In recent years, the art of the mashup has continued to gain more and more prominence in the music world. Actually, “art” is probably not the most accurate term to use, considering that it has reached a point of excess in which endless amateur Youtube “deejays” are willing to forcefully press together anything that they feel might get them even the slightest amount of attention. Generally, it’s all about the gimmick and, unfortunately, there is far too often next to no focus on creating anything of substance. Like I said, it’s all about quick attention and the sheer novelty of seeing if you can layer somethings like a Beyonce vocal over a track from The Man Machine (hmmm….not a bad idea). If you think about it, the idea really isn’t all that original in the first place, because stacking tracks is the basic concept behind beat juggling and, although there are genuinely some really good tracks to come out of this genre, most of these mash ups just eliminate the requirement for any skills on the tables. Another thing that has helped to over-saturate the mashup game is that a large percentage of the people creating these things prove to be one-notes. If you want to hop in with something to grab attention and then step things up from there, that’s one thing, but if you have little more to deliver after that point, it’s pretty much like telling the same joke over and over again.
With all of this being said, it’s is definitely true that something will occasionally comes through that’s actually worthy of the attention. Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton gained enough notoriety from The Grey Album (2004) to launch an entire career. The main difference is that he’s proven time and time again that he could back up the hype and that he was much more than just Jay-Z and Beatles samples. In fact, after EMI flipped their shit over his unauthorized use of the Beatles catalog and there was an internet-wide refusal to comply with their cease and desist orders from offering the project online (aka: “Grey Tuesday“), a permanent mark has been made on the entire music industry and the legalities regarding sampling rights. Although Burton‘s otherwise innocent “art project” has prompted endless others to pursue the same route to launch careers of their own, it’s unlikely that most of them will ever achieve much and, even when a “successful” mashup does make a lasting impression, it’s rare that anyone remembers who created it.
One of the most impressive mashups that I’ve heard came at the beginning of last year and was created by a producer by the name of Tom Caruana. Not surprisingly, the project also consisted of a-capella rap vocals being stacked over Beatles cuts. The surprising part is that it was actually incredibly listenable. To craft his 27-track Wu-Tang VS Beatles project Enter The Magical Mystery Chamber, Caruana focused much more on the overall sound of the product and on creating something brand new from the components that he was using. The producer doesn’t come across as being too concerned with using the most recognizable samples just to create that “Oh shit! I can’t believe he mixed those 2 together” factor that most mashups thrive on. Instead, he seems to realize the true benefit of the artists’ material that he’s working with. For both the Beatles and the Wu Tang Clan, the benefit is that each of them have huge catalogs of work to pull from and, even more importantly, they are huge catalogs filled with great material. Unlike Dangermouse‘s infamous entry into the mashup world, Caruana doesn’t limit himself to blending a single album from each of the artists, but rather pulls from all areas of their work and careers. This isn’t just a blending of The Magical Mystery Tour and Enter the 36 Chambers; much of the vocals are pulled from the endlessly impressive WU-Tang solo projects from over the years, Beatles solo projects, and even samples from the Beatles covers by other artists (She & Him, Ramsey Lewis, etc), to cover even more territory. So… if this project original hit the web in January of 2010, why are we discussing it a year later? Well, it appears that it has returned and with a pseudo-official release, no less.
The announcement came from the official WU-Tang clan Facebook page(s) just this morning that the WU themselves would be releasing the “special edition” mix tape. What’s so “special” about the edition exactly? It doesn’t really say. The cover art looks pretty much the same as that of the release that was posted for FREE on TeaSeaRecords.net last year (now removed), with the major difference being the addition of a label reading “for promotional use only” and the words “presented by Wu music group” across the top. There is also no track listing featured, but the assumption is that the audio is the same. What we do know is that this release is a hard copy being marketed as a “collectors item”. According to the Facebook post, the release is limited to only 500 copies. However, as I type this, that original post seems to have been removed from the Facebook page, as well. The real point here is that the WU themselves have clearly embraced the project and are officially and publicly stamping that label of approval onto the mixtape by offering the release themselves. Considering that Masta Killa punched journalist, Cheo Coker in the head over some caricatures of the Wu Tang members that accompanied his Feb. 1994 article in Rap Pages, the Clan seems to have become a bit more welcoming of the interpretations on their work from others over the last decade and a half. Then again, Joe Budden just got knocked in his skull by a member of Raekwon‘s entourage as recently as 2009, so maybe their reactions are generally just hit and miss (pun intended). Most likely, they are just supporting this mixtape because it came through as quality and, being one of, if not THE, greatest and most innovative rap crew’s in history, it was something that was easy for them to appreciate.
Here’s the blurb featured underneath the order page on WUGotcha.com:
We know you know we know, it’s actually awesome. Some fellow named Tom Caruana teamed up with some fellow from Wu Music Group took Wu-cappelas from various songs and solo albums and put them over new productions made vaguely from Beatles samples and Beatles covers samples and some shit that couldn’t possibly be Beatles samples but must be and made a memorable Mix-tape. Thankfully, his pilfering of Liverpool’s finest is barely recognizable, except for Ghost’s “Mighty Healthy” which is now Pretty Toney rapping directly over Paul’s singing (This is great) and dirty skank. If anything, Caruana holds pretty true to RZA and co.’s original mood, if not making Shaolin sound a whole helluva lot more different than it actually is. This shit is a mosdef classic, collectors edition Mix-tape.
Again, the hard copy of this album can be ordered HERE.
If you’re interested in picking one up, I’d try and jump on it quick. Otherwise, you’ll be purchasing it with a huge markup through ebay. If you’re wondering how they can sell something like this with all of the copyright issues involved, they’ve gotten around it by doing a couple of things. The first is the disclaimer stating that the album is “for promotional use only” and the second is by having their $8 fee referred to strictly as a “Shipping and Handling” charge. $8 for shipping and handling is actually pretty reasonable, but be aware that when you go to pay for it, something’s fucked and you will actually be charged $8 for the album and another $8 for the shipping, coming to a grand total of $16.
Again, the main reason to purchase pay for the shipping of a hard copy of a “special edition” like this is for the collectability of the item.
For those of you who just want to listen to the fucking thing, we’re providing a link to the download of the “un-special” original addition HERE. (Wu-Tang: please do not punch my face.)