10 Feb
5 top producers perform with unexpected collaborators to surprisingly good results

Caught the official premier of the documentary RE:GENERATION last night at the Mann Chinese theater, and have to say we were pretty impressed. LIAS previewed the RE:GENERATION Music Project late last year when we were leaked a teaser and were hopeful with what we’d seen, but the finished product really takes the potential of the concept to a compelling finished ground. The documentary follows 5 emerging DJs/producers as they break away from their musical comfort zones and collaborate with artists from totally unassociated genres and backgrounds. Probably the two most engaging storylines involved Skrillex getting paired with two of the remaining members of The Doors (Ray Manzarak and John Densmore) and Pretty Lights (aka Derek Smith) with country legend Ralph Stanley and megastar LeAnn Rimes. I’ve admittedly never been a big fan of LeAnn Rimes, but seeing her sing was a revelation. The girl has pipes. But what was most surprising was director Amir Bar-Lev’s (My Kid Could Paint That, The Tillman Story) inclusion of behind-the-scenes tension and awkwardness, warts and all. I’d suspected that the film — graciously sponsored by the Hyundai Veloster and made in association with The Grammys — would be a fluff affair, made to make all the parties involved look like bastions of good will. But the best parts of the film are watching these up-and-coming producers trying to collaborate with legends, who often don’t want to hear what these “young punks” have to say. Seeing Skrillex tell John Densmore, “Look, I don’t wanna do this if you don’t want to do this,” or watching Derek Smith struggle mightily trying to work with a most uncooperative Ralph Stanley made the film real. And made it interesting, and truly insightful into the working process of all the assembled artists. Easily the most awkward work situation was between The Crystal Method and Martha Reeves of the Vandellas — their desperate attempts to connect with the stubborn Motown legend were at times cringe-worthy.

But others collaborations went swimmingly — such as that of Mark Ronson with Erykah Badu, Mos Def, Trombone Shorty, The Dap Kings and drummer and sampled genius extraordinaire Zigaboo Modeliste. As Jason Bentley noted in the Q&A after the film, Ronson emanates a sort of relaxed cool that made his whole segment seem like a long Gucci ad. But to be fair, what kind of stretch is it to pair Ronson with those artists? It’s pretty much a bulls-eye in his comfort zone. Still, it’s interesting to see Ronson at work, who has become a world class producer in his own right. Lastly, the linchpin to the whole film was DJ Premier who worked with Nas and The Berklee Symphony Orchestra in Boston — but again like Ronson pairing Premier with Nas is hardly a stretch. What made that portion special was seeing Primo cut and paste his samples, and then seeing those samples be transcribed and performed by the Berklee Symphony Orchestra while Premier “conducted”. The joy in his eyes was sincere and contagious. To watch one of the 5 most important hip-hop producers of all time light up on the conductor’s stand like a 5 year old was a moment of pure pleasure.

The doc culminates with all 5 artists performing their tracks in front of their audiences — the highlight being Pretty Lights playing in front of his home crowd at Red Rocks. Maybe it’s because his song, despite all the tension (or perhaps because of it?), is probably the best of the bunch. If you have the chance to catch RE:GENERATION it is recommend highly. If you’re a fan of any of the above artists it is a must see, but even if you’re a true fan of music the project is well worth your time. One last note: I’m curious as to the budget of the film, as the work by Amir Bar-Lev is spotless. The cinematography, editing, everything is top notch without any corners cut. I guess a tip of the hat goes to Hyundai in that situation for pocketing the project.

Derek Smith, aka Pretty Lights, meeting his band for the first time, warts and all. Hit the Jump to hear the finished products from Pretty Lights (+ Ralph Stanley & LeAnn Rimes), Skrillex (+ The Doors) and Mark Ronson (+ Erykah Badu, Mos Def & Zigaboo Modeliste)…

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