For my first creative assignment, I chose one from the mashup category, specifically the vocal instrumental mashup submitted by Amber May, and rated at 3.5 out of 5 stars of difficulty. I’ve always been a fan of mashups on YouTube, perhaps even more so now that I can appreciate the ways different songs can fit together from a music theory perspective.
I knew pretty soon that I wanted to pair a rap verse with different music under it so that I could avoid the step of trying to match melodies with chord progressions. I considered a variety of potential artists for the instrumental and quickly chose The Kinks. My favorite Kinks album would have to be The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society (1968). I think Ray Davies’ harmonic sensibilities are their sharpest here, as well as great, energetic bass and drums from Pete Quaife and Mick Avory, respectively.
“Picture Book” stood out to me due to its off-tilt groove. The instrumental reminded me, in a strange way, of one of my favorite rappers: MF DOOM. DOOM is a unique lyricist because of how he will deliver his lines freely, often finishing sentences past the bar line (DOOM himself references this style in the opening line of the verse I used: “Trippin’ off the beat kinda/Drippin’ off the meat grinder”). I think the ultimate result works so well because The Kinks’ instrumental is similarly free in its rhythms, which allowed for DOOM’s lyrics to fit nicely with the ever-changing backdrop.
This was a fairly easy piece to put together, but I’d attribute that to me having music production experience and I think the 3.5 rating would certainly be fair for people with less background in the process. I was lucky enough to find an instrumental version of “Picture Book” and an acapella version of “Meat Grinder” online, which saved me the tedious and difficult task of removing vocals from a track or vice versa.
I used Logic Pro X to stitch the two tracks together. I slowed “Picture Book” down quite a bit. Originally, the track is around 120 bpm and it ended up being around 100. Meanwhile, “Meat Grinder” was around 93 bpm, so I had to speed it up a bit. Once I felt the speeds were similar enough, I lined the vocals up to the beat and listened to it a few times to see how/if the lyrics were clicking with the music. The first result is pretty close to the final product, but I did use the moments when DOOM takes a breath or pauses to cut the track and readjust the timings of certain sections.
I also EQed both tracks, boosting and cutting where needed. I wanted to create distinct space for each component in the frequency range, allowing the lyrics to stand out. I also put a compressor on the vocals simply to give them more punch and make them a bit crisper.
Finally, I made some artwork for the track, which involved creating a digital cut-out of the MF DOOM mask in Photoshop and then placing it on the Kinks’ album cover.
All and all I had a lot of fun with this piece!