When DJ Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) crossbred Jay-Z with the Beatles, he did more than give every anal-retentive lawyer from Roc-A-Fella Plaza to Abbey Road reason to lick their chops. In one conceptually brilliant move, Burton managed to bridge two disparate generations, giving fans of both the former's Black Album and the latter's "white album" an excuse to seek out whichever work they were less familiar with.
In the case of the widely beloved 1968 opus, created when both George and Ringo had grown bitter with their diminished roles in the Fab Four (the pair's songwriting credits combine for five of the double disc's thirty tracks), it's cool to hear Mouse gravitate toward Starr's furious kickdrum as much as toward Harrison-penned compositions like "Long, Long, Long," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and, especially, "Piggies." Juxtaposed against Jay-Z's streetwise a cappella (during "Public Service Announcement," "What More Can I Say" and "Change Clothes," respectively), the resulting mash-ups find Sir Jigga swaggering through a psychedelic minefield of sitars and harpsichords. With the "Piggies"/"Change" hybrid, Mouse mates a song originally intended to denounce the class system with a lightweight club hit that's dressed to the nines -- and rammin' its snout up every booty in sight. "99 Problems" mixed with "Helter Skelter" makes for a windowpane-rattling scorcher that could bust Charles Manson's grape all over again.
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Immensely enjoyable though uneven in spots, Grey ranks up there in lawsuit-baiting notoriety with Negativland's U2 or John Oswald's Plunderphonics, which was deemed a copyright infringement in a trial that pitted Oswald against the world's best-known masher, Michael Jackson (who, ironically, neither black nor white, owns the entire Lennon/McCartney catalogue with Sony). Unfortunately for the Mouse that roared, Grey garnered a pesky cease-and-desist order from EMI, master owners of The Beatles, which resulted in the album's being pulled from shelves -- though bootlegged copies are widely available from your nearest file-sharing scofflaw.
Can't we all just get along?