Tech-Savvy DJs Have Destiny's Child Singing With Nirvana

Internet file sharing fuels trend of mixing wildly disparate tracks.

"Smells Like Booty." "A Stroke of Genie-us." "I Just Can't Get Enough

Pills." The song titles say it all.

Music's latest craze is certainly a twisted one. Some are even calling it

bastard pop. How else do you explain Destiny's Child singing "Bootylicious"

over Nirvana's sacred "Smells Like Teen Spirit"?

The new genre-crossing format, however, has an obvious father in Napster,

Gnutella and their controversial file-sharing siblings, who have fed the

frenzy by making a capella and instrumental tracks available to any wannabe

producer with a decent hard drive.

Give an armchair DJ some simple remixing software, like Acid, and within no

time you'll be hearing the next "Get Ur Faith On" or "My Name Is Funk Soul


The art of bootleg remixes, mash-ups or sound clashes (take your pick)

emerged as an Internet phenomenon two years ago but is now scratching its

way into the commercial music market, especially overseas.

In Europe the pioneers of the movement, such as Kurtis Rush, Soulwax,

Osymyso and Freelance Hellraiser, have become household names, headlining

popular clubs and spinning their creations on radio shows. One mash-up

artist, Richard X, even recently topped the UK singles chart with "Freak

Like Me," which layers vocals from the Sugababes and Adina Howard over

new-wave hero Gary Numan's "Are Friends Electric."

Bootleg remixes would likely be all over the charts, except they happen to

be illegal — unless, of course, the remixers can score permission from

the artists they use. And that's not easy, considering they are generally

going for the oddest combinations possible. When Dave Grohl heard about

"Smells Like Booty," for instance, his response was, "It sounds like a

f---ing mess."

Clearing samples is also painfully time consuming. 2 Many DJs (Soulwax's

David and Stephen Dewaele), spent more than six months getting permission

for the 114 (they wanted 187) tracks used on their debut, As Heard on

Radio Soulwax Pt. 2. That's probably why nobody bothered for The Best

Bootlegs in the World Ever, an unauthorized compilation that independent

record store owners worldwide have had a hard time keeping on their shelves.

Perhaps, though, the biggest sign that mash-ups are going nowhere but up is

the support they have garnered from artists who are being "mashed-up."

"We encourage kids out there doing that," Papa Roach singer Jacoby Shaddix

said. "Be creative, man. That's what the music's there for. Technology is

crazy these days. You could morph a chicken and a hip-hop song. ... I don't

know, it'll be something. Mix us and a Lionel Richie song!"

The hip-hop and electronic music communities are especially supportive,

recognizing that parts of their genres are based on the same credo of taking

something old and making it new. That musical approach can be traced back

even further, into the '70s, when Jamaican DJs would mix a capella reggae

tracks with dub instrumentals. The term "mash-up" comes from the Jamaican

phrase "Mash up the place."

Still, it was hip-hop that made borrowing other recordings artistically

acceptable, and the bootleg remix trend is reminding artists of rap's early


"Around 1990 in New York, all the hip-hop acts put out 12-inch singles of

their songs with a capella versions on the back," recalled former Soul

Coughing singer Mike Doughty. "I would go to all these clubs and hear Mary

J. Blige's 'Real Love' over a hundred different hip-hop instrumentals. Some

of them were just genius. It was a wonderful, free, creative time. Doing it

on ProTools rather than a couple of turntables is just a new spin on it."

Jermaine Dupri, a pioneering producer in his own right, is keeping a

watchful eye on the mash-up artists.

"We as musicians, we should just catch up to what the kids are doing and

just start collaborating and making records," he explained. "They're showing

us a sound that obviously they like, and we should possibly try to explore

that sound and go see what will happen if you put this person with this

person and this person and that person. If they do one of my records, I'm

definitely gonna pay attention to it and take heed to it and go call the

person that did it and make a record."

Moby, who launched his career remixing singles for Michael Jackson and other

pop stars, believes bootleg remixes are another way for more creative minds

to get into the game. "Everyone is becoming a musician," he said. "Anyone

with a computer has the ability to make good-sounding records, and I think

it's really exciting."

Moby is flattered that a few of his songs have been remixed, and he's not


"It's a compliment, like having Weird Al cover one of your songs," said

former Faith No More singer Mike Patton, who at last count was in six bands,

including Tomahawk and Fantômas.

Electronic music luminary BT, who also produced 'NSYNC's "Pop," was so

impressed with a mash-up of his "Mercury and Solace," he tracked down the

remixer and released it.

"I love having people do unsolicited remixes of my stuff. In fact, I'm

thinking about posting vocals of the whole next album on my Web site when

it's done," BT said. "I believe that everyone uses sounds in a case-specific

and different manner than other people who use the same sounds."

BT is especially fond of mash-ups that pair drastically different songs.

"I'm an avid believer in crossing boundary lines and idiom subdivisions in

the music-making process, and if we need to mix Willie Nelson with John Cage

to push the envelope in the right direction, then bring it," he said. "That

actually might be pretty dope. I may try that."

Julian Casablancas, singer of the Strokes, is a supporter of bootleg

remixes, but he was disappointed when he first heard Freelance Hellraiser's

"A Stroke of Genie-us," which pairs their "Hard to Explain" with Christina

Aguilera's "Genie in a Bottle."

"I think it's a nice try, but I thought her vocals actually fit through the

whole song, which would have been a funny coincidence, and I would have

probably enjoyed it, but they sort of edited it so the guitar plays five

different chords in the verse," Casablancas said. "It's like they just

looped the first chord. They could have just done it with anything. It was a

little unimpressive. If it had worked, I would have probably promoted it. It

was a funny idea, but it seemed like a little bit of a cop-out. The funny

thing is, Christina Aguilera's on our label."

Despite Casablancas' opinion, "A Stroke of Genie-us" is one of the most

popular mash-ups, even sneaking onto radio shows in America. But whether it

or other bootleg remixes — like the dozens using Missy Elliott's "Get

Ur Freak On" or Eminem's "My Name Is" — will ever be legitimate

Stateside hits remains to be seen.

"I've been played on college radio [in the U.S.], but I think the big radio

stations are too genre-based," Freelance Hellraiser said. "Mash-ups by their

very nature exist to combine and ultimately destroy musical genres, which

makes them difficult to pigeonhole."

Added Patton, "I could see one of these crossing over, but they are usually

a little too twisted for the simple mind to get a grip on."

Mix Master Mike, who DJs for the Beastie Boys and makes his own sound

collage albums, thinks there is at least one U.S. native who can truly break

the genre in America. "DJ Z-Trip mixes Christina Aguilera with AC/DC and

stuff like that, and it's creative," Mike said. "And it's funny."

Steve Mannion, co-editor of the popular mash-ups Web site

HREF="" TARGET="_blank">Boom Selection,

pointed out that the style is still growing. "It's really down to the

technology," he said. "As that develops, so will the methods people can use

to be creative. Eventually, technology may be so advanced that making any

two songs sound good together is possible."

Hellraiser, who said his DJing bookings and offers for legitimate remix work

have increased since the mash-up boom, believes the genre can survive

because of the infinite number of crazy mash-ups that have yet to be done.

"I'd do a bootleg of the Lord's Prayer if I could find the a cappella," said

the DJ, whose favorite mash-up mixed the Doors with Nas.

On the other hand, there are artists in electronic music — a genre

where the hot styles changes monthly — who see the popularity of sound

clashes fading away.

"It's cynical music by cynical tired people with no ideas," said Scottish

techno producer Slam. "In the U.K. charts there was a particularly dreadful

one with Supertramp vocals speeded up — as if they needed to be —

on a trance track. Awful, yet somehow popular."

New York DJ Liquid Todd has nothing against mash-ups, but he said he would

like to see computer-savvy kids write their own songs. "That's when we are

going to hear some really amazing sampler-based music," he said.