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Breaking: N.A.S.A.

February 11, 2009 4:46 PM ET

Who: N.A.S.A., a collaboration between DJs Sam Spiegel and DJ Zegon, who convinced some of music's biggest names to drop into their Los Angeles studio in an alley inhabited by crackheads and contribute to their five-years-in-the-making debut album Spirit of Apollo.

Sounds Like: It depends on the song, really. Beats range from Afro-pop to jungle to rock to reggae from verse to verse, thanks to the eclectic roster of guests. On "Money," Public Enemy's Chuck D, Seu Jorge and the Talking Heads' David Byrne pitch in. Kanye West, Santigold and Lykke Li all contribute to "Gifted," while the amazing pair of Tom Waits and Kool Keith join forces on "Spacious Thoughts." Other guests include M.I.A., Ghostface Killah, Karen O, George Clinton and countless more awesome artists. "This record is about bringing the craziest combination of people together," says Spiegel. "It's about people from totally different worlds, just like Zegon and I come from different worlds."

Vital Stats:

• Spiegel is the brother of one Adam Spiegel, better known to fans of music videos and Being John Malkovich as director Spike Jonze. As a teen growing up in Manhattan in the early Nineties, Sam would spin Tribe Called Quest records at high school parties, while Spike cued him into alt-rock gurus like the Pixies. "I was always getting a lot of musical advice from my brother," Spiegel says.

• "When we started five years ago, we wrote up this dream list of people on a dry-erase board," says Spiegel. "We ended up getting 80 percent of them and were like, 'I can't believe we're filling this dry-erase board up!' " N.A.S.A. also managed to get a verse from Ol' Dirty Bastard on "Strange Enough," while Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O makes a cameo as the track's hook girl (Spiegel worked on the YYYs' last album, Show Your Bones).

• Next up for N.A.S.A.'s Spiegel: working with Philadelphia MC Spank Rock, composing the soundtrack to David O. Russell's Nailed and, covertly, producing that much-anticipated Karen O solo record, with whom he collaborated with on the single "Hello Tomorrow." "Whenever I talk about it she wants to kill me," Spiegel jokes, adding that it will come out sometime in the near future. "She put a hit out on me once. And I begged her to take it off."

Hear It Now: The Spirit of Apollo and its galaxy of stars explode music stores and digital services on February 17th. In the meantime, check out our Breaking video, featuring the nutty trailer for N.A.S.A.'s Spirit of Apollo.

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

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