Various Artists: What is Hip? Remix Project 1

Pierre Hamilton

Warner Bros. hires a team of scientists to revive 14 classics tracks and make them hip again. Sometimes it works, but more often than not, the tracks gets the best of their masters, run amok, and leave the listener wishing they'd stayed buried.

Various Artists

What is Hip? Remix Project 1

Label: Warner Bros.
US Release Date: 2004-11-02
UK Release Date: 2004-11-08
Amazon affiliate

This music does not belong together; this music belongs together. Those are the two extremes in the mash-up world. It's a double-barreled statement. One that acknowledges that the nature of the beast is to tear a tune from the past in order to re-contextualize it, while accepting that if done poorly, the listener will return to nostalgia's warm embrace.

Warner Bros. doesn't get mash-ups. Familiarity is necessary. Dusting off a bunch of tracks that made your company a lot of dough doth not a good mash-up make. What is Hip? features a group of relatively unknown producers, which, in a post-modern world, doesn't matter because no one knew who DJ Danger Mouse was and he created the most well-known sound collage by mashing the Beatles' White Album with lyrics from Jay-Z's Black Album (The Grey Album). Therein lay its success. Black and white stand in for two extremes of popular culture, two familiar colours. As much as "Listen to the Music" made waves in the '70s, the Doobie Brothers are dead and since the mash-up doesn't use a new track or a familiar producer, it fails to generate the sparks essential to make this thing live, at least in my head.

If these aren't good mash-ups, maybe the album is, as it claims, just a hodgepodge of classic tunes remixed with a tendency towards ambient electro beats. NYC-based Sasha Frere-Jones ( says nostalgia is heroin for critics and with these 14 remixed tracks culled from the Warner Bros. vaults, it's safe to say that, for the most part, I'd rather shoot up with nostalgia than try to get a fix off what's here.

The Doobie Brothers, Seals and Croft, Rod Stewart, George Benson. In the schizophrenic mind of popular music, these musicians are dead and I feel more at home with their rotting carcasses than I do these new creations. Seals and Croft's "Summer Breeze" is one of the best of the 14 tracks because of the original tune. The opening chords consistently invoke the image of a '70s sunset and the accompanying instrumental plays it safe by keeping it minimalist -- allowing a piano to swirl around while a complimentary drum beat adds a more up-tempo but mellow buzz. It makes me want to listen to the original, which doesn't bode well for the rest of the album, what with it being the second track. Nightmares on Wax successfully resuscitate the sophisticated sensuality of George Benson's "Masquerade", but the Philip Steir and Ramin Sakurai remix of Devo's "Whip It" is too muddled with vocal adlibs. Nightmares on Wax are adroit remixers because they control their creation -- giving it leeway and than reeling it back in. Near the end of "Masquerade", they pull the plug on Benson and the saccharine melody they've pieced together, if only to demonstrate this beast must bow to its master, reviving it in time for the song's conclusion.

What is Hip? is a remix album for the "Me Generation" of the '70s. People who grew up on the music that was popular in their time, but pay enough attention to their children's music to wonder aloud what their old favorites might sound like remixed. For them this is groovy, you dig? For my generation, the one that loves these un-bastardized originals, its older people frantically grasping for what's hip now (Check out the reviews at and you'll see what I mean). Tower of Power sums it up nicely on the title track "What is Hip?" Remixed by Meat Beat Manifesto, the track seamlessly merges warm, mid-tempo "you are now leaving earth" synth beats with trumpets pointed skywards. This remix is successful because while it's possible to determine where the original ends and the remix begins, the blend is rich and aromatic. In an examination of the never-ending pursuit of coolness, this song reveals the album's Achilles Heel. It acknowledges its own futility when it offers the lyrical advice, "What is hip today might become passé". I couldn't have said it better myself.

Whether mash-up or remix, concocting art from the pieces of past is what Mary Shelley warned us about in Frankenstein. Immortality and the desire to revive the dead are woven into the human condition, from the Egyptian Pharaohs to Jesus Christ and, more recently, cryogenics. Music makes it easy. Frankenstein taught us that the hitch is ensuring that the beast remains loyal to its master (the scientist) upon re-entering the world. If it was a killer, it will kill again and therein lay the Warner Bros. philosophy: if it was hit song, it will be a hit again. And it is with the older crowd, just not with this 20-something.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.