Join 3,441 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


White + Black = Grey
February 18, 2004 10:05 AM   Subscribe

DJ Danger Mouse has been making waves recently with his Grey Album that cross-pollinates the music of The Beatles' classic White Album with the lyrics and delivery of Jay-Z's recent swan song, the Black Album. The results? "One of the more interesting pirate mashups ever done." (Pitchfork). "Most ambitious remix." (Village Voice). "As fun as it is daring." (Boston Globe). "Ultimate remix record." (Rolling Stone). Not surprisingly, EMI is far from amused by the unsanctioned and unapproved project and the limited release will no longer be distributed. So, download it now (or check out these Real Player samples).
posted by boost ventilator (92 comments total)

 
The strange thing about this (to me) is that EMI is complaining over the use of Beatles samples. Meanwhile, no comment from Jay-Z, who has had his complete vocals lifted and used unmodified.

Anyway, it's a pretty good album.
posted by hammurderer at 10:17 AM on February 18, 2004


Well, Jay-Z released a vocals only version of this album exactly for this kind of thing, even if his label hasn't sanctioned it. The Beatles, I believe, have never granted sampling rights to their work.
posted by thebigpoop at 10:25 AM on February 18, 2004


I believe it was the intention of Jay Z (and Roc-A-Fella and the Black Album's producer, Young Guru) to release an a capella version of the entire album for producers to remix and redo. Or, as that article states...at least to all but invite them to do so.

There are a bunch of other Black Album re-dos out there...Kno of the Cunninglinguists released his White Album (with samples) and Kev Brown released his Brown Album (with samples). I know that there are some dancehall versions as well...
posted by tpl1212 at 10:26 AM on February 18, 2004


I heard about this a few days ago on NPR and was able to get a copy right away. I'm afraid I didn't like it much. I was hoping for something that was a true re-envisioning of the White Album, along the lines of what Shadow might do. Instead it's a small collection of rather paltry Beatles loops with the emphasis on Jay-Z rapping.

It's too bad, because I love the idea. I hope this is the beginning of a new movement of appropriated and reinterpreted sound works... and hopefully this will also extend to video.
posted by squirrel at 10:26 AM on February 18, 2004


Jay-Z had released the vocal tracks alone, specifically for the convenience of remixers.
posted by crunchburger at 10:27 AM on February 18, 2004


Meanwhile, no comment from Jay-Z, who has had his complete vocals lifted and used unmodified.

actually... I believe Jay-Z released a vocal's only version of the Black Album specificly to give underground DJs the ability to do things like the Gray Album...

Of course, I doubt Jay-Z or his record company were smart enough to attach anything like a Creative Commons Licence or anything like that, so technically, they have a reason to bitch as well should they feel the need to.

My impression of the entire event was that exact situation; One artist says, "take my stuff and mix it up" while everyone else says, "don't you dare sample our Intellectual Property."

(on preview... yea what Cruchburger said - only longer)
posted by KnitWit at 10:29 AM on February 18, 2004


Hey, everyone, I think Jay-Z released the vocal tracks alone for remix purposes.

*snicker*
posted by squirrel at 10:40 AM on February 18, 2004


The Beatles, I believe, have never granted sampling rights to their work.

I'm pretty sure Paul's Boutique has about a thousand Beatles samples on it.
posted by hughbot at 10:43 AM on February 18, 2004


I was in a record store in the East Village the other day, when I heard a rap song with the sample of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" in it. I'm only familiar with the hits from Jay-Z's work, so I didn't recognize him. I just remember thinking that it was a pretty creative choice of sample. I'm gonna hafta nab this bad boy. I think John Lennon would've approved.
posted by jonmc at 10:43 AM on February 18, 2004


My opinion of the Grey Album, for what it is worth: I really really dig it. It hasn't left my car cd player all week. The sullen Beatles' samples behind JayZ's rhymes lend to this air of his farewell quite strongly. Some of the songs are almost...sad? One of my complaints with the un-retouched Black Album was that the beats weren't anything to knock me over...I got the message that this was a "final act" for Jay, but the beats seemed tepid and a little bit underwhelming. Perhaps because Dangermouse's samples are so recognizeable (and those sampled tracks evoke their own feelings)...the album is a pretty amazing showcase of JayZ's rhymes and message.

I dig it.
posted by tpl1212 at 10:45 AM on February 18, 2004


The Beatles, I believe, have never granted sampling rights to their work.

I'm pretty sure Paul's Boutique has about a thousand Beatles samples on it.


Paul's Boutique was released prior to any sampling laws - grandfathered out of any contention.
posted by KnitWit at 10:47 AM on February 18, 2004


Did everyone post at the same time?

Anyway, I heard the grey album and was not impressed. I get that it was labor intensive, but as works of music I don't think there's much there of interest, compared with the source material.

Oh, and let me be the hundreth person to say that Jay-Z released a vocal's only version of the Black Album specificly to give underground DJs the ability to do things like this. Now someone else repeat that.
posted by Outlawyr at 10:54 AM on February 18, 2004


"Paul's Boutique was released prior to any sampling laws"

Say what?

There's no sampling grandfather laws. Songs are protected under copy and trademark laws. Jeez Vanilla Ice was sued for using Queen's bass riff.

Also you can find most a capella versions of most rap songs on most mp3 search engines making remixes super easy.
posted by bitdamaged at 10:57 AM on February 18, 2004


I don't know where but I ran into an article about this a few days ago and had to go snag it from my fave P2P program. I must say I think it's very hot. Not DJShadow by any stretch but still very well done.
posted by daHIFI at 10:58 AM on February 18, 2004


Yeah, it really sounded like a fun idea, but the album is absolutely terrible (and I quite like both DM and Jay-Z). Kno's version is supposed to be very good, though.
posted by christiaan at 10:58 AM on February 18, 2004


I was in a record store in the East Village the other day, when I heard a rap song with the sample of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" in it. I'm only familiar with the hits from Jay-Z's work, so I didn't recognize him. I just remember thinking that it was a pretty creative choice of sample. I'm gonna hafta nab this bad boy. I think John Lennon would've approved.

jonmc, I'm shocked! Did you leave your cred at home today? That's a George song! ;)
posted by mkultra at 11:01 AM on February 18, 2004


I know that, mkultra, but I was always a John man, so it's his cosmic approval I'd be seeking.
posted by jonmc at 11:06 AM on February 18, 2004


The site is pegged, anyone got a torrent link?
posted by cpfeifer at 11:12 AM on February 18, 2004


Not a big Jay-Z fan, but this album is solid (and I'd like to thank our own waxy for pointing it out and providing some links).

There's no sampling grandfather laws.

I think what KnitWit meant was it pre-dated the landmark Biz Markie vs. Whitebread Washup decision.
posted by yerfatma at 11:13 AM on February 18, 2004


remix: Black album Jay-Z only vocals released DJs specifically underground give ability things like this do.
posted by drezdn at 11:15 AM on February 18, 2004


I'm still waiting for Big Boi (who apparently has been a huge fan of Kate Bush since he was in his teens) to finally get to work with the woman. But if he just ends up sampling, this could still be awesome.

(And wouldn't it be even better if Jay-Z would release a vocals-only version of The Black Album? Will never happen, though.)
posted by maudlin at 11:20 AM on February 18, 2004


from what i've read, jay-z released an a capella version of his album specifically for other to remix.

after having heard the gray album though, i wasn't really impressed. maybe it would help if i liked the beatles? the original black album though was solid. beats were good. rhymes were good. no lame cameos. i could've done without most of the song intros, but this is about as close to perfect as a mainstream rap album gets, nowadays.
posted by lotsofno at 11:20 AM on February 18, 2004


Tru 'nuff, jonmc...

Vaguely apropos of this, the iTMS put together a pretty cool playlist [iTunes link] of sample-based songs alongside the originals.
posted by mkultra at 11:31 AM on February 18, 2004


Where in the world did DJ Danger Mouse find an a capella copy of the Jay-Z album?
posted by glenwood at 11:44 AM on February 18, 2004


Jay who?
posted by mischief at 11:46 AM on February 18, 2004


I like the Grey Album better than the Black Album.
posted by peeping_Thomist at 11:46 AM on February 18, 2004


Now wait a second. I've listened to these songs, and as far as I can hear, they're nothing more than some man chanting annoyingly and unintelligibly while passages from a Beatle album play from what sounds like cheap speakers in the background. How is this better than listening to the original album? There's no added value here, unless you're amazed by the fact that a rapper actually owns a Beatle album. It's not a commentary on the Beatle album. It doesn't make me hear the Beatle album in a new way. It's crudely recorded, so that the vocal and sample seem to occupy two different aural universes. Do any of you actually think you couldn't do this yourselves? Most MeFiers are pretty good with words. Couldn't you take samples from a Beatle album and recite doggerel over them as well as this guy? Is this really some kind of unusual creative accomplishment that we should all take note of? I don't like the White Album all that much, but I'm pretty sure I couldn't do it myself. Jonmc.. I agree with you that John Lennon would approve, but only because he was a self-destructive junkie who'd sold his self-esteem to a gibbering harlot, and wound up with no more aesthetic sense than her. Paul -- who still has some of his wits about him despite a lifetime of pot smoking -- would not approve, I'm sure.
posted by Faze at 11:54 AM on February 18, 2004


Where did he get an instrumental version of the White Album?
posted by eastlakestandard at 11:59 AM on February 18, 2004


Color me disappointed. I was expecting a much more textural and sophisticated sampling of the White Album, but instead heard some so-so loops, often with some pretty blatant cut points, and lots of annoying bass kicks. Boring.
posted by me3dia at 12:23 PM on February 18, 2004


Now wait a second. I've listened to these songs, and as far as I can hear, they're nothing more than some man chanting annoyingly and unintelligibly while passages from a Beatle album play from what sounds like cheap speakers in the background.

OK, you don't like hip-hop. Why are you listening to a hip-hop album.

Less responsible response: You don't understand hip-hop. Save the post so your kids can laugh at you.
posted by Tlogmer at 12:38 PM on February 18, 2004


A full week after the boingboing post.

I guess the outage really got us behind on the news.
posted by milovoo at 12:39 PM on February 18, 2004


Paul -- who still has some of his wits about him despite a lifetime of pot smoking -- would not approve, I'm sure.

Well, it was Paul who foisted "No More Lonely Nights" and "The Girl Is Mine"* on the world, so I'd say his wits are shot as well.

I agree that this album is not some kind of monumental acheivement, but it's a nice audial snack. But I enjoy me some hip-hop. Lotsa people don't.

*This is forgiven by his authorship of "I'm Looking Through You" and his vocal on "I Saw Her Standing There," two of the greatest acheivements in the history of recorded sound.
posted by jonmc at 12:42 PM on February 18, 2004


faze, I think you are missing the point. Jay-Z wasn't chanting his doggerel (or whatever) over the white album. It was pretty cleverly mixed together. Yeah, grey isn't as good as white, but I think I like it better than black. This was pretty clever and well executed (the aural difference was clearly a style choice on DM's part) and raises the usual interesting issues of fair use and artistic license.

Paul now would object, because he isn't making money on it. Paul in 1960 may have thought it was a really cool idea. I mean, this guy was certainly into "creative reappropriation" (Beatles from Crickets, etc.).
posted by jmgorman at 12:51 PM on February 18, 2004


Do any of you actually think you couldn't do this yourselves?

I challenge you to try. Please respond with either a .wav or .mp3 of you rapping over any song you choose, or an admission that you are completely ignorant of modern popular music.

Don't you realize that you sound EXACTLY like your (grand)parents did when they complained that the Beatles was just "noise"?
posted by jpoulos at 12:57 PM on February 18, 2004


Hmm. Rich black guy talking over music he didn't write. Got it.
/doesn't see what all the fuss is about.

Somebody should create an a cappella version of the Jay-Z album to make this kind of thing easier.
posted by emelenjr at 1:03 PM on February 18, 2004


For an extraordinarily well-used Beatles sample check out "Meditations", by DJ Signify.
posted by Tlogmer at 1:06 PM on February 18, 2004


Now before I go any further here, you young people are going to have to help me -- are these Jay-Z and Danger Mouse fellows popular among your set? Or are they relative unknowns, just trying to make a name for themselves on the reputation of the Beatles? If the latter is true, I'd suggest that it would be better for their careers if they took the time to work up some original material of their own. Perhaps something based on a current dance craze. After all, that Beatle stuff has been done to death. People are looking for something new. Who's this Clay Aiken I've been seeing on Jay Leno? He's seems like the coming thing. Perhaps Mr. Jay Z and Mr. Mouse could write an original song, and put it on a cassette, and see if this Clay Aiken would record it. That would be a better way to get ahead then just copying an old fashioned group like the Beatles.
posted by Faze at 1:30 PM on February 18, 2004


Wow, we almost got all the way through a thread about Hip-Hop without someone declaring that it's not real music. Metafilter is really coming into its own!
posted by botono9 at 1:35 PM on February 18, 2004


"Hmm. Rich black guy talking over music he didn't write. Got it."

well, technically you're right. he doesn't write down any of his lyrics. he commits all his rhymes to memory before recording them.
posted by lotsofno at 1:48 PM on February 18, 2004


are these Jay-Z and Danger Mouse fellows popular among your set?

Are you kidding, Faze? I'd never heard of DJ Danger Mouse till about two weeks ago, but Jay-Z is no "relative unknown." Not with three Grammys, a former Billboard #1 album with quintuple-platinum sales ("Hard Knock Life"), another platinum album ("In My Lifetime"), a single that sat atop the Billboard dance charts for five weeks ("Dead Presidents"), multiple other #1 singles, being named Best Hip-Hop Artist of the Year in 1998 by Rolling Stone, a Billboard Music Award, AMA nominations, MTV Video Music Awards, et cetera, et cetera. (Source here.)

Like his music or not, he's certainly popular among a hell of a lot of people.
posted by Vidiot at 1:52 PM on February 18, 2004


As an aside, a metafilter thread like this cracks me up like nothing else on the web; loyal purveyors of sarcasm, you are quite excellent.

Anyhow, I'd say that you'd have to be more a fan of hip-hop than of the Beatles to enjoy this. Personally, I think this is some of the better rap I've heard recently, and I've never been a big fan of Jay-Z's style. In a way, these remixes have allowed me to appreciate him more. The "art" comes in on the few tracks where you forget the angle and listen to the music as a whole. But again, you would have to appreciate rap to do this in the first place.

Btw, although some songs are better than others, the technical element to this is not trivial. The sampling here is pretty damn good. Check out (06 Dirt off your shoulder) and (11 Interlude). The latter remixes John Lennon's experimental "remixes" whiich I definitely agree he would have approved of.
posted by jeremias at 1:52 PM on February 18, 2004


You didn't hear it from me, but the MP3s can also be found here and here if the Illegal Art mirror is too swamped.
posted by waxpancake at 1:53 PM on February 18, 2004


lotsofno, I didn't mention the lyrics in my last post. I was referring to the music (which Jay-Z didn't write and which I'm guessing, by a large margin, rappers/hip hop MCs/whatever don't write) not the talking on top of the music. It's interesting that he commits everything to memory first, though. Wasn't aware of that.

I'm a musician. There's not a whole lot of musicianship in rap music (Yes, I'm aware of the Roots) or popular music in general, and it's disappointing to me that shows like American Idol and Star Search are all about showcasing the people who try their hardest to ape someone else's vocal stylings.
posted by emelenjr at 2:09 PM on February 18, 2004


White album: Brilliant
Black album: Utter shite
Grey album: Sounds pretty much like the Black album..
posted by salmacis at 2:13 PM on February 18, 2004


i'm listening to the remixes right now . . . and i have to agree that this is fun to listen to - but i don't think it treads on any new ground in "mix-up" hip-hop.

i've been listening to a lot of Prefuse 73 recently, and it is leaps and bounds above this remix in it's musical suavity. the levels of complexity in combining a range of samples and created sound and the interesting integration of original rap lyrics . . . Scott Herren is really an amazing artist.
posted by nyoki at 2:31 PM on February 18, 2004


I was referring to the music (which Jay-Z didn't write and which I'm guessing, by a large margin, rappers/hip hop MCs/whatever don't write) not the talking on top of the music.

Hrm. "Talking". A rap flow has rhythm, cadence, phrasing, and tone. "Musicianship" is not limited to strumming a fucking guitar.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:33 PM on February 18, 2004


Wherever there is danger, he'll be there.
posted by seanyboy at 3:30 PM on February 18, 2004


Lots of hip-hop ignorance out here...

Somebody should create an a cappella version of the Jay-Z album to make this kind of thing easier.

Most hip hop albums that are put out by the "top" artists, with the top producers, usually release both an instrumental LP with the beats and an acapella LPwith the lyrics.

Do any of you actually think you couldn't do this yourselves? Most MeFiers are pretty good with words. Couldn't you take samples from a Beatle album and recite doggerel over them as well as this guy? Is this really some kind of unusual creative accomplishment that we should all take note of?

I don't think I could do what DJ Danger Mouse did, and I know I can't do what Jay-Z did. The question is, can you?

Who's this Clay Aiken I've been seeing on Jay Leno? He's seems like the coming thing. Perhaps Mr. Jay Z and Mr. Mouse could write an original song, and put it on a cassette, and see if this Clay Aiken would record it. That would be a better way to get ahead then just copying an old fashioned group like the Beatles.

Ok, ok, so I understand you're probably not up on pop culture or anything, but it seems to me that what you decry Jay-Z for doing are the exact things Clay Aiken did to become famous - singing songs he didn't write from 30 years ago. You may not know who Jay-Z is, but the lyrics are from "The Black Album", which was written by Jay-Z. DJ Danger Mouse took the lyrics and laid them out over old Beatles samples just for the hell of it. No one is trying to get rich off the backs of the Beatles or whatever, and why the hell would they try?

And as a side note, I sure hope to high hell that Clay Aiken is not the coming thing...

Jay-Z has his own fucking Vodka line, I don't think he's trying to copy anyone to get ahead.
posted by SweetJesus at 3:46 PM on February 18, 2004


No, mr_roboto, of course it's not limited to the guitar. If Jay-Z would strum a fucking guitar or somehow get some sound out of another fucking instrument, he would be a musician instead of a rich black guy talking (OK, talking rhythmically) over music he didn't write.

H to the izz-O, H to the izz-UM. Boring.
posted by emelenjr at 4:13 PM on February 18, 2004



Who's this Clay Aiken I've been seeing on Jay Leno? He's seems like the coming thing.


I think we done been trolled.
posted by jpoulos at 4:18 PM on February 18, 2004


No, mr_roboto, of course it's not limited to the guitar. If Jay-Z would strum a fucking guitar or somehow get some sound out of another fucking instrument, he would be a musician instead of a rich black guy talking (OK, talking rhythmically) over music he didn't write

Aren't you just a self-righteous jackass...
posted by SweetJesus at 4:40 PM on February 18, 2004


No, mr_roboto, of course it's not limited to the guitar. If Jay-Z would strum a fucking guitar or somehow get some sound out of another fucking instrument, he would be a musician instead of a rich black guy talking (OK, talking rhythmically) over music he didn't write.

So musician==instrumentalist? I'm sure every vocalist in the history of music would be very interested in your theory. The vocalist's "instrument" is their voice: this goes every bit as much for Jay-Z as it did for Billie Holliday or Enrico Caruso.

Of course, one need not write their own music to be considered a musician. Glen Gould, for instance, didn't write any of the music that he became famous for playing.
However, MCs do take a compositional role in their music, even when their beats are produced by someone else and their tracks contain samples of someone else's playing. Believe it or not, one of the fundamental elements of music is rhythm: to devise a rhythm is an act of musical composition. And, if you had ever listened critically to hip-hop vocals, you would realize that they consist not only of rhythm, but of cadence, phrasing, tone, etc. Like I said before.

This is to some extent a pointless semantic argument (what is music, etc.). If you think modern rap is the equivalent of talking, however.... Let's just say that the conversations where you come from must sound awfully interesting.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:42 PM on February 18, 2004


No, sweetjesus, I think I explained I'm a musician.

Yes, I was oversimplifying rap for effect. I know modern rap is not the equivalent of talking.

You can go on calling Jay-Z a musician if you like. I'll just speak for myself: If I knew nothing of how to play the piano (23 of my 29 years) or guitar (about six years, self taught) I know I would not call myself a musician. If I did not know how to play an instrument but I could sing, I'd call myself a singer. If I didn't know how to play an instrument and I couldn't carry a tune, but I could write song lyrics, I'd call myself a lyricist. So, yeah, musician == instrumentalist. That's the way it goes among all of the musicailly inclined people I know, anyway, including people who don't know how to play instruments.
posted by emelenjr at 5:00 PM on February 18, 2004


this is the most rambling confused thread ive ever read.
thanks for the laughs guys, it was great.

"Where in the world did DJ Danger Mouse find an a capella copy of the Jay-Z album?" - classic, great timing
posted by klik99 at 5:00 PM on February 18, 2004


You say you a gangsta but you neva pop nuttin
We say you a wanksta and you need to stop frontin
You go to the dealership but you neva cop nuttin
You been hustlin a long time and you ain't got nuttin


I'm having a hard time appreciating hip hop. Is this because I'm shit? Please educate me. This is not a troll, seriously, I'm feeling that I'm seriously missing something.
posted by chrid at 5:03 PM on February 18, 2004


If I knew nothing of how to play the piano (23 of my 29 years) or guitar (about six years, self taught) I know I would not call myself a musician. If I did not know how to play an instrument but I could sing, I'd call myself a singer. If I didn't know how to play an instrument and I couldn't carry a tune, but I could write song lyrics, I'd call myself a lyricist.

Like I said, pointless semantics, yo.

chrid: I was having the same problem about a year ago. I'd recommend starting from the beginning: get some classic albums (It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Paul's Boutique, Three Feet High and Rising, etc.) and listen to them. As for contemporary stuff, I'd steer clear of the mainstream. There are some good suggestions in this AskMe thread.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:18 PM on February 18, 2004


American Heritage Dictionary (2000) definition of musician:
"One who composes, conducts, or performs music, especially instrumental music."

Is Jay-Z a composer? Probably not. Is Jay-z a conductor? Probably not. Is Jay-Z a performer of instrumental music? You can't be a performer of instrumental music if you're not playing an instrument, so...

Dismissing an argument as pointless semantics is the easy way to get out of an argument, anyway.
posted by emelenjr at 5:45 PM on February 18, 2004


A brief hip-hop lesson for those not aware of it's roots.

Hip-hop as a musical form, is based off of two main concepts: the MC (the rapper) and the DJ (the guy making the beats, and yes that's sarcastic). The reason most rappers don't play instruments comes from the origins of Hip-hop in the late 70's and early 80's. Most DJ's and MCs were living under the poverty line in the South Bronx. Instruments and training weren't readily availible. What was availible, do to the strong Jamacian immigrant population, were turntables and PA systems.

Sampling grew out of DJ's experimenting with whatever vinyl they could find and afford, and playing the "break beat" (faster tempo and/or section without vocals) of two idenitical records one after the other, keeping up the break beat. Hence the derivation of "break dancers".

MCing and DJing is art. It's damned difficult to do it well. I might not agree with some of the messages that come out of hip-hop, but I just don't patronize those artists.

To say that a rapper has no skill because he doesn't play an instrument is ignoring their vocal instrument. They might not be singing, but the good ones have a very nice flow, plus they usually write their own lyrics, some of which are quite poetic.

-chrid...a rough translation of the lyrics:
"You say your tough, but you never show it
You say you've got a dick, but you never get laid
You look at material goods, but you never buy
You've been doing whatever you can to make money, but don't have anything"

The language differences stem from the fact that Hip-Hop crowd wants to create, or wanted to (you could argue) it's own insular culture. Through word and body language they're created a culture in which it's very difficult to break into and understand if you don't go through certain experiences, prison, would be an example.

Bah, enough pontificating. For more examples you could check out Jay-Z's "Blueprint" album. That is, the blueprint for success.

On preview:
Jay-Z writes his own lyrics, and also takes a hand in the layering of the beats underneath him. You're going along the same lines the Academy Awards did when Isaac Hays was nominated for the 'Shaft' theme. Just because he didn't create sheet music, doesn't mean he didn't create it.

Also I would say Jay-Z definitely performs music. It might not be your favorite type, but it's music.
posted by Be'lal at 5:55 PM on February 18, 2004


Is Jay-Z a composer? Probably not.

As I wrote earlier:

However, MCs do take a compositional role in their music, even when their beats are produced by someone else and their tracks contain samples of someone else's playing. Believe it or not, one of the fundamental elements of music is rhythm: to devise a rhythm is an act of musical composition. And, if you had ever listened critically to hip-hop vocals, you would realize that they consist not only of rhythm, but of cadence, phrasing, tone, etc. Like I said before.

Tough to have an argument when the other guy ignores what you say and responds with baseless assertions. Anyway, it is a pretty pointless semantic argument, and I'm sure everyone else has gotten quite bored with reading it.

If hip-hop isn't music, and it's worthless, and boring, then what? Are we all a bunch of dopes? We've had one pulled over on us?

Here's emelenjr, in his superior, piano-playing guitarist musician tower:
"Ha-ha: you know that music you've been enjoying? Well, guess what? That's not music! And those guys aren't musicians! Suckers!"

And we all slink away in shame, convinced that we must not know anything about good piano-guitar-oriented music, since Jay-Z turned out not to be a musician after all.

That's what I mean by "pointless" (and what SweetJesus means by "self-righteous jackass").
posted by mr_roboto at 6:02 PM on February 18, 2004


Where are the grandparents still complaining about rock?
posted by Be'lal at 6:08 PM on February 18, 2004


So, yeah, musician == instrumentalist.

Just so we're clear, your contention is that music was invented the day someone strung catgut across a piece of wood?
posted by yerfatma at 6:24 PM on February 18, 2004


If this thread is any indication of the type of backwoods mix cd I am going to receive in the swap, can I pull out now?
posted by boost ventilator at 6:31 PM on February 18, 2004


Also I would say Jay-Z definitely performs music.

There's rhythm, but no melody or harmony. So maybe it's 1/3 of music. Even monophonic music, like Gregorian chant, has both rhythm and melody, and the music of the last few centuries typically has all three.

Of course, modern composers have made an art form of stripping music down to virtually nothing (see John Cage, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, etc.) to see if it's still music afterward. If you can call Cage's "4:33" or Riley's "In C" or Reich's "Come Out" music, then I guess you can call rap music too, but I know people who would argue against all of the above.
posted by kindall at 6:45 PM on February 18, 2004


There's rhythm, but no melody or harmony.

So all the cool taiko drumming I've been getting into recently isn't music either, I guess. Bummer - here I was enjoying it, my mistake.
posted by bashos_frog at 7:15 PM on February 18, 2004


Yerfatma, no, my contention has nothing to do with the day music was invented. My contention is that if you're not playing an instrument, you're not a musician. Why are people here throwing around the word instrumentalist if people who play instruments and people who don't play instruments are all supposedly part of the same subset of musicians?

If Jay-Z is a musician simply because he's got rhythm, then by that logic is Bobby McFerrin a drummer because he frequently thumps rhythmically on his chest while he sings? (I believe he may actually be a pianist, and I know he has conducted groups of peopleplayinginstruments in the past).
I'm with kindall, who may end up not appreciating the endorsement, but so it goes. Rhythm, melody and harmony are the keys to music. Jay-Z may in fact be a virtuoso violinist, but so far all he's known for is standing in front of the mike and putting his words to music that has been created and produced by anyone but him.

The only person I've disparaged in this thread is Jay-Z, and as far as I know he's not a MeFi member. But everyone please continue the pile-on.
posted by emelenjr at 7:33 PM on February 18, 2004


...and to think on boing-boing they just bitch about intellectual property and shit
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 8:21 PM on February 18, 2004


Come on, emelenjr. You can't expect to swipe aside an entire genre of music as worthless and have nobody get annoyed. (And I bet the drummers and percussionists in the audience don't think much of your invocation of nonmusicianship.)

Through word and body language they're created a culture in which it's very difficult to break into and understand if you don't go through certain experiences, prison, would be an example.

Argh, no. A lot of the put-downs in hip-hop are in jest; fencing, not swordfighting, and there are plenty of people who can understand rap terminology without having been raised in the ghetto or what have you; it takes a bit of effort to learn from scratch if you're older than teenage, but hey.

If Jay-Z is a musician simply because he's got rhythm

Jay-Z doesn't "have rhythm"; he puts together rhythmic lines at least as complex and nuanced as the last melodic line you listened to. I know, that's not your point, but it's a distinction worth making.

chrid: as with any other form of music, you just need to hear a lot of it; whether you want to put in the effort is up to you. Just open your ears; as in other music, there's a play between what's unconsciously expected and what's actually played or rapped. Listen to the lines as a syllable stream to hear more cool patterns (this works for Shakespeare, too). Pay attention to texture, too, how each sound is shaped. For good, intelligent, accessible stuff, I recommend Mos Def and Talib Queli are Blackstar (especially "Respiration").

(Incidentally. I've played the piano for 8 years and I'm trying to learn to MC (just well enough to not embarrass myself at parties); it's tough.)
posted by Tlogmer at 8:31 PM on February 18, 2004


This may be an obvious etymological point, but what the hell is music supposed to be, anyway?

I always assumed it was that which invoked one's personal muse.

And - as far as I'm aware - the human voice was probably the original musical instrument : but the medium is, from what I hear, very accepting.

What is music ?

What is art ?

I guess music is that form of art which is conveyed by means of sound waves.
posted by troutfishing at 8:38 PM on February 18, 2004


Why would drummers be upset with that? Drummers play drums, so they're musicians like anyone else who plays an instrument.

Maybe it's a personal failing of mine, but I always understood that being a musician involved playing music. What does Jay-Z (or any other rapper, or any vocalist) play? Saying that someone's voice is their instrument sounds to me like the way you'd encourage someone by saying "there are no small parts, only small actors." I really can't imagine that Gregorian monks or what-have-you go around calling themselves musicians first and vocalists or singers or choir members or monks or whatever second.

I know I'm going all over the place, talking about Jay-Z, Bobby McFerrin and now Gregorian monks. Sorry if I offended anyone here, it just struck me as strange that someone who doesn't play an instrument could be considered a musician.
posted by emelenjr at 8:16 PM on February 19, 2004


Do any of you actually think you couldn't do this yourselves?

actually, yeah. it sounds like a hack acid job. lots of the tracks suffer from too much bpm stretching. it may not bother most people but people like me that work with acid frequently will wince. not to say that there aren't a few goodies (99 problems and December 4th sound pretty all right).
posted by mcsweetie at 9:30 PM on February 19, 2004


I'm having a hard time appreciating hip hop. Is this because I'm shit?

More likely, it's because you are old. This is a generational shift in popular music, and, given that people have been saying "the studio is an instrument" for about 40 years, I think the idea that a musician need not play a traditional instrument has been well prepared.
posted by crunchburger at 9:33 PM on February 19, 2004


Saying that someone's voice is their instrument sounds to me like the way you'd encourage someone by saying "there are no small parts, only small actors."

I'm not sure which planet you're living on, but here on Earth, most of the past century's popular music has been centered on a vocal performance. Sure, much of jazz and blues have been instrumental (though the most popular jazz and blues have been, arguably, vocal), but the opera and popular song of the early 20th century were prominently vocal, and nearly every rock and roll group has featured at its center a vocalist. If you turn on a radio today, every song you hear will contain a vocal performance, unless, of course, you happen to find the classical station. The human voice is the single most widespread means of producing music; this has likely been the case for the entire breadth of human history. That you find this strange is, frankly, strange.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:38 PM on February 19, 2004


Musician

One who composes, conducts, or performs music, especially instrumental music.

Last I checked, it was called "rap music", and last I checked, Jay-Z wrote his own lyrics, so that would constitute "composing", and I just saw his music video with Beyonce Knowles (rawr), so I'd definitely say he was "performing" it.

I guess that makes him a musician.

Hope that doesn't disappoint you too much emelenjr to be lumped in as a "musician" with Jay-Z.

Oh and by the way, I've played the piano for 19 of my 23 years, 3 years of guitar, 2 years playing trumpet in a band and 1 year of drums in an orchestra.

Just because you can't appreciate it as music doesn't mean it's not music. Have an open mind.

And just to put everything back on topic... I think EMI's got every right to ask for this album to be destroyed. Laws are laws, irrelevant of how much we'd love to embrace creative freedoms. While the R&B/hiphop scene has pretty much embraced remixes and whatnot, it's definitely not the de facto standard for older music.

I do believe though that DJ's have the right to sample a certain amount of a song before they start infringing upon copyrights but I'm far too lazy to go look up the laws on that.

Cheers.
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 1:21 AM on February 20, 2004


Music is organised noise.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:06 AM on February 20, 2004


As a lifelong fan of both hip-hop and The Beatles, I'd just like to point out that Jay-Z is utter crap. He can't rap, at all.

But, The Grey Album is amazing. I just wish DM had put out an instrumental version.
posted by influx at 2:55 AM on February 20, 2004


I'd just like to say Mark e Smith is the worlds best rapper.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:23 AM on February 20, 2004


Any definition of "musician" that doesn't encompass Sinatra, Billy Holiday, Etta James or Ella Fitzgerald seems incredibly limiting to me.
posted by yerfatma at 4:57 AM on February 20, 2004


I think that the Eldred v. Ashcroft case result was a travesty. Longer copyright terms do not encourage the copyright owners to restore their work.
I can see why the big music distributors are scared though. Presently, they are the ones with the expensive lawyers and can afford to rip off others with impunity. They do not care that they are stiffling musical expression and freedom. Preventing old music from being sampled (which inevitably results in more sales of the original) shows their myopic outlook.

It takes diff'rent strokes.
posted by asok at 5:15 AM on February 20, 2004


For those that are interested in this record please please please, put down the "Black Album" and go out and buy "Ghetto Pop Life" by Danger Mouse and Jemini. Well worth the money.

And on the subject of rappers as musicians, why can't turntables and beat machines qualify as instruments?
posted by Dr_Octavius at 6:19 AM on February 20, 2004


Any definition of "musician" that doesn't encompass Sinatra, Billy Holiday, Etta James or Ella Fitzgerald seems incredibly limiting to me.

Not to mention Caruso or Callas.
posted by jpoulos at 7:21 AM on February 20, 2004


I never said rap was not music. There is a difference between being a performer and being a musician, and while Jay-Z is one, he is not the other. To me, anyway. All of the elements put together make music, no doubt about that. Jay-Z provides the lyrics and the lead vocals, if you will. Ella Fitzgerald and all of the great jazz-era vocalists are singers—hell, Singers with a capital S. No disrespect intended toward their art, which is singing along with a band while the band plays the music. Your Shirley Horns, Diane Schurs, Diana Kralls, Chet Bakers, etc. (all off the top of my head, sorry if I missed your favorite), those people play instruments as well as sing. I'd have an easier time calling them musicians simply because they play music as opposed to simply singing while someone else plays music.

PWA_BadBoy, I think you're making a little bit of a leap there. You say Jay-Z writes lyrics and that makes him a composer, putting him in the same basket as people who compose music and have nothing to do with the words that go along with the music.

Dr_Octavius, don't turntables and beat machines mostly reproduce music that was played by someone else? You want to call someone who punches buttons on a drum machine a musician? You can get different sounds out of turntables by scratching, etc. and sure there's some rhythm and skill involved in doing that, but still.
posted by emelenjr at 7:23 AM on February 20, 2004


buy "Ghetto Pop Life" by Danger Mouse and Jemini

Good advice. There's all this non-mainstream rap that's actually good, instead of the loop of 5 songs MTV shows when they deign to play videos.

You want to call someone who punches buttons on a drum machine a musician?

This is what happens in every thread on rap. I cannot play any musical instrument. I cannot sing. And yet I think I have a better grasp on "music" here. Yes, a drum machine will hit the digital skins for you. Rebirth or ProTools or Fruity Loops or whatever will make noise for you. The musicianship is taking that and making it sound good. By your incredibly limiting definitions that you're constantly backing away from, me farting into a tuba is music while Richie Hawtin's work is not.

And if a singer isn't a musician, let's close up shop and go home for the day.

Everybody sign up for Grey Tuesday.
posted by yerfatma at 7:35 AM on February 20, 2004


I never said rap was not music.

Wait, so rap is music, but the people who perform it aren't musicians? I'm so confused.

On a related note, I had a buddy who used to complain that guys like Trent Reznor weren't musicians because they use sequencers and drum machines. "I want my music to be made by musicians, not computer progammers." I told him that that's the equivalent of someone saying, when the electric guitar was invented, "I want my music to be made by musicians, not electricians!"
posted by jpoulos at 7:59 AM on February 20, 2004


Not quite, though. I can't imagine anyone would have criticized the electric guitar in such a way. The electric guitar is still a guitar-shaped thing with six or so strings, and you still play it essentially the same way as you would play an acoustic guitar. There are drum kits with electronic triggers that you can hit with your sticks to produce something other than the sound of an acoustic drum, but for the most part you don't play a drum machine by hitting it with sticks.

Are the people onstage performing in a musical musicians? It's a song, there's music and there's singing, right? Not exactly. I'm making a distinction between being a performer and being a musician, which is a type of performer. To your question I'd say not all of the performers are musicians. The guy who's rapping into the microphone is a performer, but not a musician because someone else is providing the music.
posted by emelenjr at 8:22 AM on February 20, 2004


a performer, but not a musician

What is the value of this distinction?
posted by yerfatma at 8:57 AM on February 20, 2004


If you can have a sound, or a phrase, or whole song in your head and then make that sound real, then you're a musician. I don't think it matters what you make it real with.. could be a rock or a stradivarius or a sampler. Who gives a fuck. Just cos you've spent 20+ years learning how to play piano doesn't give you the right to decide who's a musician. You're just a pianist.

(That last bit sounds better out loud..)
posted by jiroczech at 9:10 AM on February 20, 2004


I can't imagine anyone would have criticized the electric guitar in such a way.

I'm just chillin' like Bob Dylan.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 3:30 PM on February 20, 2004


yerfatma, you acknowledged a distinction between the two. I'll take what I can get.

jiroczech, I haven't decided anything. I don't happen to agree with the idea that people who don't play instruments are musicians, but I never said I have to be right. In fact I don't think the tone of any of my posts in this thread have been along the lines of "You're wrong and something's wrong with you for thinking that way," but look at the number of people here who have basically said that to me. I guess I'm a purist, like the people who protested when Dylan went electric at Newport.

I can't be the first to point out my personal failings (because all of you are way too quick for me) but I think can be the first to apologize for them.
posted by emelenjr at 7:44 PM on February 20, 2004


Jay-Z released a vocal's only version of the Black Album specificly to give underground DJs the ability to do things like this.
posted by nyukid at 12:54 AM on February 21, 2004


I heard that a vocals only disc was released; a version of the Black Album, by someone called Jay-Z. Is that correct?

Anyone know?

Do I have to take this to AskMe?

C'mon people; someone let me in on it!
posted by Blue Stone at 2:15 AM on February 21, 2004


yerfatma, you acknowledged a distinction between the two.

WTF? I acknowledged you are making a distinction. I want to know why.
posted by yerfatma at 8:31 AM on February 21, 2004



I heard that a vocals only disc was released; a version of the Black Album, by someone called Jay-Z. Is that correct?


Actually the industry scoop is that apparently this "Dj Danger Mouse" received a bootleg copy of the Black Album by "Jay-Z". Using the Center Channel Extractor feature of Cool Edit Pro he removed the vocals from the background. He then forged Jay-Z's signature and released the vocals as a separate album. Then, using that new album vocals, he took Beatles tracks from "The White Album" and put them through the Convolution filter, thereby creating a new mix called the "Grey Album".

Emi is in on this, my guess (despite the above factual data) is that "Dj Danger Mouse" and "Jay-Z" are one and the same and will be developing a line of hip hop jersey's exclusively for Barney's of New York.
posted by jeremias at 10:47 AM on February 23, 2004


« Older ping pong...  |  Go get your free iTunes from P... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments