Amerigo Gazaway is a chemist. In the land of mashup albums and projects, the Nashville-based producer is currently the king, assuming the crown in 2013. In the vein of Danger Mouse and a host of others, Gazaway has made it a personal mission of his to tinker with work by visionaries from multiple genres, all in the name of offering history lessons to listeners and then some.
Gazaway, 29, has made a career of compiling sounds and letting them matte against lush landscapes. His most noted move was tracking the mythic vocals of Marvin Gaye and tying them together for two tapes with Mos Def (a.k.a. Yasiin Bey). He’s mashed together L.A. favorites The Pharcyde with quintessential New Yorkers A Tribe Called Quest, and now has taken his talents even further South, combining UGK with B.B. King for The Trill Is Gone, another mashup album from his Soul Mates collection that is as dirty as it is beautiful.
With help from UGK historian Sama’an Ashrawi, Gazaway has curtailed plenty of UGK’s own interviews to give them added weight over the guitar work of the Mississippi ax man. One difficulty mashup albums have, particularly one between two beloved artists, is pushing the sounds of the original out of your memory. You know “One Day,” the somber and reflective punch in the gut that led UGK’s greatest work, 1996’s Ridin’ Dirty. Yet when married with King’s “The Thrill Is Gone,” it becomes something even more tragic. UGK spoke the blues often throughout their career, and B.B. and his trusty guitar Lucille tracked out similar pains.
When looking back at Gazaway's 2012 tape, Bizarre Ride: A Quest to the Pharycyde, the Los Angeles Times described Gazaway’s work as “reverse engineering” with the intent to “draw a different design within a similar framework.” The crass, almost pornographic motions Pimp C made on UGK’s “Fuck My Car” are flipped into something classier on “Make Love to My Car.” The horns are substituted for actual car horns and, as opposed to something vulgar, we get a swing record on which Pimp discusses how his passenger ladies love his ride. The same liveliness translates Cam’Ron’s braggadocious “What Means the World to You” remix with Ludacris into a juke-joint party where sweating and dancing are the main requirements. For all the rugged aspects of UGK’s appeal, The Trill Is Gone morphs them into two brothers who acted far more like the Blues Brothers than like two hustlers from Port Arthur, Texas.
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Nowhere is this more evident than in the blend of UGK and OutKast’s “International Players Anthem,” arguably the greatest sonic moment in the history of Southern rap, and B.B. King & Eric Clapton’s “Marry You.” Willie Hutch’s sun-kissed horns are swapped out for heavy guitars, grounded to the key component of King's bass. The commitment is strong on all levels, a united front of Southern bombast and punctuality. Other voices add even more gravity to the situation: “The Truth,” featuring a verse by Scarface, also splices in the Geto Boys' Bushwick Bill and lyrics from Tupac's “I Wonder If Heaven Got a Ghetto.”
Overall, The Trill Is Gone pieces together how extensive UGK’s influence was during their zenith from 1996 to 2007. Some of the work from Pimp and Bun’s respective solo albums like Gangsta and Pourin’ Up finds its way onto the tape, creating a moment for some to nitpick what Gazaway didn’t chop and splice and mold into this Southern, slick-talking blues-rap Voltron. But you'll enjoy The Trill Is Gone anyway, not because Amerigo Gazaway is a national treasure, but because he may be the most beloved chemist in America right now.
Download The Trill Is Gone for free via the Soul Mates Bandcamp page.