We here at Popblerd love lists. Many of us love hip-hop. So it seemed right that our next list be about hip-hop. Our two resident hip-hop heads, Big Money Mike and Chuck, each created lists of their favorite hip-hop remixes and we’ll be showing you those lists over the next two days.
Puff Daddy may claim he invented the remix, but remixes go back at least to the mid-Seventies, when labels cashed in on the disco boom and hired producers like Tom Moulton to optimize the sound of their records for the clubs. In the mid-late Eighties, most hit dance/pop records contained multiple remixes to take advantage of both club play and the opportunity to sharpen the sound of an album track for radio. Think about all of the hits that, say, Bobby Brown and Paula Abdul had in the late Eighties and realize how much different they sound from their album versions.
As the Eighties turned into the Nineties, and hip-hop charged to the forefront of popular culture, the remix allowed pop and R&B singers to gain some street cred (or rappers to lose some street cred) by having an MC drop 16 bars where a bridge would normally be and call the resulting product a remix. In hip-hop land, a remix generally involved switching the beat of the song entirely, brightening the production and dropping in different samples. R. Kelly’s “Bump ‘n Grind” remix in ’94 (sure to place high when we make our inevitable list of best R&B remixes) was one of the first “remixes” to change the instrumentation AND lyrics of a previously existing song, to the point where all the two versions really shared was a title (and maybe a chorus.) That laid the foundation for the modern-day remix, which in many cases isn’t so much a revision but another song entirely.
The lists we present to you feature remixes using both possible definitions: some are of the same song/different beat variety, and a couple are different songs entirely. All are dope. So sit back, turn up the volume on your laptop, and take a trip through hip-hop’s glory days with our lists. Chuck is first up.-ed.
10. Gangstarr, “Manifest” (remixer: DJ Premier)
The song that put the epic duo of Guru and DJ Premier on the map was “Manifest,” released on Wild Pitch records in 1989. While the song instantly caught fire in New York, Premo, ever the perfectionist, wasn’t completely thrilled with his production on the track, one of his first. Going back to the lab, reworking the drums and keeping and cutting up the perfect Big Daddy Kane “take heed to the words that I manifest” sample….Premier took a song already garnering acclaim and made it even better, propelling Gangstarr into the upper echelon of Hip Hop crews where they rightly belonged, even to this day.
9. Nas, “It Ain’t Hard To Tell” (remixer: Large Professor)
Together again, as they were on the classic posse cut “Live at The Barbecue,” Nasty Nas and Large Professor form a killer combination and create a brilliant remix of Nas’s “It Ain’t Hard To Tell”. In the annals of Hip Hop not many emcees have been better than Nas, nor have many producers been able to match Extra P’s production or record digging prowess… making this duo deadly and ripe for big things. Large Professor utilizes a simple yet heavy drum beat to provide the foundation upon which Nas’s transcendent lyrics lay. He then brilliantly samples “Nobody Beats the Biz” (always a good idea) but puts his own spin on it. To suit his artist perfectly, Pro takes Biz’s “highly recognized” verse, chops it up & turns it into “Nas, Nas Nas is the king of disco and…”. Damn he’s good, and his remix rocks well… It Ain’t Hard To Tell.
8. Notorious B.I.G., “One More Chance/Stay With Me” (remixers: Sean “Puffy” Combs & Rashad Smith)
Biggie smoothed out over a classic DeBarge break is the tasty recipe for the mega-hit “One More Chance” remix. Widely accepted as far superior to the original, the remix provides a smooth inside to Biggie’s rough-and-Ready to Die exterior. Whether disrespecting their man or flattering them with lines that well, let’s just say they probably wouldn’t have worked for me, Biggie shows that while he may be “ugly as ever” (his words, not mine) everyone is still asking for One More Chance.
7. De La Soul, “Buddy” (remixer: Prince Paul)
4 words. Native. Tongue. Posse. Cut.
What more do you want me to say?
Hip Hop heavies De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah and Monie Love combine to create greatness on wax for the “Buddy” remix. As individual entities, each particular artist/group are among the best at their craft; as a collective they present an embarassment of riches, blessing the track with an overwhelming amount of greatness. While positivity and consciousness certainly reign supreme for the Native Tongues, it is their playful nature on the topic of buddies that really makes this stand out. You can almost feel the fun they were having while recording, something all too rare in Hip Hop. Most importantly to me, the Tongues, led by De La, proved that you can broach any subject (as they have famously been known to, on “Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa Claus,” for example) without having to cater to lowest common denominator language and vulgarity.
The Native Tongue posse have all definitely done their own thing, standing out among the weeds throughout their careers and this collaboration is a fitting highlight and notch on their proverbial belts.
6. House of Pain, “Jump Around” (remixer: Pete Rock)
Pete Rock has always possessed the unique ability to both make hits, and also make hits into even bigger hits. Some producers may shy away from remixing an already established hit… but not Pete Rock. In 1992, arguably nobody scored a bigger hit than House of Pain with “Jump Around.”
Drawing from his jazz and reggae influences, the producer extraordinaire created a certified banger for House of Pain, granting them the satisfaction of being benefactors of a classic Pete Rock remix, a list any artist would die to be on. With his signature blaring horns, tight snares and smoothed out vocals, the Chocolate Boy Wonder took a track that once made you jump and transformed it into a souled out, head bobbing experience that still makes you jump.
5. LL Cool J, “Jingling Baby (Remixed But Still Jingling)” (remixer: Marley Marl)
Marley Marl proved that sometimes less is more, by foregoing a total makeover and simply tweaking the already successful formula of the original in remixing LL’s “Jingling Baby.” Doing just enough to stay true to the original while still giving it its own identity, Marley provided a funky Zapp & Roger-esque bassline, along with what sounds like a carnival accordion to the hook to keep the beat and dance floors jingling. The remix became a staple in the club as well as the jeeps cementing James Todd’s grip on the game as one of the greatest of all time.
4. Black Moon, “I Gotcha Opin” (remixer: Da Beatminerz)
Black Moon got heads wide open with the remix of “I Gotcha Open”. Not only was it a complete remix musically, sampling Barry White’s “Playing Your Game, Baby”, but the crew and MC Buckshot Shorty went one further. Rather than simply utilizing new lyrics for the remix, Buckshot altered his entire style and flow from rough and aggressive to a smooth, laid back flow that went on to become his signature. Buckshot’s flow and Beatminerz beat blend perfectly, making this one of the greatest, most well known, and appreciated remixes in all of Hip Hop history.
3. Craig Mack, “Flava in Ya Ear” (remixers: Sean “Puffy” Combs & Chucky Thompson)
All you need to know is the lineup. Biggie. LL. Craig Mack. Busta Rhymes. Rampage. That alone denotes a degree of greatness. Add the fact that Puff Daddy was able to exercise self control with his “we invented the remix” self by keeping the bulk of the beat from the original “Flava in Ya Ear” and allowing the emcees to be the focal point and you have the recipe for a Bad Boy hit. Big and Mack kill it as expected. Rampage does well to keep up with the grown-ups, and LL creates a few words for his verse (blowticious, heee-sheee?) Bringing up the rear in the coveted final spot is Busta Rhymes, hot as the sun at the time, to kill it directly from the lungs of the dragon. Unfortunately, Mack wouldn’t be around the next year….but the remix was severe and kicked mad flava in the ear!
2. Public Enemy, “Shut ‘Em Down” (remixer: Pete Rock)
I’ve always loved Pete Rock, and I’ve always loved Public Enemy…both passionately. However, I never thought that they would exactly go together perfectly, like chocolate and peanut butter. Public Enemy’s beats were hard: The Bomb Squad’s self-proclaimed mission was to produce tracks most aptly described as “noise”, their retort to old, white America’s claims of what Hip Hop music was. You want noise? We’ll give you noise!
Pete Rock’s style on the other hand: melodic and smooth….horns and breaks combined by his hands in a perfect blend of funk and soul. Tracks that could play just as easily in ‘the’ club as they could in a jazz club. So needless to say, the day I saw the cassingle (yes, cassingle) for a Pete Rock produced Public Enemy remix…one of the brilliant “Shut ‘Em Down” no less. I bought it, but I didn’t expect it to work.
Cue laugh track. What a silly boy.
Not only does it work, the 2 combine with the flavor of a Reese’s cup, blending together perfectly. Pete used his signature horns, but for P.E. he broke out NOISY horns, menacing horns, perfect for Chuck D’s cadence and flow to meld with. Never before has my being wrong been so right and borne such benefits. I only wish the consequences of all my wrongs turned out so great!
1. A Tribe Called Quest, “Scenario” (remixers: A Tribe Called Quest)
How do you improve upon perfection?
This is out of hand…you don’t have to remix every song!
Some songs just need to be left alone!
These were some of my thoughts upon hearing that there was a remix to the classic A Tribe Called Quest track “Scenario.”
I was aggravated. I ignored my boys telling me how great it was, how much better than the original it was. I thought the song, entirely perfect as it was would be tarnished and ruined by a dreaded, unnecessary remix.
That is, until I heard that opening bass line, courtesy of a brilliant Kool & the Gang sample, that would serve as the backbone to the track.
The ‘2’ to the basslines ‘1’ in this combination to the head was Kid Hood’s opening verse…..straight fire. That verse led the way to equally amazing verses to follow by Phife Dawg, Dinco D, Charlie Brown, Q-Tip, Busta Rhymes and yes, even Cut Monitor Milo rips his verse. The remix quickly became my (gulp) preferred version of “Scenario”, one of my favorite Tribe songs of all time (from a self-proclaimed Tribe junkie) and I would even go so far to say it is one of my 3 favorite songs of all time. Not just favorite remix, favorite track….it’s that great.
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