While most turntablists are peach-fuzz-mustached little funk-Trekkies hanging out in their parents’ basements trying to perfect scratches, Arizona’s Z-Trip and Springfield, Missouri’s DJ P are instigators. Or at least they have a sense of humor: Z-Trip has scratched for Slayer side project Stormtroopers of Death and is prone to performing in superhero costumes, while DJ P famously turned the 1999 U.S. DMC Finals out when he abandoned the scratch trickery of the other 11 finalists to mix Tom Petty’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More” with a breakbeat, before segueing to Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is” (Tupac R.I.P.) and leaving the decks to go breakdance. He may have lost the battle, but he won the war; he was the only finalist to get a standing ovation.
It’s this mix of B-boy pantomime and reinvigoration that makes P and Z-Trip’s ’80s-flavored, Internet-available mix disc, Uneasy Listening, so vital, and—more than most anything in today’s overly skills-obsessed hip-hop world—fun. Just as Afrika Bambaataa chose to build hip-hop not on old James Brown rhythms, but on two wild-card Kraftwerk records, so do P and Z-Trip flip the script as only two hick white boys can, reimagining a house-party hip-hop where the Tubes’ “She’s a Beauty” mixes over Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” and Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” gets torn apart, then cut back together over a Beastie Boys beat. The it’s-all-good pan-genre embracing is admittedly shticky, but there’s no denying the mix from Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight” to Del tha Funkee Homosapien’s “Phoney Phranchise” is dope as hell.
While much of Uneasy Listening has a jokey factor just as capable of conjuring “Weird Al” Yankovic as Kid Rock, there’s also a pure heart of hip-hop—one that’s not afraid of self-criticism. When the finale, the Beatles’ “Yesterday” getting sloppily marauded, kicks in, you can’t help but feel Z-Trip and P are making the point that some things are better left un-funked-up. Because the Beatles are dope as hell too—with or without some idiot throwing a breakbeat over them.