Mash-ups: the last word. Hopefully.
Please god, someone make it stop. First there was Danger Mouse’s ‘The Grey Album’, which mixed a capella bits from Jay-Z’s ‘The Black Album’ with guitar bits from The Beatles’ ‘The White Album’ and was both popular and excellent. So popular and so excellent, in fact, that it prompted a host of swiftly-forgotten imitators: ‘The Purple Album’ (‘The Black Album’ plus Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’), ‘The None More Black Album’ (‘The Black Album’ mixed with Metallica’s ‘Black Album’) and ‘The Slack Album’ (‘The Black Album’ meets Pavement’s ‘Slanted And Enchanted’). Now meet ‘The Wack Album’.
Last July, Jay-Z decided that he was tired of not making money from the unauthorised bootlegs and wanted a piece of the action himself. To this end he recruited one of the few bands to survive the nu-metal killing fields, Linkin Park, for a gig at Hollywood’s Roxy Theatre. There Jay-Z and LP performed a six-song set of crossbred selections from their back catalogue, introducing crunching mope-rock to swaggering hip-hop. At the time Jay claimed the gig to be “a hybrid of the hot shit”. Sadly, however, the resulting EP and 40-minute DVD prove his words to be wildly untrue – apart from the ‘shit’ bit.
The original appeal of mash-ups was both the novelty of discovering just how much two seemingly unrelated songs had in common and their copyright-defying illegality. There is nothing at all dangerous or illegal about ‘Collision Course’, which is sponsored by MTV and features lots of footage of Learjets, people talking about Pro Tools and men with ponytails and big bunches of keys wheeling expensive-looking equipment around LA.
It would be easy to suggest that recently Jay-Z has been somewhat less than discerning when it comes to collaborators – he’s toured with R Kelly, after all. Aside from a mutual love of shoes (Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda has his own range of DC trainers, while Jay-Z’s Rocawear rap boots are available now from all good stockists), it’s hard to imagine a less well-matched combo than the angst-rock tycoons and the man who’s previously sung songs called stuff like ‘Big Pimpin’’, ‘Pussy’ and ‘Fuck All Nite’. For all their faux-gangsta wiggatude, Linkin Park look like the kids from School Of Rock 15 years on – chess club geeks with earplugs and expensive tats. This means that the in-the-studio footage is hilarious: at one point there’s a sequence featuring nervy Linkin singer Chester Bennington attempting to bond with Jay-Z, all the while looking like he expects the rapper to suddenly rob him at gunpoint.
The real drawback, though, is that ‘Collision Course’ never really adds anything to the original songs. Closer ‘Points Of Authority/99 Problems’ is pretty bombastic, but then so were the unadulterated versions. ‘Numb/Encore’, meanwhile, is just two tracks clumsily spotwelded together in the middle like halves of second-hand cars. Like trying to cross, say, a shoe with a satsuma or a lump of Edam with a house brick, ‘Collision Course’ is ultimately a pointless, unfathomable exercise.