Image courtesy of Universal Music Group
It’s time to close the book on another year of all-star rap remixes. Once again, French Montana is the year's most prolific guest rapper, making me yearn for the days with someone who at least tries to write punchlines like Fabolous or Lil Wayne was ruling the remix circuit. Rick Ross comes in second place, with a couple of newer names, Fetty Wap and Ty Dolla $ign, tied for third. Here’s hoping 2016 brings some new blood into the remix game.
“Blasé (Remix)” by Ty Dolla $ign featuring Jeezy, Juicy J, Diddy / T.I., French Montana and A$AP Ferg
One of the worst trends slowly killing the rap remix is multiple all-star remixes released simultaneously for the same song, often a minor hit that doesn’t warrant it. “Blasé” is not that great of a song, and seemed to become the default hit from Ty Dolla $ign’s Free TC album after every other single flopped. So the two remixes, which combined run over eight minutes, feel a little like torture if you don’t particularly care for the bleepy DJ Spinz beat or Future’s woozy hook. And out of the seven new verses, you only really need two: one of the best T.I. verses in recent memory, and Ty’s successful attempt to improve on his verse from the original.
Best Verse: T.I.
Overall Grade: C
“Choices (Remix)” by E-40 featuring Kid Ink and French Montana / Migos and Rick Ross / Slim Thug, Z-Ro, and Kirko Bangz / Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent
Here we have another minor hit that gets all its charm bludgeoned out of it with a quartet of remixes that run about 15 minutes combined. E-40 seems to score a breakout national hit every 100 songs he makes, like a regular oil change, and “Choices (Yup)” was the biggest one he’s had since 2012’s “Function.” Of the 11 rappers here, it’s easy to pinpoint the worst: Kirko Bangz, who fails to write a verse in the “nope” / “yup” structure that even amateurs like Kid Ink and French Montana manage to navigate. Snoop, Z-Ro, and two-thirds of Migos all do particularly well here, but it’s just way too much to even enjoy.
Best Verse: Snoop Dogg
Overall Grade: C-
“Church (Remix)” by BJ The Chicago Kid featuring Jeremih and Lil Durk
Lest you forget for a second that BJ The Chicago Kid is in fact from Chicago, his latest single “Church” features Chance The Rapper, and the official remix features two more hometown pals. Jeremih and Durk both offer pleasantly sleepy variations on the song’s tune, but BJ sounds like he’s been chomping at the bit to try some new cadences and melodies on the beat.
Best Verse: BJ The Chicago Kid
Overall Grade: C
“God (Remix)” by Jeezy featuring Nas
Jeezy’s mediocre latest album, Church In These Streets, came and went with little notice, and the first single “God” couldn’t even get airplay with a trendy Southside beat. But for whatever reason, Jeezy decided to reach out to a major star for a prestigious remix, and so we get the awkward spectacle of Nas rhyming over a “Fuck Up Some Commas”-style siren loop. Still, Nas catches a nice little groove in the middle of his verse with some internal rhymes like “Vocalize notes, quotes get you high as coke” that remind you why God’s Son is still so revered.
Best Verse: Nas
Overall Grade: B-
“The Hills (Remix)” by The Weeknd featuring Eminem/Nicki Minaj
The biggest surprise of The Weeknd’s big breakout year was that “The Hills,” a creepy Illangelo-produced House Of Balloons throwback, reigned at #1 on the Hot 100 for longer than the streamlined crossover jam “Can’t Feel My Face.” So it’s appropriate that one of the big stars drafted to remix “The Hills” is Eminem, who at his peak had a similarly rare knack for getting dark brooding singles like “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” to blow up as big as his upbeat pop tracks. Nicki’s remix reaches somewhere close to the gloomy headspace “The Hills” occupies, but Eminem already lives there, so he’s a more natural fit.
Best Verse: Eminem
Overall Grade: B-
“Irresistable (Remix)” by Fall Out Boy featuring Migos
Fall Out Boy have remained one of the biggest rock bands in America largely by trying to be more than just a rock band, and you get the band’s everything-to-everyone strategy in a nutshell on their latest single, “Irresistible.” Pop singer Demi Lovato added vocals to the version of the song released to radio, but the version on the band’s Make America Psycho Again remix album replaces the bombastic rock track with a Zaytoven beat and verses from Migos. Fall Out Boy’s rap remixes often flounder (Kanye and Lil Wayne have rarely sounded more confused about the song they’re on than the “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race” remix), but “Irresistible” works surprisingly well. Takeoff gets in some amusing quotables like “Now you running ‘round showing off your cameltoe / Got you singing a sad song, call you Satchmo.”
Best Verse: Takeoff
Overall Grade: B-
“Lay It All On Me (Remix)” by Rudimental featuring Big Sean, Vic Mensa, and Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran sang on the British EDM quartet Rudimental’s hit single “Lay It All On Me,” and the best thing I can say about the song’s remix is that Sheeran doesn’t rap on it. Remember those two years that every rapper had a hackneyed Benjamin Button punchline? Vic Mensa does!
Best Verse: Big Sean
Overall Grade: D
“Pipe It Up (Remix)” by Migos featuring 2 Chainz and Jeezy
Migos practically disowned their Yung Rich Nation album within weeks of its release last summer, but in October they still got out a remix of the album’s biggest hit. If Migos are the current sound of Atlanta, 2 Chainz and especially Jeezy feel like representatives of past administrations, but they work surprisingly well on this beat.
Best Verse: Jeezy
Overall Grade: B
“Poppin’ (Remix)” by Rico Richie featuring Chris Brown, Meek Mill, and French Montana
Rico Richie had some truly bad luck in 2015. He got arrested in July just as his single “Poppin’” was blowing up, and was in jail for months as bigger stars hopped on the song and kept its buzz going. After he got back out in November, Rico finally assembled an official remix, adding new bars by himself and Meek Mill to verses Chris Brown and French Montana had already put out on an unofficial remix.
Best Verse: Meek Mill
Overall Grade: B+
“Ugh (Remix)” by Young Dro featuring Rich Homie Quan
Now that I’m hearing Young Dro and Rich Homie Quan on a track together for the first time, it strikes me that they’re really kindred spirits from different generations of Atlanta rap, both possessing a nonchalant drawl that almost makes it too easy to overlook how sharp their writing is. And Quan is a great choice to breathe a little more life into “Ugh,” Dro’s underrated Zaytoven-produced follow-up to “We In Da City.”
Best Verse: Rich Homie Quan
Overall Grade: B+
“White Iverson (Remix)” by Post Malone featuring French Montana and Slim Jxmmi
I hate “White Iverson” so much that I was a little relieved that the remix didn’t feature anybody who might give me a new appreciation for the song. Swae Lee might’ve been able to work some magic, but his less talented Rae Sremmurd groupmate doesn’t quite have the juice to do it.
Best Verse: Slim Jxxmi
Overall Grade: F
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