Between 2002 and 2006, seemingly every third MP3 in the libraries of anyone on file-sharing networks, in college dorms or online communities was some sort of mashup. We all listened to Freelance Hellraiser’s “A Stroke of Genius,” and bugged out to Danger Mouse’s Grey Album. Then Girl Talk took the mixed-genre hodgepodge to a whole new hyperactive level on Night Ripper, returning the art of Plunderphonics to the mashup. But shortly thereafter, the novelty wore out its welcome. That didn’t mean people stopped creating mashups, of course, but just that most new two-artist chop-ups more or less offered the same thing that most digital splice artists already coughed up in a thousand Hype Machine posts.
A little time away from the spotlight has done a great service to the mashup, however, because while many of us were distracted by any number of beard-rockers, beach punks or house witches, Doomtree-affiliated producers Cecil Otter and Swiss Andy emerged with one of the more entertaining mashup concepts in recent years: Wugazi. Much like “Jaydiohead,” the name pretty much says it all: Wu-Tang Clan and associated emcees’ rhymes linked up with Fugazi tracks. And damned if Wugazi’s 13 Chambers mixtape isn’t a whole lot of fun.
Otter and Andy immediately earn points for thinking outside of the box. Though 13 Chambers could have easily been a 36 Chambers and 13 Songs sandwich, instead, it pulls from both artists’ extended catalogues to create something with a surprising amount of depth and clever production, and for that matter, high replay value. “Sleep Rules Everything Around Me” is an immediate winner, blending “C.R.E.A.M.” with piano ballad “I’m So Tired,” from the less traveled Instrument soundtrack. “Shame on Blue” has a massive build in tension from Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s verses in “Shame on a Nigga” up to the chorus from “Blueprint.” “Another Chessboxin’ Argument” finds that “The Argument” makes a surprisingly gorgeous backdrop for hip-hop swordmastery, and the insanely fun “Forensic Shimmy” finds ODB backed by elements of not one but two Fugazi tracks, “Forensic Scene” and “Combination Lock.”
Supposedly, Otter and Andy tested out a vast number of Fugazi samples and Wu-Tang a cappella tracks before finally settling on the tracks heard here, and it shows. For a genre that has been on life support for a few years, 13 Chambers at least gives the mashup a delightful victory lap and, in the process, reminded me of how much I love the source material.
Danger Mouse – The Grey Album
Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Fugazi – 13 Songs
Download: Wugazi – 13 Chambers
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.