Monday, March 23
Nerds and Hip Hop, Together at Last (In A Good Way, Not The MC Lars Way)
Artist: Team Teamwork
Album: Ocarina of Rhyme
Comments: While Danger Mouse didn't invent the mash-up on his copy write-violating 2004 record The Grey Album, he certainly propelled the art form into the public eye like never before. In the wake of his success, the music world has seen a slew of like-minded projects, from the good (Girl Talk's last two albums) to the not so good (LushLife's WestSounds, which brought the Beach Boys and Kanye West together with disastrous results). The relatively unknown Team Teamwork (whose Myspace page has less than 10k views at the moment) is the latest group to try their hand at mashing with their Ocarina of Rhyme mix tape.
Dorks and gamers will probably have a pretty good idea of what's going on already, but for the uninitiated, OoR is a play on The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, one of the best selling and most popular video games of all time. Team Teamwork's record takes selections from the game's score and pairs them with some of hip-hop's best lyricists (and Slim Thug).
To recap: music from video games + rappers = Ocarina of Rhyme.
Considering how ridiculous this looks on paper, the album's success to failure rate is surprising. True, the first few bars of the opening track, a mash of Clipse's "Virginia" with the "Lost Woods Theme," is a bit hard to swallow. Even someone with no Zelda familiarity will have a tough time rectifying the pairing of lighthearted flute with Clipse's ice-cold verses about laying suckers down. However, the song is a winning one, and the juxtaposition in styles will eventually sway even the most stalwart of naysayers.
Indeed, most of the album is legitimately good, pushing itself way past novelty and into the realm of legitimate work. Team Teamwork do little to the original songs, occasionally adding heavier percussion or outside instruments, but never ruining the original spirit of the songs or their concept. There are some truly brilliant pairings to be found on OoR. The mix of the "Hyrule Field Theme" does wonders for Pimp C, making the rapper sound much more triumphant and commanding than his own tracks can, and MF Doom's "Vomit" sounds right at home over the "Lon Lon Horse Race Theme," a pairing that makes almost entirely too much sense (I mean, odds are good that Doom would have wound up doing something like this on his own, anyway). The real album highlight is Aesop Rock's "No Jumper Cables" mixed with a drummed-up version of the "Goron Village Theme;" the minimal tribal beat gives weight to Rock's intricate wordplay and affords the track a level of punch that is shockingly missing from most mainstream rap productions.
Like any mash-up collection, the album is not without its misses. Common's "I Used to Love H.E.R" sounds just a little bit too playful mixed up with the "Hyrule Market Theme," and the combination of "Still D.R.E" and the "Getting Treasure" theme is an outright car wreck. While Team Teamwork is to be admired for trying to create a track from such a small and quick fanfare, the song is stretched way too far and collapses before even getting out of the first verse. But to be fair, it's a lot harder to make Mike Jones and Slim Thug sound elegant (which is exactly what happens when they are paired with the "Fairy Fountain Theme") than it is to make Dr. Dre sound any better.
Ultimately, mash-ups like Ocarina of Rhyme (and even The Grey Album) are only as good as the novelty of collaboration will allow. Once the combos become commonplace, the album usually falls to the wayside. The best that can be hoped for is a handful of legitimate tracks and a way to get your name out there. To that end, Team Teamwork's hip-hop nerd wet dream is a success. Not bad for a day's work.
Key Tracks: No Jumper Cables + Goron Village, Still Tippin' + Fairy Fountain
Download the album here from free.