The ten best all-star remixes in rap
In music, the term "remix" can mean a lot of different things, even in rap. But one of the most celebrated traditions in the rap industry is collecting verses from the hottest names in the game for a second go-around on a tried-and-true instrumental. On the one hand, you can wind up with a collection of literally and figuratively mailed-in verses. But on the other hand, if more than one of these stars peaks on the same track, you can have fireworks. And it doesn't often get much better than that. Here are ten of the best all-star remixes.
See also: The ten best rap producers of all time
10. Nas - "Made You Look (Remix)" featuring Jadakiss and Ludacris
It was always the Salaam Remi beat that attracted people to this song more than Nas's lyrics, even in the original; it's simple, but the noodle-guitar sound creates an excellent pocket to rhyme in. Nas's rhymes take a step down in the remix, but Ludacris and especially Jadakiss take full advantage of their time on the track to deliver extremely potent verses.
9. LL Cool J - "I Shot Ya (Remix)" featuring Keith Murray, Prodigy, Fat Joe and Foxy Brown
The original "I Shot Ya" was the definition of meh. LL basically stacked vague threat on top of vague thread hoping something would connect. None of it really did. The remix, on the other hand, finds LL actually sounding somewhat menacing, and his verse isn't even one of the better ones. That honor goes to either Prodigy or Foxxy Brown, sounding like a pitched-up Nas, who made her name as the ballsiest rapper on this track of heavyweights.
8. MOP - "Ante Up (Remix)" featuring Busta Rhymes, Remy Ma and Teflon
The key in trying to rehash a track like "Ante Up" is retaining the original's insane punchiness. By enlisting Busta Rhymes and two other powerful vocalists in Remy Ma and Teflon, MOP ensured that their remix would be bursting at the seams with kinetic energy. Lil Fame and Billy Danze provide verses that hold up with their originals, but as always, it is the driving, anthemic chorus that carries the energy of this track.
7. Kanye West - "I Don't Like (Remix)" featuring Pusha T, Chief Keef, Big Sean and Jadakiss
Not only did Kanye make massive contributions to this already excellent beat with a powerful "Woah" sample from Barrington Levy's "Under Mi Sensi" and a switch-up for the final two verses, the added voices of Pusha T, Kanye, Big Sean and Jadakiss add some much needed sonic and stylistic variance to the mesmerizing but hypnotic original. In particular, Pusha T's verse is concise and pointed, in stark contrast to Keef's rambling style. The result is a very different song, more different than most remixes usually are, but I guess that's why Kanye gets the artist credit. He took a dope sound and, with help, made it much more.
6. Mr Muthafuckin Exquire - "The Last Huzzah" featuring Despot, Kool A.D., Heems, Dannny Brown and El-P
"The Last Huzzah" pays homage to an even more excellent remix, Craig Mack's "Flava In Ya Ear," with its reference to The Warriors, black and white video in front of an all white backing and "You know we had to do a remix, right?" intro. But "The Last Huzzah" stands on its own, as well, with strong verses across the board, save a couple uncharacteristically weak ones from Heems and Danny Brown. The highlight is El-P's verse that counts off detailed vignettes and substitutes conventional numbers with creative stand-ins, such as "7 and 7s" for the number fourteen.
5. Rich Boy - "Throw Some D's" (Remix) featuring Andre 3000, Jim Jones, Murphy Lee, Nelly and the Game
The beat for "Throw Some D's" was so great, it's a shame it had to be wasted on a one-hit wonder like Rich Boy, so the remix featuring some of the day's biggest rap stars was a welcome revision. Not surprisingly, Rich Boy fails to impress, but equally unsurprising is how thoroughly Andre 3000 rips the beat during his time. As always, he is careful with his words, but he brings an uncharacteristic viciousness, promising to put foes in a vegetative state then send their parents a case of V8. Nelly and Murphy Lee of St. Lunatic also put together a nice collaborative verse that MCs should try to replicate more often.
4. Kanye West- Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix) featuring Jay-Z
Ye already got most of his points across in the original "Diamonds From Sierra Leone;" and while he's not as lyrical here as on the original, he gets more direct, rapping about dismemberment, connecting the diamond trade with the crack game, implicating the popular jeweler, Jacobs, and even his own label, Roc Nation, to an extent. As for Jay-Z's part, he makes some strong wordplay, even if he isn't too focused on Kanye's message, and he does manage to slip in one of his most memorable lines: "I'm not a businessman/I'm a business, man."
3.Kendrick Lamar - "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe (Remix)" featuring Jay-Z
The cover of this single features Michael Jordan -- the best player, possibly ever, certainly of his generation -- talking to Kobe Bryant, probably the best player of his generation. This is apparently how Kendrick views his "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe" remix, a passing of the torch, so to speak, from past legends to future legends. Lyrically, the "BDKMV" remix is arguably better than the original, with Jay-Z kicking an inspired verse and Kendrick absolutely killing his second verse with smart wordplay and braggadocio.
2. Craig Mack - Flava In Ya Ear (Remix) featuring Notorious B.I.G., Rampage, Diddy, LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes
The remix to "Flava In Ya Ear" was so massively successful, it completely eclipsed the original, and nobody saw any reason to listen to just Craig Mack when they could listen Biggie Smalls, LL and Bussa Bus rip it up. Biggie just demolishes this track, and this was before Ready to Die dropped, so, for a lot of folks, this was the first time Biggie's flavor graced their previously bland eardrums. This is the quintessential posse remix, and it belongs to Big, not Mack.
1. Talib Kweli - "Get By (Remix)" featuring Mos Def, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Busta Rhymes
Let's be honest. The best part about this track is the beat by Kanye West (which, appropriately, samples Nina Simone's "Sinnerman") and the hook, but it's definitely nice to get some others voices and flows in the mix to see how it goes. Each member of the all-star ensemble gives a different perspective of the struggle to get by, and each performs well -- so well, in fact, that Kweli is contented to take a step back and give a shortened verse so that the others can shine.
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