It started, more or less, with 9th Wonder’s God Stepson. That is, an artist with a lot of passion, but hardly a name to go off of, pays homage to another artist they honor and tribute, by remixing their album (without the original artist’s permission of course). 9th did this for Nas, and when the acapellas for Jay-Z’s The Black Album surfaced, a whole slew of copycats got the same idea, and thus, all of the colors of the rainbow were illegally inserted into the title of Jay’s supposed swan song (along with a ton of lousy remixes). While entries from Kno of Cunninlynguists (The White Album) and Kev Brown (The Brown Album, of course) were notable, one remix LP rose to the top, DJ Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album, which combined Shawn Carter’s vocals’ with Beatles sampled beats. In both cases – 9th Wonder and Danger Mouse – two relatively unknown names had catapulted the start of their careers.
Amp Live has been around for ten years as a producer in the hip-hop game, as one-half of severely underrated Bay Area duo, Zion I. It’s taken the crew a while to get the recognition they deserve, but with the release of 2004’s True & Livin’, they dropped their first truly solid record. Still, while Amp was the creative force behind all of these beats, he had yet to be mentioned in the same breath as his peers, such as Evidence, Chief Xcel, Cut Chemist, or hell, 9th Wonder or Danger Mouse.
Amp realized it was time to go above and beyond the call of duty, and chose to remix one of his favorite groups (without permission of course), Radiohead. With the digital release of In Rainbows (a.k.a. the best record from Radiohead since Kid A) last year, Amp decided to get in on the action be remixing select songs from it, and offering it for free download, just like the group did with the original version. While this seemed like a good idea on paper, it didn’t exactly fly with Radiohead’s publishing company, Warner, who was still mad at the group for dissing them and giving away In Rainbows for free. The remixes were complete, and ready to be released into the Wild West that is the internet, when Amp got a dreaded cease and desist letter from Warner…. just like Danger Mouse got from EMI regarding The Beatles samples. Hmmm….
But there’s nothing better for your career than pending legal action, especially if your music is hot to boot. Amp got the ‘net on his side, pleaded with the group on YouTube, sent them the remixes, exchanged talks, and, in the end, actually got permission to make it happen! Only available for free download (right here, mind you), Amp broke new ground in the world of do-it-yourself music industry.
So how does Rainydays Remixes hold up? Incredibly solid, actually, which makes it easy to understand why Radiohead approved it. A tightly knit, eight-song EP doesn’t waste time with filler, and succeeds in two areas – it proves that Radiohead is brilliant sample material (watch Kanye and Will.I.Am start to rape their catalog for hit singles next year), and that Amp Live is a dope producer.
The EP begins with “Video Tapez”, which finds Del The Funky Homosapien getting loose over the original song’s raining pianos, and a choppy version of Thom Yorke’s original hook. The sensual sounds of “Nude” are re-imagined as an uptempo, vibey joint called “Nudez”, where both Too $hort and MC Zumbi (of Zion I) deliver inspirational verses. Various bits and pieces of “Reckoner” are rearranged to form “Reckonerz”, where Jurassic 5’s Chali 2na rides Amp’s head nodding rendition of the track with ease. The vocals on each of the three hip-hop songs have two things in common; 1) each present positive, self-examining lyrics for the listener; and 2) these are all original vocal contributions – no mash ups or borrowed acapellas.
“15 Stepz” is the only other track that features new vocals, as soul singer Codany Holiday sings over the original album’s opening track, lending a much different feel to the song than Thom’s more abrasive approach. Meanwhile, each “Faustz”, “Weird Fishez”, and “All I Need” are essentially instrumental remixes, which find Amp souping up the tracks with tougher drums, while having fun with the sampler. “All I Need” stands out among these, giving it a heavy, DJ Shadow/Blockhead-esque sound.
Aside from being a great accomplishment – that is, remixing something illegally, but making it so dope that the artist lets you release it, Rainydayz Remixes works as an essential companion piece to In Rainbows, as well as a standalone project even if you’ve never heard of Radiohead. – Pizzo
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