Michael Lavine (Lil Kim) / The FADER (Cardi B)
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.
—by Garfield Hylton
Rap has an interesting relationship with the past. With producers flipping old-school samples into modern-day gems and rappers, on occasion, providing their own versions of previous classics, the genre frequently looks to yesteryears for current day inspiration. Def Squad once took Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" for 1997's remake of the same name and, much more recently, Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy featured "Bickenhead," a damn near exact recreation of Project Pat's 2001 hit "Chickenhead."
What isn't common, however, is the remaking of entire albums. Elzhi successfully recreated Nas' 1996 classic Illmatic with 2011's jazzier and Detroit-based Elmatic, and Skyzoo saw success with his 2014 release An Ode to Reasonable Doubt, his version of JAY-Z's 1996 classic, but full renditions of old albums is practically unheard of—likely because it's an incredibly difficult thing to do. The halcyon days of mixtapes featuring artists remixing and improving songs is genre-standard; it's quite another matter to re-do someone's classic work and build on top of it.
Here's a look at five current rappers and whose albums they'd have success remaking.
Cardi B / Lil Kim, Hard Core
When Hard Core dropped in 1996—it still knocks to this day—Lil' Kim took full ownership of her sexuality in a way that hadn't been seen in other female emcees. Outside of all the ways she could handle herself in the bedroom, Kim could serve wordplay with the best of them. And, she had hits. The Puff Daddy-assisted "No Time" and the all-time banger "Crush On You" can still make listeners borne of a certain time nod their heads in appreciation.
Cardi B is, more or less, the Lil' Kim of her time in a way that a certain Queens rapper isn't. Cardi, like Kim, is already a fashion icon. She also has a penchant for hits, having more in the last two years than some of her peers have had in their careers. Kim started Hard Core with "I used to be scared of the dick / now I throw lips to the shit / handle it, like a real bitch", and those lyrics are right in line with Cardi's rap style and aesthetic.
Freddie Gibbs / Twista, Adrenaline Rush
Twista's Adrenaline Rush is furiously paced and filled with rapid-fire flows about the streets of Chicago. The album was less a musical excursion and more of a grim re-telling on just how bleak life in the Midwest could be. Before landing on more radio-friendly songs like the Kanye West-produced "Overnight Celebrity" and "Slow Jamz," Twista was "po' pimpin'" on "Get It Wet" and manipulating women's "Emotions." It's those attributes that make Freddie Gibbs the best rapper equipped to handle a remake.
Freddie Gibbs' double-time flow is polished and he might very well be one of the last gangster rappers left from an era where gangsta rap was still a thing. He, too, has a penchant for storytelling and has made listeners a passenger during his lyrical tours through another Midwest city: Gary, Indiana. Gibbs and Twista's skills seem to match up perfectly. Both employ lightning fast raps, their "this one's for the ladies" tracks are closely aligned, and their similar geographical regions heighten the chance of Gibbs matching both the tone and delivery of Twista's debut album.
Chance the Rapper / Kanye West, The College Dropout
Before his MAGA-style transformation and recent backtracking featured a version of West who felt empathy for kids "drug dealing just to get by" on "We Don't Care," fighting against the machine of being overworked on "Spaceship," and asking for salvation on "Jesus Walks."
Chance, and you may be noticing a theme here, is to his generation what Kanye was to the previous. The two are frequent collaborators, with Chance already stating how big on an influence Kanye was to his career before the two ever met. He embodies some of the same sort of personality traits associated with early Kanye, plus, the two are on level playing field when it comes to lyricism and content. Chano has the right kind of personality to pull off "Jesus Walks" and enough playfulness to re-do something silly like "The New Workout Plan." And because of how close they are artistically, Chance should have no problem sounding comfortable over tracks like "Breathe In Breathe Out" or "Get Em High."
Benny the Butcher, Conway the Machine, Westside Gunn / The Lox, We Are the Streets
Styles P, Sheek Louch, and Jadakiss created We Are the Streets as a testament to what they represented. Every track was menacing. The rhymes were grimier than prison bars. Songs like "Fuck You" and "Recognize" are the group at its best, trading concrete rhymes and stories so vivid you might actually smell the pissy project elevator from the Yonkers projects they repped so hard.
Benny, Conway, and Westside Gunn are from the mean streets of Buffalo and are a living embodiment of the streets. One listen to any of the three and one might be inspired to hit the block for illegal means of obtaining wealth. Their current rap style and the way they attack songs are quite reminiscent of the Yonkers trio. Street imagery and lyrics harder than a college calculus exam are something the Griselda Records cohorts have in spades. They already qualify when it comes to rhymes and wordplay but they also have the requisite chemistry needed to pull off this remake. Those fiending for the darker days of East Coast 90s rap are likely already fans of the Buffalo trio and it's hard to think of another remake that so perfectly encapsulates hardcore street rap like The Lox and the Griselda emcees.
Megan Thee Stallion / Trina, Da Baddest Bitch
In 2015, author Michael Arceneaux wrote a 15-year remembrance of Trina's Da Baddest Bitch. Arceneaux said the Miami native's debut album maintained several themes, but that it was mostly about "her big ass; her great sex game; how terrible men are and typically only good for money; her having her own money; her amazing ass again; her being da baddest bitch." He very well could've been talking about Megan Thee Stallion.
Megan Thee Stallion is a buzzing Houston artist recognized for two things: the way her flow effortlessly glides on tracks and being a "Big Ole Freak." Stallion, like Trina, extols the virtues of "getting to the money" while informing listeners that she has every intention of taking your man and giving him back at her convenience. The Houston emcee has zero qualms rapping openly about the kind of sex adults used to pay to watch on TV. If a man can't make her orgasm or pay her bills, Stallion wants nothing to do with him. Trina once rapped "sell the pussy by the grands / and in a month you own a Benz / another week a set of rims." It takes a special woman of both skill and sexual fortitude to do what Trina did on her debut album and there isn't a woman better equipped to pull this off than Megan Thee Stallion.
More by Garfield Hylton: