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The Notorious B.I.G. & 'Star Wars' Mash-Up 'Life After Death Star': Q&A

This is what happens when you mix hip-hop and sci-fi.

New York Daily News Archive // Getty Images

We've heard mashups, remixes and countless reworks of songs from The Notorious B.I.G., but never quite like yesterday's (December 2) Life After Death Star release. If you haven't heard the compilation yet, picture Biggie's greatest hits meets "Star Wars"...because it's exactly that.

The 17-track compilation features Biggie tracks reworked with Star Wars production, and it's pretty damn amazing.

We caught up with the masterminds behind the tape, Solar Slim and Richie Branson, known collectively as the Otaku Gang.

As Star Wars fanatics await the release of the forthcoming "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," out on December 18, the duo did some prepping of their own.

Who worked on the tape? What were each of your roles?

Slim: Myself, along with my cousin and co-producer, Richie Branson, put together the music. We both played the same role on the project. The objective was to make beats using Star Wars music samples from the great John Williams and Mark Griskey, and blend them with acapellas from the great Notorious B.I.G. We brought our finished products (tracks) to the table and made the playlist. We certainly can't forget to mention Bowe, he created the cover art and he did an outstanding for us on it.

What inspired the tape?

Richie: I was listening to some Danger Doom and went off on a tangent relistening to the Grey Album. Inspiration hit shortly after when I saw a commercial for the new Star Wars movie. I'm a giant Star Wars fan with an equal amount of fandom towards Biggie, so blending the two together seemed natural.

How long did it take to complete?

Slim: We actually started working on the music early November.

Richie: It seemed like once the first track was done, we developed a pretty good creative synergy. We wrapped things up after a few studio-obsessed weeks.

Where there any previous mashups?

Richie: Not on this level, but I once released a song blending Jay Z with Star Wars. The hook went: "If you're not from Cloud City I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but a Sith ain't one." Corny, yes I know. [Laughs.]

Why this? Why now?

Slim: We realized that there are tons of people in the world just like us, people who love two things that historically don’t go together (sci-fi and hip-hop). We wanted to not only give excited Star Wars fans something to listen to leading up to the movie release, but also give those true hip-hop heads who miss Biggie as much as we do something to reminisce on. And finally, to showcase our skills in music production to the world.

Richie: I felt like this project could further the point that nerdy influences can and do blend well with hip-hop. If you look at a lot of early hip-hop pioneers, there were tons of sci-fi, comic book, and kung-fu references laced within their lyrics and production. As far-fetched as something like this may seem, it's actually in the DNA of hip-hop. Aside from that, producing for Bad Boy was a dream we had when we started making music in high school. I guess you can say this project is something like a dream coming true.

There are over 30K downloads so far. Did you see this coming?

Richie: Didn't see this coming at all, and the momentum seems to be growing. We're glad people are enjoying it!

Slim: Not at all. We knew people would probably think it was pretty cool. But this is a bit overwhelming to be honest.

How'd you come up with the name?

Richie: We figured the name was a nice blend of two of the most infamous aspects of both worlds: Biggie's Life After Death album and Star Wars' Death Star. The Death Star was the biggest, most intimidating super-weapon in the galaxy. The same could be said about Biggie's flow. In both the real world and the fictional one in the next Star Wars film, we're now living in years long after such larger-than-life figures vanished. With that in mind, the name Life After Death Star was perfect.

How did you pick the songs?

Slim: We honestly didn’t have a blueprint for the songs or samples we would use. We gathered up as much Star Wars music and Biggie accapellas we could find, and everything was honestly musical vibes from that point on. It just came together really smooth without a lot of thought to be honest. We let the vibe takeover and before we knew it we had 16 tracks.

Richie: The original plan was for this to be an EP of about seven to eight hand-picked tracks. Biggie's catalog of work is impressive, so we got a little greedy with the acapellas. [Laughs.]

Excited about the new Star Wars movie?

Richie: Words can't even explain. I wasn't born when the original trilogy came out, but I saw all the prequels on Day 1. I'll be doing the same with "The Force Awakens."

Slim: Very. I basically know what it's about so I am more interested to see how the special movie effects of 2015 will transfer into this new Star Wars movie. [Laughs.]

Who are your favorite rappers?

Slim: Biggie, Jay A, 2Pac, Pimp C, Kendrick and Eminem. Only half are still living. That’s crazy.

Richie: MF Doom, RZA, GZA, Biggie, Lupe Fiasco, Yasiin Bey and J. Cole.

Favorite sci-fi movie?

Richie: Outside of Star Wars, I'm big on all things Godzilla.

Slim: I love the Terminator series, "Terminator 2" especially.

What's next?

Slim: A little birdie told me one of the names on that “favorite rappers” list is due for the next mashup.

Richie: The next mashup is going beyond music. I won't say who the featured artist is, but we'll be mashing their music up in a completely remixed video game.

Anything you'd like to add?

Richie: Get at us for them beats! info@otakugang.com

Slim: Shoutout to all the nerds. You determine what's cool, not society.

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