“Covering the Hits” looks at covers of a randomly-selected #1 hit from the past sixty-odd years.
The three most prominent “Mo Money Mo Problems” covers aren’t really covers at all. But they’re at least cover-adjacent, so we’ll start there.
In 2016, a slew of A-list actors remade the song for the film Trolls. I realize the phrase “Zooey Deschanel rapping” probably sounds like a problematic nightmare, but it’s a kid’s movie and she does a perfectly fine job in that context. As is the case with many “Mo Money Mo Problems” covers, they incorporate even more of the sampled “I’m Coming Out” than Biggie’s original did. Plus they rewrite the verses to make it about her character’s self-confidence, so we thankfully are not subjected to Deschanel saying “True pimp n****s spend no dough on the booty.”
Also in the rewritten-lyrics category comes another soundtrack song. In that brief historical moment when Iggy Azalea seemed like a great get, she was recruited to rap alongside singer Keyshia Cole for the soundtrack to forgotten rom-com The Other Woman. As with just about everything Azalea did circa 2014, she got roundly criticized and had to semi-apologize. (Rappers Krept & Konan executed a better version of the “keep the ‘I’m Coming Out’ chorus, add your own rap verses” idea on the BBC Live Lounge the following year).
Finally, actor Don Cheadle kept the original lyrics. Hooray! Only problem: He kept the original vocals too. He performed it in 2018 on the TV show Lip Sync Battle. So not a cover at all, but fun to watch, and the song’s most prominent, let’s say, interpretation of the last couple years.
Now, on to some real covers! While there are plenty, almost exclusively of the YouTube-video variety, the average quality is low. But after a lot of digging in the digital turd mines, I was able to extract three gems:
Guitaro 5000 – Mo Money, Mo Problems
You gotta be pretty confident in your six-string skills to put “guitaro” in your name, but Reginald Guillaume has the chops. This New Jersey musician has some serious rhythm – who knew funk-acoustic-guitar was a thing? He appears to have customized his axe with a metallic percussion device he smacks as he plays for a true one-man-band experience.
Hudson Horns – Mo Money, Mo Problems
Another artist that put their instrument in the band name, and another artist that earns it. Hudson Horns are a New York-based brass band whose main gig, judging from their website, appears to be weddings. But if this high-energy live video at Brooklyn Bowl is any guide, they appear to excel on the concert stage too.
Mike Dominey – Free Fallin’ / Mo Money Mo Problems
It’s the Notorious P.E.T. Believe it or not, singer-songwriter Mike Dominey is not the first to combine “Free Fallin'” and “Mo Money Mo Problems”; DJ duo The White Panda released a mashup in 2011. But performing both songs live in 2016, Dominey works them together far more seamlessly. Sure, it’s 90% “Free Fallin’,” but the snippet of “Mo Money Mo Problems” is worth the wait. It actually fits in so smoothly that you might miss it if you’re not paying attention.
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