I’ve been fascinated with remixes for as long as I can remember. I think the first one I heard was Ice Cube’s “Endangered Species” remix from Kill at Will. I didn’t know what a remix was at the time, and when I heard the original on Amerikkka’s Most Wanted, I thought, “these are different. I guess that’s what a remix is.” Ever since then, basically going back a few years in the late 80s to the late 90s, remixes were the only reason for me to buy singles. And make no mistake, these are legit remixes, not 5 flavors of the month jumping on a hot song with a dj yelling “reeeeeeeeeeeeemmmmmmmmiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiixxxxxxxxxxxxx” over the exact same beat. These are not, also, homemade remixes uploaded to YouTube to try and fool you into listening to them. I’ve also found with remixes, I like them better as a song than the OG, but they wouldn’t fit with the flow of the album as well as the original. That is why, I guess, they are on singles. Anyway, these are by no means the best, just the top 10 I thought of and scrawled onto the back of a bill on my nightstand as I was drifting to sleep. From hip hop’s golden era, of course.
Didn’t think that one of the most laid back west coast singles could get more laid back? Domino’s West Coast Jazz Remix of his hit “Getto Jam” does just that. The xylophone is prominent on the chorus in this version, as is the saxophone. He continues the sing songy style that served so well in the original, but then adds rapping at the end to remind you “oh yeah, this was Genuine Draft from ‘Bangin on Wax’”.
Aside from having one of the best opening lines of any song I’ve heard, Cypress Hill’s “Illusions” Harpsichord Remix is also one of my favorites. It sounds, I guess, more traditionally hip hop than the original, with the beats, scratches and Mugg’s trademark static all included. The xylophone of the original gives way to the eponymous harpsichord. This has almost replaced the original for me, as the music sounds darker than the original which fits the theme of the album.
Perhaps not one of the greatest of all time, but a personal favorite. No song, other than Warren G’s “This DJ” reminds me so instantly of ‘94 than Cube’s “You Know How We Do It” Remix. Advertised as “featuring K-Dee” it doesn’t really, but does have an extra verse by Cube. This version, produced by Cube, is a little slower and less traditionally g-funk than the original, but makes up for it in laid backness. It still has the synth whine, just less so. Incredibly, rap was so big that the original and the remix both had videos. Fittingly, the remix video maintains most of the same images as the original, but is still different.
All of the singles from the Chronic and Doggystyle had remixes to them. That this “Let Me Ride” Extended Remix is so incredible, and not even my favorite out of that group, is a testament to how dope Dre was at that time. I don’t really know where to start. Listed as a club remix, I instantly thought of all the classic Death Row videos that always had a large group of people in the clubs. At 11 minutes it certainly could be used for that. The song starts off with George Clinton crooning, and the synth whine kicks in a little harder than the original, accompanied by horns. However, the real first gem you get on this comes in at 1:39, where the chorus was supposed to be, but a young in demand Snoop kicks some bars! I was playing this in my car when that happened, and I had to pull over and rewind. Snoop wasn’t doing any features at the time between the Chronic and Doggystyle, but here he is. And he comes in again, for the next chorus for more verses. By the time the lyrics are done with, and Daz has contributed more rhymes than Snoop (?) it’s almost an afterthought. After the regular chorus comes in and fades out in horns, it slows down to a stop to hear Dre and Half Dead distortedly talking and then some metal style guitars kick in to ride out the beat a few more minutes. Very much in keeping with the original, and yet very much different.
The best Death Row remix, is, in my opinion, the Laid Back version of Snoop’s “Gin and Juice”. I don’t know really how to express my affection for it, other than it has an ethereal quality to it, like it should be composed and played in the clouds. Certainly, there is still the g-funk whine, with some bells added, and what seems like echo on it. It seems to fit Snoop’s voice, and subject, a little better than the original. When I heard it, it seemed like the long lost puzzle that instantly fit perfectly to complete the song, it deserving the lush instrumentation and long ride out at the end.
MC Eiht’s “Streiht Up Menace” Remix is my favorite remix of all time, of all that I’ve heard. It has been so for more than a dozen years, and nothing really comes close. The original, with it’s relaxed bass and keys, is reflective, and sorrowful. The remix, changing only the music and delivery, is vengeful. Perhaps that’s why I like it better. The remix samples “Night Crawler” from Bob James and makes it aggressive, especially the keyboard. The bass is fuller as well and more explosive, with horns where the chorus would be. DJ Slip and Willie Z are to be commended on producing such an excellent remix, one that only recalls the original in lyrics. In doing so, it becomes a completely different song.
“Streiht Up Menace Remix” is not the only incredible remix to come out of the Menace II Society soundtrack. E A Ski’s remix for Spice 1’s “Trigga Gots No Heart” is also one the best I’ve heard. Like “Streiht Up Menace”, it makes the song more aggressive in it’s execution. I guess it doesn’t hurt that there are various gunshots during the chorus. But the main reason is the bass isn’t slowed down like on the original. The original had a plodding bass and a synth whine to complement, the remix takes the whine and adds a faster, harder hitting bass to it.
“Bush Killa” from Paris kind of took a backseat to Body Count’s “Cop Killer” and Sista Souljah during the ’92 election cycle. Because it is more complex than most hip hop that can be vilified, and didn’t fit the gangsta style that was at the forefront at the time, it’s forgotten. But this remix isn’t. It’s 8:30 of lyrical pinpoint criticism and chaotic music. The remix begins with the musical style that dominated the second part of the original, with added scratches, samples, screams, drums, guitars and vocals. It’s a mess, in the best possible way, expertly adding to the urgency of the song. Paris has kindly compiled all of his early remixes, b-sides and unreleased songs on “The Devil Made Me Remix”. It is, like all Paris releases, well worth the money.
Above the Law has many fine remixes, but the best of the bunch is definitely the “100 Spokes Fresh On D’s Remix”. Named so, for it’s liberal use of Mantronix’ “Fresh is the Word” from 9 years earlier, it still keeps the buzzing bass but makes everything else uptempo. This is actually better, as Cold 187um in particular seems held back on the original, but this version lets his energy match the music. KMG, of course, sounds dope on any version of this song (and there is another, the Cold 187um Remix). As with many ATL songs, it appears on the surface as a “don’t fuck with my car or me” song but it is more. Since I only deal in the physical realm with music, if you find the single this is on, grab it as it also has the aforementioned Cold 187um remix, instrumental to this remix, and a remix by Mac and AK of “Killaz in the Park”.
One of the greatest songs of the 90s, Celly Cel’s “It’s Goin Down” hardly feels like it needs a remix. It has one, produced by Tone Capone and One Drop Scott, on the 12″ and it’s the kind of remix when you hear it, you think “there’s something different about that from the original, but I don’t know what”. It’s not wildly different than the OG, but just enough. The keys are flush in the remix, and the bass seems to hit harder. Overall, a nice complement to the original. Not to be confused with the remix on his subsequent album “The G Filez” with Mack 10, E-40, B-Legit and Rappin’ 4-Tay.