Sharp Notes February 19 2004

Mouse Trap: Atlanta/Athens ex-pat Danger Mouse's The Grey Album is sure to be the most infamous in a slew of remix projects released in the wake of Jay-Z's supposedly career-ending opus, The Black Album.

The Grey Album, as previously reported in CL, cribs vocal tracks from an a cappella version of The Black Album and lays them over spliced breaks from The Beatles (aka "The White Album"). Danger Mouse's undertaking is not the first mash-up of Jay-Z's vocals-only disc: Kev Brown produced The Brown Album, DJ Red Alert dropped The Red Album, and Kno of local rap outfit Cunninlynguists pieced together Kno vs. Hov: The White Album.

Grey is an elegant mesh of two dissimilar genres, marrying psychedelic rock with hip-hop, as opposed to the other remixes, which pair Jay-Z's rhymes with traditional beat production. Jay-Z's label, Roc-A-Fella, no doubt released its a cappella edition with remixes in mind, hoping to extend the swan song of their founding artist while providing some exposure for young producers.

"It's a really neat piece, too, what [Danger Mouse] did with the Beatles' stuff," says Caesar Ramirez, store manager at Criminal Records in L5P. "The cool thing is it made me listen to Jay-Z. I've never really paid attention to anything he was saying before, until he had a backing track that spoke to me."

Unfortunately, EMI, the British label that owns the Beatles recordings, and Sony Music/ATV Publishing, the publishing venture co-owned by the near-bankrupt Michael Jackson, weren't down. Two weeks ago, the creativity killers levied a cease-and-desist order on Danger Mouse and independent retailers carrying the album. At that point, only 3,000 copies had been pressed.

Local stores Criminal Records and More Dusty Than Digital both carried the album. Criminal sold 30 copies, with the album coming in third behind new releases by Puddle of Mudd (due to a promotion and not impending apocalypse) and Air, in units sold for the only week it was on shelves. More Dusty moved 25 copies, selling 10 in one shot last weekend.

"Some kid from Sweden came in here and was like, 'Hey, you guys have The Grey Album? I'll take them all,'" says store owner Robbie McWaters. "And he bought all the rest that we had in stock from us."

So, unless you are headed to Stockholm soon, you may not see a copy of The Grey Album in plain sight. However, as McWaters points out, the 21st century has been all about music in another form.

"It's out there, and regardless of whether it has the picture cover or not, the shit's gonna be out on the Internet for years now. Regardless if it's in any store, people are gonna get it."

Keeping it in the family: Speaking of the Jacksons, as a result of Janet's overexposure, she was uninvited from Feb. 8's Grammy Awards Ceremony, where she was supposed to present Luther Vandross with a special award.

When Vandross reported that he was too ill to attend, Jackson's appearance was nixed — family-friendly network CBS probably wasn't too jazzed about it, anyway.

After his lady-friend's banishment, Jermaine Dupri, So So Def founder and president of the Atlanta chapter of the Grammys' parent organization, resigned from the latter post in protest.

In a statement, Dupri said, "I didn't want to be a part of something that's not treating people in the right light. I feel like what's going on with Janet is unfair."

The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, the governing body of the Grammys, expressed its dissatisfaction with Dupri's resignation in a release distributed Feb. 12.

"While we understand and respect that personal implications of recent events may have played a part in his decision, we are disappointed that we were given no opportunity to discuss the facts directly, as Mr. Dupri spoke to no officials from the Recording Academy staff, nor were any calls from our offices returned."

The statement went on to say that Jackson had rejected the Academy's offer to appear at the ceremony, where she was allegedly an invited guest.

Local show(s) of the week: Atlanta indie rap bookends this week with two impressive bills scheduled on Thursdays. On Feb. 19, religious rappers Mars Ill visit the Echo Lounge. In tow are the vivid visions of the three MCs and one DJ that make up Binkis Recs!

On Feb. 26, the Hard Rock Cafe's Velvet Underground hosts old-school throwbacks Minamina Goodsong hyping their new album, The Transcendental Game of Zen, and brainy rhymers Psyche Origami, also touting a new disc titled Is Ellipsis.