclopedic knowledge of music history it took to put this together.
Even more impressively, there’s not a single noticeable instance of changing a song’s tempo. A common crutch for mashup artists, it makes two songs better sync up at the expense of one of them sounding like an “Alvin and the Chipmunks” parody. But in 71 minutes that never comes up. It’s amazing.
Amerigo Gazaway — The B.I.G. Payback
Gregg Gillis hasn’t released an album in nearly a decade, opting to focus on producing other artists for the time being. So until he gets back in the game the current reigning king of the mashup is Berkeley’s own Amerigo Gazaway.
Mostly creating duets between classic R&B and hip-hop, Gazaway’s creations have included Yasiin Gaye (Marvin Gaye and Yasiin “Mos Def” Bey), Fela Soul (Fela Kuti and De La Soul), A Common Wonder (Stevie Wonder and Common) and The Miseducation of Eunice Waymon (Nina Simone and Lauryn Hill). But for my money the best is The Notorious JB, a crossover between James Brown and Biggie Smalls.
Seriously, get in on this.
Party Ben — “Boulevard of Broken Songs”
One of the first mashups to get mainstream traction back in 2004, which was 15 years ago, “Boulevard of Broken Songs” is still one of the best.
Can we talk about how long ago 2004 was, though? I mean it seems like yesterday, right? It doesn’t sound like the past. It starts with a 2! But it was so long ago.
The chronological difference between 2019 and “Boulevard of Broken Songs” is the same as the difference between “Boulevard of Broken Songs” and The B-52s “Love Shack” or Tone Loc’s “Bust a Move.” When this song came out Taylor Swift was a high school freshman.
We’re all so, so very old. [Gokhman note: Willis just mourned a birthday. Give him a hug if you see him.]
Thomas the Tank Engine and Ice Cube — “It Was a Good Train”
I genuinely apologize for this if you weren’t previous aware, but there’s an entire genre of putting rappers over the “Thomas the Tank Engine” theme song.
Seriously, there are so many of these. Go to the YouTube page for that one and start clicking the recommended videos if you want to go down that rabbit hole. I’m so very sorry.
Happy Cat Disco — “The Old Unforgiven Road”
I know this is supposed to be Rewind, but there’s one new one I have to include because it’s so good.
Bootie, based in San Francisco, specializes in mashups. They—Bootie is a they—have a traveling dance party where mashup artists perform their art, and their website has monthly top 10s of the best that’s out there. This made last month’s list.
If you want to hear more I highly recommend checking them out. If nothing else, it’ll break the vicious cycle of “Thomas the Tank” Engine remixes.
Follow editor Daniel J. Willis and tweet column ideas to him at Twitter.com/BayAreaData.