Jay-Z and Linkin Park

Collision Course

(Warner Bros.)


Technically, Collision Course is a mash-up. The first in a series from MTV called "Ultimate Mash-ups," the album takes previously released music from two acts and combines them to create a new, if not wholly original, song. In spirit, though, this album sounds more like a heartless medley--but it's not for lack of trying. The project boasts Jay-Z, the master rapper who became an integral part of the mash-up revolution by turning his head when scores of basement producer began pillaging his vocal track from last year's Black Album, cutting, looping, pasting and recreating his songs. The practice gained national recognition when previously unknown DJ Danger Mouse released The Grey Album, a mash-up that paired the music from the Beatles' White Album with the vocals from The Black Album. It was a coup for digital inventiveness; Danger Mouse provided the creativity, while Jay-Z's stolen flow provided an element of legitimacy. The inclusion of Jay-Z on Collision Course, though, speaks volumes about how corporate entities like MTV and Warner Bros. are dumbfounded by the mash-up. Faced with an army of plugged-in basement producers, these companies can only re-do what has already been done. Jay-Z's "99 Problems" is an undeniable hit, but one year and dozens of reinventions later, the song's sizzle has settled. Pairing Jay-Z with rap-rockers Linkin Park doesn't warm things up, either. Fueled by its melodramatic rap-rock, Linkin Park's immense popularity with the suburban teen set is matched only by the band's immense incongruity with Jay-Z's lithe word-play. Overall, the aptly named Collision Course shows the train wreck that occurs when the atrophied music industry runs into an art form that requires inventiveness and careful musical choices.





Dressed in clean-cut suits, sporting wire-framed glasses and delivering songs about politics while avoiding hip-hop industry beef, Eminem appears to be toning down his image with Encore. Following three near-perfect records that expertly tapped into his anger and intensity, Encore is definitely not standard Shady procedure. The oomph that reverberated through his skits, hardships and hate-filled rants of the previous records has dwindled, taking with it the essential grit, beauty and anger that made Marshall Mathers so easy to love and to hate. It's easy to point at Encore and imagine Eminem "maturing" in his enormous mansion that no doubt resides on the "right" side of Detroit's 8 Mile Road. But, oddly enough, an emotionally "weaker" album makes sense for Eminem right now. After a long and fruitful introduction to the industry, it might be time for a transition. Quite honestly, there's nothing the rapper can really say at this point--short of coming out of the closet--that's going to shock us. It's impossible to say what Eminem's intent is with Encore, but fans (and record execs) would do well to imagine that Eminem's lowered intensity is little more than the first steps of re-invention--the whole caterpillar/ cocoon/beautiful butterfly metamorphosis. So, even though some of Encore's tracks are skippable and the mystique of this tri-ego legend is all but lost, fans can still fumble for their copies of The Slim Shady LP and eagerly await the next phase of his career.