Magical mystery of the mashup

By Alexis Tomrell

Back in the heady days of 2004, DJ Danger Mouse made a name for himself by combining the a cappellas from Jay-Z’s “Black Album” with the music of the Beatles’ album, commonly known as “the White Album.”

“The Grey Album,” as it came to be known, gained a massive amount of notoriety, largely because EMI Music saw the sampling of the Beatles’ seminal masterpiece as a cardinal sin worthy of the maximum punishment by law, but the beats themselves weren’t anything exceptional beyond the initial pun.

These days, sampling has become so commonplace that no one even bats an eye when someone like Gregg “Girl Talk” Gillis crafts entire symphonies out of Top 40 hits, but the art form has grown by leaps and bounds, and there’s perhaps no better example than Tom Caruana’s “Enter the Magical Mystery Chambers.”

“Chambers” again combines lush Beatles’ samples with hip-hop a cappellas, but this time, arguably the greatest rock band of all time is soundtracking arguably the greatest hip-hop group: Shaolin’s own Wu-Tang Clan.

And the beats aren’t just culled from the Beatles’ own catalogue. There’s extensive and creative use of covers, renditions, symphonic compositions and re-appropriated news interviews and fan frenzies. The results are a work that references the mythologies of two venerable institutions from two very different musical genres and eras at once.

They’re also immensely listenable.

The sort of laissez-faire acceptance of sampling today means “Enter the Magical Mystery Chambers” won’t receive nearly as much attention as the far inferior “Grey Album” from six years prior, but if it’s a just world, it’ll still end up being the sleeper sensation of 2010. It’s seriously that good.

The early brilliance of combining The Beatles’ “You Never Give Me Your Money” with Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s club banger “Got Your Money” suggest the album’s going to peak early, when it turns out to be merely the tip of the iceberg.

Some other highlights: Dirty harmonizing with John and Paul on the album centerpiece “Wu Vs. Beatles,” Ghostface Killah’s escape anthem “Run” becoming a laid-back funk groove and late-period Wu hit “Uzi (Pinky Ring)” converted into a veritable Beatles showcase, challenging even the biggest Beatlemaniacs to name every sample participating.

Unlike “The Grey Album,” which let a gimmick carry it to fame, “Chambers” is virtually overflowing with innovation, hiding the world’s most famous pop songs among elaborate compositions that somehow make four lads from Liverpool sound like they recorded music for the explicit purpose of having nine MCs from Staten Island spit over it 30 years later.

It’s a rich, inviting work that rewards the fandom of both groups and practically demands repeat listenings, if not in attempt to name each tune in use then to enjoy their new lives as pitch-perfect hip-hop hooks.

It’s not unlikely Caruana created “Chambers” in a bid to publicize his own beat-making skills and get his name to go viral online. What he instead, perhaps inadvertently, did was create the most essential hip-hop album in recent memory. So everyone wins.

To download the album go to