Kid Cudi seems to cling to establishing himself as an outsider in the hip-hop community. Take, for example, his recent turn as a frontman for his ill-advised indie project WZRD…it’s obvious Cudi isn’t comfortable being just a rapper. It should be no surprise, then, that he would choose to collaborate with current indie darling Annie Clark, reinterpreting her song “The Strangers” from 2009’s Actor as a dark, frightening vision of Cudi as a psychopath using the darkness of his bedroom to supress his murderous impulses.
Vampire Weekend is probably not the kind of group that rappers jump to if they’re looking to build street cred, but the forward-thinking B.O.B. took their single “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” and re-interpreted it, pretty much just lifting the melody and eschewing most of Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig’s lyrics. What results is a nice slice of B.O.B.’S melodic southern rap, with a guest verse by the intensely talented Janelle Monae.
This is certainly the most high profile indie/hip-hop mashup on the list, on both sides of the equation…the backing track, Modest Mouse’s “Float On”, was a breakout hit from a band whose previous exposure was minimal to say the least, and it served to rocket Modest Mouse into indie rock stardom. This song was also Lupe Fiasco’s breakout single that rocketed him from an also-ran Kanye West collaborator to a substantial artist in his own right.
Childish Gambino (AKA 30 Rock writer and Community actor Donald Glover) founded his music career on mashing up indie music with his own semi-freestyle verses, and although his debut album Camp featured none of these pairings, his two debut EPs I Am Not a Rapper 1 and 2 were built on them, the best of the bunch being this mash-up of Grizzly Bear’s song “Two Weeks” with some of Gambino’s signature hyperactive, clever rhymes.
Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon was Kanye West’s golden boy for his 2010 masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, providing vocals throughout the album and serving as the bookends on West’s vicious collaboration with Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj and Rick Ross. For someone usually associated with chilly Wisconsin isolation, Vernon steps out of his comfort zone and growls out a verse that is a chilling prelude to the sinister song that is one of Kanye’s best.
(Note: there is a spectacular video that goes with this song, but the final cut has apparently been wiped from the internet. Sorry.)
Tracing the lineage of this song involves a little bit of advanced algebra…if you need to get a pen and paper, I’ll wait. OK, back? So, the core of this song is formed around Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness”, which was a collaboration between Cudi and psychadellic indie masters MGMT and electro act Ratatat. The song was then covered by folk rock chantuse Lissie, which was then used as a sample by underground rapper Schoolboy Q. The song takes the semi-repentant dreamy drug anthem that is “Pursuit of Happiness”, filters it through Lissie’s whiskey-soaked interpretation and turns it into an unabashed ode to getting wasted and driving drunk. Hey, nobody said every rapper is a good role model.
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Sean May is a music fanatic who is rarely seen without a pair of headphones stuck to his ears. He is also a fiction writer, with the crime novel The Case and the short story collection Crimewave, and a lot more. Find him on twitter with the incredibly creative handle @seanmay or check out his website, seanmay.net