Mash-up culture has come a long way since the 2006 CMJ Festival, when Girl Talk first took the stage in front of a group of confused journalists, radio DJs, and Music Directors.
Since that dreary October, Mash-up, which was previously a little known sub-culture, has taken off with mashes ranging from absurdity of Stuntin’ Like Mufasa to the face-melting quality of the Hood Internet’s tracks. College students are beginning to eat up new mash-ups voraciously, so lucky for us, and The Hood Internet, a duo from Chicago that are at the forefront of this movement—which may very well end up being the music of our generation—are playing tonight in Bulldog Alley.
Vox sat down with members Aaron Brink and Steve Reidell, who go by the handles ABX and STV SLV, to talk about mash-ups and their future.
Vox: I feel like we should start from the beginning: what got you guys into mash-ups to start with? and did you have any other DJs that you looked up to when you first started?
STV SLV: ABX and I were playing in a band together in Chicago in 2007. We were both fairly adept at reconstructing songs into “beats,” as it were, so when we started hearing stuff like Sammy Banana’s Big Boi/Broken Social Scene and Them Jeans’ Rich Boy/Spinto Band, that was pretty inspirational—in the sense that we were like, “That’s what we’re doing, and we could definitely put some tracks out there to see what people think.”
V: Being around during the rise in popularity of mash-ups has given you guys a unique look at this movement over time. What have you noticed comes with this newfound popularity? The difference in who comes to your shows?
ABX: It’s hard to put it in the context of a larger mash-up movement for us. We’ve definitely noticed that our crowds have grown, and I would say that the expansion of MP3 blogs and remixes in general has certainly helped mash-ups reach a larger audience. Even as the audience has grown, I don’t know that the people who come to our shows have changed. Generally, it’s people who listen to a lot of music and are up on the stuff we mix together, rather than mostly being fans of mash-ups per se. It’s probably more the case that people are getting more diverse in the types of music they listen to and mash-ups mirror that.
V: How do you feel your personal style of mash-ups has changed over time?
STV SLV: In the beginning, we never intended to play the tracks out as DJs, so now we try to pay more attention to the fidelity of the source material as well as of the finished Hood Internet version.
V: Do you have a personal favorite mash, or a least favorite?
ABX: One of our all-time classic tracks is R. Kelly’s “I’m a Flirt” mixed with Broken Social Scene’s “7/4 (Shoreline).” R. Kelly sounds good on pretty much anything, so we use him a lot. An exception to that would be when I mixed his track “Real Talk” with a track by The Honeydrips. I did it real abstract, layering multiple tracks of R. Kelly as the track builds, and it’s pretty much a mess.
V: Along those lines, what’s your process for finding songs to mash? Does a certain combination just strike you, and you try it out? Or is it more complicated than that?
STV SLV: We definitely get some ideas from time to time, just thinking about vocal cadence or song keys, but other times it can be a process of trial and error.
V: Personally, I’ve been interested in the legal consequences of mash-ups—what are your thoughts on this matter? Can you see any reform potential in the future? What would you guys like to see?
ABX: I’m happy with where it is now. No one seems to be getting cease-and-desist notices or lawsuits for sampling copyrighted work in a mash-up. At the same time, people for the most part aren’t selling them or trying to make money off music they don’t have the rights to. It would be difficult to regulate, and I hope the record labels have more important things to be putting their energy into.
V: Where do you see the future of mash-ups as a cultural and musical movement? And where do you see yourselves within this future?
STV SLV: It’s hard to say. In the realm of popular music, they’ve been around since the 80s: Steinski, Clubhouse, others I’m sure. And with audio software so readily accessible nowadays, there’s a near infinite number of them floating around, so at some point I’d imagine people are just gonna be like “OK, that’s enough of that.”
Many people have already written them off. I think Idolator declared the “death of mashiups” a few years back. We like putting tracks together and trying to re-imagine songs—we’re not so sure about being part of the would-be “movement.” For now, we’re just going to keep updating the website as we’ve been doing, and in the meantime we’re working on producing tracks and remixes that aren’t mash-ups. We’re also making a whole album in the same vein. It’ll combine some different kinds of musicians, emcees, etcetera in the spirit of The Hood Internet, but the material will be completely new, save for maybe a sample here and there.
Hope you all got tickets, and if you don’t have any, try not to cry yourself to sleep tonight too hard. Oh ya, and don’t forget your sweat towels.
P.S. here’s a new Hood Internet track, as well as the R. Kelly track they mentioned in their interview: