The Grey Album

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The Grey Album
The Grey Album cover
Remix album (bootleg) by Danger Mouse
Released 2004
Genre Hip hop, mashup, Rap Rock
Length 44:36
Producer Danger Mouse
Professional reviews
Danger Mouse chronology
DM & Jemini
Ghetto Pop Life
The Grey Album
Demon Days

The Grey Album is a mashup album by Danger Mouse, released in 2004. It uses an a cappella version of rapper Jay-Z's The Black Album and couples it with instrumentals created from a multitude of unauthorized samples from The Beatles' LP The Beatles (more commonly known as The White Album). The Grey Album gained notoriety due to the response by EMI in attempting to halt its distribution.


[edit] History

The album, which Danger Mouse released in limited quantities to a few internet outlets, created a massive amount of controversy when EMI, copyright holder of The Beatles, ordered Danger Mouse and retailers carrying the album to cease distribution. The amount of attention The Grey Album received caused EMI to act. Danger Mouse never asked permission to use The Beatles' material, and intended to produce a limited production run of 3,000 copies. Jay-Z's material, on the other hand, was commercially released in a cappella form. Although the work was copyrighted, it was released for the implicit purpose of encouraging mashups and remixes.

The album quickly became popular and well-distributed over the Internet because of the surrounding publicity. It also came to the attention of the critical establishment; it received a very positive write-up in the February 9, 2004 issue of The New Yorker and was named the best album of 2004 by Entertainment Weekly. The Village Voice's annual Pazz and Jop critics poll ranked the album 10th for 2004.[2]

The Grey Album is one of many The Black Album remix albums spurred by Jay-Z's release of the a cappellas. Producers Kno (from the Cunninlynguists) and Kev Brown earlier had released their own color-themed remix albums, titled The White Al-bu-lum and The Brown Album respectively. A Pete Rock remix of the album was circulated as well, but the album was actually a mash up with beats from his previously released PeteStrumentals album. The Internet distribution of The Grey Album spurred a series of DJs and amateur mashup artists to mix the a cappella version of The Black Album with a variety of other artists, including Weezer,[3] Madlib,[4] Pavement,[5] Prince,[6] Metallica,[7] and Wu-Tang Clan.[8]

Promotional artwork by Justin Hampton. This was not used for the actual cover, but appeared on the Danger Mouse website.

A reference to The Grey Album was made on the December 11, 2006, edition of The Colbert Report. During the show, host Stephen Colbert called for a mashup of The Beatles and Christmas songs to be named The White Christmas Album. He added, "Danger Mouse, I know you're watching."

Supplemental artwork was provided for later bootleg versions of the album by Justin Hampton after the initial release.

[edit] Grey Tuesday

"Grey Tuesday" was a day of coordinated electronic civil disobedience on February 24, 2004. Led by Downhill Battle, an activist group seeking to restructure the music industry, participating websites posted copies of Danger Mouse's The Grey Album for free download on its sites for 24 hours in protest of EMI's attempts to prevent any distribution of this unlicensed work. This protest was provoked by the opinion that the sampling is fair use and that a statutory license should be provided in the same manner as if a song had been covered.

Supporters of the day say that it signals a refusal by a vocal section of Internet society to let major label lawyers control musical creativity and specifically sampling. Sampling in hip hop music had been commonplace since the late 1980s; landmarks include Prince Paul's production on De La Soul's 1989 debut 3 Feet High and Rising and the Dust Brothers' production on the Beastie Boys' 1989 album Paul's Boutique, both of which used samples from sources as diverse as Johnny Cash, Bob Marley and The Beatles.

Hundreds of websites participated and roughly 170 hosted the album for download. Over 100,000 copies were downloaded on that day alone.[1]

The legal repercussions of the protest were minimal; a number of the participants received cease and desist letters from EMI, but no charges were filed in connection with the event.

[edit] The Grey Video

The Grey Video is a music video made in the autumn of 2004 by directing team Ramon & Pedro, that is Swiss directors Laurent Fauchere and Antoine Tinguely (compare [9] and [10]), to promote the single "Encore" from The Grey Album.

The video, which is entirely in black and white, features clips from The Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night, and footage from a Jay-Z performance. It uses new footage and computer generated imagery to create scenes that involve John Lennon breakdancing and Ringo Starr scratching. It begins with The Beatles performing before cameras and a live audience. Ringo Starr begins to drum to the 1:00 to 1:08 segment of "Glass Onion". John Lennon begins to sing while George Harrison and Paul McCartney nod their heads to the beat. After a few moments, the monitors in the director's booth begin to flicker, showing scenes of Jay-Z rapping "Encore", and the lyrics of the chorus begin to show behind the group. Starr's drum kit becomes a set of turntables and mixer and he begins to scratch while John continues to sing "Oh yeah!" as sampled from "Glass Onion".

As "Encore" moves into the second verse, the beat changes to a sample of "Savoy Truffle". A John Lennon body double starts to breakdance, leading to a headspin. McCartney and Harrison are replaced by two dancers. The Lennon double backflips off the screen, flinging his wig off. The drummer walks off and the lights fade to black.

The video is not available commercially, but has become popular over the Internet. Due to the legal issues surrounding the use of copyrighted material, the video is shown with the disclaimer that it was made for non-commercial and experimental purposes only.

[edit] Production

Brian Burton (Danger Mouse) is quoted as saying:

"A lot of people just assume I took some Beatles and, you know, threw some Jay-Z on top of it or mixed it up or looped it around, but it's really a deconstruction. It's not an easy thing to do. I was obsessed with the whole project, that's all I was trying to do, see if I could do this. Once I got into it, I didn't think about anything but finish it. I stuck to those two because I thought it would be more challenging and more fun and more of a statement to what you could do with sample alone. It is an art form. It is music. You can do different things, it doesn't have to be just what some people call stealing. It can be a lot more than that."[2]

Burton also commented at length on the creation of the Grey Album in the 2007 Danish documentary "Good Copy Bad Copy, A documentary about the current state of copyright and culture".[3]

[edit] Reception

Brian Burton is quoted as saying: "This wasn't supposed to happen... I just sent out a few tracks (and) now online stores are selling it and people are downloading it all over the place." Burton denied being the agent provocateur, saying it "was not my intent to break copyright laws. It was my intent to make an art project."[4]

Cultural critic Sam Howard-Spink observed that "The tale of The Grey Album and Grey Tuesday offers a rich case study for the examination of a wide variety of contemporary cultural issues within the context of the 'copyright wars' remix culture and the age of the digital network."[5]

Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Internet law at Harvard Law School, comments that "As a matter of pure legal doctrine, the Grey Tuesday protest is breaking the law, end of story. But copyright law was written with a particular form of industry in mind. The flourishing of information technology gives amateurs and homerecording artists powerful tools to build and share interesting, transformative, and socially valuable art drawn from pieces of popular cultures. There's no place to plug such an important cultural sea change into the current legal regime."[5]

[edit] Track listing

  1. "Public Service Announcement" – 2:45
  2. "What More Can I Say" – 4:25
  3. "Encore" – 2:40
  4. "December 4th" – 3:34
  5. "99 Problems" – 4:06
  6. "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" – 3:59
  7. "Moment of Clarity" – 4:00
  8. "Change Clothes" – 4:04
  9. "Allure" – 4:06
  10. "Justify My Thug" – 4:12
  11. "Lucifer 9 (Interlude)" – 2:01
  12. "My 1st Song" – 4:44

[edit] References

  1. ^  The Village Voices Winners
  2. ^  Mike's The Black and Blue Album
  3. ^  Biz's Blackvillainy
  4. ^  K12 of 12-N-Dirty Productions The Purple Album[broken citation]
  5. ^  Cheap Cologne's Double Black Album[broken citation]
  6. ^  DJ CooL Guy Presents: Jay-Z in The Black Chamber
  7. ^  DJ Zap's The Blackprint[broken citation]

[edit] External links

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