Much like electroclash, The Strokes, and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the mash-up was a cringe-inducing fad that defined a few stale months in the early part of our blue-state century. But from the self-indulgent wankfest, one album set a new standard in popular music: Danger Mouse’s Gray Album (a combination of Jay-Z’s Black Album and the Beatles’ White Album). Never one to miss an easy buck, Jigga took notice, and has now released an a cappella version of his brilliant return to form, American Gangster, so that aspirant mashers might somehow net him an extra trillion. First to the plate is DJ Skee’s American Godfather, a delicately crafted, download-only mix of Jay-Z’s distinctive vocals with Nino Rota’s sweeping score and the gritty storytelling of The Godfather.
The album opens predictably with Marlon Brando‘s familiar mumble atop the movie’s famous theme—basically, much like any hip-hop DJ might have executed it. But over the 16 tracks and interludes that follow, Skee unconventionally pairs the two sources so seamlessly that it’s difficult to remember either individually. Songs like “No Hook” and “Blue Magic” range from epic to anthem, and “I Know” is hypnotic and unlike any beat made before it. With a few small exceptions (and moments that sample Rota’s compositions beyond recognition), American Godfather is one of the mash-up genre’s brightest moments.
It’s just that the whole routine is so inherently gimmicky that it will forever warrant some degree of skepticism. But can the vast hordes of 15-year-old backpackers with links to pictures of their sneaker collections on Flickr be wrong? American Godfather is not as good as The Gray Album, but it just may keep the movement afloat through the new year.