The origin of the “mash-up” can be traced back to Run DMC and Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way”, which wasn’t even a true mash-up, so to speak. Sure, this was the first time that rock and rap met face-to-face, but this was more of a “remix” of Aerosmith’s original track, with added vocals from Joseph and Darrel. What popularized mash-ups was DJ Z-Trip & DJ P’s “Uneasy Listening” mix CD, which presented live blending of hip-hop acapellas over various classic rock songs. But the trend really took off in 2003 with the advent of the Inhumanz’s 50 Cent / Nine Inch Nails “50 Inch Nails” studio mash-up, which pitted “In The Club” against “Closer To God”, making it one of the first mash-ups to gain mainstream appeal and significant radio / club play. Following the release of the Inhumanz “Hell To Pay” album and DJ Danger Mouse’s “Grey Album”, 2004 saw an explosion of copycats from every direction ? some good, many others not ? all looking to get in on the action. Still, while for the most part an unauthorized action, the lifespan of the mash-up could only go so far before getting shut down by the suits ? until now. After a year of too many “Black Album” remixes and hundreds of bad mash-ups, Jay-Z and Linkin Park team up to create history with the first legal mash-up album.
What makes this collaboration so incredible is that it began as just another “Black Album” remix by Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, which somehow made it’s way into the hands of Jay-Z, fully blossoming into a 4-day studio session and live performance between the two acts. Yes, “retired” rapper Jay-Z came out of retirement (again) to go back into the studio with Linkin Park to re-record all of his vocals, as well as do a live performance with the band, before retiring back into his comfortable presidential chair at Def Jam. So this time, rather then blending acapellas and chopped up rock samples, the two artists literally shared the studio and stage together, making music history in the process.
So just how well does Collision Course fit together? Because this is an album that features two main artists, it will be received differently by both groups of fans. From the hip-hop fan’s perspective, the six-song EP is hit & miss. The opener, “Dirt Off Your Shoulders/Lying From You” is a powerful reinterpretation that sets the standard for the album, perfectly meshing the two songs together into an easy crowd-pleaser. Similar chemistry is found on “Numb/Encore”, a somewhat subtler mash-up that harmonizes Jigga’s original hook with LP’s submerged strings and melodic pianos, creating wonderful fusion. Finally, the forgotten “Jigga What Jigga Who” blended with “Faint” also comes off incredibly well, literally transforming one song into the other right before the listener’s ears.
But like most mash-ups, the results aren’t always golden. Both “Big Pimpin’/Papercut” and “Izzo/In The End” focus less on the musical aspect of mashing-up, and instead simply insert Mike Shinoda’s rap lyrics next to Jay-Z’s verses, both over the original beats. While this might be exciting for Linkin Park’s fans, Jay-Z fans might be questioning why this sub-par lyricist gets to trade mics with the almighty Jiggaman. Furthermore, it would have been nice to see Linkin Park at least replay these beats live, rather than just laying down the original instrumentals. Triple mash-up “99 Problems/Points Of Authority/One Step Closer” also fails to deliver, as nobody can out-rock Rick Rubin’s original, not to mention the fact that Jay-Z’s lyrics are drowned out by LP’s heavy guitars.
While half of Collision Course works better than the other half, major props are due for the added DVD that comes packaged with the CD. The documentation of the studio session is priceless, and the live performance at Hollywood’s The Roxy is a legendary musical moment, as you can feel the fans’ excitement to be witness to this surprise event. As to whether or not MTV will help organize another “Ultimate Mash-Up” remains to be seen, but this is truly one event not to be slept on, regardless of how loud the end result bangs.
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