Filed under: //blogs.blackvoices.com/category/black-music-month/” rel=”tag”>Black Music Month
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but the hip-hop community generally considers it blasphemous to take a fellow rappers’ lyrics. For that reason, it’s rather uncommon to find emcees covering songs by other emcees. ( //www.amazon.com/Tha-Beginning-There-Was-Rap/dp/B000003AFR” >’In tha Beginning There Was Rap,’ a 1997 compilation of rap covers, is one notable exception.)
But as Lil Wayne, The Roots, Snoop Dogg and others on this list prove, old school hip-hop is ripe for reinterpretation by rockers, pop acts and other new school rappers.
We compiled a list of our favorite remakes of classic rap tunes below. Some actually do justice to their source material and in some cases, the cover is even better than the original.
10. The Def Squad (Redman, Erick Sermon and Keith Murray), ‘Rapper’s Delight’ (Sugar Hill Gang)
Giving props to the Sugar Hill Gang, the trio sticks closely to the original song’s script. The video features b-boys dancing, retro fashions and the infamous “chicken that tastes like wood.”
9. Ben Folds Five, ‘Bitches Ain’t Shit’ (Dr. Dre)
In this unlikely cover from Ben Folds, the piano man transforms the bouncy (albeit misogynistic) original from Dr. Dre’s 1993 album, ‘The Chronic,’ into an impossibly sweet-sounding rebuke of scandalous women. Sounds like a paradox, but it works.
8. Black Star, ‘Children’s Story’ (Slick Rick)
When Mos Def and Talib Kweli combined as Black Star in the mid-90s, the Brooklyn rappers paid homage to Slick Rick on this remake of the Bronx ‘s classic track about dodging the police. At this live performance, the duo run through their version in which the lyrics are a pointed critique the music industry.
7. Rage Against the Machine, ‘Pistol Grip Pump’ (Volume 10)
Before these rockers parted ways in 2000, they satisfied their hip-hop jones by including a few hip-hop remakes on their last studio album, ‘Renegades,’ a collection of cover songs from artists such as Devo, MC5, Cypress Hill and others. This underappreciated cut by Los Angeles rapper Volume 10 gets an overhaul that really makes you want to jump in a mosh pit. Or cock back the ratchet.
6.Tricky, ‘Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos’ (Public Enemy)
On his 1995 debut album ‘Maxinquaye,’ Tricky enlisted Martina-Topley Bird to assist on the vocals of this remake of this bracing Public Enemy song (from their influential ‘It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back’ album). The track is an indictment of the prison system and a retelling of a prison riot. Somehow the pair makes the track sound even more menacing and urgent.
5. Rage Against the Machine, ‘I’m Housin’ (EPMD)
Off the same ‘Renegades’ album, Rage clocks in again here. This time their interpretation of EPMD‘s ‘I’m Housin” becomes a growling, sneering declaration of intent. It’s so far from the laidback yet steely-eyed attitude of the Long Island trio’s original but this rocked-out rendition works so well as an unrepentant chest-beater.
4. Jay Electronica, ‘My World (Nas Salute)’ (Nas)
For this New Orleans rap eccentric to remake “The World Is Yours’ from Nas’ classic album, ‘Illmatic,’ shows that the upstart has guts. He adds his own lyrics, rhyming over a jazzy beat that’s arguably better than the original. If Jay Electronica has designs on being considered rap’s next great lyricist, this song is could easily make his case.
3. Snoop Dogg, ‘Lodi Dodi’ (Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh)
On his 1993 debut album, ‘Doggystyle,’ Snoop Dogg honored his rap heroes Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh when he re-recorded this classic party jam. Snoop’s elastic delivery is every bit as memorable as Rick’s Bronx-British accented rhymes. If only he could beatbox like Doug…
2. The Roots, ‘Raw’ (Big Daddy Kane)
No matter how much the critics praise their studio albums or how cushy their job as Jimmy Fallon‘s talk show band seems, the Roots don’t rest on their hip-hop laurels. If you catch them live, Questlove, Black Thought and crew are liable to spend just as much time performing their own songs as covers of vintage rap tracks. Here, Thought keeps the pace with Big Daddy Kane as the duo trade verses on the Brooklyn rapper’s ‘Raw.’
1. Lil Wayne, ‘Hail Mary’ (Makaveli aka Tupac Shakur)
During Weezy’s recent ‘Unplugged’ performance on MTV, he did an excellent and emotional rendition of Tupac‘s ‘Hail Mary.’ He might not have the vocal range of the late rapper to be able to reach those sing-songy parts of the chorus. But Wayne proved he’s every bit as good as Pac at interpreting music with feeling, depth and truck loads of charisma.
What’s your favorite remake of an old school rap song? Let us know in the comments.
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