We already know Jay-Z and Coldplay dig each other's music, as evidenced by collaboration for "Lost +" on the band's upcoming Prospekt's March EP and "Beach Chair" from Jay's Kingdom Come.
But what would it sound like if international-superstar pals Jay and Chris Martin made more than a two-off? That's what mixtape veterans Mick Boogie and Terry Urban wondered, so they pulled a Danger Mouse and recently locked themselves in the lab for two weeks to cook up Viva la Hova, a 19-track mash-up that lays Jay's unique flow over the atmospheric arena rock of England's finest.
"What Danger Mouse did with the Grey Album was momentous, and I was sitting there one day, and I saw that Coldplay was releasing a song with Jay-Z, and I had this idea. Because any time you read about Jay-Z in a nonurban magazine, they talk about his relationship with Chris and Gwyneth [Paltrow] and how Jay is an international star rather than just a rap star," said Boogie, 30, who recently created the mash-up mixtape, The Honor Roll for VH1's "Hip-Hop Honors."
"I thought it was cool they were doing a song [on the Coldplay EP], and I love 'Beach Chair,' so I thought, 'They should do a whole album together. What if we put it together? What would it sound like?' "So, Boogie and frequent collaborator Urban listened to "Lost +" when it leaked last month, got a feel for the sound of the dynamic music combo, and a project was born.
"It was exactly what I thought it might be — great Jay-Z rhymes over cool Coldplay songs," said Boogie of the mixtape, which debuted online on Tuesday. "So I reached out to some of our favorite producers, from 9th Wonder to some new guys, and they each produced a song and we each produced a song, which is the first time we've ever done that for a project." Boogie also roped in artist Glen Infante to remix Coldplay's Viva album cover, with the characters from the original Eugene Delacroix painting tricked out with characters wearing fly shades, Yankees caps and neckfuls of bling.
As Boogie suspected, the worlds-apart sounds do blend into a strangely compelling flow, as on producer Cookin' Soul's "Public Speeding," which melds Jay's hyped "Public Service Announcement" with the lighter-flicking Coldplay track "High Speed," speeding up Martin's vocals to a high-pitched chipmunk wheeze.
Elsewhere, the unlikely combinations make for an eerie disconnect, as when Jay spits gritty rhymes about the dangers of the street hustle from "U Don't Know" accompanied by the spare instrumental hook to "In My Place." For the most part, Boogie said, he and Urban — who chose all the mash-up pairings and worked closely with the producers on the tone and energy of their mixes — tried to choose non-hit tracks to keep the focus on the music, rather than the recognizable hooks. A few exceptions include "Miss Trouble," which drops Jay's "Excuse Me Miss" over the instantly hummable piano hook from "In My Place," and "Take the Hill," which uses the guitar line from Coldplay's recent hit, "Violet Hill," as the bed for Hova's "Takeover."
"It's real fall music," Boogie said of the simultaneously hard-core and melancholic tracks. "Coldplay is a very fall/wintery band, and Jay is known for dropping something every fall. And together it's darkly organic, so it makes sense for this time of the year."
Boogie said he hasn't reached out to either camp — and didn't need their blessing to do the project, since he's giving it away and not profiting from its sale — but he's heard from Jay's assistant that the rap mogul thought it was "amazing," so he's happy. Coldplay weighed in the day after the mixtape debuted, writing on their blog, "It may not quite be the cup of tea of the EMI and Roc-A-Fella music lawyers, but we're rather enjoying the new Viva la Hova bootleg album which has popped up on the Internet this week. ... Check out this impressive work of sonic alchemy."
"He's really artistic, and he brought Coldplay to the hip-hop world in the first place," Boogie said of Jay-Z. "And he's released the a cappellas of his albums, so he knows the deal. And they're kind of in a similar place, though their music is from two different genres. Coldplay is a rock band with a lot of soul and feeling and music that's not very busy, which makes it easily sample-able and remixable."
As proud as he is of tracks like the meditative "Lost Part 2," ("Momma Loves Me" and the import mix of "Lost") and one of the album's most elegant pairings, "Hola Blanco" (the bouncing "Hola Hovito" and the ethereal "White Shadows"), Boogie said the album is probably just a onetime venture. "This is a one of one," he said. "I don't really want to do another one, because the reason this works is because it really makes sense."