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Production Breakdown: Bekay’s “I Am ( Remix)”

Posted by Richard on 02/13/10 | Filed under Features, Production Breakdown, Bekay
Bekay Hunger Pains Remix
Good morning (or afternoon, or evening) RefinedHypesters! I have to admit, I'm not feeling very on-task today – and by “not very on-task,” I mean, “I've been using to make a video of puppies and a cat look like a spaghetti-western standoff.” See below (Unfortnately, TubeDubber doesn't let me embed videos... you'll just have to click this time.):

Now, the funny thing about that is, if you choose something a little more laid-back... like, say, “Groupie Luv,” the debut single from West Coast trio 213 (Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg & Warren G), the whole vibe of the video changes:

See? Now, if you don't share my view that the juxtaposition of puppies with G-funk is inherently funny enough to render context unnecessary, you may be thinking, “What the hell does this have to do with hip-hop beats?” Not a whole lot, at first glance, And at second glance.... still not a whole lot. But at third glance, a point suggests itself: music (I'm talking instrumentals, in this case) has a powerful effect on meaning What looks like a tense situation when backed by Ennio Morricone's classic Western theme, transforms into a group of players, cough, “pimpin' on a ho.” when juxtaposed with DJ Pooh's funky, bass-driven groove (sampled from Herbie Hancock's Chameleon, if you were curious). And my hunch is that what I was suggesting with the latter would have been fairly obvious even without the help of 213's timeless lyrics.

In fact, let's test that out by dubbing the video with the cut that inspired Pooh's interpolation, Herbie Hancock's fusion-jazz classic “Chameleon.”

I'll let you draw your own conclusions. Anyway, this has all been a (sort of ludicrous) segue into talking about one of the highest-rated features over at this week, a newly-released remix of underground emcee Bekay's single, “I Am.” Chosen as the winning instrumental in a contest held by DJ Qvali's blend of sampled strings and authentic cuts (with a little help from DJ Revolution) was received by Booth readers as not only equal to, but arguably an improvement over heavyweight producer The Alchemist's original – and I tend to agree.

In my eyes (ears), the reason has everything to do with how the respective beats interact with, and change listener perception of, Bekay's lyrics and delivery. Alchemist's beat was more original, in my opinion, and readers definitely appreciated its classic vibe, but did it set the right mood for Bekay's lyrical journey through hip-hop's history? Maybe not – backed by Alchemist's restless piano loop, the emcee sounded, to me, a little angry. Qvali's soulful strings, on the other hand, set a relaxing mood that screams “nostalgia,” and the result was more natural. What had come across as an aggressive streak in Bekay's vocals was transformed into what sounded more like passion for and reverence to his craft – which I assume is exactly what he intended to convey.

I liked Alchemist's version of “I Am,” but it was another producer's reinterpretation of the cut that gave me a deeper insight into how I felt about the record. To me, changing the music behind the words (as opposed to just throwing a new verse on the track) is a surefire way to reveal something new about a song (or a video, in the case of my tube-dubbing) – whether the remixer's intention is enhance the original's vibe or subvert it, the result will always shed new light on the source material. And that, my friends, is what pimpin' puppies have to do with hip-hop production.

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