Steinski | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Even if the recording industry had never committed any other offense (stop laughing, I'm trying to make a point here), it would have earned our everlasting contempt just for making the official release of Double Dee and Steinski's "Lesson One: The Payoff Mix" a legal impossibility. In 1983 ad writer and record nut Steve Stein teamed up with engineer Douglas DiFranco (aka Double Dee) for a Tommy Boy-sponsored contest to see who could come up with the snazziest remix of G.L.O.B.E. & Whiz Kid's "Play That Beat Mr. DJ." The resulting 12 inches of mad genius interspersed snippets ranging from Culture Club to Fiorello La Guardia and immediately became a cornerstone of DJ music; the duo followed it with the equally masterful and self-explanatory tribute "Lesson Two: The James Brown Mix" and "Lesson Three: The History of Hip-Hop," a mix of six then out-of-print independent dance hits. But Tommy Boy couldn't sell any of those recordings because they didn't have rights to all the samples, and getting them would have been too complicated and expensive for the relatively small label. Steinski went on to release a few conceptual collages on his own, but since the late 80s his output has mostly been limited to some production work and the odd remix. Last year he came back with the visionary Nothing to Fear: A Rough Mix (Soul Ting); while it fits snugly into the cut-and-paste aesthetic that everyone from Coldcut to DJ Shadow learned from Steinski's example, the differences between the elder and the youngsters are instructive. Both Steinski's spoken-word samples (Alec Baldwin showboating in Glengarry Glen Ross, a savvy Danny Hoch impersonation of a mainstream rapper, the Marx Brothers) and his rap fragments (Foxy Brown's "Hot Spot," Timbaland and Magoo's "Here We Come") are often familiar, or at least not willfully obscure, and his breakbeats flow evenly instead of deliberately stumbling or bringing the noise. Nothing to Fear has received far less attention than it deserves, but maybe that's for the best--if enough people were aware of its existence the copyright cops would probably lock Stein up for life. Thursday, October 30, 10 PM, Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-4140.

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