Most mash-ups face the same problem that Homer Simpson’s barbershop quartet faced: something that is witty at first, but is less interesting each time you hear it. Case in point: “Jay-Z and Radiohead, what a brilliant idea!” For a mash-up to be relevant, there needs to be a synergizing quality about the musicians – not just a quirky, ironic pairing of dissimilar artists.
San Francisco DJ Wait What’s “Notorious XX” mixtape reveals a pairing that benefits both Biggie Smalls and indie darlings the XX. Biggie’s laidback flow is a perfect complement to the chill, R&B-infused instrumentals provided by London three-piece. The vocal hooks by dual XX singers Romy Croft and Oliver Sim even work in the same context for Biggie’s songs, giving a fresh sound to well-worn classics.
Some tracks work better than others: “Juicy-r” and “Basic hypnosis” are natural fits. However, songs that feature other Bad Boy stars don’t fare as well: neither Puffy or Ma$e have a cadence or style that match the beats. And I wished that “Suicidal Fantasy” worked better, because the same brooding tone dominates both the lyrics and music. Still, there are enough winning combinations over the 11 tracks to make this a worthwhile listen.