Considering how important and pervasive sampling has always been in rap, it’s no surprise the genre is a perfect fit for mashups. When it comes down to it, hip-hop essentially was just a mashup at its inception— DJs would loop breakbeats from well-known funk and disco songs and MCs would rap over them, creating something new out something familiar (i.e., what any good mashup should do). As the free distribution model sharing music was slowly turning into the norm and audio editing programs became more easily accessible to the average person, we saw a boom in the creation mashups in the mid-2000s that’s continued on to this day. Mashups became so pervasive that they even spawned arguments over whether they were “real” art or not due to the utilization preexisting music, which also created problems for many mashup artists who wanted to release their the music on a traditional label (sound familiar, hip-hop fans?). Though it can still be tricky for mashup artists to monetize their music, the way in which we share music today at the very least makes it a lot easier for their songs to be heard.
When it comes to making a good mashup, the songs an artist blends together tend to fall into two broad categories: pairings that make total sense in a traditional sense, and pairings that make absolutely no sense but sound bizarrely great. In the wake Lil Wayne and Blink-182’s unexpected mash-up for “A Milli” and “What’s My Age Again,” we’ve decided to pilfer through the 2000s era for a selection our favorite mashups from both aforementioned categories.
“Dirt Off Your Shoulder” by DJ Danger Mouse (“Dirt Off Your Shoulder” by Jay-Z x “Julia” by The Beatles)
A mix Jay-Z’s The Black Album and The Beatles’ The White Album, DJ Danger Mouse’s aptly named The Grey Album is perhaps one the most well-known mashup albums ever created. Despite approval from both Jay-Z and the surviving members The Beatles, EMI attempted to halt its distribution. Luckily, by 2004 it was near-impossible to stop something from being spread across the internet once it’s been uploaded and it continued to be heavily bootlegged.
“Party & Bullshit” by Ratatat (“Party & Bullshit” by The Notorious B.I.G. x Ratatat)
Early on in their career, electronic rock duo Ratatat released two albums that blended hip-hop vocals with their instrumentals. Though some songs on these tapes would technically be considered “remixes” rather than “mashups” due to the fact that they feature original instrumentals rather than preexisting ones, Ratatat Remixes Vol. 2 is note in terms the progression, popularity, and history mashups. Both Ratatat Remixes albums are worth a listen, but their take on Biggie’s “Party & Bullshit” is one the best the bunch.
“No Pause” by Girl Talk
Perhaps more than any other artist on this list aside from The Avalanches, Girl Talk embodies the mashup in its purest form, giving us new takes on classics from Missy Elliot, Young Leek, and perhaps most impressively, making Eminem’s “club song” sound good.
“King Assmilk Flowers” by gnarlo (“Assmilk” by Tyler the Creator & Earl Sweatshirt x “King Carrot Flowers, Pt. 1” by Neutral Milk Hotel)
By all accounts, this is one those mashups that shouldn’t work in any capacity. But back in the early 2010s, Odd Future fell under the category Rap That Indie Heads Are Really Into For Some Reason, so I suppose the pairing sort makes sense.
“Everyday Episode” (“Everyday Struggle” by The Notorious B.I.G. x “The Next Episode” by Dr. Dre)
The concept Notorious 2001 is simple: Biggie rapping over Dre production. If that doesn’t sell you on it, nothing else will.
Since I Left You by The Avalanches
Though The Avalanches’ second album, Wildflower, features a little more hip-hop infusion thanks to guest spots from the likes Danny Brown, MF Doom, and more, Since I Left You embodies the spirit mashup in its truest form. It’s created almost entirely out samples, containing pieces from an estimated 3,500 songs for those keeping score at home.
“Still Tippin’ (Great Fairy’s Fountain)” by Team Teamwork (“Still Tippin’” by Mike Jones, Slim Thug, & Paul Wall x “Great Fairy’s Fountain” from The Legend Zelda: Ocarina Time)
Mashing up retro video game music with hip-hop seems like a no-brainer, as most it is already fairly repetitive, making it relatively simple to sample and loop into an instrumental. But there tends to not be much leeway when it comes to VG/hip-hop mashups— they usually either mesh perfectly or sound too “f” to be enjoyable (or, in certain cases, turn out so bad they’re actually kinda good?). Luckily, Team Teamwork’s mix Mike Jones’ Houston classic with “Great Fairy’s Fountain” is a great example taking an unlikely pairing and making it work.
The Mixtape Volume 10: The Best the Hood Internet by The Hood Internet
The Hood Internet’s catalogue mashups is so expansive it would be hard to pick a singular song— not to mention, similarly to The Avalanches and Girl Talk, their mixtapes function more as one long song as each mashup bleeds seamlessly into the next (I’m not sure if there’s even a place on the internet you can them split into “songs” anymore). Their 10th anniversary mixtape is a great place to start, as it takes some their best and most popular work and mashes it up into an entirely new mix.
“Come on – My Way Life” by DJ Cappel & Smitty (“Come On” by The Notorious B.I.G. x “My Way Life” by Frank Sinatra)
Blue Eyes Meets Bed-Stuy is another one those things that could go either way in terms quality— combining two New York legends seems like a shoo-in, but just because something makes sense as a mashup doesn’t necessarily mean it will end up sounding good. Luckily, DJ Cappel & Smitty do a phenomenal job intertwining Biggie with Blue Eyes.
“D.R.E.A.M (Dollars Rule Everything Around Me)” by Chrome (“C.R.E.A.M.” by The Wu-Tang Clan x “I Need a Dollar” by Aloe Black)
Will people ever get tired listening to “C.R.E.A.M.”? Probably not. Is it something that needs to be remixed in any fashion? Not particularly. Similarly, “I Need a Dollar” is already so infectious that I don’t really see a reason why it needs changing. But therein lies the beauty the mashup: it creates a fresh take on two (or more) songs so beloved that no one would have ever thought to breath new life into them
“Black Bug” by Wick-it the Instigator (“Shutterbug” by Big Boi x “Tighten Up” by The Black Keys)
The entire album is worth a listen, but “Black Bug” seamlessly combines the infectiousness both “Tighten Up” and “Shutterbug” to incredible success.
“Virginia (Lost Woods)” by Team Teamwork (“Virginia” by Clipse x “Lost Woods” from The Legend Zelda: Ocarina Time)
If you’ve never played Nintendo’s 1998 classic, the Lost Woods is an area in Ocarina Time that’s essentially a creepy forest maze. Pairing the aimless feeling getting lost in a dark forest with the more whimsical nature the soundtrack makes the area that much more unsettling— and thus, Clipse’s haunting vocals from “Virginia” make a perfect fit for the instrumental.
“Office Musik” by Clockwork (“Hustler Muzik” by Lil Wayne x The Office Theme Song)
This is another one those mashups that has no business working as well as it does, but Clockwork managed to flip The Office theme song’s iconic piano loop for a fun twist on a classic track from Tha Carter II.
“Life Peder” by Lido (The Life Pablo by Kanye West)
The concept mashing up songs from a singular album by a singular artists seems strange (and almost pointless), but if it would work for any album, The Life Pablo would be it. Kanye Wests’s 7th studio album is a beautiful mess— there are multiple versions nearly every song on the project, which is essentially an invitation to create your own version the album with your favorite mixes each track. Lido simply takes it one step further with “Life Peder”—and to magnificent results at that (Lido also recently remixed ye and Kids See Ghosts in a similar fashion).
“99 Luft Problems” by DJ S-Dub (“99 Problems” by Jay-Z x “99 Luft Balloons” by Nena)
Sometimes it seems like the way people get ideas for mashups boils down to “hey, both these songs have the number ’99’ in the name.” Regardless, an estimated 87% all mashups from the mid-aughts consisted songs from The Black Album, with smash hit “99 Problems” being one the most popular choices for obvious reasons— so it was bound to happen at some point.