All Ears 

click to enlarge 20070116_233223_2_storyjpg
Your favorite songs (and others you don’t like so much) are mashed to perfection in Best of Bootie 2006.
Of all the awfully familiar “best of” and “top 10” compilations I trolled through this month and last, one came as a surprise: Best of Bootie 2006, the sequel to a 2005 album that I somehow expected would be a one-off.

No, BoB is neither a Pirates of the Caribbean tie-in nor a sticky collection of the Net’s best porn. Rather, it pays tribute to those homebrewed hybrids known as bootlegs or (less confusing for those of us who associate bootlegging with moonshine and unauthorized live recordings) mashups.

Mashups are what happens when a music obsessive — sometimes a pro or aspiring DJ, sometimes a kid with too much time on his hands — cobbles two or more pop songs together, interweaving familiar riffs and lyrics in weird and delightful ways. Picture Justin Timberlake, for instance, shaking his thing to Siouxsie & the Banshees’ “Peek-A-Boo,” or Madonna’s dance beats backing the wistful vocals of Death Cab for Cutie. The collisions often have a lyrical theme — Rockwell whines “somebody’s watching me” while Gnarls Barkley calls him “crazy” — but the best make two chunks of beat or melody seem as perfect as peanut butter and chocolate: I can’t imagine, for instance, who thought it would be a good idea to place Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” atop “A Fifth of Beethoven,” but I’m sure glad they did.

Is this legal? In the words of the BoB crew, “ Does the skull-and-crossbones in our logo mean anything to you?” Rather than spend millions clearing samples so they can sell their comp at stores, they post it for free download at Bootieusa.com. Not that I’d know — I found my copy on the sidewalk, officer.

Few masher-uppers seem to have the stamina for a full-length disc, but one has produced an LP strong enough to break into the best-of such taste arbiters as Rolling Stone, Spin, and Blender: Girl Talk, aka Gregg Gillis, whose mix disc Night Ripper may be of dubious legality (he’s on a label called Illegal Art, and his publicists say he “is available for interviews but cannot discuss legal issues”), but is still being offered for sale at Illegalart.net. The folks at Spin were especially impressed with the way Gillis paired 2 Live Crew with Seals and Croft, but for my part I’m mostly amazed at how well the 42-minute set plays as a whole — well enough that you might consider throwing a little party just to explore it in its element.

One of the main joys of this genre is the surprise appearance of songs you haven’t thought of since junior high or high school. Some are tunes you hoped never to encounter again — Phil Collins’s Philip Bailey duet “Easy Lover,” anyone? — but some are played-to-death favorites that get a real boost from the fresh context. Either way, their bits-and-pieces appearances might leave you wishing to hear the original in toto.

Rather than going out and buying The Greatest Hits of Teena Marie, might I suggest a more fulfilling alternative? In the tradition of the gray-market mixtapes that have long been the launching pad for hip-hop careers, some dance club DJs have taken to selling their best segue sessions for home consumption (and as auditions for club owners who might hire them).

At Itstherub.com, I found a few particularly retrolicious gems by a spinner called DJ Ayres. Ayres and partner DJ Eleven play their sometimes-obscure, sometimes-familiar wax with minimal interference, employing only enough deck trickery to make one song blend perfectly into the next. Most fun for me were two Jeri Curl-friendly mixes called The Glamorous Life and The Glamorous Life 2, which reach back to the Gap Band and Midnight Star but don’t shun younger hitmakers like Bobby Brown, and the cleverly titled Space ‘N Faders. In an example of the way the best DJs skip past the easy choice in favor of the brilliant one, the latter video-game-themed comp kicks off with Rebbie Jackson’s “Centipede,” preferring to imagine that “Pac Man Fever” never existed, then proceeds to make happy neighbors of Depeche Mode and Shannon’s “Let the Music Play.”

I’ll let you mull that one over while I run to the attic to see if my old parachute pants still fit.


More by John DeFore

Calendar

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.