Saturday Afternoon Artist – Girl Talk

Girl Talk at Sasquatch 2009 (photo by Kyle Johnson)

When I first heard Girl Talk, I was reviewing his 2006 album, Night Ripper.  It was this kaleidoscopic mix of DJ samples made into songs. And the variety of the parts was staggering.  Commercial hip-hop rode on rock riffs, 70’s soul crashed into 80’s new wave,  Brit-pop floated above electronic beat hits.  I had heard mashups before but this stuff was intense… overwhelming.  “What IS this?” I thought, and put it back on the shelf.

That next summer I heard Night Ripper everywhere.   Blasting out of the mechanic’s shop down the street.  At parties.  And most memorably in my friend Tyron’s car during a road trip.  Once I stopped resisting, I started to hear the depth of this DJ’s musical knowledge.  All of AMERICA was in this music.  Each sample was a slice of our culture… dirty, explosive, reactive… commercial, underground, new, old… but most of all this music was undeniably danceable and fun. Ty helped me find a track clean enough to play on the radio. “Summer Smoke” featuring MIA:

The next album was 2008’s Feed the Animals but although this was a fun record it is no match for the masterpiece Girl Talk just dropped this past few months.  All Day came out in November of 2010 and it’s so filled with familiar, lovable samples that just tossing it on at a New Year’s eve party was enough to get everyone to dance.  This was especially interesting since, as any live dancefloor DJ knows, people won’t usually dance to songs they don’t know.  But there was enough that most people identified with to make them feel comfortable.   Very impressive.  This song “Let It Out” features people like Jay-Z, General Public, Jean Knight, Fugazi, Beck, Busta Rhymes and Barry White:

Even more impressive is that you can download the whole new album for free, right now at the Illegal Art website.  The record is free because it contains hundreds of samples.  None of these samples is cleared because Girl Talk believes his method falls under “fair use” — since he is making new songs from them.  A new site lists all the samples on the new record, as you listen!

So who is this guy? Girl Talk is Greg Gillis, a 29-year old DJ who was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was into hip-hop and rap mostly as a teenager and was known for walking around his neighborhood with a big boom box on his shoulder. In high school he played in electronic bands and after graduating started to put pop samples together.  Rather than look for obscure records to sample, like most DJs do, Greg wanted to find songs people would be familiar with so he could “play with people’s nostalgic connections to them.”

A second Seattle show was just added (the first one sold out quickly) to the schedule for Showbox Sodo on March 16.

Michele Myers spins every Saturday on KEXP from 3-6pm. Every week she plays 3-in-a-row from the Saturday Afternoon Artist. She is the creator of KEXP Documentaries and hosts Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays 6-9am on WNYE 91.5FM in New York City.

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  1. Rob Christensen
    Posted January 15, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Great segment from NPR’s On The Media regarding some of the legal aspects o Girl Talk’s art. It’s a bit broader than just him, but certainly focuses on his story as an example.

  2. Tom
    Posted January 15, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Also check out Very cool.

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