Wugazi - 13 Chambers (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


13 Chambers (2011)


Given my usual musical proclivities, my friends are often shocked when they discover how much I love the art of the mash-up. Jaydiohead, Beastles, Danger Mouse's Grey Album...I love them all. I find that when done properly, mash-ups can not only become their own creation, but also breathe life into–and give you a fresh perspective for–the original compositions. Leave it to Cecil Otter, a member of Doomtree, the punkest collective in hip-hop, to take this craft to another level. Together with his partner Swiss Andy they've used existing elements to create something truly new and truly great.

The songs utilized to create 13 Chambers aren't the most obvious choices. Otter and Andy picked from all over the various solo projects from Wu-Tang Clan members, as well as their collaborative albums. Songs from the soundtrack to the Fugazi documentary Instrument make a few appearances as well, notably on "Ghetto Afterthought" and opener "Sleep Rules Everything Around Me". They actually include material from all over the Wu landscape, not just their music. Ol' Dirty Bastard's infamous "Wu-Tang is for the children!" speech from when he stormed the stage at the 1998 Grammys introduces the aforementioned "Ghetto Afterthought".

It's amazing how well most of the tracks actually complement each other. I would have never thought to put them together, but "The Argument" and "Da Mysteries of Chessboxin'" sound like they were made for each other. In "Shame on Blue", Fugazi's "Blueprint" adds a new depth to "Brooklyn Zoo" that puts it in an entirely differently light. Guy Picciotto's vocals appear in the chorus, as well as in several other songs on 13 Chambers, along with Ian MacKaye. This might help break up the monotony for listeners not accustomed to hip-hop vocals.

Fugazi's most well-known track, "Waiting Room" makes a small appearance at the tail end of "Nowhere to Wait", although I suspect if Girl Talk hadn't used the song in a recent mash-up with Rihanna's "Rude Boy", it might have been featured more prominently. I didn't even notice that it was used on my first couple of listens.

This is one of the best mash-up albums of recent years–maybe ever. It really feels like the parties involved took their time to make sure the tracks they used felt right together, rather than just picking songs with similar tempos and tacking them together, which can often be the case with projects like these. 13 Chambers is a cohesive album, and a worthy listen for any fan of mash-ups, Wu-Tang, Fugazi, or beautiful music in general.