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New American Songbook: Mashups

Warning: Some of the lyrics featured in this New American Songbook podcast contain explicit language.

In 2004, the producer Danger Mouse released ‘The Grey Album’, an amalgamation of the vocal tracks from Jay-Z’s ‘Black Album’ and the Beatles’ self-titled LP, or what most folks call ‘The White Album’. For people familiar with both albums and artists, it was more than just a remix, it was a statement, and on top of that, it sounded great.

The Grey Album is just one of the more well-known examples of a style of musical creation called ‘mashup’. Like the more general category of the remix, mashups have been around for nearly as long as recorded music, and in application the mashup can make use of any genre or even any sound. In hip hop, some of the more interesting mashups have been produced in the past ten years.

The best mashups tend to be thematic, making a point or a clever joke through the treatment of the composite music. In 2010, producer Tom Caruana released the ‘Enter the Magical Mystery Chambers’, the title playing off of the Wu-Tang Clan album ‘Enter the 36 Chambers’, and the Beatles ‘Magical Mystery Tour’. Its main conceit is in the segues, where recordings of Beatles fans somehow also end up telling the story of Wu-Tang.

The common thread between all mashups is the recontextualization—new themes drawn out of classics, new relationships between artists who may never have met in real life. It’s a small world anyway, but somehow, by squeezing it all together, mashups expand the universe of what’s possible--at least musically.


Fela Soul


Magical Mystery Chambers


Bizarre Tribe


The Trill is Gone


Yasiin Gaye