10 of the Best Hip-Hop and R&B Covers by Alternative Artists
You know an indie or alternative band when you hear them, but that doesn’t mean those artists have to stick to their trademark sound. Musicians are usually up for experimenting — not only with their own material, but also with the work of others. When an artist has the opportunity to cover a song — especially one far outside their musical comfort zones — the end results are always interesting. It allows them to let loose on a song they probably would never put on one of their own albums. Take, for instance, Lorde‘s recent cover of Jeremih‘s ‘Don’t Tell ‘Em.’ Although she does show her rapping skills, she clearly adds her own twist and makes it her own.
We scoured the web and found 10 hip-hop or R&B covers by musicians that you might find surprising.
Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ has been covered numerous times, but Ray LaMontagne does one thing with his version that others often didn’t — he really makes it his own. By slowing down the tempo and choosing his moments to wail on the mic, LaMontagne turns the hit into a song he could have released himself.
Haim decided to keep things closer to the original when they covered Beyonce’s ‘XO.’ Even though the melody sounds the same, we do get the chance to hear singer Danielle banging the drum kit while her bassist sister, Este, takes the lead on vocals. Putting her own twist on the song with some ad-libbing, Este does a great job keeping the spirit of the track. And let’s not forget the infamous facial expressions she made all over this video.
Young the Giant
When the A.V. Club asked Young the Giant to cover a song on on a list the readers and editors came up with as part of their ‘Undercover’ series, everyone was surprised when the the Irvine, Calif., outfit chose R. Kelly‘s ‘Ignition’ remix. But the guys figured if they were going to go for a random cover, they might as well go all the way.
If there’s any track on this list that really got a full musical makeover, it’s Pharrell‘s ‘Happy.’ Royal Blood drained all the cheerful and pop out of the tune and spit out a version that will make you want to get in the middle of a mosh pit. While some may be really surprised by the British rock duo’s choice, it shows just how creative they can get and how well they play.
Drake‘s ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’ is another track that was not only a regular on the radio, but also often covered. But the Arctic Monkeys aren’t just any band. Frontman Alex Turner’s distinctly British vocals and the backing from the rest of the band turn this hip-hop hit into a Britpop track. If the tune isn’t entertaining enough, Alex’s dance moves to it will grab your attention.
If you’ve been to one of Bastille‘s concerts, you’ve probably heard their ’90s dance mash-up, ‘Of the Night.’ They showed love for another song from that decade when they stopped by SiriusXM’s AltNation. Taking on TLC‘s 1999 mega-hit, ‘No Scrubs,’ the U.K. band stay as true to the sound as a group of British guys can with a track sung an American R&B girl group. While we know what the track is from the beginning, Dan Smith’s vocals give the song a different vibe with his tone. Although you can get down to the TLC version, Bastille’s take will make you want to relax with a hot cup of tea.
Florence and the Machine
While Florence Welch is clearly more of the indie-pop variety, she’s also a big fan of hip-hop and R&B. So when she had the chance to cover any song of her choosing for Billboard’s ‘Mashup Mondays,’ she went with the 2003 Mario Winans classic, ‘I Don’t Wanna Know.’ The acoustic guitar mixed with Florence’s haunting voice make the song sound a bit sadder than what the R&B crooner originally intended.
On the surface, Ben Folds and hip-hop don’t seem to mix. However the singer-songwriter and producer proves us wrong with his snarky version of Dr. Dre‘s gangsta classic ‘Bitches Ain’t S–t.’ While this might seem like a surprising choice, Folds makes it his own by getting rid of the hard bass beats that make up Dre’s instrumentals on the track and instead drives the melody with piano. By slowing it down, we only hear the aggressiveness of the song through the lyrics that Ben sings calmly but explicitly.
Instead of coming out of the gates swinging with their cover of Iggy Azalea‘s ‘Fancy,’ Kasabian took a somber step back with a more laid-back rendition. The British band slows down the tempo and they flow as if they were casually performing it in their living room. The approach to the track takes it from bassy hip-hop to an almost classic rock feel — even with Iggy’s quintessentially current lyrics.
Looking at Lorde‘s career so far, she isn’t afraid to take chances. So when she decided to tackle Kanye West‘s ‘Hold My Liquor,’ we held our breath in hopes she did it justice. However, the singer not only performs it well, but takes it to a whole different place. Carrying the same confidence as Kanye, Lorde never lets the song outdo her as she turns the track into her own kind of tune.