Artists have many ways of expressing admiration for their peers. Name-dropping those who inspire them in liner notes and offering them groupies on the tour bus are just a couple of ways of showing respect. Covering one of their popular songs? Now that's the ultimate tip of the hat. That's an artist's way of saying, "I wish I wrote this song."
When it comes to hip-hop covers, though, it's not always as straightforward as laying vocals to a beat. Here are 10 non-hip-hop artists who got it down to a science.
While Duran Duran's cover of Public Enemy's "911 is a Joke" isn't the tour de force that the original was, it's a lucky convergence of elements that seem to work well. A solid rendition of a classic anthem. Truth be told, though, very few songs have ever matched the intensity of "911 is a Joke."
This one looked bad on paper, but they managed to pull it off and had a blast while doing it. (That's what she said.) Forget everything you know about OutKast's version, "Roses" is now a frenetic hillbilly number. The chipmunk-voiced rapping at the end adds a comical touch.
As if the Bomb Squad didn't abuse the decibels enough on "Bring the Noise," Anthrax turns up the noise a few billion notches. It bumps. It grinds. It screams.
This isn't as much a cover as it is Jamie Cullum simply being Jamie Cullum. What we mean by that is there's not much structural difference between the cover and Pharrell's original. Cullum didn't reinvent the song, he simply made it his own. If you're unfortunate enough to hear this version first, you'll probably end up hating the original. Equally fascinating is this version by Chad Hugo, Maroon 5, and Mos Def.
When artists cover other artists they're showing respect. Tori Amos' cover of Eminem's "'97 Bonnie & Clyde, however, was more like a backhanded compliment to the rapper. By turning up the song's psychotic levels a notch and infusing it with dramatic effects, she effectively took a stance against its violent nature.
In Ben Folds' world, "Bitches Ain't Shit" is a mellifluous indie-rock tune with lava-lamp atmospherics. Ben's version is the rare comical cover that nails the mark without sacrificing quality. To give you an idea of just how thorough it is, try singing "Lick on these nuts and suck the dick" with a straight face.
If you've got the balls to take on Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel's masterpiece, you better be able to breathe fire on a beat. Thankfully, Driver's courageous rendition of "White Lines" packs fiery guitar riffs, hardbody drums, innovative scratches and powerful vocals that will surely make you sing along.
Can you tell that Public Enemy's catalog is full of songs begging to be covered? This one finds mix master Tricky radically dismantling P.E.'s oft-sampled masterpiece and reconstructing it with clanking cymbals, while Martine wryly splits the difference between singing and talking.
RATM is no stranger to hip-hop covers. They've spun everything from Cypress Hill's "How I Could Just Kill a Man" to EPMD's "I'm Housin'." Their revamping of Afrika Bambaataa's "Renegades of Funk" has always been a personal favorite. If we ever make the jump to professional boxing, this will be Rocks Off's entrance music.
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The Gourds meet The Dogg. Rednecks meets rap. Just call it hick-hop. We call it the best cover of any hip-hop song ever made.