Mashing genres has been a favourite topic on Reggaemani lately. Dancehall star Busy Signal goes beyond his genre and Toussaint successfully combines soul and reggae. Another way of mixing genres is through mash-ups – taking bits of songs to make a new tune. This is a nice way of introducing genres to a new audience and has been made popular by Mark Vidler and others.
It starts with the unmistakable organ of Take A Ride rhythm. But something is different. The tempo is a bit higher. Then Marvin Gaye starts singing “Mother, Mother”, the first words in his classic What’s Going On. This is certainly not Truths & Rights by Johnny Osbourne. It’s something new, something fresh.
And this is what a mash-up is all about. “Presenting the songs in a new light”, as DJ and producer Al Fingers put it in an interview earlier this summer with Reggaemani.
A mash-up is at its best when it adds something new and when it reinvents the tunes used. It has to be unique, but at the same time well executed. The best mash-ups are often those that follow the chord progression, are in the same key and don’t mess with the pitch too much.
Many DJs and producers that make mash-ups seem to have no musical boundaries. Max Tannone, for example, said in an interview with Reggaemani that he recommends trying whatever sounds good.
I think the weirdest combinations are usually the best, like Jr Blender’s brilliant mashing of hardcore deejay Bounty Killer with 80’s British synthpop trio Bronski Beat.
I’ve collected mash-ups for some time and can easily say that they’re usually fillers on the dance floor and have also lured one or two of my friends into reggae music. It can just as easily go the other way, like when Bost & Bim have introduced Usher and other hip-hop/soul artists to a reggae crowd.
Below I’ve compiled my ten favourite reggae mash-ups. These gems certainly present the tunes in a new light and give them a new dimension.
Producer – song title (original performers)
10. Nuff Wish Crew – Hammy’s Theme (Anthony Hamilton vs. G Corp)
9. DJ Shepdog – No, No, No (Mama Don’t Like You) (Dawn Penn vs. Alborosie & I Eye)
8. Max Tannone – Mr. Universe (Mos Def vs. Observer All Stars)
7. Nuff Wish Crew – African Billie (Michael Jackson vs. Joe Gibbs)
6. Al Fingers – What’s Going On (Marvin Gaye vs. Johnny Osbourne)
5. Nuff Wish Crew – Sensi Spice (Alozade, Mr. Easy & Richie Spice vs. Dr Dre)
4. Jr Blender – Ghetto Gladiator (Bounty Killer vs. Bronski Beat)
3. Max Tannone – In My Math (Mos Def vs. Michael Prophet)
2. J Star – No Diggity (Blackstar vs. Sound Dimension)
1. Jr Blender – Rougher RMX (Cocoa Tea, Home T & Cutty Ranks vs. Black Eyed Peas)
Many thanks to DJ Axxel of Axxionpack Sound for introducing me to the great works of Jr Blender.