Hip hop vet Dr. Dre has been in the music scene since the early ’80s but come the year 2000, it seemed the world needed a little reminding that the famous rapper is certainly a forced to be reckoned with — that’s where the song “Forgot About Dre” came in. Released as the second single off of Dr. Dre’s sophomore album, 2001, “Forgot About Dre” featured rapper Eminem in his early years and won the pair a Grammy award for Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group in 2000.
In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
A real argument can be made that, in a couple decades’ time, Ben Folds will be seen as one of the key singer-songwriters of our generation (that is, if he’s not yet claimed that position). His flawless blending of painful honesty and quirky humor speak to legions of fans in a way that few artists can manage, and the sheer breadth of his various projects and collaborations (recording an album with author Nick Hornby, a permanent judge spot on NBC’s The Sing-Off, the impressive 8-in-8 experiment with Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer and Damian Kulash) ensure that we won’t be getting bored of him anytime soon.
Quantic, a British-born producer, DJ and musician, has devoted his career to the Colombian musical tradition of “cumbia.” Cumbia is a popular strain of Latin dance music that originated in Colombia and incorporates African drumming, standard Latin claves, as well as European instruments like accordions, guitars, bass and flute for melody. Quantic brings the South American genre up north on his new EP Hip Hop En Cumbia, which translates classic hip-hop tracks by the likes of KRS-One, Missy Elliot, Outkast, Dr. Dre and more into the style.
Recently we’ve seen quite a few Roots posts (1, 2, 3). We’ve also seen some Jimmy Fallon. We haven’t yet posted the two together though (funny, given that they hang out five nights a week). Well now we can. They’ve even brought along Justin Timberlake, the best third wheel ever.
The trio (Timberlake, Fallon, Roots) takes us through a four-minute medley of rap hits from yesterday and today on last night’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. It starts with the Sugarhill Gang and ends with Jay-Z (“Empire State of Mind”). In between they tackle Eminem, Tupac, Kanye, Soulja Boy – well, pretty much everyone. Even the Roots’ own “The Seed 2.0” gets the Timb-Fall treatment.
In the past few years much ink has been spilt discussing “mashups,” the process of remixing two or more songs together. The weirder the combination, the more impressive the feat. DJs like Girl Talk lead the charge, but due to differing keys and tempos the pairings sometimes sound forced. Mashup covers, on the other hand, have more freedom. Here are ten odd couples and unchained medleys that, defying all probably, kind of work.
Touching Earth Made of Steel – Party in the Spirit World (Miley Cyrus / Daniel Johnston)
Yes, that’s “Party in the U.S.A.” paired with “Spirit World,” from the latest CokeMachineGlow covers mix. Dear Mr. Johnston: I’m sure they didn’t mean it. [Buy]
Keller Williams – My Sisters and Brothers / Boob Job (Charles Johnson / David Wilcox)
There’s something wonderfully irreverent about pairing a hopeful gospel song with a song called “Boob Job.” Jerry Garcia covered the first a few times, but died before he could have a go at the second. [Buy]
Saint Bernadette – Owner Things (Yes / Howard Jones)
“Owner of a Lonely Heart” + “Things Can Only Get Better” = an inspired duo. Though I’m not sure Jones deserves the honor — a few years ago he translated his hit to “Simlish” for The Sims 2. Embarrassing. [Buy]
Kenny Mellman – The Gambler / Poker Face (Kenny Rogers / Lady Gaga)
The man behind the Our Hit Parade pop cover series decided that lyrical theme is enough to tie two songs together. How right he was. [Buy]
Jacqui Naylor – Summertime / Whipping Post (George Gershwin / The Allman Brothers)
Jazz vocalist Naylor is known for her “acoustic smashes,” putting the lyrics to one song atop the melody of a second. Here she sings “Summertime” while the band plays “Whipping Post.” Sneak peek: Look for another even less likely pairing next week. [Buy]
The Afghan Whigs – My World Is Empty Without You / Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang (The Supremes / Dr. Dre)
In this live jam from 1994, the quartet tosses in the lyrics to Dr. Dre’s first single so soulfully you might not notice anything amiss. Check out more at our recent Dre feature. [Buy]
The Spinto Band – Give Me Just a Little More Time / The Sweet Escape / The Boys Are Back in Town (Chairmen of the Board / Gwen Stefani / Thin Lizzy)
This song eschews the normal approach of moving from one song to the next, instead splicing some Gwen and Lizzy into the Detroit soul. It took me a couple listens to figure out where “The Sweet Escape” appeared. [Buy]
Paddy Casey with the Dublin Gospel Choir – Grandma’s Hands / No Diggity (Bill Withers / Blackstreet)
What seems a truly bizarre combination is actually an homage to the original “No Diggity,” which contained a “Grandma’s Hands” sample. This cover pushes that fun bit of trivia to the extreme. If someone covered Girl Talk this way each song would become a thirty-minute ordeal. [Buy]
Tenacious D – More Than a Feeling / Just What I Needed / Dream On (Boston / The Cars / Aerosmith)
The best part of this Boston-band medley that the D performed in 2001 is that three times they build to an epic chorus, then switch songs just before it arrives. Hilariously unsatisfying. [Buy]
Allred – Cover Medley (Various Artists)
Ok, here we go: Tonic, “If You Could Only See” — Howie Day, “Secret” — Guster, “Demons” — Better Than Ezra, “Desperately Wanting” — Michelle Branch, “All You Wanted” — Avril Lavigne, “Complicated” — Eagle Eye Cherry, “Save Tonight” — Boys Like Girls, “Hero/Heroine” — Colbie Caillat, “Bubbly” — Fergie, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” — Rihanna, “Umbrella” — The Eagles, “Hotel California” — Panic! At the Disco, “Nine in the Afternoon” — Leona Lewis, “Bleeding Love” — Chris Brown, “With You” — OneRepublic, “Apologize” — Uncle Kracker, “Drift Away.” 17 songs, 7 minutes. Whew! [Buy]
Bonus: The Bloodhound Gang’s mashup of Wu Tang Clan and Weezer just feels right.
In the music world, Dr. Dre must have the highest influence-per-album ratio this side of the Sex Pistols. He dropped The Chronic in 1992, 2001 in 1999 and Detox in…well, don’t hold your breath. The man can be forgiven for turning his third album into hip-hop’s Chinese Democracy though. After all, it takes time to produce practically every hip-hop hit of the past twenty years. Dr. Dre discovered N.W.A., Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, Eminem, 50 Cent, The Game… The man’s production discography is ridiculous (see for yourself), but here are some high points.
The Escape Frame – Nuthin’ but a “G” Thang (Dr. Dre)
Dre’s first hit single came out in January 1993, rocketing to #2 and bringing guest star Snoop “Doggy” Dogg along for the ride. This emo-tastic cover comes from the Punk Goes Crunk compilation, which sounds exactly how you would expect. [Buy]
Kevin Davis – Fuck tha Police (N.W.A.)
Ben Folds pioneered the ironic-white-boy gangsta rap cover (and we’ll get to him), but Kevin Davis took the genre to another with this folksy acoustic number. Friend Jason Lamb joins in on harmonica, turning this into a feel-good fireside jam. It’s a laugh riot, but Davis’ admiration of the original comes through in every acoustic pluck. [Buy]
Bryce Larsen – Crack a Bottle (Eminem)
Em’ released his grand comeback album this spring. Yet, alas, it wasn’t so grand. Blame it on releasing this average song as the first single (with Dre guesting) or blame it on the “We Made You” video skewering the exact same people Shady did ten years prior. On his Hip-Hop Un-Popped! covers disc though, Larsen makes the case for Marshall Mathers 2.0. [Buy]
The Gourds – Gin and Juice (Snoop Doggy Dogg)
Like thousands of other uninformed users, when I first got this one off Napster in the dark ages of music piracy I thought it was by Phish. This is despite the fact that this bluegrass-twang singer sounds nothing like Trey Anastacio. Phish phans though, don’t despair… [Buy]
Phish – California Love (2Pac)
…cause we’d never leave you hanging! This one is by Phish, taken from a 1998 Portland jam in the middle of “Tweezer.” Wah-wah guitar and pulsing synth give it a space-age vibe that makes you want to get up and noodle dance. [Buy]
Ben Folds – Bitches Ain’t Shit (Dr. Dre)
The Dre cover against which all others will forever be judged. And for good reason. Would anyone even remember this non-single without Folds? This recording comes from his Bonnaroo 2008 performance, where he claimed to be retiring the song because people would approach him on the street as…well, listen for yourself. [Buy]
Skinny Beats – In Da Club (50 Cent)
You probably thought the world had no need for a reggae 50 Cent cover. How wrong you were. [Buy]
Aislin – Guilty Conscience (Eminem)
Dre plays the role of Eminem’s conscience here, being all, “Hey buddy, maybe let’s try not raping and murdering everyone you come across today.” The fact that Dre’s part is recreated here but some thrashcore shouter though seems more like the angel on your shoulder busting your face with a lead pipe. [Buy]
Brady Harris – Who Am I? (What’s My Name?) (Snoop Doggy Dogg)
Hey Snoop, make people would know your name if you didn’t change it so darn often! Born Cordazar Calvin Broadus, he became Snoop Doggy Dogg, then dropped the Doggy, threw in some random “izzles” and confused a nation. Yeah man, what is your name? [Buy]
Nina Gordon – Straight Outta Compton (N.W.A.)
Gordon recorded this “coffeehouse” cover at a 2005 concert, miraculously keeping a straight face throughout. Sadly she quits after Ice Cube’s opening verse, leaving MC Ren and Eazy-E straight outta luck. [Buy]