The release of this EP comes with an intriguing sense of apprehension. Girl Talk, the mashup maestro; the “I Am Not A DJ” poster-boy for sampling inventiveness, is to try his hand at what he calls “traditional song structures”. You can be forgiven for reacting to that news with a slight disappointment. It’s a little bit like hearing Picasso wants to try painting people’s facial features in the right place.
It’s not long, though, before it becomes clear that this is still very much a Girl Talk record. The curtain opens with the EP’s 34 second intro track as Freeway introduces himself and sets up the project, allowing the listener to settle in and brace themselves for what follows. And what follows is a breakneck 19 minutes of beats and drops, each falling into the next like dominoes. Except this time you haven’t necessarily heard each sample before, and the whole thing is tied together by one consistent voice.
Former “Roc Star” Freeway is the ideal protagonist for a project like this. Though he’s struggled to find a natural home for himself since departing Jay-Z’s label in 2009, he sounds right at home here. Waka Flocka Flame, Young Chris and Judakiss all make their contributions felt throughout the record, but they feel like guests in Freeway’s house. He’s a natural fit – humble enough to share the spotlight; capable enough to handle anything Girl Talk throws at him.
So he throws a lot. The signature fills and hyper-active change-ups are all here, though this comes with it’s own set of pros and cons. With each change or drop, you’re conditioned to expect the injection of something brand new. Here, there are two or three occasions when it feels a little bit underwhelming to only get another chorus. It’s not that the hook isn’t good and oftentimes it’s refreshing to hear something that works get repeated, it’s that Girl Talk is still finding the perfect balance of repetitiveness and relentlessness.
To pick through each song with a fine-toothed comb looking for specific samples would be missing the point. But whether it’s a handful Top 40 hits melded together, or more subtle sounds and beats carefully crafted with a unique voice, the buoyant energy of Girl Talk is equally affecting. It’s possible to take the fact this his recent Coachella set contained a whole bunch of new mashups as a sign that a new full-length “classic” album is in the works. If so, it’ll be interesting to see if this EP was a one-off or if it pave the way for future “traditionally structured” releases. Either way, this proves that Girl Talk can do anything he sets his mind to.