Dirty Cash: The Man in Black gets a Hip-Hop makeover
via Guardian UK
There’s a new Johnny Cash album coming your way (yes, another one – clever, eh?). This time the USP is the BPMs. Overseen by Cash’s son John Carter Cash and the ever-pliable Snoop Dogg, the likes of Sonny J, Count De Money and Pete Rock have been let loose on the Man in Black’s back catalogue. Cash more than holds his own, mainly because few of the remixes are truly radical, but also because his style is so distinctive it could survive a nuclear onslaught from Throbbing Gristle.
Ultimately you can’t help suspecting the motives. On a project like this, it’s customary to flog it with puff about the original artist “always defying convention” and “forever breaking new ground”. The Cash remix recordis no different. His son insists JC would have “loved this remix record” and perhaps that’s true – there’s a clear link, after all, between the swaggering braggadocio of lines like “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die” and gangsta rap – but the results still feel contrived.
When confronted with these kind of genre clashes from opposite ends of the musical spectrum, my first instinct is one of deep cynicism. History teaches us to be cautious: listen to Tom Jones hefting along with the aid of the miserably misguided Wyclef Jean and you can practically smell the grubby conversations about “expanding the brand demographic”. That said, shameless marriages of convenience don’t always make for bad music. Few would argue that Run DMC and Aerosmith’s collaboration on Walk This Way was commercially motivated, but it was still fantastic, partly because there’s a natural fit between rap and hard rock. But even the famous rap-rock soundtrack to Judgment Night was in reality hit-and-miss: remember Mudhoney’s bruising encounter with Sir Mix-A-Lot, or Teenage Fanclub with De La Soul? Thought not. They were hardly career highlights, and let’s not start on Helmet and House of Pain.Even if the idea is a winner, there’s an ingrained audience bias to overcome. For my money the album made by Elvis Costello and the Brodksy Quartet is one of his truly essential records, but many fans dismissed it out of hand, horrified that Costello had traded in his snarl for a string quartet. Paul McCartney’s work as The Fireman has met with similar resistance.
There’s little wonder most acts – from Oasis to Lil’ Wayne – end up doing the same thing over and over again. I’m all for creative exploration, but perhaps the sad truth is that – like oil and water – country and grime, or funk and folk, can’t be poured into the same pot. Listen to Dylan doing reggae, Bowie doing jungle, or Johnny Cash being roughed up by some buffoon DJ called Kennedy and tell me I’m wrong.