September 18, 2008

Double Dee and Steinski's What Does It All Mean?

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In 1983, hip-hop label Tommy Boy sponsored a remix contest, based on an unsuccessful track called “Play That Beat Mr. D.J.” by the now forgotten G.L.O.B.E. & Whiz Kid. Winners of $100 and a t-shirt were Double Dee and Steinski, not up-and-coming DJs, but low-level advertising workers in their 30s, patient enough to edit sound the old-fashioned way — by cutting up tape.
The resulting track was something like a Charlie Parker improvisation, departing almost entirely from the original. It compressed DJ mixing into miniature, its key innovation being an array of samples from comedy records, movies and radio broadcasts. You could call it the first mash-up. This track is now revered by hip-hop heads as the first of three “Lessons,” but due to its blatant disregard for copyright law, has never been released.
Thanks to Illegal Art, these lessons are finally available, along with eleven other pieces of hip-hop concrète. The remarkable second disc is an hour-long mix/collage, two years in the making. Even now, long after “mash-up” has become a household word, it’s guaranteed to blow your mind.