Back in the day, the average mix album was a collection of party tunes — good-time music to get people on their feet. Unfortunately, somewhere in the ’90s, the mix album was hijacked by the techno scene unless you were lucky enough to befriend some local deejays. Instead of going from Kool & The Gang to Kool Moe Dee, any mix tape found in the average record store was more likely to transition from DJ Tiesto to DJ Jean — not that you’d notice anyway, since they’d both have sirens and synths wailing over a throbbing bass drum. The rave craze castrated the best part about mix tapes — marveling as the deejay took you seamlessly from Dolly Parton to Grandmaster Flash.
After Never Scared‘s 76 minutes elapse, however, it’s clear we’re in an entirely different territory. The word “genre” has no traction as Hollertronix deejays Diplodocus and Low Budget blast across the musical spectrum on this tour de force that is sure to rock any party. From old school booty rap to ’80s rock, Never Scared celebrates the excitement that music can create. It’s true they really haven’t created any new music here, but they breathe life into songs that were left for dead, and they definitely change your perspective on the music they include here. Thanks to Hollertronix, mix tapes are finally fun again.
It would be easy to say that Hollertronix have no respect for any musical tradition after a glance at the tracks mixed on this album, but the truth is the exact opposite: these guys are music fans, and they find gold everywhere. Their mission is made apparent from the get-go, as a vintage hip-hop beat suddenly gives way to the tune from the Clash’s “Rock the Casbah.” But Joe Strummer is nowhere to be found as Missy Elliott and Ludacris’ duet from Missy’s Under Construction, “Gossip Folks,” provides the vocals. Strummer’s probably rolling in his grave, but if that combo ain’t a crowd pleaser, you need new friends.
The madness continues as the Cars’ “Just What I Needed” gets hopped up with plinking drum machine beats, leading to Salt ‘N’ Pepa’s “Push It,” which morphs into J.J. Fad’s “Supersonic” in the album’s most obvious segue. Hollertronix is heavy on the old school, gold-chain days of hip-hop, which was a little hokey at times, but never failed to produce a smile. The groove speeds up as DMX and 2 Live Crew make appearances, but Diplodocus and Low Budget slow it down with Justin Timberlake to give the revelers a break. The finale, “Gujarati Soundclash,” is undoubtedly the highlight, as traditional Indian songs blend with Eastern-influenced Neptunes tracks, at once explaining why Chad and Pharell are booked until 2042 and questioning why Indian pop doesn’t get more respect in and of itself.
Some of the selections look absolutely awful on paper — “Tainted Love” via hoodrat hip-hop? — but that’s the beauty of it. Music is at its best when it pushes the breaking point of chaos without actually devolving into garbage, and that’s precisely what Hollertronix has accomplished here. No matter what you’re in the mood for, the chances are good that this album can deliver.