By Ian S. Port
By Tony Ware
By Emma Silvers
By Gary Moskowitz
By Alee Karim
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Derek Opperman
"He listened to psychedelic music and stuff like that," says Jemini. "You could hear it in some of the early beats; there was a lot of stuff going on. So I helped him simplify it down to a hip hop essence: strengthen the snare, don't be all over the place with the drums unless you're trying to particularly do that -- little suggestions like that. And that helped turn him into the producer he his now, 'cause where he is now is not where he was when I met him."
The collaboration worked out so well that the duo decided to do another track, then another. Eventually they figured it would be best if they just did a whole album together. The result is far and away the most accessible material Lex has ever released.
In addition to his advice on production elements -- which surely helped make tracks like "Yoo-Hoo!" and "The Only One" the radio-ready ear-candy they are -- Jemini provided the perfect foil to Burton's arch sensibility. The MC's more mature, 35-year-old perspective tempered Burton's snide, high-minded leanings. "Don't Do Drugs," for example, finds Jemini playing the part of the manipulative drug dealer canvassing the ghetto as a bed of old-timey ragtime samples and what sounds like a radio ad from the '30s swing along in the background.
"They're very contrasting in their styles," observes Brown. "Left to their own devices, neither of them would have made a record like Ghetto Pop Life. It just came out like that because of the combination of the two of them."
This odd-couple dynamic reaches its zenith on the title track, the chorus of which goes, "I've got bullets in the clip/ So what you want?/ I've got a lyric I can spit/ So what you want?/ I'm giving bitches good dick/ So what you want?" Nice, huh? Now, imagine that whole hook sung by a full choir of female sopranos, à la the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want." Again, that's a full female choir drawing out lines like "I'm giv-ing bitches goooood diiiick," which crescendo triumphantly just as a thumping boom-bap beat drops like a boulder in a bathtub.
"We didn't think it'd be good to have little boys singing it," deadpans Burton, "so we got a mostly older choir to do it."
"Brian is like the nutty professor," says Jemini. "He's definitely a different kind of dude. I call him the Andy Kaufman of hip hop production. So when he suggested the mouse costume, I said, 'Go ahead and do it.'"
Oh yeah, the mouse costume. Whenever the duo performs, Burton stands behind his four turntables wearing a giant gray-and-pink fuzzy mouse costume. "It's weird," says the producer of his getup. "When everybody's looking and laughing or pointing or whatever, I don't get embarrassed, because I know exactly what they're looking at. But if I was exposed just [as myself], it's a little bit harder for me. They'd be looking at me -- just me -- that's not really what I signed up for this for."
Whether he signed up for it or not, these days that's what happening: Thanks to The Grey Album, all eyes are on Danger Mouse. One would think this would boost the sales of Ghetto Pop Life, but according to Brown, that hasn't happened. "At the peak of the stuff around Danger Mouse," he says, "when the news stories were really big, we were selling a really similar amount of records to what we were selling before, and I was like, 'Damn, what?'"
To Jemini, the solution is simple: "I think if more people got to hear [GPL], it would spread a lot quicker. The people who have heard it got it; I just don't think enough people have heard it."