By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
The beats on Jay-Z's victory-lap Black Album were mostly negligible, and a few producers have unofficially replaced them with their own. The Grey Album, from Atlanta's DJ Danger Mouse, is the most ambitious remix: All the music behind Hova is sampled from the Beatles' White Album.
Of course it's a gimmick, but about half of it works anyway. Sometimes Danger Mouse keeps things simple"What More Can I Say" simply loops the first eight bars of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," whose single-note piano intro abruptly sounds like a thug classic. And sometimes he gets fancy, as with the splintered cutup of "Julia" that spatters "Dirt off Your Shoulder." The Beatles' tone-conscious arrangements pay off even as cross-sectional samples: At the risk of rockism, I'd say "Change Clothes" feels 40 times fresher over a sped-up harpsichord from "Piggies" and some Pro-Tooled Ringo than with the Neptunes' dozy synths.
But The Grey Album is less a statement about the state of hip-hop production than proof that the right software can now make anything sound like it belongs with anything else. Suggestion for a sequel: Metallica's Black Album and Joan Didion reading The White Album.