In the past few years, it has become fashionable for non-rap artists to cover rap songs, and it's often with an overwhelming irony. Most of the time, though, the best covers are ones that take the tune seriously enough to create something that expands on the original in a creative way. Here are the ten best non-rap covers of rap songs.
See also: The ten best rap videos of all time
10. Dynamite Hack - "Boyz In the Hood" originally by Eazy-E This is the one ironic rap cover that predates and out-executes the vast majority of the others. Dynamite Hack is brash and assuming in its status as a tourist in rap culture, and though they make light of Eazy's subject matter in a way that could be taken as disrespectful, they do respect the song. They know when to lay on the cheese and when to pull back, and the result is a thoroughly enjoyable adaptation of a classic rap song.
9. Alex Pelzer - "Crew Love" originally by Drake It's not surprising that if any rap song would translate well to acoustic guitar, it would feature Drake and the Weeknd. Alex Pelzer brings this airy, finely-tuned product back down to earth with warmth and simplicity. Not only is Pelzer a great singer who can hold his own with the Weeknd's vocals, he does a decent job of rapping Drake's part, as well, though he doesn't quite capture the fire of the original.
8. The Gourds - "Gin and Juice" originally by Snoop Dogg "Gin and Juice" is a song about a party and having fun, but it's also about being super cool and chill at the same time. The Gourds threw any and all inhibitions to the wind and threw down out as only a bluegrass band can, and focused purely on the fun. The aesthetic of the song is so different from Snoop's original, but in the end, it's still simply about having fun, just in a different way.
7. Tori Amos - "'97 Bonnie & Clyde" originally by Eminem This song was already creepy when Eminem released it, but Tori Amos takes the creep factor to a whole new level. Apparently, she was disturbed by the thought of people grooving to a song about a man butchering his wife, so she re-recorded it, not changing any of the words, to give the song a female voice. She barely follows any rhythmic pattern and uses no melody except for the haunting "Just the two of us" refrain and the eerie strings in the background. This is less a re-imagination of music than a refusal of music and a protest.
6. Alanis Morrissette - "My Humps" originally by the Black Eyed Peas This is one of those covers that falls under the ironic category, which is in itself ironic, because it's Alanis Morissette that's doing the cover. The reason this works is because "My Humps" is already such a goofy song, Morissette is simply amplifying the absurdity of the original by taking it so seriously. Not to mention the fact that she sings it beautifully -- like infinitely better than the original -- and if it weren't for the lyrics, it would be a nice song by itself.
5. Lissie - "Pursuit of Happiness" originally by Kid Cudi Lissie's cover of Kid Cudi's "Pursuit of Happiness" has been so fully embraced by the rap community that it was her version of the song, not Cudi's, that was featured in ScHoolboy Q's radio smash, "Hands on the Wheel." There was recently some controversy when Cudi took offense to an interview in which Lissie said, "People almost associate it with being our song now." But she quickly apologized, and all seems to be well again.
4. Mindless Self Indulgence - "Bring the Pain" originally by Method Man How could an MSI cover of a member of the Wu Tang be anything short of extraordinary? This isn't just a cover; it's a mindfuck. MSI's cover doesn't sound anything like the original, but the phrasing is almost exactly the same. As it turns out, if Jimmy Urine weren't so out of his mind doing his own indefinable thing, he'd be a fair MC.
3. Anya Marina - "Whatever You Like" originally by T.I. Anya Marina's cover of T.I's "Whatever You Like," which famously scored a threesome on Gossip Girl, is just as ritzy and glamorous as the original, but with an indelible female touch. Marina's voice oozes sensuality and confidence, and she is chill-inducing as she lords over the musical climax of the hook. Marina's cover is a momentary and welcome dive into indulgence that won't release you until the music stops.
2. The Fray - "Heartless" originally by Kanye West The melody and hook for "Heartless" are outstanding, and although it's an intensely personal song, Kanye made a risky creative move to approach the song in a very cold, distant way, particularly with the heavily electronic production and constant auto-tune. In this way, Kanye's version is deprived of heart. The Fray's version, by contrast, is heartbroken.
1. Obadiah Parker - "Hey Ya" When you hear Obadiah Parker's scaled-back rendition of OutKast's 2003 dance smash, it seems as if the song was written to be played by a singer songwriter. Parker is able to access and highlight the subtle poignancy that OutKast downplayed in the lighthearted original. It's crazy that Parker sings the original word for word because it feels like a completely different song, as the best covers usually do.