We invented the remix
Ah, remember those heady days? When the height of fashion was how tall Kid could get his high top fade, when Chuck D spoke and everyone listened, and when Chris Brown’s pops hadn’t even ‘run it’ on Mama Brown yet. And when the remix was often an important tool to an artist, and not just a cash cow.
Remember when the remix used to be worthwhile? When someone used to do it to try to improve on the original, or to give their own different opinion on what their version of a track might sound like.
Remember when the remix DID improve on the original? Sometimes the changes were slight… extra scratches or a quick spruce up of the original sample often made an amazing difference – compare the original version of Big Daddy Kane’s ‘Raw’ to the remix, or ‘Jingling Baby’ #1 to ‘Jingling Baby’ #2, or Diamond D’s re-tweaking of his own work on ‘Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down’ for the Brand Nubes.
At other times, the original production track was completely removed and replaced with brand new beats, often with stunning results. This could put the listener in a quandry though, as quite often the records they heard on TV, radio and on mixshows were not the version on the actual album (which usually contained OG versions and nothing else – remember this was before ‘Special Editions’ etc were ever heard of.) Try copping, “Business As Usual” for the booming version of ‘Give The People’ and you’ll be left cursing EPMD. Run to the store to pick up “Livin’ Like Hustlers” and you’ll be throwing shit at your speakers when you hear the weak version of ‘Untouchable’ on there. Ditto Common with ‘Soul By The Pound’ or The Fugees with ‘Nappy Heads’. (Sidenote: isn’t it funny how Salaam Remi has went from remix champion to Nas ruiner?) A Tribe Called Quest had many UK heads cursing for a hot second, as the Spirit Mix of ‘Can I Kick It’ was what they heard in the video and on mixtapes, but on copping the album found a lesser mix, and on copping the 12″ found a grating ‘Boilerhouse’ mix. To get the real deal, we had to hit the import racks. I always knew Q-Tip was a bastard.
(Speaking of Q-Tip, I was going to also go into detail about remixes that are basically brand new songs – new lyrics, new beats… think the ‘Kid Hood’ remix of Tribe’s ‘Scenario’, but these records are few and far between and merit only a passing mention – usually because they’re shite.)
Its undeniable that when performed with skill and knowledge, the remix could be a powerful thing. So where did it all start to change? Where did it get to the point that artists feel they need to have a remix with Paul Wall, Lil Wayne, Bun B or whatever to try to push an extra 63 units in the Southern states. Or that your remix will just tack on extra verses from the ‘hot’ star(s) of the moment, often at the expense of your own lyrics. Yes, its another sympton of Hiphop’s descent into the money pit, but its also a major annoyance of mine – and one that pisses me off much more than anything 50 Cent could ever do.
Why do cats feel the need to put Nate Dogg on everything? Or Akon? Why can Busta Rhymes pay all his bills off remix appearances alone? A tired 16 from Luda or Bun B is not gonna make me check for your wack record any more than I was going to originally before they hopped on it. Save your money. Save it for paying for better beats and better ghostwriters.
Who started this trend? Many would blame Puffy (as usual), and perhaps cite the ‘Flava In Ya Ear’ remix as the beginning of the trend of style over substance… but its undeniable that THAT song (and LL’s ‘I Shot Ya’ remix which also comes to mind for having tons of guests dropping verses over the original beat and was released around the same period) IS a banger. Personally I think it came a little later (‘Quiet Storm’ versus ‘Quiet Storm’ remix featuring Lil Kim, anyone?)
Can’t we bring back the days when UK 12’s used to have shite house remixes of tracks on the flip? At least you knew then that one side of your vinyl was going to be decent, and the other could be used for putting your tea on.
PS: If anyone has the remix of Grand Puba’s ‘Check It Out’ that featured in the video, then holla at me. That bitch cannot be found.
9 Remixes you need in your life
A Tribe Called Quest – Can I Kick It (Spirit Mix)
Above The Law – Untouchable / What You Can Prove (Remix)
Common Sense – Soul By The Pound (Thump Remix)
EPMD – Give The People (Remix)
Kool G Rap & DJ Polo – On The Run (Al Capone Remix)
Naughty By Nature – Written On Ya Kitten (QDIII Remix)
Steady B ft KRS-One – Serious (Remix)
Too $hort – In The Trunk (DJ Premier Remix)
Ultramagnetic MCs – Poppa Large (East Coast Remix)
(click here to download)
peace to the Shut Em Down Remix, all the Extra P remixes, and Craig Mack’s shit among many others, to numerous to name…