DJ Danger Mouse

The Grey Album (self-released, sort of)

So good it's, ahem, illegal. The Beatles' White Album meets Jay-Z's The Black Album on the way to the courthouse, where EMI's lawyers lie in wait with cease-and-desist orders to protect copyright holders who want to fuck up what a bedroom DJ funked up on a Christmas Eve lark. The rumor became reality until it evolved into myth, and DJ Danger Mouse's pop-art project deserves its reputation as all three; at last someone's elevated the mash-up from novelty to concept, and this beguiling collection has the tenacity to go the distance. Mouse doesn't merely fit Jay-Z's boasts to the Beatles' beats, cutting and compressing the rhyming so it jibes with the timing. He's created something altogether new, the magical third thing that results when two unlikely entities breed to form the inexplicable -- meaning "Piggies" and "Change Clothes" end up in the same dressing room wearing the same pair of pants.

It works because the recognizable elements become insignificant; within a few seconds, you're no longer paying attention to the gimmick but riding the groove. It works because "Helter Skelter" sounds good beneath "99 Problems." It works because the limp "December 4th" becomes warm and poignant when underscored by "Mother Nature's Son." It works because "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" on a date with "Julia" is just about the most beautiful thing you'll hear all year. And when it doesn't work, which happens occasionally, you're still awed by the fact someone took something very old and made it sound so very new that it scared the hell out of a record label stuck in a dead past. Steal this album. You have no other choice.

 
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