Tag Archives: Max Tannone

Talib Kweli goes dub

Max Tannone’s new remix project has just hit the streets. This time it’s a follow up to his brilliant mash-up album Mos Dub released earlier this year.

The new album – Dub Kweli – pairs the lyrics of acclaimed hip-hop artist Talib Kweli with the sound of rough dub from the 70’s and 80’s.

There are plenty of interesting rhythms here, and several seem like odd choices. Not many of them are well known, like Jah Marcus Words. Nevertheless, the rhythms are flawless.

Among the better know include Stop That Train, a masterpiece originally produced by Derrick Harriot, or Marcus Garvey by Burning Spear.

Talib Kweli is one of the most skilled rappers ever and his voice suits these rock hard rhythms perfectly. If you listened to Mos Dub as much as I did, then you must have Dub Kweli as well. Download for free here.

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Reggaemani’s top ten mash-ups

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.

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Al Fingers reinvents music

“There are no rules in the world of mash-ups, the weirdest combinations can have the best results.” These words are from Al Fingers, a London-based musician, producer and DJ, who recently orchestrated the Greensleeves/Stüssy collaboration resulting in a book, a mixtape and t-shirt line.

Al Fingers has made blends using two decks since he was a kid – often for mixtapes, but sometimes to play out live in clubs and at parties. The first mash-up he put out was Marvin Gaye’s classic What’s Going On over the powerful Take A Ride rhythm, originally produced by Coxsone Dodd.

− At that time I was putting together a themed mixtape called Serious Times. All the tunes were about the state of the world – a musical attack on George Bush and his minions. I wanted to use Marvin’s What’s Going On and Johnny Osbourne’s Truth & Rights, because they both fit the theme. I had the Marvin acapella so I tried blending it with the Truths & Rights instrumental and it worked, writes Al Fingers in an e-mail to Reggaemani.

“Presenting the song in a new light”
He writes that a great mash-up is one that sounds natural, like the singer was really singing over that particular beat. But you need to be patient and put in a lot of time.

− I spend a lot of time tweaking the phrasing of the vocal, so that it sits on the beat in the right way. The main thing is that it needs to sound believable and not forced in any way, he writes and continues:

− At the same time, I think a good mash-up reinvents a tune, in a way that is unexpected, sometimes bringing out parts of the vocal that you may not have noticed in the original. A great mash-up needs to be musical but also interesting – presenting the song in a new light.

Interest in different kinds of music
According to Al Fingers, a great mash-up producer needs a good ear, but it also helps to have an interest in different kinds of music as the mix of genres can produce unexpected and interesting results. He also points out one thing that French producers Bost & Bim thirst for.

− Ideally, you also need a big selection of acapellas and instrumentals, and a lot of patience, because although some mash-ups can be put together in no time, others can take a lot of fine tuning.

Trial and error
In producing mash-ups, Al Fingers tries a lot of different combinations and develops the ones that sound promising. He always combines tunes that are already in the same key and doesn’t mess with the pitch too much, although sometimes uses a bit of Auto-Tune to fine tune the vocals.

− For example, sections where the singer has been slightly out of tune may not have been noticeable in the original, but can stand out more over a different beat. Tempo’s obviously also important. If the tempo of the vocal needs to be changed too much, it won’t work, he writes and gives an example:

− I recently tried a well known Motown vocal over the Usher/Lil Jon Lovers & Friends instrumental. In terms of feel and key, the vocal worked great, but because the beat is so slow and for longer phrases the song sounded ridiculous being slowed down so much, so I dropped the idea. It’s a shame because I could hear that it would have been a sweet slow jam.

Hassle with clearances
Al Fingers writes that he hasn’t got many comments from the artists he has mashed and doubts that the artists have actually heard them.

Mark Ronson liked the Bob Marley No woman No Cry remix I did over his Love Is A Losing Game beat and I’m trying to get the Kings Of Leon to listen to a mash-up I’ve done with one of their acapellas with a view to putting it out, but it’s difficult, he writes and continues:

− I’ve approached a few labels to suggest that they release some of the remixes I’ve done. But generally they seem to see it as too complicated with all the clearances, and aren’t that interested. It’s a shame because there are some great mash-ups out there that don’t really get heard because they don’t get the exposure.

He mentions some mash-ups that have had proper releases, for instance Mark Vidler with Blondie & The Doors and the Mashed album for EMI, and Gloria Estefan over Mylo’s Drop The Pressure. However, he thinks they are too few and far between and reveals a dream.

− Recently I was lucky to be able to produce some legit Greensleeves mash-ups, using Junjo Lawes’ instrumentals. Ideally I’d like to be approached by a label like Motown, and pair them with another label like Studio 1. That would make for a wicked mash-up album! You just need someone at the label to have the vision and belief in that kind of project.

Curious about how Al Fingers productions sound? Check out his web site or download a mash-up of Cher’s Believe and the Declaration of Rights rhythm.

 Believe (Declaration Remix). (Right click, save as).

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This was the third and last part of Reggaemani’s interview series on mash-ups. The previous two was with Bost & Bim and Max Tannone.

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“I just do what I think is cool”

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.
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This is the second part of Reggaemani’s series on mashups. Next up is an interview with London-based dj and producer Al Fingers.

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Interview series on mashups

There has been several massive mashups lately. Therefore Reggaemani will start a interview series on this phenomenon.

Starting the series is French duo Bost & Bim aka The Bombist crew, who are responsible for the Yankees A Yard series.

Then we move over the Atlantic and focus on Max Tannone, dj and producer of several great mashups. He recently released the huge album Mos Dub.

The series ends with Al Fingers – a musician, producer and dj from London. He has done some really interesting mashups, for example Cher over the classic Declaration of Rights riddim.

Stay tuned.

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Mos Def inna Reggae Style

Mash-up galore! Max Tannone, producent och dj, har gjort en platta där han blandar tio låtar från hiphop-artisten Mos Def med lika många reggaerytmer. Resultatet är bländande bra.

Max Tannone har fått det hela att låta helt naturligt. Verkar nästan som att Mos Defs rap är som gjord för de här upphottade rytmerna. Ovanpå rappen och rytmerna har han också mixat in originalsången från ett antal reggaelåtar samt en massa effekter.

Merparten av rytmerna är välkända, exempelvis Johnny Too Bad med The Slickers och 007 (Shanty Town) med Desmond Dekker. Mer oväntade är Underground, hämtad från plattan Superape med The Upsetters, och Black Moon, från albumet Rebel Rock med Third World All Star. Bäst blir det i ösiga In My Math som bygger på Your Teeth In My Neck från Scientist/Michael Prophet.

Max Tannone måste verkligen ha gjort ett hästjobb med att sätta ihop Mos Dub. Det var länge sedan hiphop lät så här bra.

Plattan finns att ladda ner gratis här.

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