It’s the ultimate remix record: Underground DJ Danger Mouse (a.k.a. Brian Burton) takes a cappella tracks from Jay-Z’s The Black Album and composes new beats for each song using only samples from the Beatles’ “White Album.” The result, the aptly titled Grey Album, is an ingenious hip-hop record that sounds oddly ahead of its time.
“I had seen that there were these a cappella Jay-Z records,” says Danger Mouse, a New York native who has found his greatest success in England. “I was listening to the Beatles later that day, and it just hit me like a wave. I was like, ‘Wait a minute — I can do this.’ “
Even though DM is limiting his sounds to the two source albums, Grey is hardly a straightforward mash-up record. Jigga’s ubiquitous “Change Clothes” is now spit out over some sped-up harpsichords from the Beatles’ “Piggies,” infusing the track with a goofy bounce. On the other end of the spectrum, the gunning guitar blasts from “Helter Skelter” are cleverly spliced throughout Jay’s arrogant “99 Problems,” giving the track a rumbling metal undertone that recalls Run-DMC’s Raising Hell.
The album will not be sold commercially, but copies are in circulation via the Web — at press time, representatives for Jay-Z and the Beatles could not be reached for comment.
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“If somebody like Ringo or Paul McCartney heard it, I think they would dig it,” says Danger Mouse. “If Jay-Z heard it and said, ‘This sucks, dude,’ then I’d be like, ‘OK, everyone please send me back their copies.'”