(Illegal Art; 2006)
By Clayton Purdom | 30 October 2007
Q(s): What in the fuck am I doing reviewing Girl Talk? Does Greg Gillis need CMG’s press? Aren’t we highlighting the best music we didn’t review this year? And isn’t Night Ripper, like, a mash-up?
A(s): Hold on, no, yes, and yes. When Night Ripper began to infect the cultural landscape, creeping undetected into attention like poison in the waterworks, I found myself at first appalled — “A fucking mash-up??!!” — and then quite simply infected, though no less appalled by the record’s base appeal. This is still a fucking mash-up, a gimmick-ridden lump, and it earns every ounce of that 57%. But 57% implies that I don’t listen to it anymore, and if my iTunes playcount holds any bearing, that makes the rating a goddamn lie. The gibberish-titled tracks of Night Ripper rank, sadly, among my most-listened-to tunes of 2006. Take this review as my long overdue confession. I am now at the point where, even in my head, the Ying Yang Twins’ delightful “beat the pussy up” mantra in “Wait” bleeds into “Bittersweet Symphony”’s syrup-sweet strings. That “I’m a hustla” Jigga bit that T.I. looped ad infinitum is now cut against both T.I.’s beat and Jigga’s actual surrounding lines. The Pharcyde’s “Passin’ Me By” reminds me of Elton John.
Had I reviewed the record upon its original release, the score could be 15% lower. There are hundreds of reasons to hate this shit. Gillis’ mash-ups seldom bring more than a chuckle, another head-nod of recognition, another dazed, “How’d he fit that in?” Unlike Night Ripper’s nearest cultural comparison, the Avalanches’ kaleidoscopic Since I Left You (2000), the samples don’t build into anything; they are samples for the sake of being samples, crammed together for the sake of being crammed together. And since Since I Left You came out six fucking years ago, Night Ripper earns double demerits for failing to heed the lessons of that decade-defining masterwork. But less than that, he falls short of other, better mash-ups, refusing to play songs against songs or beats against beats and instead flitting unsatisfyingly through a manic shuffle function [“A manic shuffle function that only picks out glory notes. Or maybe glory holes.” — Mark].
What makes the record appealing is also what makes its appeal so pedestrian. This is music for the most base of indie rock fans, ones that pay lip service to rap and get giddy about the idea of the Pixies and Neutral Milk Hotel crammed up against Joe Budden and Nas, ones who might get excited in 2006 about hearing Motown packed against Detroit techno against D12, of hearing “Buddy Holly” come together with the Beatles. Night Ripper makes the dirtiest hip-pop more easily accessible to an indie audience, but in the process it performs a sort of reduction, making dumb catch-phrases (“Just make that tootsie roll,” “I be on that Kryptonite”) into dumber punch lines. The outsider that didn’t “get” this stuff the first time will be an insider in this recontextualized setting, but now instead of “getting” it they’ll just be laughing at it. Which doesn’t make the record offensive, really…it just makes it stupid.
Okay: stupid, but very, very easy to like. Night Ripper is for people who think of dance music as faster pop music, for people who bought Dig Your Own Hole (1997) and loved it. That’s me. I bought Dig Your Own Hole and I loved that shit, and while at the time I didn’t know what an after-party was I had a vague idea that such a thing must exist, and so I loved Hole by myself accordingly. Because of its silly, universalized appeal, Night Ripper does the same thing, rocks a party that pretty much anyone can get into: indie kids that care, rap fans too drunk to mind, snobs playing guess-the-sample, and, most importantly, the faceless throngs who recognize Nirvana and the Black-Eyed Peas and don’t know who or what they’re dancing with. It’s mindless stuff, but I’d be remiss to not admit my mindless fondness for it. As a later track puts it: “Cleveland, shake.”