In 2004, an artist named Danger Mouse released a highly illegal, highly evolved, mash-up mix-tape called The Grey Album. The title comes from a combination of Jay-Z’s The Black Album and samples from The Beatles LP, The Beatles, which is often known as “The White Album.”
Originally, the mix was only meant to become a 3,000-copy (CD) project for tech fans in February of 2004. Since the creator never intended to make money from the project, he also didn’t ask for permission to use the material.
When a cease and desist letter hit the creator, the damage had been done. After all, 2004 was the essentially the Ebola virus for downloading and spreading music. So how did this illegal mix also become Entertainment Weekly’s best album of 2004?
“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,” said Brian Burton, a.k.a. Danger Mouse.
Ironically, if the studios were to try and create a Beatles / Jay-Z mash-up, it would feel phony to mass audiences.
However, the technical genius told interviewer Chuck Klosterman, “If you put Jay-Z on a record with Radiohead, it’s a gimmick. But you can easily put two different actors in the same movie and have it still make sense—if the right director does it.”
If you scowl at the idea of this musical combo, consider this: Danger Mouse made this album when the music industry was being torn apart, against its will. Klosterman added that the tracks use "every musical element" from the Beatles and mix them into "loops and patterns and samples," under Jay-Z's a cappella versions.
While everyone else was running around yelling the “sky is falling,“ one man made something for “techies to appreciate,” by grinding away at two of the best albums ever made, 12-13 hours a day, for twenty straight days.
"It was almost this Andy Warhol moment, where I made a decision to do something artistically without a clear reason as to why, except to show people what I could do," said Danger Mouse.
The Grey Album is available anywhere illegal downloads are downloaded.