Ambitious projects that seek to mash up genres tend to yield something unique or miss the mark, but luckily for music fans this one mostly turns out OK. Sponsored by Hyundai and brought together by The Grammys, Re:Generations takes five contemporary DJs and puts them in different settings to see how successful they could be with cross-genre, cross-generational collaborations. Director Amir Bar-Lev suggests throughout the film that convergence is what’s happening with music in general, especially through the implicit double meaning of the title.

Tackling jazz music is pop producer Mark Ronson who manages to come up with probably the most organic work of the film. Mark confesses his first introduction to the genre was actually through fellow producer DJ Premier with the Gang Starr song “I’m The Man,” stumbling upon the Charles Mingus gem “Haitian Fight Song” which was sampled in the final part of the song. It is this background that influences how Mark decides to mold his interpretation. The all-star group he assembles consisting of Erykah Badu, Trombone Shorty, Mos Def, Zigaboo Modeliste and members of The Dap Kings create what resonates with Erykah as a “gumbo” of the funky New Orleans style of jazz. What comes out is a blues and early R&B inspiried fusion that combines Mark’s production sensibilities with the group working around a simple chorus and break. There is little doubt left after seeing this about how talented the UK DJ is and how versatile he can be in crafting hits for artists like the late Amy Winehouse.

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What turned out to be the most interesting in terms of chemistry was Skrillex with the remaining members of The Doors. It seemed like there would be friction with them as there was during the sessions of fellow DJs Pretty Lights and The Crystal Method, but openness prevailed as there was common ground found between them. The result is a rather psychedelic sounding rock beat with flashes of Skrillex’s sound kept to a minimal as he decided to absorb the advice of his icons. A funny moment for music lovers is when Doors member Robby Krieger tells Ray Manzarek he needs to play the keyboard more like Stevie Wonder, and Robby starts to imitate Stevie’s style.

The one that was given the most time in the film though was the remixing of classical music by DJ Premier. Faced with the difficult challenge of learning the concepts in classical music and conducting the Berklee College Of Music Symphony Orchestra, he manages to come up with his own work and squeezes in a 4 bar loop in the middle of the song for longtime collaborator Nas to rhyme over. Bearing the jigsaw puzzle style of hip-hop, it charts an interesting path and suggests that progression can be used more effectively in hip-hop and classical music can learn a thing or two from contemporary music. While DJ Premier has sampled music before which sounded classical, it was the first time he pieced together various recordings in a sequence to make a composition.

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There is one forced moment in the film where it tries to add the opinions of music fans to give it a sense of being bigger than just this one project. While it is admirable the problem is that it is unlikely all of the musicians will be working again together anytime soon. And by leaving the DJs to come up with the final tracks it makes it seem like they hold the key to the future when really it was about everyone who was involved. This is probably because it is a sponsored collaboration rather than one that was born out of pure musicianship, and tries to fit it in this narrative when the film is just about musicians doing what they do best: making music.

Despite that, Re:Generations is a fun experiment and worth checking out for the special moments like the reunion of The Doors and DJ Premier with Nas in the studio. In a time where questions are constantly being asked about what is the future of music, it is nice to see these sorts of endeavors happening. People who are fans of these musicians will enjoy seeing them at work.

For a limited time you can see the entire film streaming on Hulu

Words By Seve Chambers (Twitter: @SChambersBK)


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