Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.
As a rule, rappers don’t do covers. Sure, they might karaoke a beloved Biggie verse every now and again, but you almost never see them record a regular, honest-to-goodness cover. They honor their influences through sampling and remixing, which, given that they generally can’t sing, works better for most of them.
Enter Buck 65. The Tom Waits of hip-hop, this Canadian cult hero is anything but an ordinary rapper and he does covers on the regular. And not even covers of other rap songs, but covers of pop and folk that blend seamlessly into his albums. Though no one could question his encyclopedic knowledge of hip-hop history, Buck (aka Richard Terfry) draws from folk and blues regularly, giving his work a grit more Robert Johnson than Tupac. Below, we sample five choice reimaginings as a primer on how rappers can do covers right.