Thursday, December 29, 2011

Ice-T - "99 Problems" (the song remains the same)

Twice was interesting, but upon hearing the third "version" of this song convinced me there was something afoot: three completely different songs, sharing only the memorable chorus and nothing else.

"99 Problems" was made famous in 2004 by Jay-Z as a single of his LP "The Black Album" but it was originally a (different) song by Ice-T. Ice-T never released it as a single, but instead was a B-side from the "That's How I'm Livin'" single (from his 1993 LP "Home Invasion"). Guesting on the Ice-T version is Brother Marquis from 2 Live Crew, and the song is typical of both their styles at that time: juvenile sex rhymes. The "bitches and hos" misogyny is so over the top, I tell myself it is like the cartoon violence in Kill Bill -- you shouldn't be offended because it isn't meant to be taken seriously. Regardless, the song gave us a memorable chorus with a great hook.

Jay-Z must have agreed since he lifted the chorus for his 2004 single. He replaced the sex stories with autobiographical stories about police, music critics, the street, etc. Rick Rubin is the producer of this song, and while Jay-Z obviously raps, Rick's influence turns this into what has to be one of the heaviest metal songs ever (see also: Rick Rubin and Johnny Cash in "God's Gonna Cut You Down"). As Jay-Z says at the end "You're crazy for this one, Rick".

Ok, so Jay-Z reworking an Ice-T song isn't that much of a stretch... But this summer, Danette's sister, Julie, played a bluegrass version of "99 Problems" by Hugo. Julie was unaware of the prior versions and that is what convinced me that the song (or at least the chorus) was on its way to becoming a traditional song (or at least a musical version of "The Aristocrats"). I don't know that much about Hugo, but there is a connection since he is signed to Jay-Z's label Roc Nation.

What will be the next installment in the series? Where do you go from rap, to rap/metal, to bluegrass?

Ice-T: "99 Problems"

Jay-Z: "99 Problems"

Hugo: "99 Problems"

Bonus links:

Danger Mouse: "99 Problems" (A mashup of Jay-Z's version with "Helter Skelter" from the semi-official LP "The Grey Album".)

Trick Daddy: "99 Problems" (From his 2001 LP "Thugs Are Us"; this version is basically part 2 of the Ice-T version. Not really a cover, but neither is it a new version like the others listed above.)

Jay-Z and Phish: "99 Problems" (Not all combinations work well...)

Ice-T: "That's How I'm Livin'" (The original A-side of the single.)

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