Covers of rap songs are a relative rarity simply due to the nature of hip-hop; so much of the genre centers around originality and crafting your own rhymes. Biters are derided, even when they're mostly paying tribute to the original artists. One artist, however, has transcended this. Kanye West is so well-regarded as a songwriter that many musicians, from folk singers to rock bands to other rappers, have been inspired to cover his songs. Some of these have turned out simply amazing, sometimes surpassing the originals, and these are six of the cream of the crop.
Bleachers, “Only One”
Originally a single released by Kanye in collaboration with Paul McCartney, "Only One" serves simultaneously as a tribute to his daughter, North West, and his mother, Donda. Despite how personal the song is, the melody is so beautiful that it was ripe for a cover. Bleachers, the synth-pop side project of Fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff, released the definitive cover version this year, and it has become one of the cornerstones of their live set.
Chance the Rapper, “Family Matters”
This one was originally “Family Business” off Kanye's first album, The College Dropout. Chance turns it on its head as a celebration of his Family Matters Tour, which became the song's new title. Like many rap remixes, this one features entirely new lyrics, yet it represents one of the best new versions of a Kanye song out there. The "Family Matters" tour hits Houston on November 12 at Revention Music Center, featuring Chance the Rapper, D.R.A.M., Towkio and Metro Boomin.
Portugal. The Man, “Amazing”
808's and Heartbreak represented the first time that Kanye departed from rap, writing more traditional R&B songs. That made it a lot easier for other artists to perform cover versions. Portugal. The Man is already known for playing excellent, eclectic covers, like their version of Always Sunny in Philadelphia's "Dayman" song. This time around, they took on “Amazing,” transforming it with their always-experimental style. The band has also done a live mashup of Steve Miller Band's “Fly Like an Eagle” with Kanye's Jay Z/Frank Ocean collaboration off Watch the Throne, “No Church In the Wild.”
Christine and the Queens, “Paradis Perdus”
Christine and the Queens are a French performance-art/musical project that has been making waves of late. One of their most recent songs is “Paradis Perdus,” which features an interpolation in the chorus of Kanye's 808's and Heartbreak single “Heartless.” It's not a straightforward cover, but I think Kanye, as an artist, would appreciate the band's unique way of using his words and sounds more than if they had simply performed the song as it was written.
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BADBADNOTGOOD, “Flashing Lights”
BADBADNOTGOOD have fashioned their career from the beginning on covering rap songs with their unique blend of jazz and hip-hop. The brilliant combination has endeared them so much in the hip-hop community that they recently did an entire album of collaborations with Ghostface Killah and have also worked with Tyler, the Creator, who put them on the path to stardom. One of their greatest reworkings is this version of “Flashing Lights,” originally from Kanye's Graduation album.
Parts & Labor, “Runaway”
Noise-rock band Parts & Labor participated in the brilliant A.V. Club series, Undercover, by performing “Runaway,” from Kanye's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Though they explain in the video that they chose it because it's ridiculous for them to perform the song, they completely killed it with their version.