Most fans of rap music, and even some hip-hop heads who consider themselves “too good for rap,” should be familiar with Linkin Park by now. They made waves right from the start when lead singer Mike Shinoda turned heads by casually flipping back and forth from singing to rapping, and actually being something of a decent MC in the process (far better than Fred Durst at any rate). Shinoda proved this was no fluke with the “Reanimation” CD, a compilation of Park songs remixed with a hip-hop attitude and featuring underground luminaries like Motion Man, Planet Asia and Pharoahe Monch. Clearly hip-hop was no laughing matter to the LP crew. They may have been on the fringe of acceptance by the hardcore elite but they certainly weren’t afraid to flip a middle finger back at them and say “we may rock but we’re hip-hop too.” Would Evidence and Kutmasta Kurt produce tracks for it if they didn’t think so? Doubtful.
For those who are still not hip to their hip-hop/rock fusion after two studio albums and a live in concert release, “Collision Course” takes it “One Step Closer” to dawning on the masses. Linkin Park did not simply opt to record remixes of their recent hits with Jay-Z, nor did Jay-Z simply decide to let someone co-opt his “Black Album” vocals for the umpteenth time. This combination DVD/CD is a serious attempt to FUSE what originally were seperate songs on seperate albums into a whole. MTV calls it an “Ultimate Mash-Up,” and indeed the channel is pimping the concept by airing the “Collision Course” performance recorded live at the Roxy Theater in Hollywood on July 18th of this year. That’s the DVD portion of this release, while the CD half is essentially the same fusion songs in the same order, but it’s studio recordings of those tracks as opposed to what would be a redundant audio copy of the live set. Since arguably they are flipsides of the same coin, this review will leave consideration of the DVD alone (perhaps another time) and focus instead solely on the studio set.
This twenty-one minute album, or perhaps more accurately EP, starts off with a fusion of “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” with “Lying From You.” Shinoda kicks the lyrics from his song over a slowed down version of the Jay-Z beat, and just as he’s about to hit the chorus the song switches to Linkin Park’s rock music and Jigga raps the chorus of his hit over their crunchy guitars and drums. After spitting everything through the end of the second verse, Shinoda takes over again and busts his lyrics over the LP music all the way to the end, when you briefly hear the “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” beat again before the song cuts off. One could argue it’s in effect a cut and paste mix, but the fact that Park and Jigga are actually recording it together in person as opposed to just e-mailing each other tracks to edit with ProTools gives the sound more depth and makes the collaboration feel genuine instead of forced, as evidenced by the fact they are cracking jokes at the song’s beginning and laughing together after Jay says “BITCH!” at the end.
That’s not to say that some of the songs they decided to mash-up don’t work better than others. “Big Pimpin'” and “Papercut” together seems pretty odd, but I certainly don’t fault Shinoda for that – he actually raps to the stutter step flow of Jigga’s classic beat quite smoothly. Regardless, it feels wrong. “Jigga What” and “Faint” makes more sense, as the original Jay track blends so seamlessly into the Linkin Park beat it’s almost scary, and the live drumming when Jay’s rapping sounds really good. By turn, Jigga sounds incredibly comfortable flowing over the LP beat what the balance tips in their favor and the Park crew bring in their hard rock crunch. Most people have probably heard the “Numb/Encore” mix by now, which has gotten the most commercial play out of “Collision Course” and could be argued to be the best of the mash-ups. “Izzo/In the End” is pretty fly too, and there’s just something about hearing Shinoda deliver that “you coulda been anywhere in the world, but you’re here with us” intro that’s bound to cause Kool-Aid smiles. The last track is the most ambitious of the combinations, part “Points of Authority” and “99 Problems” and “One Step Closer” all in one. This is the one time I have to be a little picky, and say that it’s not really right on this mash-up to have Shinoda rapping Jigga’s lyrics. It’s incredibly awkward to hear him stumble over the phrase “rap mags try and use my black ass,” because he either can’t or won’t use the words “rap” or “black.” Shoulda rethought that one.
On the whole “Collision Course” is an experiment which bodes well since for the most part these two artists compliment each other, although it helps that Linkin Park and Shinoda were hip-hop fans and followers to begin with. I’m not as convinced other mash-ups by MTV will work as well, and “In the End” this could have been done a little better, but it still makes for an entertaining albiet very short album.