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Source Material

Source Material: Beck, Odelay

by Stephanie Benson

Source Material: Beck, Odelay


Perhaps the finest and weirdest sonic collage of the '90s, Beck's Odelay pierced its way into the hearts of alternative, hip-hop and pop kids alike when it came out in 1996. By then, he'd convinced the world he was a loveable "Loser" -- which also meant many had him pegged as an inevitable one-hit wonder. But with what was actually his fifth album, he proved himself a master of smart, genre-smashing songwriting, thanks in part to The Dust Brothers, the production team behind The Beastie Boys' iconic Paul's Boutique.

How to explain this album? It ain't easy. It's got funk, punk, folk, jazz, country, bossa nova, hip-hop, pop and rock; it's got a mix of Beck's irony-tinged monotone and all-out guttural yells, plus his metaphorical musings, witty commentary and occasional nonsense talk -- and we're just talking about the first few songs here. But most noteworthy is the sampling: Beck and The Dust Brothers did some serious crate digging, excavating beats from Pretty Purdie; riffs from Them; funk grooves from Sly & the Family Stone, Mandrill, Rare Earth and Freedom; sound clips from Mantronix ("I got two turntables and a microphone") and The Frogs ("That was a good drum break"); even a symphonic snippet from Franz Schubert in "High 5 (Rock the Catskills)." Beck also nods to experimental troubadour Gary Wilson ("Let the man Gary Wilson rock the most") and Musical Youth's "Pass the Dutchie," for starters, in "Where It's At," whose video included a quick shot of him impersonating Captain Beefheart.

These, of course, are just a few of the influences behind the weird, wild and wonderful Odelay. Below, dig into the artists and albums Beck sampled, referenced or likely just adored during the making of this classic.