How does one artist pay respects to another artist? If we take a look into the history of music (especially hip-hop music), we find that musicians frequently tip their hats to their colleagues by sampling. Whether it be Charlie Parker playing a tiny passage from Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite as Stravinsky was sitting in the jazz club or early DJ’s using beats from old funk records, the idea of taking someone else’s work and paying homage to it by using it to create something new is central to music and all other creative mediums.
On this track from whereisalex, we encounter “Life’s a Bitch” from Nas’ Illmatic with a completely new feel. Instead of the steady bass beat we’ve come to expect on this song, we come across a spacey groove driven by prominent drum rim shots and a short syncopated guitar rhythm; in the background is the subtle jazz comping of the electric keyboard. During the chorus, an exciting increase in energy is created by the addition of busy guitar runs, a louder bass, and invigorating cymbal hits.
There are a number of excellent musical moments in this remix, such as the contrast present between the end of each verse and the beginning of each chorus. The change in energy is enough to make anyone’s head turn. And please, dear reader, take a moment to appreciate the excellent use of silence at 2:33. The absence of sound is usually not thought of as a noteworthy idea. However, the tasteful use of silence to accentuate a change in energy, to punctuate a certain section of a song, and to surprise and engage the audience is something that must be praised.
At the very least, this remix serves as a reminder for all of us to go back and once again fall in love with Illmatic. Too good, man… too good.
Until next time, fam. Much Love.