Danger Mouse New Cheat Codes

The famed producer discusses his craft and his first hip-hop album in more than a decade: a collaboration with Black Thought on This Friday

In 2004, producer born Brian Burton

Few artists of this century are as closely associated with the concept of the specimen as the Danger Mouse. In 2004, Brian Burton-born producer garnered acclaim as Audio Banksy—a pop-art collagist whose rule-breaking was not just a specialty, but a calling card. He credits that reputation to The Gray album, on which he mixed acapellas from Jay-Z’s The Black album with beats made from bits from the Beatles’ self-titled White album. It was a reconstruction of two classics that became a groundbreaking work in its own right, launching a thousand lawyers’ letters (and seemingly many lesser imitators, lest we forget the Black and Blue album).

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Library Records and Adult Swim

After his landmark mashup, Burton modeled some of the more famous projects on a large scale. That list includes Cee-lo Green, Gnarls Barkley, and their chart-topping psycho-soul team-up with MF DOOM collab The Mouse and the Mask, formed behind Library Records and Adult Swim IP. But Burton’s work expanded rapidly outside the scope of the MPC and DAW. By the late 2000s, he joined forces with Damon Albarn in Gorillaz, the Black Keys for his most commercially successful works, and Shins James Mercer in favorite indie-pop duo Broken Bells. Burton had essentially become the Rick Rubin of the blog era: the rare producer who went from flipping breakbeats and loops to become a trusted mentor to guitar gods and rock stars.

12 Tracks Over 38 Minutes, Cheat Codes Catnip for Hip-Hop Purists

Burton has directed excellent albums by Karen O and Perquet Cours. But aside from a few stray tracks with A$AP Rocky, he largely stayed clear of the sample. That changes Friday, when he returns with Cheat Codes, a full-length collaboration with Roots frontman Black Thought dreamed up in the mid-2000s and completed over the years. 12 tracks of over 38 minutes, Cheat Codes is catnip for hip-hop purists who never feel stale. Burton digs deep into his box, using spirit and psychic samples to produce the suggestive background for Thought. In return, Thot gives tremendous pure rapping performances in a career filled with him. (At 50, Thoughts lost neither appetite nor the syllable magician that made him a cult hero. It was mesmerizing to hear him work through his verses on the bluesy title track or the ethereal “Aquamarine.” Going to do.)

Tariq Trotter’s skill shocks anyone

Which has drawn attention to his work with the Roots for three decades—or more recently transformed with his viral funk Flex Freestyle. But Burton has been working outside hip-hop for so long, his contributions may trouble skeptics. In his time away from the genre, the producer’s skills have grown tremendously: on cheat codes, his drums thrash loudly, his loops crackle loudly, and his melodies swell and play unexpectedly.

2003 Gemini the Gifted One Collab

It’s filled with striking moments of sadness, from the beautiful coda to “Identical Deaths” or the posthumous MF DOOM collab “Belize.” But Burton has also honed his ability to nod straight, as he does on the A$AP rocky-and-run The Jewels-assisted “Strangers” or the chilling “Saltwater.” (The latter might sound like a perfect Griselda track even without Conway the Machine’s guest appearance.) Cheat Codes also retells the best moments of their previous high-water hip-hop project: their 2003 Gemini The Gifted One collab. , Ghetto Pop Life . Nearly 20 years after helping define an era with The Gray Album, Burton is on the verge of releasing his finest work as a beatsmith.

Burton calls it an unexpected career

While Cheat Codes may sound like a departure from his more recent work, Burton sees it as one piece of a rich tapestry of an unlikely career. Perhaps it is fitting for an artist who rose to fame for weaving together seemingly incompatible things. The Ringer recently caught up with Burton to talk about the album, his return to making sample-based music, how the DOOM feature came to be, and what it was like to work with one of his musical heroes.

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