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Thursday, March 6, 2008

News:: Smirnoff Enjoys the Rap Classics

Who wants vodka and classic rap remakes? I do! I do! Well maybe not the vodka. Not that I have an issue with vodka, but really, unless you're a closet alcoholic, Russian, or in high school, who really enjoys the vodka as their go-to adult beverage? To me, when you say "I really like vodka" you're saying "I really like getting drunk...fast". But hey, what's wrong with that. ANYWAY, the good folks at Smirnoff commissioned three legendary MC's to re-create one of their classic jams with the help of some of hip hop's most well-known producers. They call this their Signature Mix Series, and I'm sure if they read this opening paragraph they'll feel this is exactly the kind of press they hoped to generate. Or not, who knows.

Anyway, they've made them available for download, so I figured we'd all have a listen to the two versions, old & new, and then we'd all decide which is better. Good wholesome, vodka-fueled fun for all. First up, we have KRS One and DJ Premier joining forces for Criminal Minded '08. Next is Common and Just Blaze re-doing The Light '08, which also features vocals from Marsha Ambrosius and Bilal. Last we have Q-Tip paired with production team Cool & Dre for Midnight '08. So let's get to it.

MP3:: BDP - Criminal Minded
MP3:: KRS-One & DJ Premier - Criminal Minded '08
This is tough. I know the new one has Premier on the track, but man, it's Criminal Minded. The new version doesn't really try to match the raucous boom bap of the original, with Premier going for more of a sinister sound. KRS has re-written the lyrics, with his signature sing-song intro remaining the main tie to the original version. The new version is pretty solid, but I think the original still has it beat.
Verdict:: Original

MP3:: Common - The Light
MP3:: Common & Just Blaze - The Light '08
This one is closer. The Just Blaze 70's soul-inspired beat is tailor made for Common to kick some love-based ballistics. Common uses the first line from each of his original verses before flipping into all new lines, but it works quite well I think, and the vocalists, Marsha Ambrosius and Bilal, do a good job with their take on the Bobby Caldwell samples from the original. But oh those Bobby Caldwell samples. They were fit the drums on the original so well, it's one of the main reasons I've always loved this song. Common's lyrics are perfect on the original too, it's easily one of the best "grown-up" hip hop songs ever. Sorry Smir, but I think the original takes it again.
Verdict:: Original

MP3:: A Tribe Called Quest - Midnight
MP3:: Q-Tip & Cool & Dre - Midnight '08
Oh hey, it's Cool & Dre. I guess they trying to find production to match solo Q-Tip on this one, as Cool & Dre break out a flossy keyboard beat for the abstract poetic to do his thing over. It's not bad, but when you hear Q-Tip say "The night is on the mind...the sun still shine, but the night is on the mind" you're expecting that classic hard-edged, jazzy production to back it. Plus I didn't hear him say "coming down the street man, loud as f....you would swear Redman was inside the truck" on the new one, and that's just a great line. Looks like we've got a sweep here.
Verdict:: Original

These new songs are really quite good, which isn't surprising considering the talent involved, but it's just hard to top the classics I guess.

Posted at 9:45 AM by naedoo :: 6 comments

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At 11:47 AM, Blogger The R.O.B. did sayeth:

These songs kind of re-affirm for me that rapppers usually loose their edge after 2/3 albums...

Other than Jay-Z's Black Album I can't think of another album that's been released by someone over 30 that I really enjoyed...

never mind, I thought De La's 'Grind Date' was good...

 

At 12:24 PM, Blogger naedoo did sayeth:

Considering I'm 33 and still enjoy the hip hop, I have no idea how to respond to this. KRS has put out near 20 albums, and I'm pretty sure he would push you off a stage if he read this. Now that's edgey.

Also, The Blueprint was roughly 13 times better than The Black Album, and I'm pretty sure he was 30+ when he released that.

 

At 1:22 PM, Blogger The R.O.B. did sayeth:

I looked this up, and if my math is right he was 31... so you're right.

That said, my more general point is this: that with hip-hop, probably more so than, say, singer-songwriter type music artists tend to produce a couple of good albums and then fizzle out the older they get. That is not to say, as you pointed out, that are not exceptions.

Off the top of my head: Mos Def, Blackalicious, Jurassic 5, Little Brother, Nas...

 

At 8:09 PM, Blogger naedoo did sayeth:

There isn't much point in arguing that there are plenty of MC's & groups that have dissapointed after making a promising start.

However, the way the industry is now, I'd almost say that pattern is the norm, rather than the exception, regardless of the genre.

Nas? Really? Stillmatic was like his 5th album, and it was pretty solid in my humble.

 

At 8:25 AM, Blogger The R.O.B. did sayeth:

Maybe for me, its that I listened to hip-hop almost exclusively at the end of highschool (roughly 7-8 years ago) and was really disappointed by a lot of hip-hop bands...

Do other bands fall off? Absolutely, so maybe it's just that I haven't noticed as much. Or maybe its that because hip-hop, at the core, is more about bravado, repping your hometown, that its much more obvious and disappointing when acts can't deliver like they did. The falling off may, as you point out, have less to do with age and more to do with... say... not having anything to write about. If I'm not mistaken, both Stillmatic and the Blueprint came in the middle of the Nas/JAy-z feud?

Also, maybe its a hip-hop attitude to make sure you get your pay day... where other bands/artists (coming from wealthier, more stable backgrounds as a rule) can bide their time and write when they have something to say...

 

At 7:42 PM, Blogger naedoo did sayeth:

I have to say, you've put plenty of thought into these comments, which is pretty rare. So rather than continue the back & forth, I'm simply going to reply "well said" with a doff of the hat.

Thanks kindly for checking out the site and for taking the time to comment.

 

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