In sports, you can’t watch Michael Jordan take on Elgin Baylor in their respective primes. We can’t see Mike Tyson against Ali. And we’ll never see Randy Johnson pitch to Babe Ruth. Music is different. Yes, we have more access to music now than ever and we can listen to genres from any generation so we can directly compare with our own amateur ears. However, the true test is seeing someone from this generation tackling the music of our past. Enter Hyundai and the Re:Generation Music Project.
The concept of the venture goes something like this: the artists, DJ Premier, Skrillex, Mark Ronson, Pretty Lights and The Crystal Method, come from all walks of music, representing different times and different genres. The five are then assigned a genre other than their own, and they must create a song in that specific style, to the best of their ability. But of course they can throw in their own flavor to help bridge the gap. The process would also be captured on camera and compiled into a documentary, so the world can witness the end result. Sounds simple enough right?
After months of shooting, the Re:Generation film premiered last night at Hollywood’s Grauman’s Chinese Theater for a few hundred lucky people (myself included), who were able to get the first glimpse at the finished product. The movie was mostly carried by Premo and his turntables, who was given the task of creating a Classical song. But the HTX DJ was a relatively old head next to most of the other cats. Mark Ronson, who was assigned to create a Jazz record, did the smart thing and jetted straight for New Orleans to meet up with Erykah Badu and Mos Def to assist him in making a stellar Jazz-fusion track. Also, current Electronic sensation Skrillex was given the opportunity to turn back the clock and work with ’60s classic Rock group, The Doors.
However, where Re:Generation really succeeds is its attention to detail in every step of the songmaking process. For instance, DJ Premier immediately went to what he knows best and started chopping up some Beethoven records, but the documentary did an excellent job of digging deeper than that. Premo took it a notch further by not only meshing several songs together under a Nas verse, but organizing an entire orchestra to play it. And guess who learned how to conduct said orchestra? Yep, our hero DJ Premier. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for everyone as Pretty Lights was shown having difficulties getting 84-year-old Dr. Ralph Stanley to sing out of his comfort zone. It was pretty enlightening to see old men act just as stubborn as little kids, no matter how great they may be able to churn out tunes.
Regardless of how memorable the songs turned out to be, the structure of the musical process is accurately represented and what most audience members will walk with. Each artist is shown to have their eccentricities, and do what they do to get in their creative zone. For example, Mos Def exclusively uses his red microphone (even to record), and Erykah Badu insists on munching on carrots and celery while writing. And when something isn’t working right, as in Pretty Lights’ case, he will do what he must to correct the situation to maximize his featured guests’ potentials, even if they have their creative differences.
The soundtrack to the documentary contains all the songs created during filming, and is definitely worth it to see bridging of the generational gap, and the increasingly blurring line between genres (not to mention the album is free.99). With the influx of Electronic and House music into Hip-Hop, it’s something that’s become quite prevalent over the last couple years, even though some diehard fans are resisting the changes. But if the Re:Generation Music Project is any indication, the limits of our music are going to be getting pushed even more, for better or for worse. It may just be time to start accepting these changes with open arms.
For more information, visit the official site of the Re:Generation Music Project, ReGenerationMusicProject.com. Now enjoy a slideshow of photos I took at last night’s premiere.
(This post is sponsored by Hyundai Veloster Presents RE:GENERATION and was written by Raj, one of our UPROXX family cousins from The Smoking Section crew)