The Sacred and the Profane: A Swagger Review of“What’s a Black Beatle
Beatles, Meet Kanye West. Spain’s Tutankhamun Brothers have delivered, if not the most widely passed around hybrid ever, then certainly a landmark in the mashup game that’s sure to be a touchstone in the movement. It’s a conscious, post-ironic coming of age for the “genre” and if you aren’t already putting this on heavy rotation, the time is now.
A Kanye tirade about the realitive impossibility of being as good as the Fab Four introduces the album and more or less the nature of the project. What the record does so strikingly right is not hold the Beatles with too much reverence. If they’d handled the lads from Liverpool with the kid gloves, or made sure every song was a Sunday morning service at the parish of pop culture, it never would have got off the ground. They took the elements and rough-housed with them, played with them, even made fun of them. This is the standing proof that what happens on a mixing board is as valid an art form as MC’s and the guys with Les Pauls on their hips.
The track most likely to draw out ire is Stay Out For Rita, where Paul’s innocent if cheeky Lovely Rita Meter Maid gets her legs spread by Kanye’s hyper-sexualized Stay Up, who we can assume never calls her again. The thing to remember, was that Paul McCartney’s intentions towards Lovely Rita were every bit as down and dirty as anythingKanye could conjure up, its just that reading between the lines was more in vogue.
We’re likely to find purists both poles on this spectrumkeen to write off the experiment as blasphemy, but it’s a testament to pop music’s interchangeability that the songs dance together so nicely, and when you’ve sat through the album you’d be hard pressed to imagine either artist as anything other than tickled that it pulled together so well.
If there’s one track on this album that deserves some very serious attention, it’s “And They Say Helter Skelter”. Anybody who’s been paying any sort of attention knows that Kanye is a big box of contradictions, the skirt chaser, the Christian, the buffoon, and the rabble rouser, but it’s only when They Say gets laced with McCartney’s trippy guitar riff that his game gets lifted into the Zach De La Rocha territory. The Tutankhamun Brothers might just have stumbled into the best four minutes of angry young man music in the last ten years and it’s the only track on their effort that would have been better served with a little less Beatles at the onset.
We can bottom line this for you. What’s a Black Beatleisn’t as radio friendly as either of the artists it blends together and it’s not interested at spoon-feeding listeners. It plays out like a compelling, controlled treatise on sound and culture and while it may not be greater than the sum of it’s considerable parts, it’s a love child that does ‘em both proud.
Let’s see what they can do with Johnny Cash and Big Pun.