Hip-hop music is a musical field which is beloved by its fans and has even been embraced by many non hip-hop artists. While the genre has often been accused of “borrowing” samples and songs with a heavy hand, it has sometimes been imitated itself. Several more mainstream versions of hip-hop tunes now exist and have crossed the barrier into other genres of music. As imitation is, indeed, a sincere form of flattery, some hip-hop tunes are finding love from audiences they never dreamed of. The following five songs are some of the best and most interesting remakes of hip-hop tunes to date.
Dr. Dre’s “Bitches Ain’t Shit” covered by Ben Folds
Probably one of the greatest understated covers of a hip-hop tune, “Bitches Ain’t Shit” gets a total make-over by Ben Folds—too good to be funny, too original to be a rip. The lyrics stand on their own and Folds’s treatment of this rap classic is simple yet dynamic. Folds released this singular cover in 2005 and it hit 71 on Billboard’s Top 100. Folds played it as part of his set, but retired it for a couple years. He often performs it these days as part of his encore. Ben’s characteristic melodic voice paired with Dre’s racy lyrics are a marriage made in—if not heaven—than at least somewhere close.
Outkast’s “Hey Ya” covered by Obadiah Parker
Obadiah Parker’s folksy cover of Outkast’s “Hey Ya” is also a great remake of a terrific song. It can’t be easy to remake a major hit, but Parker gives it an original flavor. The lyrics shine through the piano notes of this acoustically balanced remake. The Parker version has been dubbed a “viral sensation” since its YouTube video has been viewed more than eight million times. The video captured Parker’s performance of the song at an open mic night in 2006. It is now one of the tunes Obadiah Parker, A.K.A. Mat Weddle, is best known for.
Eminem’s “’97 Bonnie and Clyde” covered by Tori Amos
One of Eminem’s most notorious numbers, “’97 Bonnie and Clyde” is made even creepier by Amos and her ghostly treatment of a song that has been called disturbing at best. Amos adds haunting strings along with her captivating voice, making the song sound almost historic while the Eminem version is clearly an anthem of the streets. As the song is sung by a woman, it enjoys a completely new point of view that is compelling and entertaining—in a dark sort of way.
Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” covered by Jenny Owens Youngs
Arguably as catchy as Nelly’s original version, the Youngs version may take a moment to get used to, but it’s undeniably fun. With her soft voice and perfect annunciation, Youngs delivers some right-raunchy lyrics that put a terrific new spin on a song guaranteed to make anyone hot no matter who happens to be singing it. One can only imagine how long it took Youngs to get these lyrics down pat, but she nails their delivery and it makes for a might fine cover.
Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” covered by The Gourds
Snoop’s classic gets a folk make-over by a great festival band popular with the Indie crowd and alternative country enthusiasts. No, they’re not from Compton, but they hail from Austin, Texas and perform this beloved cocktail tune at nationally revered music festivals like Seattle’s Bumbershoot Festival. Even though this band has been touring extensively around the world with a great repertoire of original music, fans still call out for this rocking bluegrass version of Snoop’s song. The cover is seriously extreme—it’s as Appalachian as Snoop’s is inner city, but it works and fans love it!
If you haven’t heard these covers, be sure to check them out. Performances are widely available online and you’ll also find other great covers of hip-hop tunes out there as well. As more and more artists delve into the artistic well of hip-hop, more great covers are sure to be made.