An interesting and creative remix, especially in the realm of hip-hop, is not something you’ll hear everyday. Most of the time, a song is dubbed a remix after it is re-released with a few more rappers or singers on it. Nothing has actually changed musically except for some additional trite lyrics and a DJ screaming “REMIX!!!” at the beginning.
Perhaps that is why so many Radiohead fans, like me, were skeptical upon learning that Too $hort would be rapping over the perfectly sublime “Nude”. Why would anyone, even a talented producer like Amplive of Zion I, want to mess with an album as superb as In Rainbows? Could it be that the Oakland, Calif.-based producer knew he could strike oil? Probably.
What first seemed somewhat sacrilegious actually turned out to be a damn good and interesting venture. It definitely helped that the all west coast roster of guest emcees and singers turned in some of their best work as of late. Del Tha Funkee Homosapien actually sounds hungrier on “Video Tapez” than on his latest album, 11th Hour. His rides the beat with his grim lyrics as Yorke sings the chorus of “When I’m at the pearly gates / This’ll be on my videotape.”
Sounding just as strong is Chali2na, known mostly for his recently defunct group Jurassic 5. His signature deep vocals work flawlessly on “Reckonerz” as Yorke lets out his trademark moan in the background. The best effort on here, though, is “15 Stepz”. Featuring smooth crooning by Codany Holiday with added original guitar and bass, the track is both funky and mellow. Jonny Greenwood’s riffs are dirtied up with distortion for the song’s rocking intro and choruses while Holiday’s verses are laidback and dreamy, making for an attention-grabbing juxtaposition.
Rainydayz Remixes truly succeeds in a way that Amplive might have not been shooting for: You will appreciate the original tracks even more than before. Just try listening to the 25 minutes of danceable Radiohead without getting the urge to switch over to In Rainbows. That right there is the beauty of Amplive’s work, the ability to transition from remix to original without feeling cheated. Also, you get the feeling that the producer deeply appreciates both his craft and the tunes he remixed. Just watch his video on YouTube where he thanks everyone involved. His sincerity makes Amplive and his music that much more enjoyable.
The only downside to this project is that you are left wanting more after it’s all over. In particular, you will be craving some additional instrumental tracks since that is where the remixes shine their brightest. While Del and the others do a fine job on the mic, Amplive has shown here that he’s more than just a competent hip-hop producer. His rendition of “Weird Fishes” is simply fantastic. It’s trippy and surreal soundscape blend seamlessly the head-nodding beat comprised of classic boom-bap drums.
If this is what a rainy day is like in California, I have got to get back to the West Coast for more than just a week-long vacation. Sure, In Rainbows suits my dreary hours in New England just fine. Amplive’s versions, however, give the rain a beat and, in some cases, a few dance moves. And Amplive achieves that without resorting to cheap tricks. His chopped up instrument and vocal samples work perfectly to breathe new life into the already outstanding songs. Although he doesn’t reach the level of Danger Mouse’s infamous The Grey Album, Amplive has proven he should leave his familiar surroundings for other ventures.