Should Writers Tell Rappers About Girl Talk?: A “Post-Millennial” Dilemma

Jun 25th, 2008 // 10 Comments

biz.jpgMTV’s James Montgomery recently found himself in a bit of a kwinky-dink when he realized he was listening to Girl Talk’s Feed The Animals on a plane while LL Cool J, whose “Mama Said Knock You Out” is sampled with impunity, sat in first class, oblivious to the lift. Should the writer leave coach and (if he doesn’t get tackled by a member of L’s entourage or an undercover agent) reveal this thievery to the superstar? “It’s an entirely post-millennial dilemma, one that’s right up there in the minds of today’s music journalists with ‘If you are talking to Paris Hilton on a red carpet, do you acknowledge the fact that you have seen her naked?’ and ‘Do you tell a band that you’ve downloaded their new album from LimeWire to prep for this interview?’” Yeah, what could be more “post-millennial” than using an uncleared sample? The idea of using someone else’s hook without permission would undoubtedly blow LL Cool J’s mind in its post-millennial audacity. What ’80s rapper wouldn’t be shocked to hear of such a thing?

That is why Animals, which can be downloaded through Illegal Art’s Web site, is so amazing. It’s completely fearless in approach and scope, a record that makes no bones about sampling Kanye, Lil Wayne, Jimi Hendrix, Prince, Radiohead, Michael Jackson and Metallica, released by a guy not hiding in any way, shape or form. And while it lacks the breakneck, “Holy sh–, did you hear that?!?” pacing of Gillis’ last album, 2006′s Night Ripper, it’s in a lot of ways a better record. It’s Gillis making a statement, whether it’s in the caliber of the artists he’s jacking (clearly, any of the aforementioned acts possess legal teams that could positively destroy him) or in the meanings behind those jackings.

Take, for example,the two Beastie Boys samples used on the record: the booming drums of “So What’cha Want” (which, to be fair, Beck also sampled on his track “E-Pro”) and the hook of “Body Movin’.” It might be reading too much into things, but the message to me is clear: The Beasties might have started this whole “mash-up” thing with their ’89 opus Paul’s Boutique, but now the jackers have become the jackees. … It’s Gillis’ game now.

Or perhaps writers who acknowledge Paul’s Boutique, where the countless samples can be enjoyed as rap-backing grooves and sound effects by the unfamiliar, and yet claim “it’s Gillis’ game now” because he created an hour long mash-up medley that has no value beyond “recognize this?” bricolage, are the ones jacking.

But anyway, inquiring minds want to know. Did Montgomery reveal to LL Cool J that the future is now? Did the superstar choke on a pastry and scream for his lawyers to stop these irreverent shenanigans?

But where was I? Oh yeah, LL Cool J. I didn’t tell him about the Girl Talk album, in part because I am such a fan of Gillis’ work, but also because you could probably fill an airplane with people who have more reason to gripe than LL does. He’s only been snippetized on Feed The Animals, whereas anyone in Queen, the Police, Faith No More or Dexy’s Midnight Runners would have a, shall we say, much larger bone to pick with Gillis (so would Avril Lavigne, Twisted Sister, Temple of the Dog, the Band, Flo Rida, Lil Mama, Young Jeezy and Fergie, for that matter.)

I guess by writing this column, I am opening Gillis up to all sorts of bad things. And I hope that doesn’t happen. But I felt the need to do this because his new album is so great, the kind of thing that could not have existed 10 years ago, an audio time capsule of the era in which we live. The kind of thing that can inspire post-millennial dilemmas at 37,000 feet.

I just hope LL doesn’t read this.

Word. I don’t even want to think about what kind of Jive Bunny-esque “LL Megamix” he might commission.

Lil Wayne, Kanye West And LL Cool J Fly Girl Talk’s Friendly Skies, Unknowingly, In Bigger Than The Sound [MTV]

  1. Fried Bologna Is Back!

    So, the Beastie Boys “started this whole ‘mash up’ thing”, and Girl Talk is some sort of musical revolutionary? Let me take a wild guess about James Montgomery, based on absolutely nothing but these two assumptions: he is a white guy.

  2. walkmasterflex

    @Fried Bologna Is Back!: nice.

    also Idolator’s anti-Girl Talk agenda has been clear for some time, but it’s still pretty enjoyable to read the scathing posts, even though they bounce between “it’s not that cool, guys” and “when this becomes popular that means it is the end of music!!!!”

  3. Anonymous

    “he created an hour long mash-up medley that has no value beyond ‘recognize this?’ bricolage, are the ones jacking.”

    How can you say it has no value outside of spot the reference? This is a great record for dancing. The countless samples get anyone who listens to popular music ready to move.

  4. Anthony Miccio

    @Commonloon: “ready to move” is about right. Have people actually tried to dance to Feed The Animals? Doesn’t the beat changing every twenty seconds frustrate people?

  5. loudersoft

    @Fried Bologna Is Back!: Actually, Double Dee and Steinski (whose stellar retrospective was released last month on Illegal Art, same label as Girl Talk) are the guys responsible for “that mash-up thing”. Their style was popularized by the Beastie Boys, De La Soul and others who, as a form of tribute, riffed on the style to some degree. Until Paul’s Boutique ruined it for everyone, there was a time when that sampladelic culture was much less cluttered than it is now.

    If Girl Talk’s concepts were as inventive on this new record as on previous outings, much less the forefathers of the genre themselves Steinski & Double Dee’s, we wouldn’t need to even talk about it.

  6. loudersoft

    I might add that Girl Talk uses almost exactly the same hip-hop records that A-Trak used on Dirty South Dance so, I mean, what the hell?

  7. Anonymous

    fuck yeah steinski!

  8. Captain Wrong

    @loudersoft: Actually, one could argue Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel (pre-dating Steinski & Double Dee’s Lesson 1, IIRC) started this whole thing. Or Herc before him. Or Buchanan and Goodman (an admitted influence on Steinski) way before all of them.

  9. loudersoft

    @Captain Wrong: Well, now you’re going back to the Bronx River Community Center days when Herc would simply bring in the breaks. As far as official releases of material, Double Dee & Steinski, I believe, are credited with being the true innovators of the “mash-up” style as we know it today.

    That’s not to say that, you know, they were the end-all be-all, but it would be incorrect to ignore that they were the major source of inspiration for Girl Talk, B-Boys, DJ Shadow, etc etc etc.

  10. Anonymous

    So, he didn’t tell LL because other artists have more reason to gripe? Says who? I mean, it is a quote from his grandmom, after all. And, being a beatmaker, I’m not even for putting business like that out there. Also, Girl Talk sucks. Just had to add that.

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