Uproot the knotted tree of beat music and underneath the mulched vinyl and decaying dubplates you might find DJ C and Wayne & Wax, spelunking and looking for rhythm’s compost. These Bostoners’ pursuits of hip hop, reggae and electronic music’s DNA meet as both business and pleasure. DJ C, also known as Jake Trussell, mixes and mashes various beat species like jungle, dub reggae and Baltimore club with his Mashit imprint, sometimes spackling together a new strain like his “Boston bounce.” Wayne Marshall chips at break beats and riddims–the rhythmic patterns in reggae–with his digital pickax as a producer and lecturer at Brown University and a Harvard University extension school.

As part of a cadre of beat chemists equally interested in moving bodies and tweaking minds, Trussell and Marshall avoid categorization as cloistered academics. But their works are tempered with the obsessive nature that makes a crate digger part archaeologist. Just trace the lineage from Stockhausen to Bambaataa to Usher in Marshall’s “Crunk Genealogy” (download at riddimmethod.net/music) or sample Trussell’s “B Series” mixes (www.mashit.com/djc). Marshall elaborated on a few points to the Indy.

Independent:Our readers keep up with copyright/fair use through our local column, Monitor [by Fiona Morgan]. You rub against these touchy issues. What is the subtext for the blurring of these lines of identity and ownership? Is mashing a revolutionary act in the face of the RIAA?

wayne marshall: I’d like to think that the mash-up phenomenon has more to do with a broader cultural movement around the reuse of other artwork rather than a reaction against RIAA strictures. My ideas … were strongly shaped by some of the amazingly creative things hip-hop producers were doing in the late ’80s and early ’90s, before a lot of copyright-related litigation. The mash-up movement and the civil disobedience we see on the Internet around copyright have, if anything, only emboldened me to continue working with samples.

How do you participate in “copyfight” through your work and blogging, since the “Three Notes” case defined sampling law when NWA used three notes of a George Clinton song?

Funny that you mention the “Three Notes” case: Jake and I both submitted remixes to the Downhill Battle project. [See Sept. 21’s “sample with attitude” by Wayne & Wax and “3 … It’s the Magic Number” by EOSS at www.downhillbattle.org/3notes/all.php.] I think that that case was a real travesty for copyright law as it relates to music, and I suspect and hope that it will be overruled before too long. I definitely embrace the movement on the Net towards sharing, and I use my blog to share works that I hope, despite their “infringement” of other works, justify their own existence as art, parody and “fair use” more generally.

You are working on a thesis on how reggae and hip hop intersect, so it follows that Kool Herc, the Jamaican-born original B-boy, is the patron saint of your work. With reggaeton exploding in the United States, how do you see Latino popular music changing here and elsewhere?

I just spent a few weeks writing a massive biographical essay on Herc, so, yes, in some ways he is a central figure in my research. Latin popular music, like Jamaican pop, has always drawn on as much as it has influenced American pop, so it’s no surprise to see Latinos and Latinas embracing the sounds of hip hop and reggae and mixing them with salsa and merengue and bachata. More than anything, I hear reggaeton as urban youth music of the New World, expressing the increasingly Caribbean and Latin character of American cities.

Most people know mash-ups as novelty songs, like the infamous Strokes and Christina Aguilera combo. How does your use of mash-ups differ in process (from permissions to production) and what is the end goal?

I’ve been enjoying creating mash-ups of cover songs, which tend to demonstrate in a really audible way how two (or more) interpretations of the same materials can differ as well as overlap. It seems that one doesn’t really get in trouble for making a mash-up or a sample-based track unless it is so popular as to warrant attention, in which case–like Danger Mouse [who mixed The Beatles’ The Beatles with Jay-Z’s The Black Album]–you’ve usually done pretty well for yourself. You can respect the cease and desist, and you can sign a record deal. I think the end goal is simply to make something that is fun or interesting to listen to. And, in general, I don’t think the artists being sampled or mashed–whether major or minor–really care. It’s their record labels or their lawyers that care.

What do you think will be the next major development in the copyright wars?

There are a lot of kids for whom mash-ups, remixes, sample-based works and all sorts of currently prohibited practices, at least in practical terms–who has the money to license samples save for the rich?– are becoming second nature. Not only will these folks fight for their right to make music and culture as they see fit, they will justify such uses, beautifully, powerfully, decisively. Copyright litigation is but a finger in the dike. And, of course, popular alternative licensing movements, as represented by Creative Commons, are opening up new possibilities for collaborative, “derivative” work. x

Wayne & Wax and DJ C perform at Local 506 on Thursday, March 23. Wrecking ball swings at 10 p.m. and costs $8. They’re also holding a free talk at the Freedom Forum Conference Center at UNC-Chapel Hill in Carroll Hall at 3 p.m.