I was already a fan of Fela Soul, Amerigo Gazaway’s full album mashup of Fela Kuti and De La Soul tunes, so when he asked me to do the cover for Yasiin Gaye, the second volume of his project mashing up the music of Mos Def and Marvin Gaye, it took me a hot second to mull it over before saying yes.
The record has something of a backstory. Gazaway’s previous release, Bizarre Tribe, which set the vocals from The Pharcyde over the music of A Tribe Called Quest, met a quick internet death. It was effectively shut down by Sony, who cited copyright infringement despite the fact that Gazaway wasn’t actually sampling ATCQ – he was sampling the same jazz and funk recordings that the Tribe had sampled for their recordings. Big fat irony, right? (For a fantastic documentary on the evolution of the fair use exception in regard to art in general and remix/mashup music in particular, watch RIP: A Remix Manifesto, which features Girl Talk.)
but in the end we chose to make it an airplane or a spaceship, because that seemed to fit better. And it wasn’t going to be so much of an action scene, but more of a conceptual journey, with Gazaway piloting Yasiin Bey and Marvin Gaye to new heights as they confabbed about their new venture.
and after a few drafts it came together nicely.
For the reverse side (yes, there is a back cover, even on a mostly digital release, because it will eventually make it’s way to vinyl), we wanted to echo the same comic theme from a different angle. If you think about the detective-style bulletin boards used to track suspects, as seen on The Wire or Homeland, that’s what we wanted, but with the Recording Industry Association of America being the ones doing the sleuthing.
Which became the eventual back cover:
So, that was really fun to do, and it’s even better to listen to. Gazaway’s approach to mashups isn’t the simple A + B = C that many DJs use. He often uses multiple tracks and samples to flesh out the songs and create a real atmosphere, almost like a producer and not a DJ. Go grab the actual music here!