By Lee Cahill and Jeff Knight
Song: Gangsta (Remix)
Original Artist: tUnE-yArDs
Remixing Artist: Ad-Rock of the Beastie Boys
Reason It’s the Best: When Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs sings, “What’s a girl to do when she’ll never be a gangsta?” I can sympathize with the sentiment. Former wannabe-gangsta and hip-hop vet, Ad-Rock of the Beastie Boys brings some actual gangsta flavor to the song in his remix – adding a pitch-shifted sample of the word “gangsta” over hers, accentuating the beat and the siren-like noises made by Merrill sampling her own voice, and limiting the lyrics to mainly phrases including the words “gangsta,” “danger,” and “the hood.” Still a fan of both versions, the remix is much more of a head-bopper than the original.
Original Song: Remix:
Song: 40 Day Dream (Remix)
Original Artist: Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
Remixing Artist: Turbotito
Reason It’s the Best: Turbotito took a medium-tempo, anthemic, indie-folk jam and turned it into a disco-like, synth-driven dance song with an 8-bit breakdown! As someone commented on the SoundCloud page, “You’ve made a completely different song!” In reality, aside from being sped up, most of the melodic and chordal structures, along with all of the original lyrics, are still intact. But the layers of sound, building beats, and mounting and releasing of tension in the remix leaves me wanting more when I listen back to the original. Perhaps if this remix had come out back in ’09 I would still be in a puppy love state with the original, unable to fully embrace the remix. But, with time to breathe, this remix serves as a much desired revival and reinvention.
Song: NY Is Killing Me (Remix)
Original Artist: Gil Scott-Heron
Remixing Artist: Jamie XX
Reason It’s the Best:
Intentionally choosing to remix nothing but the vocals of one of America’s greatest soul and jazz poets, Gil Scott Heron (may he rest in peace), Jamie XX took Gil’s record I’m New Here and fused it with his take on the sounds of London. Developing a completely new beat on “NY Is Killing Me”, Jamie incorporates his staple post-dubstep subs, bouncy dance-influenced feel, and pitch-shifted and sped up samples, over a completely unique electronic melody line. Jamie got Gil Scott-Heron’s blessings throughout the remix process, and he has ours too. He ended up creating not just one of the best re-mixes, but one of the best tunes of 2011!
Original Song: Remix:
Song: Sadness Is A Blessing (Remix)
Original Artist: Lykke Li
Remixing Artist: D/R/U/G/S
Reason It’s the Best: D/R/U/G/S’ electroclash synth beats and dance party anthems have already been making some noise in England this past year, but he really flexes his creative muscles with his take on the marching ballad “Sadness Is A Blessing” by Lykke Li. Re-imagining the song with a dance-club beat, he utilizes Lykke Li’s haunting vocals and throws the DJ book at them, with tons of washes, filters, effects, and edits. Still, he keeps the essence of the song while creating a tune that can be both danced to at a club or enjoyed comfortably from the couch.
Song: Peso (Refix)
Original Artist: ASAP Rocky
Remixing Artist: Star Slinger
Reason It’s the Best: Star Slinger really did do a “Refix” on this song, because the original is possibly the most generic rap song I can think of. Okay, I’ll give it to him, ASAP has some swag and some fly sneakers. Star Slinger pumped tons of energy into this song just by heavily speeding up the track, adding drums and synths, and repeating certain phrases. With such heavily sped-up vocals, the lyrics appropriately sound as cartoonish as they are. Ultimately, the remix is the kind of song that makes you want to roll down your car windows, drive with one hand while you “gangsta lean,” and blast your speakers when you’re cruisin’.