JSTAR with VERSION XCURSION and DJ REDNOTE at Andy Poolhall (489 College), Saturday (May 5). $5 before midnight, $10 after. www.versionxcursion.com. Rating: NNNNN
Reggae music, in which dozens (hundreds, in some cases) of vocalists toast over the same instrumental, often without the permission or knowledge of the original artists, has a peculiar relationship to copyright. Considering the mash-up scene's similarly irreverent attitude toward artistic ownership, it's not surprising that the mash-up format has managed to find its way into the reggae scene, and UK bootleg specialist JStar (aka John Ayers) is at the forefront of the trend, leading the way with his addictive blends of contemporary hiphop a cappellas over classic reggae rhythms.
Curiously, Ayers's initial inspiration for his style came from necessity, not the established mash-up scene.
"I was DJing at a carnival with 100% Dynamite, but I hadn't made any records, and I wanted to have some reggae sound-system-style special versions," he explains. "So I went to my studio and mixed up some blends.
"People really liked this idea of blending two records together in that way. Let's face it, this wasn't the first time it was done -- I'm sure we've all heard a thousand remixes of Billie Jean -- but this vibe really suited the kind of box of records I was playing out. It seemed worth investigating."
Growing up in West London, Ayers was mesmerized by the booming bass of outdoor carnival sound systems, which sparked his obsession with reggae. But it wasn't until he started throwing together these custom bootlegs that his profile began to grow. And based on the success of his limited-edition 7-inch singles, Ayers has been able to move into the legitimate music industry with upcoming remixes for DJ Vadim as well as some works-in-progress with some UK reggae vocalists.
He prefers to play alongside MC Honey Brown in the UK and admits he's a bit intimidated by the idea of coming across the ocean on his own. As a DJ, you can expect to hear him drop many of his own exclusives, along with some classics, some hiphop and, if the crowd's up for it, edgier tunes.
"I think it'd be too egocentric if I were just playing my own stuff," he confesses. "But I do want to advertise if I have a new mix, and I really like the tracks I've made. I hunt for new people making blends on the Web and MySpace, and if they've got a great one, I request a copy or encourage them to release it to make sure other people hear it and find out about them."