MTV’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.