It seems impossible to define a generation with one specific musician or band. There are hundreds of artists, but everyone has a different opinion on what genre of music is considered the “best”. For this era at least, the question may be easier to answer than you think. Girl Talk is an American musician that specializes in mash-up and digital sampling. Within just one song, several genres like hip-hop, rock, and pop are expressed and juxtaposed. The technique of layering samples creates a completely unique musical experience. Throughout each song, all the elements continuously change as one sample leads into the next; there is no repetition. Girl Talk is unique because he combines several genres and, the perpetual change and flow of the music is a clear reflection of his generation.
Greg Gillis, a Pittsburgh native, began experimenting with electronic music and sampling as early as high school. “Girl Talk” was a solo music project Gillis began while studying biomedical engineering at Case Western Reserve University. His focus was tissue engineering, until he quit in May 2007 to concentrate on his music. Before Gillis started Girl Talk, he participated in experimental, difficult noise and “glitch” music. Gillis began mixing and layering more digital samples, accrediting it to his love of hip-hop which gave him “the intuitive notion that music could be made out of other music” (Kosner). He uses programs called Audio Mulch and Adobe Audition to create his music. Not many people tuned in or came to shows until Gillis finally made a breakthrough with his 2006 album, Night Ripper. Gillis has released five albums on the record label, Illegal Art, and EPs on 333 and 12 Apostles. Girl Talk’s most recent albums include Feed the Animals (2008) and All Day (2010). Gillis has been slowly gaining more attention and getting his name heard. When discussing the content of Girl Talk, New York Times Magazine claimed that his “music is a lawsuit waiting to happen” (Walker). Girl Talk’s album, Feed the Animals, features more than 300 samples. United States copyright law requires the permission of the composers before others can sample their work. Requesting authorization from hundreds of composers would not only be time consuming, but excessively expensive. Many Americans are surprised that Gillis has be enabled to challenge the copyright owners for a fifth time with his newest album, All Day which features about 372 pieces of copyrighted music (Mullin). “Gillis would be a ready-made hero for copyright reformers; if he were sued, he’d have some of the best copyright lawyers in the country knocking on his door asking to take his case for free” (Mullin). Although Gillis does not participate with copyright laws, he says that he conducts his music in accordance with the “fair use” principle. There is a plethora of lawyers “eager to litigate a case over music sampling, that they believe is a clear-cut case of fair-use” (Mullin). Girl Talk has been featured in Remix, written by a Harvard Law Professor named Lawrence Lessig, who is a famous advocate of the copyright reform. He has also been interviewed in a documentary called Bad Copy, Good Copy, which highlights the current copyright laws.
Although Girl Talk has the possibility to be sued, he still challenges the copyright laws. In Gillis’ defense, he claims that if “someone creates something out of pre-existing media, that’s transformative, that’s not negatively impacting the potential sales of the artist, you should be allowed to make your art and put it out there” (Kosner). Gillis explains that there is a difference between originality and sampling. A large majority of the music industry samples hooks or adopts a certain beat from an earlier composed song. Since the samples are usually distorted or hidden, it can become hard to recognize. Girl Talk is not afraid to create his music because he is not hiding from the copyright laws, but directly opposing them. Girl Talk also