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GET WISE : Mash-Ups

mash-up, sometimes called a blend, is a song or video created by blending two or more songs, usually by overlaying the vocal track of one song matched up over the musical track of the other. These such works may even find protection from copyright claims under the “fair use” doctrine of copyright law. Mash-Ups have an interesting history. It was right around 2001, that they began to creep into mainstream culture. The first noteworthy mash-up that caught the world’s attention was Danger Mouse’s (of Gnarls Barkley fame), Grey Album, which combined beats crafted from samples of The Beatles’ White Album mashed up with the lyrics of Jay-Z’s Black Album. There was a firestorm around this release, and it was basically shelved amongst copyright “red tape”.

In 2004, Jay-Z and Linkin Park released “Collision Course” on CD and DVD. It went to #1 on the Billboard Charts upon its release. It has sold nearly 2 million copies in the United States alone. There were only six tracks on the CD, but all of them are great.  It is highlighted by “Numb / Encore” and the video below, “Jigga What / Faint”


Mash-Ups are as popular as ever. One of the true pioneers that has taken the movement to the next level is DJ Z-Trip. Other than his bad-ass mash-ups, Z-Trip has made headlines when he did an album encouraging people to vote for Barack Obama entitled Party For Change, with artwork by Shepard Fairey. After Obama’s win he did an album entitled Victory Lap that served as the soundtrack for the inauguration night parties around the world. He is also one of the contributing DJ’s to Activision’s DJ Hero music video game. DJ Hero is a rhythm game that tests the players ability to mix, scratch and blend music. The music provided are all mash-ups.

In the wake of the mash-up boom, hundreds of bedroom DJs and songwriters were inspired to make their own creations. At the time, the demise of Napster made it hard for those to acquire the sounds (i.e. a cappellas and instrumentals) to create mash-ups for free. This quickly led to the rise of alternative P2P networks such as Kazaa, Limewire, Emule and, more recently, BitTorrent. Where once music aficionados could trade only MP3s, it now became possible to acquire not only music, but the technology to manipulate that music freely and easily.

There are a bunch of sites that dedicate to various forms of mash-up art. One really cool site that has some original mash-ups that you will love is www.maxmashups.com. One of the best mash-ups on the site is the one that mixes Queen vs. AC/DC titled “Dirty Deeds Will Rock You”

The success of the Fox TV show “Glee” has also brought mash-ups to the masses, as they quite often perform mash-ups of popular songs on each episode. They even perform these live as they tour the country in support of the TV show.

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