M.C. in the Grey Suit

I finally got my hands on ten of the twelve tracks that make up DJ Danger Mouse’s “The Grey Album,” a remix of Jay-Z’s “The Black Album” in which he backs the megastar M.C.’s vocals with loops and samples lifted entirely from the Beatles’s “The White Album.”

Right: Jay-Z. He found his hip-hop in your classic rock.

Talent or Nostlagia

There are plenty of reasons that Jay-Z is the rap luminary that he is — some of them even have to do with rhymes — but I’m not sure he’s ever sounded quite as powerful as this. What I can’t figure out is if that’s a result of the DJ’s uncanny ability to match his percussive relentlessness almost perfectly with these well-known samples.

Or, if it’s the result of my intimate familiarity with these samples, and the way that familiarity resonates in my headphones. I’m enthusiastic enough about these tracks to want to hunt down the two that I’m missing, but I suspect that the motivation for that enthusiasm tilts just a tad bit more towards a preoccupation with novelty than towards a real appreciation for whatever artistic merits this high-concept album may possess.

Anyway, I know for sure that if Jay-Z’s lawyers and the Beatles’s lawyers (and Jacko’s lawyers too, for all I know) are ever able to sort out their obligatory litigious instincts and come to an agreement on actually releasing “The Grey Album,” it would almost assuredly be a hit.



  1. Dirt Off Your Shoulder is great – edgy, exciting stuff. I think the Beatles would’ve appreciated it… there’s something of the essence of their music still there, despite the cut’n’paste job. Which tracks are you missing?

  2. I miscounted, actually, and I now realize that I’m missing three tracks: numbers 10, 11 and 12. You’re right that “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” is great. My favorite is probably “Encore,” which opens up with such convincing force that it almost justifies the whole project. Beyond that, however, I’m now finding, after about a dozen listens, that these tracks are wearing a bit thin. I hinted at this in my post, but I’ve always been skeptical of Jay-Z’s strength as an M.C., and now I remember why. He’s a great singles artist, but his work sustained over an album is a drag, backed by Beatles or not.

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