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The Battle Over the Double Black CD

by PHYLLIS POLLACK

When Jay-Z released the accapella version of his Black CD, remixers jumped on the album, and the mash-up was on. DJ Dangermouse flipped it with Beatles samples, which roundly brought charges of blasphemy from the Recording Industry Of America (RIAA), EMI and others who had a vested interest in the Fab Four’s musical catalogue. Since the Beatles’ White album was flipped with Jigga’s Black, it was dubbed the Grey album. When Weezer’s Blue CD was hooked up with Jay-Z’s CD, it would snag a title that was already made famous by the Rolling Stones, the Black And Blue album.

Now, enter Sandman. The Double Black CD is Jigga spitting over Metallica, courtesy of Minnesota DJ, Cheap Cologne. Because both Metallica and Jay-Z have a Black album, this CD is known as the Double Black album

When the RIAA caught a whiff of Cheap Cologne, they quickly sent him a letter, warning, “This activity has not been authorized by our member record companies, and must cease immediately.” Before Lars Ullrich could even show up to complain on CNN, a copy of the March 5, 2004 letter made its way to Lee Ballinger and Dave Marsh’s longtime music industry newsletter, Rock And Roll Confidential. In the letter, Cologne was threatened with prison (“up to five years”), and/or a fine up to $250.000. The turn of events with the Black album had the RIAA only seeing red.

Fresh out the frying pan, into the fire, Cologne explained on MTV that the whole thing was just a joke. Even if he does happen to be an incredibly talented producer. No doubt, the album proves that you can be mad talented and have an uncanny sense of humor. Just ask Eminem.

Cologne says that without any explanation, the RIAA called him “a few days later and said it was a mistake.” When he asked for further clarification, it was refused.

Ironically, the Mouse, or at least his musical work, is attracting major cheese. People were paying up to $160 on ebay for various incarnations of the Grey Album. That kind of makes you wonder about those claims from The RIAA that sales were down just because “people don’t want to pay for music anymore, and they just want to download it for free.” Ironically, the Grey album is one of those records that proves people are willing to pay for their music—that is, if they don’t feel like they’re getting ripped off.

Cologne says he only pressed 300 copies, which are promotional items, in exchange for those who donate on Paypal and get his stickers bearing his moniker, which are quickly becoming a fashionable statement.

Meanwhile, the Double Black album has received critical acclaim. Even the NY Times acknowledged, “Metallica riffs turn Jay-Z into a rocker.” Double Black is permeated with quality, although it doesn’t carry the Good Housekeeping Seal of the RIAA.

Jay-Z’s remake of Ice-T’s “99 Problems,” laced with Metallica’s “Sad But True,” spins so sick, it’s terminal. Another impressive track on the disc is “Change Clothes,” which was mixed with Metallica’s ” Wherever I May Roam.” Throughout the entire CD, as Metallica rides shotgun behind Jay-Z, it becomes strikingly clear that there will continue to be more of these studio creations in the future, whether sanctioned or not.

Had it been Dr. Dre who had recorded this, it’s likely that his label would have left no stone unturned to get most of these samples cleared. Unfortunately, Cheap Cologne doesn’t have such corporate back up, and with his talent, he really should.

Sad but true.

PHYLLIS POLLACK is a music journalist and publicist in Los Angeles.

 

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