Whatever you think of nu-metal titans Linkin Park, you have to admire their marketing. Two studio albums, 25 songs and less than 90 minutes of music is the sum of their recorded output, and yet here they are with their (count ’em) fifth album release, and doubtless yet another seven-figure unit shifter.
Mind you, Jay-Z isn’t exactly green when it comes to publicity. The über-selling rapper who announced his “retirement” over a year ago, has somehow managed to tour continually (courting controversy with the R Kelly spat), not to mention find time to shoot a film (Fade To Black) and become president designate of seminal rap record label, Def Jam.
Of course the only missing ingredient in bringing together two artists who know how to play the system better than most is the “system” itself. Enter stage left, MTV. As the launch for its Ultimate Mash-Ups series, the arbiter of the world’s teenage musical tastes was instrumental in pairing up the heavyweights for a show in July where they performed a number of spliced up, diced up mélanges.
The aptly-named Collison Course documents this meeting of minds. The DVD has footage from said Hollywood concert, together with the usual in-the-studio, behind-the-scenes, fly-on-the-wall, snooze-in-the-corner-if-you’re-not-an-anorak malarkey.
Of more potential appeal in this instance, however, is the CD, which features six studio cuts. Masterfully produced by Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, these are not simply Jay-Z rapping over Linkin Park’s rock tunes, but rather true mashing, where new songs are created using components from Jay-Z’s rhymes and samples, and Linkin Park’s lyrics and guitar riffs.
For the most part, the results are genuinely interesting. The chunky riffing behind Jay-Z in Dirt Off Your Shoulder/Lying From You lends weight to his rapping; the strings of Linkin Park’s Faint offer an extravagant new background to parts of Jigga What If; the seamless lyrical flow from Izzo to In The End is really quite impressive; while the closing mash-up is predictably strident, featuring Jay-Z’s best rap – 99 Problems – initially over the menacing riffs of Points Of Authority and finally over parts of Linkin Park’s adrenalising tour de force, One Step Closer.
Occasionally things do get a little odd. Papercut’s whole vibe is changed by it being sung over Abdel-Halim Hafez‘s chirpy Khusara sample from Jay-Z’s Big Pimpin’; Numb/Encore is watery, poppy and far too anodyne; while hearing Linkin Park associated with lyrics like “if you feelin’ like a pimp nigga, go and brush your shoulders off”, and “faggots wanna talk to Po-Po’s, smoke ’em like cocoa”, is more than a little ridiculous.
Still, the very concept of this collaboration will be enough for it to appeal to Jay-Z and Linkin Park fans alike, and perhaps it will inspire some even more innovative mash-ups in the future. In the meantime, Jay-Z can go back to being the world’s richest pensioner while Linkin Park can start writing a third studio album… If they can resist the temptation to release a remixed, live version of this, that is.