An OGR List: 10 hip-hop remixes that better the originals


Remixes have been around since hip-hop. There is a stellar remix of De La Soul’s Saturday’s in my collection from 1990s. I ultimately ruled this one out as the original was already a hands down ***** classic, but it’s in the Spotify mix linked below in any case.

The job of the remix is often to lend fresh perspective to a song. In lazy circumstances this is simply a bunch of new guest MCs over an extended version of the original track, check Talib Kweli’s mega-guest list on Get By and almost every Busta remix for proof.

I might start by stating that none of the original versions of the songs below were that sloppy or uninspired to begin with, but as (we hope) will happen sometimes a different set of ears and a little experimentation produces results over and above those initial creations.

body movinBody Movin’ – Beastie Boys

Remix: Fatboy Slim

Vying for the title of ‘biggest reinvention of the original’ with Method Man and Roots Manuva.

Put me squarely in the camp that wishes Fatboy Slim would have focussed his attention on remixes. The Beastie Boys original track had some of their trademark clever and quotable lyrics, but none of the pizzazz or fresh stuff that marked their first three far superior albums.

Enter the Fat, who retained the fun but stripped out the dud backing track and reinvented the entire song, helping create the last Beastie song of real worth in the process.

The song starts with a standard ‘Fatboy Slim’ of a repetitive sample and gradually building intro, so when Ad Rock’s voice kicks in at the 1.25 mark we’re already primed.

Original Track: ***
Remix: ****

brimfulBrimful of Asha – Cornershop

Remix: Fatboy Slim

Let’s be honest, Cornershop have Fatboy Slim to thank for even being remembered as a one hit wonder. Without him no-one would have ever wondered what the hell ‘a bosom for a pillow’ actually means, nor would they be able to namecheck a bunch of things that they know nothing about. Solid state radio? (45!) Harvo records? (45!) Muhammad Ruffi? (45!)

And it seems simple when you listen to it. Fatboy kept the acoustic core, then simply added his usual whirrs, buzzes and pumping drumbeats.

The result is far more memorable than Cornershop ever were.

Original Track: **
Remix: ****

BugpowderBug Powder Dust – Bomb the Bass featuring Justin Warfield

Remix:La Funk Mob Remix

I have never heard of La Funk Mob but I like what they did here. Call this one a total rebuild. Gone is the industrial wall to wall driving noise, replaced by a laid back, almost loping bongo, overlaid with a spasmodic, almost random kick drum that by now I know off by heart, but in 1995 when I found this song on the incredible compilation CD Rebirth of Cool – Phive was a revelation.

Justin Warfield has insanely catchy delivery and clever lyrics that will mean almost nothing to those not aware of The Naked Lunch. The vocals work in both the original and the remix, for mine the remix changes the tone 180 degrees from a confronting track into Sunday arvo easy – and yes funky – listening.

Original Track: ***
Remix: *****

ChangedI Changed my Mind – Quannum featuring Lyrics Born

Remix: Rattlesnake Mix by Stereo MC’s

In a different life either of these tracks could have been released as the single. Both rely on the relaxed almost spoken rap of Lyrics Born, who was pretty much announced to the world by this song.

In reality all Stereo MC’s did was introduce the few bleeps and the shuffling drums, but these minor upgrades took a very decent song and tipped it over into four star territory.

Not sure how big this song ever got, but for a minute in the mid dubbos it introduced a new voice to hip-hop. (Check out Lyrics Born if you haven’t already.)

Original Track: ***
Remix: ****

Roots_Manuva-Let_The_Spirit_bLet The Spirit – Roots Manuva

Remix: Hot Chip

Here’s how good this remix was. When I first heard the Hot Chip version of this song I thought it was a guest appearance by Roots Manuva, not the other way round, despite owning the album from which the song originated.

Let the Spirit was originally a reasonably bouncy middling effort from a middling album, with Roots Manuva’s production tiring a little over the years through repetition and the inevitable comparison with his first two albums. The Hot Chip version is instantly necessary and insanely catchy, with Roots’ vocals seemingly sped up a little to add immediacy.

Whatever they did it worked. If this is indicative of the result Roots Manuva should consider some ‘outside help’ more often.

Original Track: **
Remix: *****

UDA Little Salsa – Ugly Duckling

Remix: People Under the Stairs

How can you take one of the most fun and breezy hip-hop tracks of this millennium – from the landmark 2000 Journey to Anywhere album from Ugly Duckling – even more funky and fun?

Apparently by replacing Samba with Salsa. Who knew two little letters could make such a difference?

I can’t actually fault the original, but here’s a case of taking something that required no alteration, and making the new version just as good. That’s harder than it looks.

Original Track: *****
Remix: *****

lovesickLovesick – Gang Starr

Remix: Upbeat Mix

Both version are good in their own way. But anyone who says ‘good slow’ will beat ‘good fast’ is crazy.

Premier always brings the jazzy beats, GURU the rock solid lyrics and smoked out flow. Not too many hip-hop songs deal with love. Here’s one that does and makes it work. Fast or slow.

Original Track: ****
Remix: *****

Ms Jackson – Outkast

Ms._JacksonRemix: Outkast vs Ray Parker Jr ‘Ghostbusters’

Can’t find it. Can’t find it. Can’t find it!

I heard this a few years ago, one of those normally uninspired mash-ups with one artist’s vocals over another’s track. (There was a female comedy duo who did this with Britney Spears songs, with one lot of her lyrics over another track, to great effect, showing just how formulaic and derivative the underage minx was.)

But this one set Ms Jackson to Ray Parker’s Ghostbusters! Believe you me it was all kinds of awesome. I have a crappy burned version on an Outkast rarities and B-sides CD that I pieced together years ago that patently refuses to allow me to convert it to MP4. None of the ebay, amazon or even iTunes searches finds it, and obviously I can’t locate it on Spotify, otherwise it would be included in the playlist.

Damn it. Even after the novelty value wore off, that song was awesome!

Original Track: ****

ReleaseYoDelf_frontRelease Yo Delf – Method Man

Remix: Prodigy

Method Man might not have been the best MC in the Wu-Tang Clan, but he was the most imstantly recognisable and charismatic. His first solo album was also excellent and proved that Meth wasn’t a mere supporting player.

More breathtaking was what the Prodigy’s Liam Howlett was able to with his 5 minutes and 55 seconds of fame. He even managed to use the police siren sample creatively, something 99% of other hip-hop songs have never managed.

On the new track Meth’s vocals sound fierce and reinvigorated, with the occasional “rrrruhh” acting as an exclamation point for each verse.

Meth’s lyrics are always clever and often funny. They have never sounded so urgent. This is a remix that absolutely towers over the original in every way.

Of all the songs on this list, this song is the one I could least do without.

Original Track: **
Remix: *****

root downRoot Down – Beastie Boys

Remix: Free Zone Mix

The song that converted my mate Fatboy from a techno and grunge head into a part-time hip-hop appreciator, which in my mind is an upgrade.

Sure the original was solid and fit snugly in the awesome Ill Communication album, but the remix was a departure from all things Beastie. To be honest I’m not sure if ‘Free Zone’ is the guy he remixed it or just the title of the remix, but I’m confident that even with all their Beastie-genius the Beastie’s couldn’t have come up with this.

With an ethereal, floating track and a simple drum beat over the same vocal mix, this reasonably minor change reinvents the tune from the ground up.

The result is the same, only better.

Original Track: ****
Remix: *****

But don’t just believe me, let your ears be the judge…

Top 10 Hip-Hop Remixes


About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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