He has put Jay-Z together with Radiohead and made Mos Def rap to heavy dub rhythms. Collaborations that sounds impossible. How he did it? Mash-ups of course. Reggaemani has talked to New York-based musician Max Tannone.
This spring, I stumbled upon the album Mos Dub, an album that sounds downright crazy when described. Rapper Mos Def mainly combined with dub rhythms by masterminds Henry “Junjo” Lawes and Scientist? But I was completely blown away. This was undoubtedly a brilliant mash-up album.
The man behind Mos Dub is Max Tannone, a musician from New York. He’s probably best known for mashing up Jay-Z, Radiohead and the Beastie Boys, but aside from mash-ups also works on regular productions.
− I’ve made beats for a long time, and making mash-ups was just a side project. I wanted to try and combine making beats with mash-up techniques. That’s how I got started with Jaydiohead and afterward continued with my other projects, writes Max Tannone in an e-mail to Reggaemani.
On Mos Dub – his latest effort – Max used reggae rhythms and combined them with Mos Def vocals. He explains why.
− It’s just a great genre of music that sounds especially good with hip-hop. Hip-hop is so rhythmic, and therefore reliant on the downbeat. That reggae’s upbeat style gives it a new twist.
The whole greater than the parts
Max writes that a great mash-up is a song that’s able to stand on its own.
− A great mash-up sounds natural, and can be considered without having to reference its disparate parts. I guess in other words, the whole should be greater than the sum of its parts, or at least attempt to be.
Making mash-ups is not something that’s done overnight. You have to find the right moods, tempos and, probably most important, make the a cappella in tune with the music. Max writes that he doesn’t have a set process for selecting the tunes that he later combines.
− If the tempos of the two songs are relatively close, it’s easier, but sometimes that doesn’t even matter. I begin with a concept. With Jaydiohead, the concept was obviously Jay-Z mixed with Radiohead. If the Jay-Z vocals were dark or introspective, I tried to select music to compliment that, and then go from there.
No set boundaries
According to Max there are no set boundaries for mash-ups. He usually starts with a concept but recommends trying whatever sounds good.
− Mos Dub, for example, limited me to Mos Def vocals and dub music. Granted, dub music is a pretty huge boundary, even more so considering that I used a few tunes that are more ska and roots than strictly dub, but it still reigns in my choices. From here I just go by feeling, he writes and concludes:
− Listeners are the final judges on whether something is good or not. I just do what I think is cool.
This is the second part of Reggaemani’s series on mashups. Next up is an interview with London-based dj and producer Al Fingers.