Hip Hop was founded on sampling and reimagining songs usually from a different genre. So it is quite a surreal experience when those genres reverse the script and cover hip hop songs. Sometimes the results reveal meanings previously unnoticed and other times it’s an awkward rendition. Here are a few recent covers of hip hop songs and how they fair:
Courtney Love covers Jay-Z’s “99 Problems”
Forget the fact that ex Mrs. Cobain speeds some lines up to fit the new acoustic instrumental, her failure to omit the N-word makes this extremely awkward. The Hole lead singer herself cannot even escape the uncomfortable irony of the lyrics at points even stopping the guitar strumming and laughing during the lyric “because I’m African.” Covers are supposed to put a new spin on songs but this one spun a hip hop classic out of whack.
Adrien Brody covers Notorious B.I.G.’s “Ten Crack Commandments"
Before the Oscar award winner even uttered a single lyric from the Notorious B.I.G.’s epochal “Ten Crack Commandments” he deemed Biggie one of his generation’s greatest poets. The level of respect for Frank White’s work was clearly evident in his dramatic retelling of to the audience at the Academy of American Poets back in 2011. While missing the deep voiced ferocity Notorious B.I.G. spewed on the original, Adrien’s methodical breakdown of each rule retains the severity of these street codes that B.I.G. was aiming to convey. Word up.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt covers R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)”
What is funnier? The guy who awkwardly tried to get a date in 10 Things I Hate About You singing “I’m about to get my key and put it in your ignition” or that the Ohio State University crowd knew the song after “I’m not trying to be rude”? The Chapelle Show parodied this brilliant, but Gordon-Levitt’s cover of the actual lyrics add an extra level of hilarity with his folk singer voice trying to give his love interest that “beep beep”. From #1 on the Billboard Hip Hop/R&B charts to being the inspiration for musical comedy. Robert Sylvester Kelly for the win.
Niykee Heaton covers Pusha T’s “Blocka”
VERDICT: Surprisingly REALLY good
After Pusha T saw this 18 year old high school student from Geneva, Illinois turn his gruesome street tales into a stripped down acoustic medley, he tweeted “Street Music Has No Boundaries”. Niykee Heaton’s almost sorrowful high notes convey the deep rooted desperation found in these lyrics of a man praying to God but also selling drugs. This is quite surprising because she bounces between melodically enraged to a cute bravado for lines like “f*ck you and your bassline” with relative ease. Kudos for replacing the N-Word with "sigga"(or was it singer?).