With their Wugazi mash-up project, Midwestern producers Cecil Otter and Swiss Andy pay sharp tribute to two iconic acts, punk titans Fugazi and hip-hop superheroes the Wu-Tang Clan. While Fugazi's staunch separation from the traditional music machine discourages use of their music as mash-up fodder, these 13 songs were created with striking precision. Here's our track-by-track look at their new mixtape 13 Chambers, released for free today at Wugazi.com.
"Sleep Rules Everything Around Me" - A fusion of Wu's "Cash Rules Everything Around Me" and Fugazi's "I'm So Tired," a ballad from the Instrument Soundtrack. Fugazi frontman Ian MacKaye's piano loops mournfully under the "C.R.E.A.M." a cappella and his croon "I'm so tired…no more struggle" subs in for Meth's worldview chorus, trading in one existential crisis for another.
"Suicide Surprise" – Gravediggaz's "1-800-Suicide" splays out over tense, ticking snare/hi-hat hits and creepy crawl guitar from "No Surprise." Halfway through, the Fugazi tune's distorted intro is rewired for the chorus, MacKaye's Wilhelmish scream crashing into and under the horrifying verse, until the swag conclusion: Fugazi takes over the lyrics, a rant about the C.I.A. made still more paranoid.
"Another Chessboxin' Argument" – RZA snares run into a chopped-up "The Argument," the title track from Fugazi's final album. Wu's three iconic verses from "Da Mysteries of Chessboxin'" sound still more panicked under the mellow riff. MacKaye takes the chorus: "Here comes the argument/Folderol" is not a bad description of some of Wu's knottier verses. Bonus punchline: MacKaye's lilting "Here's what's striking me" into Meth's demand: "Hey, you, get off my cloud!"
"Ghetto Afterthought" – "Wu Tang is for the children!" "Afterthought" is also from Instrument, a lesser-known album whose relative obscurity makes for less emotionally fraught sample fodder than Fugazi's "hits." Ghost's verse from "Special Delivery" links up with ODB's "Ghetto Superstar" over chilled keyboards and a fat snare. Fugazi is for the children!
"Sweet Release" – The flickering guitar, bass and looped drums are from "Sweet and Low," an instrumental on Fugazi's In on the Killtaker. The syncopation propels Meth's frantic "Release Yo' Delf" verses, his chaotic howls recalling the furious joy of party people beside themselves. The outro is pure sunrise soul.
"Shame on Blue" – Here's the opening riff from Fugazi's "Blueprint," a call to activism, with blipping drum machine and sharp snare hits as ODB bounds through "Brooklyn Zoo." Fugazi vocalist Guy Picciotto's torn-throat "I'm not playing with you" loops for the chorus, creating a nice punchline: ODB was always playing with you. Except when he wasn't.
"Slow Like That" – "Slo Crostic," another Instrument track, fractures under vocal richness. Ne-Yo's crooning chorus from Ghostface's "Back Like That" bumps over scratches and Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty's wide-angle snare. Ghost raps over chunky guitar and deep-focus bass. Like much of 13 Chambers, Wu's lyrical menace refracts over the Fugazi's nuanced guitar punches.
"Floating Labels" – "Floating Boy" is one of Fugazi's weirdest songs, an obtuse, hazy jam made even odder with the loping music sped up to match Genius's hard-swinging "Lables," a rolodex of hip-hop record companies turned into rhymes. No, the word "Dischord" (MacKaye's label) is not worked in there, but that "bong" from Fugazi's "Pink Frosty" is.
"P.L.O. Squared" – Another paradoxical dance between tension and release. Fugazi's "Facet Squared," the explosive opener, is hacked into guitar beeps, rolling bass and flashes of distortion, a sound more panicked than the fearlessly confident verses from Meth's "P.L.O. Style." Pure machine gun funk threatening to go off at any moment.
"Nowhere to Wait" – The serial killer yammer from Gravediggaz's "Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide" over a sped-up guitar sparkle from Fugazi's "Close Captioned." Then shit gets real: The chug and pound of Fugazi's hit "Waiting Room," into RZA's closing verse. Everybody's moving, but there's nowhere to run.
"Last Dance for the Clientele Kid" – More tension in the streets. Guitar thrum and drums clack from Fugazi's "Last Chance for a Slow Dance" while Polite's chorus runs into Raekwon's intensely determined verse from "Clientle Kid." Fat Joe and Ghost's violent verse gets stop-start bass blurts and guitar chum worthy of their flows.
"Killa Hill" – Another ice-water-veins choice: Fugazi's anti-rape anthem "Suggestion" gets diced into MacKaye's live-wire guitar flicker and Canty's echoey snare bang as backup for Inspectah Deck's "R.E.C. Room." This is the way they crash the party.
"Forensic Shimmy" – The final chamber: the insistent hi-hat, distant drums and mutating guitar/bass gurgle from Fugazi's "Forensic Scene" keeps it dirty with ODB's swaggering "Shimmy Shimmy Ya." Say this for both bands: They liked it raw.