The Hood Internet Are Mashing Up the ‘80s and ‘90s One Year At A Time

The Chicago duo’s clever, ambitious mixes have started up again.

Chicago duo The Hood Internet made their names with incredibly dexterous mashups of unexpected songs, like Fleetwood Mac with Daft Punk or “Blurred Lines” with the Growing Pains theme. Last year, STV SLV and ABX (aka Steve Reidell and Aaron Brink)  began an even more ambitious project, when they began cataloging an entire year’s worth of pop music into three minutes, using both the songs and their sometimes-iconic videos. They picked up the project last week with a video for 1984, and today they launched 1985. You can check them all out at the Hood Internet’s YouTube page. Reidell and Brink enlightened us about the process.
—Josh Modell, Talkhouse Executive Editor

The first step to doing one of these is really just diving into that specific year of music. It involves pulling together playlists, Billboard charts, and best-of lists, and just living with that music for a while. While we are probably listening to most of the big hits of the year, we also pull in some songs that were influential but weren’t big on the charts, or some non-singles from great albums. As we’re listening, we’re looking for those moments that can be used to make this collage, then setting those aside. Picking a song to include isn’t us saying it’s one of the best of the year necessarily — just that it has something in it that adds to the whole of the new track we are trying to make.

It’s hard to quantify a number of hours for one of these, but each year gets worked on over the course of several months. We’re usually working on more than one year at a time, so that we can set a year aside for a bit and come back to it with fresh ears. Once we’ve gathered all the songs we want to use, determined the keys and tempos for each of them, and cut up some sections to use, it’s kind of like arranging a puzzle. We try some pieces together and see what fits. Oftentimes we’ll have an idea of where we want to start and where we want to end, and the work is figuring out how to get from one place to another. We’re changing song speeds and tempos to match and pulling in individual instrumental or vocal tracks if we can find them. Sometimes the thing that matches is a musical similarity and sometimes it’s lyrical. In the 1981 video, there’s a section where we string together Rick Springfield singing “Jessie’s Girl” and Rick James singing “Superfreak” and made it sound kind of like a duet about the same girl. Dropping that on top of Vangelis’ theme to Chariots Of Fire just ups the intensity and the absurdity of it all. 

This whole thing was conceived of as a video project from the start, and we wanted to connect the music to the visuals of that year. The development of music videos was a gradual thing that preceded the ’80s, but really blew up with MTV debuting in 1981. We definitely wanted to capture that era where musicians were just figuring out what they could do with videos. When MTV started, their first video broadcast was The Buggles’ “Video Killed The Radio Star,” which is a song that was released in 1979. We chose to start with that year because it’s such a transitional year with so many of the things that we think of as quintessentially ’80s taking shape there. It would be cool to take this series at least through the ’90s, as that would really capture the MTV era of music videos.

Much of the internet exists in this gray area around copyright issues, and what we do wouldn’t be able to exist without that. We’re not selling these or looking to profit off them, but we’re also not getting permission from 50 artists per song to include small clips of them in a video because that would be impossible. So far none of the artists we’ve sampled have gotten in touch with us to let us know it’s not cool with them. 

(Photo Credit: Ebru Yildiz)

As the name that they go by suggests, The Hood Internet are quite clearly an act in thrall to the possibilities that the internet has opened up, these past few years, for hip hop as a genre; it’s especially true of alternative hip hop, whereby artists play by different rules and experiment more than the mainstream side of the style would really allow. The Chicago duo — comprised of ABX and STV SLV — were primarily concerned with mashing up other hip hop tracks to begin with, after they formed in 2007, but have since gone on to pursue original material, in the form of their one album to date, FEAT; the album features underground guest spots form the likes of Tobacco, Class Actress, and Cadence Weapon. In addition, the pair have also pursued slightly sillier things, like Album Tacos, a series of photoshopped classic album covers with tacos covering the original content, but they’ve also played live sets, which has seen them mash up classic hip hop cuts in a slick and often comical manner; it’s little wonder, then, that they’ve managed to carve out a cult fanbase, one that’s no doubt eagerly awaiting the next move from the duo in the studio.