Shades Of Jay

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

inspired touch.

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

aggressive appeal.

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

Hawaiian shirt.

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.

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