Welcome to the second installment of Rating The Remix, a new column at Prefix where we examine remixes, freestyles, and reinterpretations of popular hip-hop and R&B tracks and figure out who redid it the best. Ratings are out of a possible 10 points.
Today’s Case: “Deuces” by Chris Brown f. Tyga and Kevin McCall
“Deuces” might be the biggest step back toward a functioning career for Chris Brown after his disastrous 2009, a year that included his widely reviled physical attack on Rihanna and his equally panned album, Graffiti. Despite coming from a mixtape (Fan Of A Fan, Brown’s collaboration with Tyga), the track has clawed its way to the top of Billboards Hip-Hop/R&B chart, as well as No. 14 on the Hot 100, making it his most successful single since 2008. Perhaps it’s the track’s insistence on leaving behind the past and destructive elements of his life that have caused people to latch onto it so tightly. Maybe it’s because of Kevin McCall and CA$HFLOW’s light-stepping beat, a minimal construction of glassy synth tones, snaps and Timbaland-esque sound effects. Or, maybe it’s because the beat sounds slightly like Rihanna’s “Te Amo” and everyone likes a controversy. Either way, it’s struck a chord within the greater hip-hop community, with several artists stepping up to bat to take their own shot at the track.
The Remixer: Ace Hood
The Mixtape: The Statement
The Breakdown: Ace Hood keeps things extremely brief, choosing to spit for less than a minute. While the first part of his verse indicates genuine regret about the dissolution of a relationship, he asserts himself by the end of it, claiming that focusing on music makes for an acceptable replacement. It’s all fairly innocuous, and therefore not entirely exciting, but Ace does manage to get some amusing lines in, including the use of the phrase “not giving a manure” for rhyming purposes.
The Rating: 6.5
The Remixer: Ciara
The Mixtape: Basic Instinct Mixtape
The Breakdown: I wasn’t expecting to see Ciara take on “Hard In Da Paint” in the last installment of Rating The Remix, and I’m finding myself surprised once again to see her pop up this time around. This time, the track makes a whole lot more sense for her to be on, as it complements her slinky R&B style a lot better than Lex Luger’s “Paint” beat does. Ciara takes the scorned-woman route here, using most of her time to vent her anger before chucking up her deuces. She manages to switch the perspective of the song, offering a portrait of the actual kiss-off as opposed to the post-breakup feelings Chris Brown detailed in the original.
The Remixer: French Montana f. Cokeboyz
The Mixtape: Coke Boys
The Breakdown: French Montana pulls a pretty big bait-and-switch with his take on “Deuces.” At first, when he began warbling an Auto-Tune-drenched alternate hook, I thought he was going to just sing the entire time, and I began to expect the worst. Luckily, he switches to rapping, and he spends his verse completely jettisoning the original subject material. Instead, he speaks of his money and his overall superiority to those who are “sleeping on [their] momma’s sofa.” Cokeboyz’ verse is a harsher, and directed toward the ladies. Unfortunately, it just comes off as a bit brutish.
The Rating: 5.5
The Remixer: Gucci Mane
The Mixtape: Ferrari Music
The Breakdown: Of course Gucci shows up on this list. What beat has he not attempted to spit over this year? La Flare takes the sing-song route, quotes Waka Flocka Flame, and basically just brags about himself. Pretty par for the course coming from him, to the point where it kind of just fades into the increasingly large body of work he’s amassed this year. It’s not a dud, but it certainly isn’t a highlight.
The Rating: 6.0
The Remixer: Olivia
The Mixtape: Internet only
The Breakdown: The former G-Unit singer takes a similar route to Ciara but goes a little blunter. She calls out an unnamed man for being mediocre at sex, and later in the song threatens to run up his credit card bills, Blu Cantrell “Hit ‘Em Up Style” style. Most of it consists of threats and taunts that have been used over and over, which makes me wonder what the point of this was. An attempt to shove herself back into public consciousness after a few years of silence? Maybe, but unfortunately it doesn’t really register as more than a curiosity — an, “Oh, that’s what she’s doing” moment.
The Rating: 4.5
The Remixer: Richie Sosa
The Mixtape: Internet Only
The Breakdown: Toronto MC Richie Sosa’s take on “Deuces” is comically angry, downright nasty, and at times pretty funny. He doesn’t speak of a relationship falling apart — his domestic situation is flat-out exploding. Their sex is terrible, she’s wishing cancer on him, and in the best line of the verse, “it looks like I kidnapped her when we go for pizza.” The almost cartoonish nature of Sosa’s verse injects a much-needed dose of levity to the proceedings, which have been pretty grim to this point.
The Rating: 9.0
The Remixer: Maino
The Mixtape: Internet only
The Breakdown: World Of Jenks subject Maino may have contributed the most level-headed version of “Deuces” thus far. In his interpretation, he’s sitting at home drunk, looking at things in his house that drag up memories of his former love. He’s not overly aggressive, and he comes off as genuinely hurt at times. It’s like hearing one side of an extremely diplomatic and rational argument. It also makes me wish he had dropped another verse to further stoke the bright spark he ignited with the first one.
The Rating: 8.5
The Remixer: Drake, Kanye West, T.I., Fabolous, Andre 3000
The Mixtape: Internet only
The Breakdown: Saved the biggest one for last, so as not to draw attention away from the above contributions. There’s a lot of things to like about this one, and a few things not as much. Drake kicks things off and almost kills the song, altering the beat to something more Drake-like (read: swampy and electronic-based). His verse is fine, but its placement at the beginning of the track threatens to suck all of the momentum away. T.I. smacks things back to life, dropping a great, rhythmically jagged verse. It’s another great guest appearance for Tip in a year full of them (check his spots on The-Dream’s “Make-Up Bag” and Big Boi’s “Tangerine” if you don’t believe me). Kanye takes the pissed route. It’s a little out of character to hear him dropping terms like “fucking bitch,” which makes his verse a little off-putting, but he still manages to notch several quotables. Fabolous might seem like the weakest link here, but his use of a Drake sample mid-verse is pretty clever. It comes to a close with another fantastic Andre 3000 apperance. He makes expert use of the track’s empty spaces, hopping around them like a verbal game of Pitfall.
The Rating: 8.0
The Verdict: Ace Hood kept it simple, Ciara killed with cool confidence, French Montana tricked us, Gucci was Gucci, Olivia reminded everyone she exists, and the Drake/Tip/Kanye/Fab/Andre 3000 team showed why they’re all superstars. But it was Richie Sosa who brought genuine, outsized character, and Maino who provided raw, unguarded emotion.