DJ Z-TRIP with DJ GoldenchYld at the Opera House (735 Queen East), Tuesday (September 6). $20. 416-466-0313. Rating: NNNNN
To hell with the mashup, sort of. That's the message from DJ Z-Trip. It's a lazy medium for lazy artists, a momentary fix like methadone for heroin addicts - something to tide us over until the real music returns.
Since Z-Trip rose from the underground to deliver 2001's Uneasy Listening - his and DJ P's hour-long mashup that saw Glen Campbell's Rhinestone Cowboy at home at a Bronx block party or Sting's lithe pseudo-reggae slipping on a pair of shell-toe Adidas and still feeling comfortable singing Walking In Your Footsteps - that message sounds unconvincing.
"So many people are attempting to do what I did," he says from his home in Los Angeles. "I don't want to get pigeonholed, so I think I'll keep moving."
An illegal bootleg landed him a deal with Hollywood Records, but the mashups became a stumbling block. While his faith was restored that you don't need a radio song to get noticed, the recording industry said something to the tune of "We like what you did, but you're going to have to shell out some publishing fees to get another record like this on the shelves."
He spent a year just trying to clear the samples.
"I was this starry-eyed kid stepping up to the recording industry and saying, 'Fuck everybody.' "
The industry didn't comply. While many artists were into what he was doing, the publishing companies couldn't profit.
"The people who run the media companies thought it wasn't worth their time," he says. Without the samples, the record was a bust.
"That's why I said I'm going to make my own record, my artist album," he says of abandoning mashups in favour of a DJ/producer album.
So Shifting Gears (Hollywood, 2005) is a straightforward "I got some emcees to drop lyrics on my dope beats" recording.
Yeah, he got the underground's best. Murs and Supernatural dredge up nostalgia about wolfing down cereal and watching Saturday-morning cartoons on the song Breakfast Club. That's cool, but what about what he's known for, mashup mixes that make you feel Del tha Funkee Homosapien's Phoney Phranchise coming in the air tonight?
"I never want to go back and do something just to do it." That said, he continues, "It probably will happen. The artist in me will want to make that record."
In spite of the underground acclaim he achieved for remixing Motown before Motown Remixed, he wants you to know that in the beginning - before Uneasy Listening, before The Grey Album or A Stroke Of Genius - there was Kool Herc.
Herc was the originator of the mashup, a real artist who experimented and played not only what the crowd wanted but what he thought they should hear.
So Z-Trip's not impressed by you DJs out there who only spin what's on the radio, as if the record companies were hovering above your turntables and dangling payola in front of your face. Everything you did has already been done.
While you're spinning the new Teairra Marí on CD turntables, he's a "crusader of vinyl," a DJ who resurrects classic tracks from the graveyard like Jesus did Lazarus.
And the people in the audience? Instead of humpty dancing the night away, they'll once again recognize the DJ as an artist, turn to the booth and say, "What the fuck is this?" - all without skipping a beat.
"You gotta play the card of 'if nobody's doing it, I'm going be the dude.'
"I wish every DJ felt that way."