There are a lot of people out there who don’t like mash-ups. I get it. You don’t think mash-ups are “real music.” There’s merit in that point, but take a step back and realize that you probably sound a little like old people sound when they say “hip-hop isn’t real music” because so much of it relies on samples. Judging music based on talent is something for the middle ages, something for the pilgrims. These days, anyone can rap, anyone can be a lead singer, anyone can paint, and anyone can make a fucking mash-up. I’m sorry if you thought it was restricted to those blessed with “talent.” You don’t want to sound like an old person, do you?
Okay, that was a stretch. Let me try again…
Arguing about art is difficult. No matter how many good points you have or how eloquently you can chop up your opinions and decorate a plate with them, it’s usually pointless, because when it comes down to it, the majority of it comes down to opinion. It’s a matter of what you like, and why you like it. For some, the value of art is based on talent–how “good” a painter is and what kind of skill it took to create a piece. For others, it’s about where the creation lies in the timeline of art history–what the artist did to push things forward or bring a new perspective. Then there are people who like things based on gut reaction. If you look at a painting and it strikes you, if it makes you feel something, do you really care how much skill it took to make? Do really need to put it into context? Probably not.
Since music is an art, we have the same kind of discussions. They play out the exact same way. Let’s take Lil B for example.
1. Based on skill:
“Lil B can’t rap. He’s not a good rapper, therefore he sucks. “
2. Based on the timeline of the art:
“Lil B is pushing the limits of hip-hop by doing things differently from anyone before him.”
“Lil B is destroying any progress hip-hop has made over the past 10 years.”
3. Based on gut feeling:
“OooOoOoH swag me out bro, hoes on my dick, let that boy cook!”
“This music makes me feel stupider.”
Again, it’s all opinion. There are certainly arguments for the importance of the first two arguments, but some things just come along at the right time and click with people. Maybe in order to move on from things like stale rock & roll, we need to deconstruct it and fuck it up a little. Maybe the same thing needed to happen with hip-hop. I’m not going to say that Lil B and company are going to be remembered for changing the genre forever, but things certainly needed shaking up, and look around – we got it.
It’s important to point out that some really important movements in both art (Andy Warhol) and music (punk rock) were more about style and less about skill. Hence, pictures of Campbell’s soup and sloppy guitar playing accompanied by yelling. It’s not just about talent. To break that down into an even more basic level, sometimes it’s just not about talent at all. Sometimes it’s just what sounds good.
Some mash-ups take more skill than others, and I’ll admit that some take none at all. Some people just get lucky and find two songs that match up well, and they do some cutting and pasting. But if it sounds good, should we care? Should we say, “no, I refuse to listen to this because there was not enough talent involved in the creative process,” or should we just enjoy it because we like it? If you like some paint splattered against a canvas, do you really question whether or not it took talent? The artist will surely tell you that it did, and that he agonized for hours, struggling to get his emotions out onto that canvas, but let me tell you something – that motherfucker was on drugs, and he splattered paint at a canvas, the same way a child would do if you gave a child a dripping brush. Shit, elephants paint with more precision.
Sometimes mash-ups just work. Sometimes great verses get paired up with disappointing beats. Why not take another beat and slip it in place? A nice outfit change can make all the difference. Sometimes, the juxtaposition of two things just clicks. It may not have the same artistic integrity, but can we not enjoy it? Can we not see the brilliance in Wu-Tang vs. Fugazi, or Jay-Z vs. The Beatles, or Kanye West vs. M83, or Tyler, The Creator vs. Neutral Milk Hotel? I like to believe that we can.
If splattering paint on a wall is art, surely mash-ups can be called art as well. If you don’t like the final product, then you don’t like it, but art is whatever you want to call art. I hate to end this sounding like a stoner/middle school philosophy teacher (probably interchangeable), but I honestly believe that if someone makes something and believes that it’s art, then it is art, and it should be taken as a final product, at face value. Skill, talent, context all come into play, but if something is enjoyable, I think we should enjoy it.
I’m going to go shit on my kitchen counter top and take a B&W photograph of it, then frame it. #Art. Suckers.