The practice of rappers going in over somebody else's beat is nothing new. On the mixtape circuit especially, it has become commonplace for MCs to pack their tapes with different versions of current hits of the day, sometimes dedicating the bulk of a release to it. Lil Wayne's Da Drought 3 and No Ceilings mixtapes are just two examples. With the Internet being what it is, it has become increasingly easy for other artists to hijack instrumentals and make their own mark.
Thus, Rating the Remix, a new column at Prefix where we give our opinions (complete with a rating, out of a possible 10.0) on remixes, freestyles, and re-interpretations of popular hip-hop tracks. Here, we'll point out the highlights, the tracks that improve on the original, that give it new meaning, and in some cases, make the original track almost seem like a footnote. We might also run into cases where the remixer falls incredibly short, but you can't win them all, right?
Today's Case: "Hard In Da Paint" by Waka Flocka Flame
By now, most people have some sort of strong opinion about Juaquin Malphurs, a.k.a. Waka Flocka Flame. Some say that he's a blemish on today's hip-hop landscape, that he lacks lyrical skill (well, even he has actually admitted as much), or that some of his ultra-violent tracks promote the wrong sort of messages to young heads. Others praise him for his live-wire, head-banging energy. What's undeniable is the impact "Hard In Da Paint" has had on the mixtape community since its release this summer. Producer Lex Luger put together a big bad wolf of a beat, a track that huffs and puffs menace with synthetic brass and machine gun drum sounds. It hits hard, and its key change midway through only amplifies the energy brought on by the first few bars. Realizing the hit he had on his hands, Flocka upgraded "Hard In Da Paint" from mixtape staple to album cut. It now sits high in the track list for his upcoming album, Flockaveli. Let's now look at those who have been brave enough to step up to Luger and Flocka's pissed beast of a track.
The Remixer: Slim Thug
The Mixtape: Internet only
The Breakdown: Slim Thug doesn't waste much time with the track, making his point in just under two minutes. For that matter, he doesn't really do anything all that interesting with it, either, using Luger's beat to weave another "I'm A Boss"-type anthem about how awesome he is. Competent, yes. Thrilling, not as much.
The Rating: 5.0
The Remixer: Gucci Mane
The Mixtape: Waka Flocka Flame: Hard In Da Paint
The Breakdown: This remix makes the most sense out of all of the ones appearing here, seeing as how it's another successful pairing of Flocka and his 1017 Brick Squad mentor Gucci Mane. The song remains the same until the two-minute mark, at which point Gucci just tears into the track, dropping a double-time flow a few times, his raspy voice a great fit for Luger's beat. I'd go as far as to say that "Hard In Da Paint" would have been a bigger smash had this been the original version. People may have their problems with both Flocka and Gucci, but they display a great chemistry every time they appear on a track together. It only loses points for being kind of predictable.
The Rating: 8.0
The Remixer: Ciara
The Mixtape: The Princess Is Here
The Breakdown: This one comes as a bit of a surprise. Ciara isn't exactly the first person you'd expect to jump on this track, but she actually does a pretty good job with it, changing the titular phrase to "hard in the A," and doing some nice harmonizing over Luger's beat. Since she keeps things pretty melodic, it never completely moves into awkward R&B-singer-trying-to-rap territory.
The Rating: 7.0
The Remixer: Young Jeezy
The Mixtape: 1000 Grams
The Breakdown: If there's one thing Young Jeezy has always excelled at, it's sounding powerful. His weathered croak adds weight to just about every track he appears on, and his take on "Hard In Da Paint" shows a ruler at work. Jeezy is pure confidence on the track, absolutely seizing control of Luger's instrumental. DJ Scream's intro only sets the stage for Jeezy to take the spotlight, resulting in a version that easily matches the hype tone of the original.
The Rating: 9.0
The Remixer: French Montana
The Mixtape: The Official Best Of Coke Wave
The Breakdown: I hate to say it, but here is the first example of somebody flat-out bungling their appearance on this track. To his credit, French Montana gets some of the most memorable lines in out of the remixes we've looked at so far. He even goes as far as to throw in a tasteful amount of beat chopping. Unfortunately, it sounds like he's a little dominated by the instrumental, his flow constantly falling a little bit behind the beat. As the higher rated remixes above proved, in order to successfully tackle this track, you have to take charge. The lazy need not apply.
The Rating: 3.0
The Remixer: Tyga
The Mixtape: Internet only
The Breakdown: While Jeezy's version of "Hard In Da Paint" showed what a wizened veteran can do with Luger and Flocka's track, Young Money second-stringer Tyga demonstrates the great things a young, hungry rapper is capable of. He varies his flow several times, breaks into an odd sing-song part near the end, drops references to the Cool Kids and Tupac, and generally just sounds eager to dominate the track. Almost makes you forget that horrid "Coconut Juice" song he did with Travie McCoy a while back.
The Rating: 8.0
The Remixer: Vado
The Mixtape: Slime Pays
The Breakdown: Another example of an up-and-comer going in hard. This time, it's Cam'ron associate Vado, continuing to thrill with his brand of higher level second generation Dipset flow. Despite his constant perplexing references to slime, he never fails to sound threatening, taking the under-two-minute route that Slim Thug favored, except doing a lot more with it.
The Rating: 7.5
The Remixer: Rick Ross
The Mixtape: The Summer Is Mine
The Breakdown: It's not surprising to see Ross taking on this beat, considering Luger's several contributions to his Teflon Don album (including a little track you may have heard called "B.M.F."). However, the "Hard In Da Paint" beat transforms Rozay from braggart gangster type into a raging bull. He's borderline shouting half of the time, and seems genuinely enraged. You would be too if people were constantly trying to throw your credibility under the bus.
The Rating: 7.5
The Remixer: Curren$y
The Mixtape: Internet Only
The Breakdown: Curren$y does more than just use the "Hard In Da Paint" beat here -- he completely repossesses it. He retitles the track "Twistin' Stank," disregards the structure of the original song, and raps for five minutes straight. Out of every remix listed here, Spitta is the only one to not drop one verse and then attach the rest of the Flocka song to the end of it. When you factor in the number of quotables Curren$y weaves throughout his verses and choruses, you're left with complete and utter domination.
The Rating: 9.0
The Remixer: Para-Deez
The Mixtape: YouTube
The Breakdown: Just for fun, here's this parody of "Hard In Da Paint" called "Hard When I Paint" by the aptly-named Para-Deez. The song and video contain so many spot on references to the source material and its video, making it hilariously effective. Plus, it's priceless picturing Flocka actually rapping about poker dogs, Bob Ross and flocks of birds before resorting to listing off every color he can think of.
The Rating: N/A
Slim Thug didn't do enough, French Montana didn't do it right, Ciara surprised, Vado and Tyga brought the young energy, Rick Ross got angry, Gucci Mane did it with ease, and Para-Deez brought the laughs. But it was Jeezy who dominated it, and it was Curren$y who re-invented it.