In 2002 Little Brother Producer 9th Wonder created
a cottage industry with his remix of Nas’s Godson CD, God’s Stepson. After winning
a spot on Jay-Z’s Black Album it was widely considered as an easy way to get
heard. As a result, a rainbow-assortment of Jay-Z remix albums has sprung up.
Here is a break down of a
few noteworthy projects.
Title: The Grey Album.
Producer: Danger Mouse
Synopsis: Jigga drives his Bentley down Abby Road as Danger Mouse nabs drums,
guitars and other elements
exclusively from the Beatles White Album.
Pros: This ambitious project wins points for originality. The grungy guitar
and dirty drum samples
are a great complement for the aggression of "99 Problems." Precise
drum chops and cymbal clashes
turn "What More Can I Say" and "Encore" into break beat
collages. Backwards vocals on "Lucifer" are an
Cons: Limited by its exclusive use of one the Beatles most unconventional albums.
Pervasive static makes it
sound like it was mastered in a sardine can and the frantic drum programming
of "Dirt Off Your Shoulders"
sounds like Timbaland OD’d on Red Bull and Jolt Cola.
Conclusion: Danger Mouse has a great ear for finding breaks but halfway through
this you’re begging for
Ronnie Foster, Bob James or Cal Tjader to come and give the Beatles a breather.
Title: The White Album
Producer: Kno of Cunninglynguists.
Synopsis: One of the southern underground’s best-kept secrets injects a new
level of soul by giving The
Black Album some blue notes.
Pros: Staying true to the Blueprint formula
Kno puts a more appropriate melancholy to tracks like "Moment of
Clarity" and "My First Song" with clever uses of lilting piano
and haunting vocal samples. His ethereal "December 4th" is a better
pairing for Jay-Z’s autobiography than the overdramatic crescendos of the original.
He makes the originally putrid " Justify My Thug" a pleasant listening
experience by allowing Jay-Z’s introspective verses to breathe and redoing the
hook. Plus Kno re-sequences the project to give it a more seamless song order.
Cons: Bouncy violins of "PSA" and the conga percussion of his "99
Problems" rob both tracks of their
Conclusion: When Jay-Z inevitably comes out of retirement he should definitely
give Kno a call.
Title: The Brown Album
Producer: Kev Brown
Synopsis: Touch of Jazz producer Kevin Brown allows Jay-Z to explore his latent
native tongue tendencies
Pros: Kev’s mostly live, subdued instrumentation is an ideal backdrop for Jay’s
lyricism. On "Threats" he
chops Al Green’s "Still In Love With You" and slings it like hot grits
across a brooding bass line. "Moment
of Clarity" weaves a saxophone jacked from Smif N Wessun’s "Bucktown"
with sparse guitar that gives the
song an angelic resonance. His jazzy "Encore" reminds you why Jay
and The Roots band are such a good match.
Cons: He shied away from revamping the songs that could have benefited from
his touch like "Change
Clothes," "What More Can I Say" and "Justify My Thug."
Conclusion: Not a bad beat in the bunch and only makes you wish that Jay were
a more dedicated student of the
low end theory.
Title: The Black Jays Album
Producers: Kardinal Offishall and
Solitair (The Black Jays)
Synopsis: Jigga gets a rude bwoy makeover courtesy of two of Canada’s finest.
Pros: "Encore" is transformed by a driving bassline that is vaguely
reminiscent of the Mission Impossible
riddim. "Public Service Announcement" is the highlight on the set
preserving the original’s Beat Minerz
fingerprints with murky bass, sleigh bells and chopped horns. As expected "Lucifer"
is dominated by the raga
melodies that were only a reference in the original. You can almost see Jay
hanging from a tree in a
Cons: "Dirt Off Your Shoulders" doesn’t match up to his vocals at
times, and the overall feel is decidedly
electronic giving Jay-Z’s words a sterile, dead-pan feel.
Conclusion: If that red, gold and green wristband is more than a fashion statement
Jay should take a trip
to the T-Dot.
Winner: The White Album. Kno took on the whole project and made it his
own and actually improved on the
original where it needed it.