A clever bit of homespun sampling has triggered a wave of controversy across the Internet. Brian Burton, a.k.a. DJ Danger Mouse, a 26-year-old studio whiz in Los Angeles, mixed music from the Beatles’ classic White Album with vocal tracks from rapper Jay Z’s recent release, the Black Album, to produce – voila - the Grey Album. It’s two great albums that sound uniquely great together. And it’s ticking a lot of people off.
EMI, the company that owns the rights to the White Album, fired off cease-and-desist letters to the legions of sites (and stores) that were trafficking Burton’s hit mash-up. This Tuesday, in response, a coalition of webmasters, crying foul over what they perceive to be a reactionary blast against postmodern art, declared the day “Grey Tuesday,” making Burton’s songs readily available for 24 hours (though many of the tracks still remain online).
Since Burton wasn’t selling the Grey Album, it certainly seems like an overreaction to pull his tracks down. Mash-ups are sonic collages, pure and simple, and, in a certain sense, very good for the labels’ business. After all, there are probably plenty of Beatles fans out there who would never appreciate Jay Z - and vice versa - if it wasn’t for Danger Mouse’s spin.