Mash-ups get no respect. Part of the problem is that with the easy-to-use technology these days, anyone can make them—and they do. It has led to a saturation of the Internet with half-assed mashes will little thought and even less listenability. But as music evolves, a big part of the story is becoming not just the creation of entirely new sounds, but the reimagination of existing ones.
Mash-ups put familiar tracks into an entirely new context, and when they’re done right, they can be a perspective-changing headfuck. Snobs can turn up their noses all they want and dismiss mash-ups as cheap novelties for the ADHD-riddled generation with no filter and no respect, but we’re fairly certain that they go home, close the blinds, and throw a solo dance party to Biggie vs. Miley Cyrus. Don’t be ashamed. Here are The 25 Best Mash-Ups.
Hit “next” or click the pictures to read on and listen to the mash-ups…
25. Inhumanz – “Shoot The War Pigs” (Nas vs. Black Sabbath)
“Made You Look” was a declarative single from Nas. It was one of those situations where he’d been almost written off, and he had that Salaam Remi track to help the masses rediscover why they loved his work in the first place. “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath holds just as much, if not more oomph in it, just coming from a totally different area. You already have an idea of how this one is going to sound, but Nas rocking over those blazing riffs? With the wild drumwork from Sabbath? Just an intense, head-nodding banger of a mash-up.
24. Wait What – “Take Care Of U” (Drake vs. Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx)
A lot of heads were surprised off the bat with the Gil Scott-Heron/Jamie xx collaboration to begin with. This mash-up is even more surprising, as the two tracks that share “take care” in their titles come together for a something of a three-way. You’ve already got a cohesion there, and with Drake’s singing on “Take Care,” this works magically over the piano thump from Jamie xx. Wait What worked some magic here, alternating Gil and Drake singing as if they wrote this song together.
23. The White Panda – “Midnight Life” (Kanye West vs. M83)
This is a crazy mash-up right here. The M83 track used here has a similar sound to the Michael Jackson sample used in “Good Life,” giving us something familiar but also creating a different feeling for the rhymes. “Midnight City” has been remixed and mashed up to death, but there’s very good reason for that. The White Panda wins for this one.
22. Mover Shaker – “Youngin’ On His Wife” (Wiz Khalifa vs. Alex Winston vs. Star Slinger)
Star Slinger dropped a minimal-but-meaty remix for Alex Winston, and it’s kind of shocking that more MCs didn’t hop on those 808s. Adding a little bop to the Alex Winston original, Mover Shaker throws some Wiz Khalifa into the mix and it works perfectly in a lighthearted kind of way. Now, if we only had the uncensored vocals.
21. Hav0k – “A Milli Rude Boy” (Lil Wayne vs. Zeds Dead)
We could write an essay on the history of rap and dubstep refixes, but this is probably one of the best examples of the two genres being mashed together. You’d think it wouldn’t make sense, but when you realize that many rap flows fit perfectly to the dubstep tempo, you open the doors for a lot. This one also wins for being an example of a dope, popular rap artist (Lil Wayne) being thrown on top of a dope, popular dubstep duo (Zeds Dead). Also helps that this Zeds Dead track is pretty accessible – it maintains the heavyweight dubstep vibe, but the drums are more on a rap tip. Weezy’s fury on “A Milli” is only amplified by that sinister bass.
20. The Melker Project – “Message In A Bottle Vs. Mercy” (The Police Vs. Kanye West)
With the way Kanye’s production has been moving over the last five years or so, it’s surprising that he’s not done music with Sting as of yet. This might be the closest we get, huh? The wildest part is, most mash-ups where there’s a rap track and some pop tune has the rap going over the pop track, and not something like The Police singing about bottled messages over that fat “Mercy” instrumental. Works a lot better than you might initially realize.
For more from The Melker Project, including free remixes every Thursday, hit the official website.
19. D.veloped – “The Childish Games” (Childish Gambino vs. Backstreet Boys vs. Old Dirty Bastard)
This zone of the mash-up scene hasn’t been as discussed at length in this list, but these are the versions where you have elements from a number of different tracks. Rhymes from Childish Gambino here, a beat from the Backstreet Boys there, some pianos and lines lifted from ODB that fit eerily well in this chaos? Sure, why not. It’s not something you’d necessarily blast in your car while you’re riding solo, but throw this on at a party when everyone’s drunk and you’re sure to blow a couple minds and get a couple drunk girls to scream, “Oh my god!”
18. Jonathan Lee – “Born To Run” (Bruce Springsteen vs. Rick Ross)
Naming tracks has become a unique part of the mash-up culture. For Jonathan Lee’s Boss vs. Boss tape, he merges the two Bosses, taking things into Grey Album territory, but interestingly introduces the source of each Bruce sample in the beginning of each track before throwing Rick Ross in there. It completely removes the black tape that DJs used to cover their records with to hide what they were playing. Exposing the secrets, then letting you see how they tweaked it.
17. DJ Cappell & Smitty – “Juicy – New York, New York” (Notorious B.I.G. vs. Frank Sinatra)
This is one of those projects in the vein of The Grey Album, but with a twist. Frank and Biggie were both born on the East Coast, and exemplified the spoils of gangster/a lifestyles. Many see Biggie and Sinatra as the best within their fields, the “kings” if you will. It just made sense to have some of Frank’s classic tracks flipped and thrown under Biggie flows. It worked, and good thing, too—if you fuck up a tape entitled Blue Eyes Meets Bed-Stuy, you’re messing with the kings.
16. Cyclops – “Communist Future” (Neutral Milk Hotel vs. Tyler, The Creator)
This mash-up just too genius to miss. The opposite sides of the spectrum is awesome enough, but then when you realize that both Neutral Milk Hotel and Odd Future go against the grain and have their own cult followings because of that, it adds more weight to the blending of the tracks. It’s a part of mash-up culture that gets overlooked – a lot of the time the story is in WHAT you’re mashing up, not just the mash-up itself. It adds to the art of the proceedings, and it makes you think twice about labeling mash-ups as cheap and thoughtless.
15. Skratch Bastid – “As We Enter the Gravel Pit” (Wu-Tang Clan, Nas & Damien Marley)
Smart move on Skratch Bastid’s part. Both “As We Enter” and “Gravel Pit” are on the uptempo side of the rap game, and Bastid is a master at mixing. Almost uncharacteristically dance-y from both crews, so the obvious move should’ve been to throw these two together, right? It really makes sense once Ghostface’s verse comes in. This one adds a new life to “Gravel Pit,” which on its own felt like it was more slept on as a single.
14. The Kickdrums – “Electric Touch” (MGMT vs. Justice vs. Kanye West)
Apart from Kanye’s off-key singing, the combination of Kanye with the electric touch of Justice and MGMT is menacing. Though Kanye has tread increasingly electronic territory as his career has progressed, his early material is marked by the signature soul that made him a fan favorite. The Kickdrums trade Just Blaze’s horn-laced backdrop for the stadium stomp of Justice, crafting a fun, fast-paced re-imagining of a trademark Kanye tune.
13. Mick Boogie, Shuko & The Gunna – “Hello Brooklyn” (Jay-Z vs. Marvin Gaye vs. Lil Wayne)
Mick Boogie is one of those DJs who already mashes a number of genres together in his projects. His remix projects always have dope themes, and with the mass amount of love that Hov has for Brooklyn (especially talking about loving the corners and stuff), it makes sense to throw a beefed-up version of “Sexual Healing” underneath Jay’s ode to his home. Weezy’s flow is almost sung, and unlike some of his other attempts at half-cooked melody, it works very well on this one. It’s a weird combination, but after all, this is a love song, right?
12. Terry Urban – “Juicy Lolita” (Lana Del Rey vs. Notorious B.I.G.)
On the 15th anniversary of Biggie’s death, we got a special tribute, featuring one of hip-hop’s most captivating emcees, The Notorious B.I.G., and one of today’s most talked about artists, Lana Del Rey. Marrying their debut studio albums, Terry Urban called upon a cast of talented producers to remix Del Rey album cuts, and make the beats tough enough to hold the weight of Biggie’s bars. Epic sounds.
11. The Hood Internet – “Fire It Up, Firemouse” (Lil Wayne vs. Modest Mouse)
The Hood Internet should be no stranger(s) to mash-up fans. They’ve got legions of fans flocking to their latest tracks, and for good reason. “Fireman” is one of the first times Lil Wayne got a serious nod from the mainstream, and throwing it over the sly bass from Modest Mouse? It maintains the same bounce and makes a lot of Wayne’s rhymes that much funkier.
10. Andrew Hathaway – “Party And Bullshit In The USA (Notorious B.I.G. vs. Miley Cyrus)”
This one is pure comedy. “Party & Bullshit” vs “Party In The USA” is one of those ideas that harkens back to the mash-up craze of the early 2000’s, taking an obvious pop smash and throwing something gritty atop. Luckily, the “Party In The USA” instrumental has hard enough drums that allow Biggie’s fierce delivery to cut through this one like a ginsu. Disrespectful to Biggie and something shameful? Or a masterful juxtaposition? You decide. Either way, this cut epitomizes one side of mash-up culture, and it went viral because of it.
9. DJ Swindle – “Shook Ones Pt. 2” (Mobb Deep vs. Bob Marley)
DJ Swindle’s Bobb Deep was an interesting mash-up project. Utilizing “I Shot The Sheriff” for the source material in a track where two young cats from Queensbridge are more about shooting their enemies, but it works. Wild dynamic when you do the science on how Bob and the Mobb approach their subjects, but the bop is undeniable on this one. The fact that Swindle rocked this theme for an entire project is also impressive.
8. Emynd – “My Tears Are Becoming John (M83 vs. Lil Wayne)”
Emynd is a producer that’s no stranger to remix and mash-up culture. It’s almost about picking the best example of his mash-up prowess, and this M83 vs. Lil Wayne flip is perfect. The M83 cut is enormous, and adds a grip of next-level muscle to Weezy’s bars. This one brings a certain stadium feel to a track celebrating loading up guns and hoping you’re remembered in death. Sometimes mash-ups make the originals feel a little shrunken, but this one expands both into something massive.
7. Max Tannone – “Travellin Underground” (Mos Def vs. dub/reggae)
Max Tannone has been a beast with these kinds of projects. Mos Dub was one of the first that got him major love, and it came out beautifully. Feels like Max really understands how to mesh the tracks he’s using beautifully, and the way Mos flows? It always has that deeper soul to it, and throwing it over dub and reggae instrumentals sounded so surprisingly dope that it’s a shame that Mos hasn’t explored this option in the past.
6. Wax Audio – “Stayin’ Alive In The Wall” (Pink Floyd vs. Bee Gees)
Two bonafide anthems from the late 1970’s being thrown together? Pretty safe bet that this one will have your parents rocking out. Hard. Almost as if the kids who are lashing out at the establishment are going into full party mode, letting them know that not only will we stand up to your rules, but we are going to jam out while doing it.
5. Carlos Serrano – “Something About The Fire” (Adele vs. Daft Punk)
With a voice like hers, there are no limits to what Adele can do. So far, her albums have been heavy with heartbreak and pain. Now that she’s having a baby and in a steady relationship, it has a lot of people wondering: What would Adele sound like if she made a happy album. This offers a glimpse into exactly what that might be. Injecting the perfect amount of funk, Adele’s emotive, sultry vocals take on a new tone, and it sounds excellent.
4. Ha! Yes – “A Juicy Intro” (The Notorious B.I.G. vs. The xx)
Biggie makes another entry into this list, and this is definitely the best of the lot. Instead of the bouncy, uplifting original “Juicy”, this mash-up with The xx throws a curve on Biggie’s narrative, where you almost pay more attention to the pain and strife that Biggie went through to pen “Juicy” than the end result of what his struggles created. It’s one of those mashes that works not only musically, but on a deeper level that forces your perspective to twist itself up a bit.
3. Girl Talk – “Smash Your Head” (Lil Wayne vs. Nirvana vs. Elton John vs. Biggie vs. Many More)
When speaking of the modern mash-up, it’s difficult to avoid the sweaty elephant in the room, Gregg Gillis–known to lovers and haters alike as Girl Talk. Taking anything and everything he could get his party-starting hands on, Gillis crafted mixes with left field pop and rock, rap acapellas, crazy juxtapositions, and even crazier transitions. The result is a schizophrenic collage fitting of its time, short on attention span and high on excitement.
2. Wugazi – “Sleep Rules Everything Around Me” (Wu-Tang Clan vs. Fugazi)
In a lot of ways, Wu-Tang and Fugazi aren’t all that different. In their respective worlds, they’ve achieved success, but they’ve also stood for the epitome of raw—two acts that never cleaned up and polished their sound no matter how popular they got. The 13 Chambers concept album is full of gems, but “Sleep Rules Everything Around Me” captured something really special and it stands as one of the best mash-ups ever done.
1. Dangermouse – The Grey Album (The Beatles vs. Jay-Z)
In a time before Girl Talk, intrepid producer/DJ Danger Mouse braved cease and desist orders to bring the world the The Grey Album, a chromatic punning mashup of Jay-Z’s The Black Album and the Beatles’ The White Album. The end result–using only acapellas from the Black Album and sounds contained entirely on the The Grey Album–was a surprisingly cohesive, often exhilarating ride, an unexpected marriage of titans that stood alone as a uniquely entertaining experiment in a sea of lesser remix albums. Picking one track from this one is impossible. As far as mash-ups go, The Grey Album is a masterpiece.